Seerapus' Faith Brought Them from India to Study and Work in Laie
Their journey has been an amazing adventure that began with a heartfelt prayer searching for the Lord’s guidance. Ramana and Aruna Seerapu were doing well in their homeland of India. The young couple had each earned bachelor’s degrees, both were employed, and they were active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They had a bright, busy future.
Then a Church leader suggested that they consider enrolling at Brigham Young University - Hawaii to further their education.
At first they ignored the suggestion.
Then they prayed about it.
“We did not come because the mission president asked us to,” says Aruna. “We came because the Spirit told us to come.”
Living in harmony amidst diversity
Ramana and Aruna are both studying business and are seniors at BYU - Hawaii this year, and they now sense why the Lord guided them to Laie. Surely, their decision to come was a leap of faith. They believed that their Church leader was inspired and that their spiritual prompting was real, and so they gave up their lives in India to journey to another country, where they would experience a variety of cultures and further their education at a Church school.
“The first class Aruna and I attended was English 201 - we didn’t know what that meant,” says Ramana. “We didn’t know it was going to be the hardest class we ever took. But at the beginning of the first class, the teacher invited someone to pray. A calmness came into the classroom; we felt the Spirit of the Lord. It was a wow experience for both of us. We love this place.
“We had studied in the British system of education,” continues Ramana. “Here it is different, but we were able to figure it out. That first semester was tough, but we worked hard, and the people are so nice and so sweet. This campus is great because the people carry a strong spirit with them. There is a harmony here.”
Aloha changes people
Ramana and Aruna both worked at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) for nearly two years and now work on campus as teaching assistants.
Ramana says: “I worked at PCC in the office. My manager was a great example to me. I loved working there and learned so much. At my PCC exit interview I asked if I could keep my student-employee ID card to remember my time at PCC.”
Of her PCC experience Aruna says: “I was a customer service agent, and when the night show let out we would greet the guests and wish them aloha. They were touched by the show, and they would say thanks to me - just a student employee. I had so many neat experiences with people from all over the world. The aloha spirit of this place is therapeutic. It changes people - it has changed me.”
Experiencing a house of order
In addition to their business education, Ramana and Aruna are learning a lot about the Church, its people, and its organization.
“What I have learned here is that the Church is amazingly well organized,” says Ramana. “I have been serving as a high councilor in the stake. I have watched my stake president - how dedicated he is and how hard he works. I always talk with Aruna about how great these people are. When we return home, I will take with me the leadership lessons I am receiving.”
The Church is relatively new and small in India, and it will need many people like Ramana and Aruna to help build and strengthen it.
Aruna says: “It may be 10 or 20 years before we have a temple in India, but it will be okay for us because of the experiences we have had here. We will cherish the memories of being at the temple.
“We want to go back home and see our parents and spend time with them. We want to share with them and our friends the things we’ve learned here,” Aruna continues. “We’ve seen so much of the world here, and learned so much. I know there are many people who are willing to learn some of what we have learned. We hope to be helpful.”
Blessing generations through education
Ramana’s and Aruna’s experiences at BYU - Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center have been possible because of the support of donors to the university’s IWORK program for international students.
“We’re very grateful for the IWORK financial aid program,” says Aruna. “Without this support there is no way we could have ever come here.”
Ramana says: “I know that education is expensive and that we’re recipients of someone’s sacrifice. I might not know the pain for each penny or each dollar that is coming to me, but I know it represents real work. I want people to know how much I appreciate what they have done for me and my family. Someday we want our daughter, Celina, to come here as well. She will grow up knowing that she is going to BYU - Hawaii.”