Solesia Lasa is a senior from Auckland, New Zealand, double majoring in political science and social work. While attending the University of New Zealand, she noticed something different about the family and friends who would return home upon completing their education at Brigham Young University–Hawaii. Wanting to experience what it would feel like to study in a church environment, surrounded by people with similar standards and values, she applied and was admitted to BYU–Hawaii.
Being very goal-oriented, Lasa came to campus with high expectations for herself. Knowing which jobs she would like to apply for and what degree she wanted to study, she began her journey as a social work major. This desire to help others developed while serving a full-time mission in Houston, Texas. There she had the chance to work with refugees and quickly found her calling in aiding individuals. However, when studying political science, her minor, she discovered a new passion leading her to double major in the two fields of study. She's since had the opportunity to travel across the globe to New York City, New York and Bangkok, Thailand, as part of her political science major. During these trips, she received further confirmation of how these two majors go hand in hand in bringing about change in the lives of troubled youth.
Looking back on her time here, Lasa is thankful to all of the professors who have contributed to her academic success and accomplishments. But if one truly helped her discover her place as a pacific island woman in political affairs, it's Professor Christina Akanoa. Akanoa introduced Lasa to Polynesian leaders to show her that she, too, could aspire to greatness and become a leader in culture-heavy communities.
In sharing takeaways from her studies at BYU–Hawaii Lasa said, "it's easy to doubt yourself, especially as an international student, thinking your grades or test outcomes aren't going to match up to others." But she repeatedly learned that with honest effort and added confidence in herself, she would be pleasantly surprised with her abilities. She also noted that studying at such a diverse university allowed her to be open to others' perspectives and be more inclusive.
Lasa's parting advice to classmates and future students is to take a break from Sunday studies. She believes dedicating that time to the Lord and resting is a form of self-care that will be more beneficial in the long run. She also shared a Tongan proverb that carries significant meaning to her, "Ikai ha to'a 'e tu'u tokotaha" meaning "no warrior stands alone." Saying, "for Polynesian, Pacific Island people, it's hard to ask for help. This proverb taught me since I was young you have to ask for help for you to accomplish something. You cannot do it alone. " Continuing with this advice, Lasa encourages students to ask their professors and the teaching assistants for help and closes by saying, "you are not alone in this. You have the potential; you just need to see it and go for it."
Upon graduating, Lasa plans to head home to New Zealand for a couple of months as she finishes her application to Brigham Young University's Public Administration Masters Program. Her ultimate career aspirations are working in the United Nations and starting a non-profit organization in New Zealand. She hopes this non-profit can connect Maori and Pacific Islander youth to their culture as they heal from trauma and work towards a brighter future.