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Samoan students who can’t go home, work through pandemic

Left to right: Samoan student workers Marleiziah Peseta, Bitner Lameta, Bethlyn Laurenson, Angel Fafai and Ana Esa
Source: Kealaka'i

Honolulu, HAWAII — When travel restrictions were put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, Samoan students were among those stuck in Hawaii following the closure of BYU–Hawaii. Despite having to follow health and safety guideline working during a pandemic, the students shared they are continuing to work in order to provide for themselves.

While working throughout the pandemic, they shared two important tips on how to be safe: wash your hands and always wear a mask.

When she first experienced the changes from COVID-19, BYUH cafeteria worker Fernanziah Peseta, a sophomore from Samoa majoring in exercise and sports science and TESOL, said, “I felt disappointed and scared when COVID started. Plans changed and chances of being with loved ones and families were limited.

“The opportunities for school internships and other things such as sports and social things were not the same as before.”

Bethlyn Laurenson and Angel Fafai, both Samoan students working at BYUH grounds, stated they missing their families and worried about the virus.

Laurenson, a sophomore majoring in information technology, shared she felt scared and wanted to be with her family back in Samoa. However, due to the closure of borders, it was not possible.

Angel Fafai, a sophomore biochemistry major, said, “I felt anxious and fearful when coronavirus started. Until the coronavirus is over, I want to stay safe and keep others safe. But in the meantime, I’m working to provide for myself.”

While students working at BYUH were able to keep their jobs during the pandemic, many students at the Polynesian Cultural Center were transferred to campus jobs.

Aotearoa Au Peseta, a senior from Samoa majoring in Pacific Island studies, worked at the concession department at the Center when COVID-19 started. She is now temporarily employed by BYUH.

She stated when the pandemic started, she was shocked but chose to spend this time connecting with people on social media and self improvement.

“I know everyone wasn’t expecting this, but for now, I am grateful for COVID-19. I got to spend more of my time with friends and family on social media. I get to experience more new things. I get to have more time to myself and to take care of myself.”

Read more at Kealaka'i