Why I Left BYU-Hawaii… And Don’t Regret It

When I was a senior in high school, I told one of my teachers that I wanted to apply to BYU-Hawaii. He responded that it’d be much too expensive, and not to mention, I had a slim chance of getting accepted.

So naturally, I made it my do-or-die mission to get there.

I was accepted and set out for school in the Fall of 2013. At 17, I hopped on the plane and told my parents I’d be fine to get myself situated. And well.. that semester, I was in for a rude awakening.

I ended up leaving BYU and transferring to Utah State University the following January, to many of my friends and family’s surprise.

“Didn’t you just love Hawaii?” “Why did you leave?!” ‘Living in Hawaii is my dream!”

And yes, BYU-Hawaii is a unique, academically-rigorous, culturally-diverse school settled in the heart of paradise. But I was simply unprepared for what life on an island really looked like.

So no, I don’t regret leaving. It wasn’t for me, and I think there’s power in realizing that. But there’s a lot I wish I would’ve known and done differently. So here are the things I wish someone would’ve told me before I set out to live the island life — hope it helps.

Living in Hawaii is not like vacationing in Hawaii.

When you’re on the islands for 5 days, it’s all luau’s, sipping Pina Coladas, and sunny weather. I didn’t realize that it wouldn’t be that all the time. BYU is situated on the North Shore of the island, hours away from Waikiki and Honolulu, and it’s much less tourist-y. Make-your-own-fun definitely applies, and make-your-own-fun-while-it-pours-rain-for-3-months definitely applies. If you’re a city, ambitious, or fast-paced type, hanging on the beach might be fun for a few days, but as a lifestyle, it’ll get old.

Also, cost of living is expensive and hard to keep up for more than a week or two (that teacher was kinda right). Hawaii is actually the #1 most expensive state in the country. Yes, more expensive than New York City, D.C., and Los Angeles.

No matter how independent and mature you are, moving to a foreign place without any friends or family is tough. There’s safety in numbers.

I was always comfortable being alone growing up and was often praised for how “independent” I was. So I figured that moving over to Hawaii would be a breeze, but it wasn’t. Few people have cars on campus, so it was scary to navigate bus routes, hikes, and beaches alone. And yes, crime does actually exist in Hawaii. Even on the holy land that is a BYU campus. So if I could do it all over again, I would’ve convinced a friend to come with me.

Get used to Hawaii time… all the time. 

During my second month at BYU, I came down with appendicitis. In excruciating pain, I walked myself to the doctor’s office, and the doctor didn’t show up for hours. When he arrived, he referred me to a hospital on the other side of the island because the hospital near BYU wasn’t equipped to help me. It took me over 3 hours to drive there (they laughed when I asked about an ambulance). After emergency surgery, I woke up in the hospital to find that all of my things were gone. Phone, clothes, purse. Everything missing. No one knew (or really cared) where my things were. And this is kind of how everything operates there — some refer to it as “Hawaii time”, and it’s one of the most awesome things about the Hawaiian people. The “hang loose” mentality is such a wonderful way to live.. except when you need emergency medical care.

(Please excuse the pic collages throughout this post, it was 2013)

BYU-Hawaii is equally if not more strict than BYU-Provo.

I think some people go to BYU-Hawaii thinking it’s like the lax version of Provo or Idaho. So to clarify:

Yes, the beach is 1-minute away, and yes, you still have to attend church every Sunday. Yes, it is 115 degrees plus humidity, and no, you may not wear shorts, sheer shirts, or tank tops on campus. Yes, Hawaiians are generally more relaxed when it comes to rules, and yes, you will get kicked out for breaking honor code.

For example, I wouldn’t be allowed into the cafeteria with this dress on. Hence, the shrimp truck.

But besides honor code,

BYU-Hawaii is nothing like BYU-Provo & Idaho (from what I hear).

If you’re looking for the traditional college experience — this isn’t it. There’s not tons of campus activities or dances, and there are, now, no campus athletics. So if you’re looking to paint your face and root for your home team, it’s not happenin’ at BYU-H anytime soon. However, to keep yourself busy, there’s tons of cool beaches, lookouts, and hikes to check out if you’re the adventuring type.

(You’ve probably seen Stairway to Heaven on Tumblr. It’s nearby campus, a favorite among students, and totally illegal)

And finally,

Your experience is what you make of it. 

I know it’s cliche, but it’s something I wish I would’ve learned before I left. While it may not have been my speed, there are so many wonderful things about BYU-Hawaii that outweigh the bad:

–The education is rigorous, but non-traditional. I literally had no finals. For my Pacific Island Studies class, I had to go to my professor’s beach-front home and prepare a traditional luau with the class for the “final”. Come on.

–There are so many resources on campus to help you get through the homesickness — from counseling, to weekly devotionals, to support groups.

–Being on the North Shore of Hawaii, Some of the most famous beaches in the world are minutes away. It’s also where the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Competition is held, which brings in thousands of visitors every year. (My classes for about 3 weeks, just so we could watch the competition)

–BYU-H is one of the most diverse college campuses in the world, meaning you’ll get to work with and learn from people from all over.

–Tuition is so cheap.  It’s only $5,400 per year.

–It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that most won’t be able to say they’ve had.

So all-in-all, I don’t regret going, at all. I had such surreal experiences there that I’ll never forget.

But I also don’t regret leaving.

I’m so fast-paced and go-go-go all the time, that I just could never assimilate to the Hawaiian way. For a week or two, it’s relaxing, it’s ethereal, it’s enlightening. But as a lifestyle? I don’t know, I’m just more comfortable having a Walmart within two hours of me.

So if you’re reading this and do decide to attend.. congratulations. And let me know, I’d love to visit. 😉



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