Tihei: Hawaii final climax of an incredible journey

Leilani Wong is a graduate of Brigham Young University of Hawaii. Photo / Included

A university degree is an amazing achievement, especially when you are far from home in another country.

Brigham Young University-Hawaii (BYU-Hawaii) is a popular destination for young single adults (YSA) from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially YSAs who have returned from full-time missions and want to further their education and make new friends .

This journey offers tremendous opportunities for young people to meet others from around the world who share common standards of health and well-being.

Quite a few Kahungunu students attend BYU-Hawaii. They live on campus and most of them are involved in the IWORK program, which aims to help students study while working at the neighboring Polynesian Cultural Center or the BYU Hawaii campus to help offset their tuition.

It’s a great opportunity to learn, grow and discover new talents. Most of the time, our Kahungunu students are drawn to each other and enjoy conversations about home and family over a Kiwi Kai.

We have thousands of BYU-Hawaii graduates who have returned to New Zealand and many who have married and live either in Hawaii or in other parts of the world.

Recently, my family and I traveled to Hawaii to attend my daughter’s graduation. She will probably be upset that I am writing this article about her, but I am absolutely proud of her and her accomplishments. In fact, if it helps other YSAs find their way through young adulthood, then that’s great.

This is an excerpt from her journey – Leilani Wong.

In 2017, after my mission, I came on a trip to Hawaii with Uncle Traci (Tuimaseve). As I sat in the Hawaiian Temple (LDS), I was asked to come here (at BYU-Hawaii) for school. So I started my application as soon as I returned to New Zealand. I applied twice and was rejected twice. It was embarrasing. On my third application I thought this is it, do it or move on… and luckily I made it. I was accepted to school and was able to get the IWORK scholarship.

In the fall of 2018 I arrived nervous and excited about what this new journey would bring. And what a journey it was. It was a roller coaster ride full of ups and downs! The occasional homesickness, the challenges of juggling school and work, the classes, the food, the slow communication, meeting people, etc… it’s all been a challenging journey.

Eventually, I craved the challenge and chose three majors – Psychology, Graphic Design and Social Work. That meant at times more than 24 credits per semester. It was tough – and sometimes depressing. But I’m proud of myself for persevering. Something about taking three made me feel like I was proving to myself and to the school that if it takes me three tries to get in here, I’m going to put in three times the work and prove I’m meant to be here.

What really made this trip apart from studying was the people. My family, my friends, my comrades, my colleagues, my professors and everyone else. People went above and beyond to help me get through and make this trip so fun.

Many thanks for everything! I couldn’t have done it without you guys I don’t think…seriously some of you know how much I was considering quitting lol. So thank you for the pep talks, trips to the beach, naps, walks to the temple, drinks at Soda Bomb, basketball, movie nights, listening to music, massages, laughing, crying etc etc. THANK YOU.

I’m so grateful to have come here, there’s something in the water, yes. As awful as it can be some days lol…there’s something special about it – a love for people, for education, for culture, for God! Coming from all over the world and sharing this short time together I am no more certain of my decision to come here. Thanks to everyone who made it possible.

Four years later I finally graduated. Again I sat in the Hawaiian Temple and thought, I did it, Heavenly Father. Thanks for asking me… What’s next?

If you’re a YSA and you’re thinking about what you’re going to do next, don’t give up on your dreams of inner belief. Life is a journey. Dreams do come true.

On Saturday, June 25, Leilani graduated magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in Hawaii with a bachelor’s degree with three majors in social work, psychology and graphic design.

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