Towards the end of her mission, Teraina Marie-Helene Mataoa said she felt an impression to change direction from pursuing law to attending BYU–Hawaii to study biomedical science. Throughout her four years at the university, her friends said they saw her develop confidence and a solid foundation of faith.
The Lord is the center of all things
Mataoa, a senior from Tahiti majoring in biology, said a few weeks before completing her mission, she had a prompting to forgo her law studies in France and do something completely different.
“At first, I doubted the prompting. … It took time to see what Heavenly Father had in store for me. With the help of my dad, I was able to overcome my fears and become more in tune with the Spirit, which was why I made the decision to come to BYUH to study biomedical science,” Mataoa said.
Kayla Kaimarama, a senior from the Cook Islands studying political science, cultural anthropology and Pacific Island studies, said Mataoa never gave up no matter how hard things got.
Looking back on her journey, Mataoa said she never thought she would be where she is today. “From the choice I made to come to BYUH, I came to be more in tune with the Lord’s plan, and I trust Him more,” Mataoa said.
“I came to appreciate diversity because meeting different people from different backgrounds helped me see Heavenly Father had given His children great talents and gifts,” Mataoa expressed.
In speaking about her future plans, she said, “At the moment, I am applying for grad school. I really wanted to further my education in order to help not just my own country but also the Pacific.
“My main goal is to do more research on medical plants in the Pacific. I know I cannot do it on my own, but with the help of the Lord, I can succeed,” she added.
Lessons learned from a best friend
Vayana Boyce, Mataoa’s sister, said throughout the four years of her studies at BYUH, Mataoa has had many conversations with her on different topics of life.
“She has a solid foundation of faith and life outlook, which I believe has sustained her throughout her experience at BYUH.”
Kaimarama said, “Teraina Mataoa is a true friend to me. She is disciplined, hard-working and knows how to prioritize her time between work, school and church callings, as well as finding time to have fun.”
She said Mataoa is a detail-oriented person. “Mataoa is very dedicated to her studies, giving her all in whatever she does, and puts the Lord first in all the things she does,” Kaimarama said.
“I have seen her study early mornings or late nights. She spends hours in the library, attending classes and faithfully carrying out her church callings,” Kaimarama added.
Boyce said her sister is a very steady, loyal and generous person, especially during her years at the university. She said she is very focused on her pursuit of a good education and success in college.
“Her college success is only the beginning of what she can accomplish in this world. She is a wonderful listener and wise beyond her years,” Boyce said.
Kaimarama said being friends with Mataoa, she learned, “No matter where life takes you, remember who you are and what difference you can make in the world. You are born to be a leader, to serve and to empower.”