Samoans celebrate B.Y.U. graduation

The COVID-19 global pandemic did not stand in the way of four Samoans who graduated from the Brigham Young University Hawaii earlier this week and found their academic journey rewarding.

Tihani Failelupe Langklide, of Satapuala, Moloka Leonard Ray Obley of Vaiola and Aleipata, Tala'i Tumanuvao of Lalomalava, and Tai Poufa Malaeulu of Satuimalufilufi were among students at the university’s online graduation early this week.

Ms. Langklide, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Exercise Science - Biomedical, left Samoa in 2016 to further her education at the Brigham Young University in Hawaii.

She told the Samoa Observer in an email response that moving to Hawaii to pursue studies was a major sacrifice for her bust she persevered. 

"It was one of the best sacrifices I have made so far in my life. I worked part-time as a dancer at the Polynesian Cultural Center during my first two years of college,” she said. “Then I moved on campus to work as a career mentor, and was promoted to be a student manager at the student advisory council department. It was a difficult journey full of challenges and trials as a student.”

While her studies in Hawaii saw her getting detached from her family in Samoa, she had gained an additional ohana and gives thanks to her family in Samoa for their support.

"Instead of just getting a degree, I gained an outstanding experience. I may have left behind my family in Samoa, but I was welcomed with open arms to a second family, my Ohana at B.Y.U Hawaii," she added. "The biggest hurdles to finishing a degree program are willingness to sacrifice and a positive attitude especially towards the end of my degree. My last two semesters were completely challenging, not only because it was online due to the pandemic, but the transitioning into this form was time-consuming and I was full of mixed emotions personally.”

Mr Obley, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management, found his experience at the B.Y.U Hawaii a life-rewarding experience.

He said the journey was not stable and during that time I tried to find out what he really wanted to do and accomplish as a student.  

"The journey was full of ups and downs battling with all the phases of growth as I tried to search for what my heart really desired to accomplish,” he said. “Alone I coped as I didn’t have my parents here to guide me but they would cheer for me from afar, at the same time I took in help and support from all my loved ones that had been here for me.”

Without calling names, Mr Obley said he is grateful for those who assisted to enable him to graduate.

"I am forever grateful to have these people, you know who you are, who would be there when learning gets tough, they’ve reminded me to be strong and always have personal conversations with God on my knees, when I am in class confused when I am close to giving up,” he added.

For Mr Obley he doesn't see failure as the end of the road, but rather the start of a new chapter and setting new goals.

"It is okay to fail or to fall, the failing moments are special opportunities where, instead of you sitting and mourn about your failure, you can use it to evaluate yourself, analyze new strategies, make new goals, and execute plans for actions to get up and try again.

Ms Tumanuvao, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Pacific Island studies and Social Work, shared similar sentiments with Mr. Obley and described her time at the B.Y.U. Hawaii as very rewarding.

Emphasising that the online graduation was not what she expected, she prays that the COVID-19 global pandemic goes away soon so she could be reunited with her family. 

She thanked her families, friends and everyone who had supported her through her journey.

Tai graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Information Technology and Theater and also gave his thanks to his family and his village Satuimalufilufi for their support.

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