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Students who have lived in different countries shared how their world perspectives changed

A graphic of a man holding luggage in a foreign place.

Students reflected on their experiences of living in different countries and shared how their views were broadened and they learned to adjust to them. World traveler Cannon Curtis shared his passion for discovering new things and advised students to make international friends at BYU–Hawaii.

A self-proclaimed “island boy,” Maheono Ly shared how his island mentality changed when he visited big cities. Mongolian student Onon Dalaikhuu shared how shocked she was by natural, legal and cultural differences in various countries.

Discovering through traveling

Curtis, a junior from Arizona majoring in history education, said he has been to 14 countries, including Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, France, England, Portugal and Spain.

Curtis said traveling is his hobby, and he saves up to travel. He shared he usually does budget-friendly traveling by backpacking and staying in youth hostels. His father loves traveling and usually travels with him. Curtis said he usually stays 5-21 days in each country. He is learning Mongolian and Spanish.

Cannon Curtis stands in front of a tourist destination in a foreign country.

Curtis shared he goes through culture shock while traveling. “Visiting in foreign lands and hearing languages I don’t know are sometimes intimidating. However, it is exciting to learn about new cultures, try new foods and discover new places.” Curtis highlighted how traveling helped him to be open-minded and to not judge others by stereotypes.

He travels to different countries each summer, and his plan was to travel to Mongolia or Africa this summer. However, he said he may not travel there due to the global pandemic COVID-19.

Curtis said one of the biggest reasons why he chose BYUH was the diversity. He has made friends from different countries and wants to visit their countries after his graduation.

He advised students to reach out to students who are from outside of their culture and make as many friends as possible. He said studying at BYUH is a great opportunity to discover other cultures and people.

Island lifestyle vs. city lifestyle

Maheono Ly, a senior from Tahiti majoring in finance, has been to France, Mexico, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Switzerland, Italy, Hawaii, Las Vegas and New York.

Ly grew up on a small island, Nuku-Hiva, with 3,000 people. Ly shared his parents worked for the French government, and every two years the French government would give them free tickets to travel to France.

“I have been in France nine times. Visiting France was a very new experience for me. French cities and the amount of people in the street were so different.”

He also visited his in-laws in New York. “Walking on a sidewalk in New York was just crazy. So many people are everywhere, and they don’t care about you and push you sometimes. I never felt social anxiety until I visited New York.”

Ly stands on the Brooklyn Bridge.

New York is a good place to visit, but not to live, he said. He was impressed with the variety of the foods and things to see. “The lifestyle is too fast. I may die of anxiety and depression if I live there,” he said with a laugh.

Ly said he served his mission in Las Vegas, and it too was an eye-opening experience for him. “While I was serving in the mission, I found out Americans do not have much understanding about the world. People used to ask weird questions like, ‘Do you have a toilet in your home country? Do you have electricity?’ and so on.”

While he was serving his mission, Ly helped a homeless man and learned not to trust strangers. “A homeless man told me that he was a war veteran, and he needed money to get his license to get his pension. I trusted him and gave $200 and my bike. He promised to give it back, but he never did.”

Ly shared ever since he was young, he was taught by his mother if he had something he should share it because what is his is actually the Lord’s. “I always believed in the good in others. Then I realized that I was not exposed to evil that much and had a childish mind set.” He said the experience helped him to be more careful interacting with others.

“I am still friendly with everyone, but not naive anymore. On islands everyone knows each other and treats each other nicely. However, in the bigger cities, people don’t trust each other and are not nice all the time.” He said he loves living in Laie because it is a perfect mix of island and city life styles.

Ly said he noticed people who live in bigger cities, whether it is in the United States, France or Mexico, focus on their own lives, and do not know much about outside of their bubble.

Shocking differences

Onon Dalaikhuu, a sophomore from Mongolia majoring in human resources, said she has been to the Philippines, Hong Kong, India and the United States.

Dalaikhuu said the countries she visited had different weather, and it was difficult for her to adjust in the beginning. “Mongolia is a cold and very dry country while all the other countries I visited were hot and humid and never experienced winter and snow.”

She also shared in countries she has visited, fear and the threat of natural disasters were much higher than in her home country. “Mongolia is a landlocked country, and we do not experience natural disasters that much. But living on an island and facing my first hurricane season was scary. I never felt that a natural disaster was a real threat to my life,” she said.

Dalaikhuu said while she visiting other countries, she compared and analyzed what her country needs to develop. The first thing she noticed was medical and living expenses, she said. “I was pregnant when I traveled to India and wanted to know the gender of my baby. I paid $500 for the ultrasound check, but the doctor didn’t tell me the gender because the law forbids it.”

She said she found out that India banned prenatal sex determination in 1994 to prevent sex-selective abortion. “I begged the doctor to tell me because I am Mongolian, but the doctor said I was in India and had to follow the law.” From this experience she learned to respect and follow the laws and customs of the country wherever she goes, she said.

Dalaikhuu shared Laie is the most peaceful place she has ever lived, and the weather is nice. “In Laie, I never feel like I am living in a foreign land. I just feels like I am at home.”

She also said, “Americans are very polite, always treat each other nicely and work hard. I thought maybe it is one of the reasons why their country is well developed.”

Eroolkhuu Dalaikhuu and her mother stand in front of the Taj Mahal.

Dalaikhuu said she also traveled around Mongolia and wants to travel to more countries. One of her dream destinations is seeing the seven wonders of the world. “I already saw the Taj Mahal and am saving up to see the other six.”

Since the global pandemic COVID-19 started, she now feels the whole world is just one family, Dalaikhuu said. “Life is so short, and we have so many things to do. No matter where we live, if we love and serve each other as the Lord commanded, we can be happy and live in peace.”

Dalaikhuu said studying at BYUH and living abroad helped her to see opportunities and business ideas she can do when she goes back to Mongolia. “I realized that the Mongolian market has so many spaces for new businesses. I want to build a human resource consulting company when I go back.”

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