The Post-Mission Transition : Stories from BYU Alumni
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First Person

The Post-Mission Transition

The switch from missionary to BYU student has both awkward moments and triumphs.

In this cartoon, a male BYU student dressed as an Australian whispers to the guy next to him, a red-haired female looks on.
Illustration by Travis Foster

“The guy next to me . . . spoke in a thick Australian accent, and I noted (with a hint of jealousy) that all the girls took notice.” —Brandon Murphy

A Voice from Down Under

By Brandon A. Murphy (BA ’96), St. George, UT

My first semester back after my mission, my roommates and I were assigned to a large family home evening group. We sat in a circle, taking turns introducing ourselves with the standard information: name, hometown, and major.

When the guy next to me introduced himself, he spoke in a thick Australian accent and I noted (with a hint of jealousy) that all the girls took notice. He didn’t say he was from Australia, so after the introductions I asked him if he served his mission in Australia. He said he did, so I asked him how long he had been home, since it usually takes a couple of months to lose an accent. He leaned in close and said he had been home for a few years, but girls love the accent so he kept it.

BYU Missionary

By Matt Willden (BA ’01, MBA ’06), Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

Following my mission president’s wise counsel to quickly return to school post-mission had an unexpected downside: I arrived at BYU within days of coming home and didn’t get a chance to adjust to leaving behind full-time missionary service.

A week into the semester I was feeling “homesick” for missionary work, so I prayed in earnest for some kind of missionary experience, however improbable it seemed. That day I was walking south of the Lee Library between classes. Among the sea of students I saw a young man coming toward me, and I felt an urgent desire to talk to him. I quickly jostled my way into the oncoming foot traffic and stopped right in front of him.

He looked confused, so I opened my mouth only to panic, realizing I hadn’t given thought to what I would say. I stumbled over a few words of greeting, then found myself abruptly asking, “Are you LDS?” Surprised, he responded, “How did you know?”

He then said, “I’m not a member, but I’m taking the discussions. In fact, the missionaries are coming over again tonight. Would you like to come?”

I was able to participate in some of his lessons and attended his baptism a couple of weeks later. He went on to serve a mission as well, and we’ve remained friends to this day.

By Natalie Merrill Scherck (BS ’17), East Wenatchee, WA

Probably just three weeks after finishing my Spanish-speaking mission to Guatemala, I returned to BYU as a wide-eyed sophomore, eager to study, date, and get back into normal life. I still felt a little awkward with my English, but it seemed I was adjusting okay. After a few months, I began dating a guy in my ward. Things were going well, and one evening we were talking in the living room of my apartment when he leaned forward and kissed me.

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond, and before I could think of what to say, Spanish started coming out of my mouth. Not just any Spanish, but missionary Spanish. In response to his kiss, I started telling him (in Spanish) that he should study his scriptures and pray . . . basically a fully-fledged missionary lesson. Lucky for me, he just thought it was hilarious, and we were married a few months later.

What’s Your [First] Name?

By Kimberly Sorenson Hendrickson (BA ’03), Littleton, MA

Following my missionary service in Uruguay, it was fun to see fellow veterans of my mission around campus at BYU. Since we had called each other by our last names in the mission field, it seemed perfectly natural to me to keep doing that at school. I’m not sure I even knew some of their first names.

One day, as I passed a friend from my mission in the old Jesse Knight Humanities Building, I called out a jaunty, “Hey, Jones!” The friend she was chatting with quipped, “So you guys are on a last-name basis, huh?”

Accruing Online Interest

By Natalie J. Muhlestein (BS ’13), Orford, NH

I’ve never been big on social media, and going on a mission definitely put me even further behind. In my first post-mission semester in winter 2012, I was definitely confused to learn that all my new roommates did was spend time on their laptops viewing a website that sounded like an odd portmanteau of personal identification numbers and interest rates. How had online banking become such a rage while I was gone? It wasn’t long before I realized that Pinterest was more about “interests” than interest and “pins” weren’t 4-digit codes. Many things had changed, but thankfully the world I came back to was not quite as crazy as having online banking be the hot new social-media trend.

Registering an Uneasy Feeling

By Karl Leonard Harris (BS ’73), Orem, UT

My mission began with three months at the LTM (Language Training Mission) and ended with four connecting flights from the Brazilian Mission to Utah. I arrived at SLC in the middle of the night, when my family greeted me at the gate and drove me home to Springville.

BYU registration in 1967 required being physically present in the Smith Fieldhouse and waiting in line to enter at your designated time. You went to a series of tables to request an IBM punch card for the class you wanted, and when the cards ran out, the class was full. So you would juggle class selection by importance, availability, and finding acceptable alternatives, while avoiding cards for two classes that both met MWF at 10 a.m.

In this cartoon illustration, the driver of a pink car appears wide-eyed and uneasy.
Illustration by Travis Foster

“As I drove through Springville, I felt strange and uneasy. I didn’t know what was wrong, but something wasn’t right.” —Karl Harris

After just a few hours of sleep, I got up mid-morning and borrowed a car to go register. As I drove through Springville, I felt strange and uneasy. I didn’t know what was wrong, but something wasn’t right. Oh, it came to me—it’s that I hadn’t driven a car in over two years! But still, something else bothered me. As I drove over Ironton Hill into Provo: I finally realized that for the first time in two years and three months, I was alone, by myself, without my companion!

Call for Stories: Presidential Moments

Back in the ’80s, Kenneth V. Kuykendall (BA ’88, JD ’91) was a BYU student employee tasked with an urgent delivery. At the Maeser Building main entrance, he “could see that a man in a dark suit was standing with his back to the door, blocking it.” After a few polite attempts to exit, he became irritated and shoved open the door, smacking it hard into the back of . . . Jeffrey R. Holland (BS ’65, MA ’66), university president, who was filming a BYU commercial.

Have you ever run into a BYU president, on campus or elsewhere? Tell us about your humorous, educational, or inspiring encounter with the leader of the Y. Deadline: Dec. 11.

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