One of the requirements for students to attend BYU-Hawaii is to have high English comprehension, since the classes are taught in English. American students are able to help the foreign students by speaking English with them in study groups and classes.
One of the main goals at BYU-Hawaii is to help the students become successful leaders so they can impact their native countries in a positive way once they return.
“One country that is a great example of success is Mongolia,” Johanson said. “They have a great economy and we have a lot of students who come here from there who get a business education and several have returned and are working for international accounting firms or in the mining industry.”
Another goal at BYU-Hawaii is to have students obtain work experience while on campus. This way they gain leadership skills and are able to step right into management roles when they return to their home country.
Philip McArthur, dean of the college of language, culture and arts and a professor of cultural students at BYU-Hawaii, loves having the opportunity to teach such a diverse student body — an experience he describes as one few people in the world get to have.
“These are students with great ambition, great nature and good will,” McArthur said. “They all come from different backgrounds of learning styles and world views. I’m always working to present the curriculum in such a way that can draw out the diversity here for good conversation.”
Although secular diversity is prevalent in addition to cultural diversity, faith unites the students and faculty of the university.
“Any of the differences we have get mediated by our common testimonies and faith in the gospel,” McArthur said. “Sometimes we have to stop and look at what’s happening in front of us. Israel is gathering right before our eyes.”
Because one of the main goals at BYU-Hawaii is to learn English, students can return to their countries as intercultural communicators.
“The students almost become intercultural brokers,” McArthur said. “They know how to communicate back and forth between cultures and shift codes in a very sophisticated way.”
School and work can be taxing for anyone — especially for one overcoming culture shock and acclimating to new traditions.
“Sometimes when the students are tired from all the different cultural learning, they’ll retreat into their own cultural groups so they can feel more at home,” McArthur said. “We’re always working to get them to connect with each other. The university sponsors all kinds of activities for students to reach out to each other.”
Sirichai Khamrod, a senior from Thailand who is studying graphic design, received a scholarship to attend BYU-Hawaii — something he considers one of his greatest blessings.
The universities in Thailand are not only hard to get into, but they are also very costly. He is grateful for the diversity that surrounds him.
“It was hard to adjust at first, but now the world doesn’t feel as big anymore,” Khamrod said. “It’s opened my perspective to different cultures and made me more humble.”
Khamrod has enjoyed learning about other cultures, specifically Hawaiian traditions. He plans to take some of the customs back with him to Thailand, such as honoring one's family and culture.
“Most of the kids in Thailand don’t really care about Thai culture because they’d rather go Korean or Gangnam style,” Khamrod said. “I want to encourage people in Thailand, starting with youth adults at church, to do activities that preserve Thai culture.”
Ariel Chaffin, a recent graduate of BYU-Hawaii, feels that her experience on a diverse campus has opened her options.
Chaffin studied English and wanted to focus on British and American literature. But while studying in Hawaii, she was exposed to Pacific literature, which may help her attend graduate school in New Zealand.
“Rather than being focused in the culture that I grew up knowing, I’ve been exposed to different cultures and it’s made me a more compassionate person,” Chaffin said. “It took me out of my comfort zone and opened me up to other students' experiences. It also made me grateful for my own background and culture by seeing others around me.”
Megan Marsden is an intern with the Deseret News writing for the Faith & Family section. She is currently a junior at BYU-Idaho studying communication. The views of the writer do not reflect the views of BYU-Idaho.
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