When You Give Up #1 for #14

Word’s out: I’ve committed to attending Yale University in the fall to pursue my Master in Public Health!!!

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TEXAS FOREVER

For anyone who talked to me during the process, you know how anxious I felt throughout the whole process.

DISCLAIMER: ANOTHER LONG POST SORRY WILL EDIT LATER

// GRE, APPLYING, DOUBTS //

Back in October, I had a life crisis/mental breakdown and finally committed to pursuing graduate school instead of medical school. It took a lot of humility and sacrifice to give up on a dream that I had for so long. People kept asking, “Well, why didn’t you just apply to med school? Why give up before you get a no?” (background: I completely switched. Like I no longer desire to become a physician.) // READ MORE ABOUT THAT TIME HERE!

Throughout the whole process of applying to grad school, I faced a lot of doubt: what if I should have just applied to med school? What if I go into public health and have a rude awakening that I hate it? What if I don’t get in anywhere? How will I do on the GRE?

I felt really anxious because all of my close friends were getting full time job offers that they really wanted & they knew where they were going to live geographically the next year. But there I was, just figuring out my life, in the middle of first semester of my senior year of college.

And so literally a month after I decided to switch to this life path, I took the GRE on November 16th and started my first week at my new part time job, and two weeks after that on Dec 1st, I had applied to my first three programs. By December 31st, I finished applying to all 8 programs, all out of the state, struggled to finish my senior thesis, and had some personal stuff to deal with. That season was absolute madness.

The doubts didn’t stop. More than half of the programs I was interested in required a minimum of 2 years, public-health related work experience, so I couldn’t even apply to a lot of programs. And once I submitted and paid for my applications, I realized that some of my “back-up” choices were actually really prestigious. For example, I applied to one of the best health policy programs (George Washington University) as a back-up, but when I heard that it’s one of the best I began considering if I should apply to other programs, like UT/A&M.

But God is just so incredibly faithful.

With my GRE, I spent half a week in Houston to “study” for it, but really I just hung out with people. I walked into that exam not even knowing the format of the exam tbh. You basically get your scores right away (except for the writing portion), and once those numbers popped up, I stared at the screen for a long while because I performed a lot better than I expected. A couple of weeks later, I got my writing score, scoring in the top 7% of the nation on that portion of the exam. (HAHA THANK YOU, UT COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS. I guess all of those incredibly lengthy literary reviews and thesis papers paid off?)

And less than a week after I applied to GWU (the health policy program I mentioned), they gave me my first acceptance!

I couldn’t believe it. I remember the overwhelming joy that took away my doubts. It confirmed that I was, in fact, going somewhere, and that I made the right decision to choose public health. I messaged so many people, and I felt so supported as my friends and family celebrated with me. More than those things, though, I heard a strong voice of the Lord telling me,

“Janet, have peace. Do you not trust me? Didn’t you say that you knew that switching to PH was from me? Why do you doubt? Why are you worried? I am the Lord. I am faithful. Believe that I am who I say that I am.”

// THE ADMISSIONS PROCESS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS //

As time went on, I God proved faithful again and again.

At one point, I considered applying for a joint degree at Yale to get my MPH and my M. Div (Master of Divinity, a professional ministry degree). I emailed and later called the Director of Admissions to talk about it, and she was so excited for my passion for public health and my desire to understand God’s heart for the field! Though I ultimately ended up not applying for the joint degree, the Director of Admissions continued to follow up with me and even sent me personal emails to congratulate me on my acceptance and to give me contact information of others in the joint degree, just in case I wanted to talk to them!

And then I was invited to interview for UPenn, my dream undergrad school during a conference I was attending LOL.  A week later, I got my second acceptance. There’s a really long story behind this one, but this acceptance led to a lot of greater things and emotional healing regarding my family, in ways that I didn’t even know I needed healing.

I then received my acceptance to Boston University, another top 10 program, and they also gave me a $20,000 merit scholarship!!

As I received these acceptances, I grew more and more selfish and ambitious. I joined this forum that in which a bunch of people posted their stats & their acceptances/timelines of their decision. I began comparing myself to them. The newness of the acceptances wore off, and honestly, I became really impatient. At this point, I had heard back from all of my “backup” programs and was waiting on the “dream schools”. The most commonly used phrase that came out of my mouth was, “I just wanna knowwwww.” (To my friends: IM SO SORRY. I was so annoying but thank you so much for staying patient and walking me through this journey ugh im so lucky wow.) I stopped praying, I stopped thanking God. Instead of praying, “God just lead me to where you want me,” I prayed, “God, just give me an answer.” “God, why is it taking so long? I just wanna know where I’ll be next year.”

I hated it. I constantly felt so impatient, anxious. This pit in my stomach never just got bigger and bigger. I constantly checked my email. literally. every. 5. minutes. Each day felt so painstakingly long.

A couple weeks later, it happened. I got into Yale!!! I literally dropped my phone outside of CLA after class. I told EVERYONE. My parents almost didn’t believe me. I got so excited I LEGIT DELETED THE EMAIL. I Googled how to un-archive emails on my phone HAHA. Imagine getting the email, deleting it, refreshing your inbox, and then it not being there?? I honestly thought I was just imagining things.

About a week after that, I got into Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, one of the best programs. Then, I got into the one that I thought was impossible: The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Literally ranked #1, and has been for decades.

I couldn’t believe it.

But life is just so twisted. As I received these acceptances from literally the TOP ranked programs in the nation, and possibly the world, I didn’t thank God, the only One who made it possible. Like y’all. I had a 3.2 GPA when I applied. I didn’t deserve it. I really didn’t.

Then I started to feel guilt. I felt as though I should have trusted God a lot more in the process. I should have prayed not only at the beginning of this whole adventure, but throughout. At that point, I felt just so spiritually dry and far away that more than excitement and worship, my response was pure guilt. And I knew that this guilt was not from the Lord. It just got worse when I realized that it affected my personal life–my friendships, my ministry, my discipleships.

[[Eventually, I heard back from Brown and Harvard, which I didn’t get into. But honestly that’s totally ok because it made the decision-making process so much easier.]]

// ADMITTED STUDENT DAY VISITS //

So because I wasn’t seeking God for clarity, I visited three programs for their Admitted Student Days: Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and Yale.

Super brief, but those visits gave me a lot of clarity. At Columbia, I realized that it was an amazing program, but not for me. I felt very affirmed though and was really glad that my brother’s there for his MPH.

For JH, I came in thinking that I would hate it, mainly because of the stereotypes that I had: that JH was full of competitive people who only cared about research. Long story short, I ended up loving it and getting to spend time with my best friend while I was there. I really really enjoyed the visit, and basically made the decision to attend in the fall.

But something kept me wanting to visit Yale. Maybe it was b/c I just wanted to get out of UT. Maybe it was the Ivy League name. Maybe it was b/c it gave me another opportunity to visit brudder Yim. Regardless, my parents didn’t think I needed to visit b/c it seemed like I was just so set on Hopkins.

But God really wanted me to visit Yale.

A couple of people know this, but I literally almost missed my flight for that visit. The boarding time was at 8:20AM, BUT I WOKE UP AT 8AM???? UM HELLO IM A MESS. I sped down I35 and got to the gate by 8:30, before my boarding group was even called up HAHA. Thank God I woke up and that I didn’t run into anyone or anything and that no police were around omg.

Overall, this visit made me super torn between JH and Yale, so I came in wanting clarity, but came back more of a mess than when I left. And let’s be real: I was SUCH a mess when I left HAHA.

// DECISIONS AND COMMITTING //

And so literally on the plane back, I started this extremely crazy excel file, comparing course schedules of the two, weighing pros and cons, planning out my 2 year plan at both. I spent the next couple of days perusing the websites for both and figuring out what I would get involved in. I stalked literally hundreds of people on LinkedIn to gauge what the future could look life for me if I went to either institution.

Run-down of each:

  • Both
    • Small cohorts (15-20 at JHU, ~25(?) at Yale)
    • Financially about the same
    • Baltimore & New Haven felt similar to me tbh
    • Grad student ministries
  •  JHU:
    • Baltimore, proximity to D.C. Really interesting place to study populations.
    • Lots of parks nearby, campus next to the harbor
    • Hipster and cool vibes
    • #1 program
    • Curriculum super rigid, but I would enjoy basically every class in my proposed 2 year plan LOL
    • THE leading public health institution in the world
    • Endless opportunities to work with the leading public health professionals, whose office is probably just down the hallway
    • 75% tuition cut the second year
    • Very hands on/practical courses
    • 2 internship opportunities: one domestically in the summer, 1 internationally in the fall (can carry over to the spring)
    • I already know of pastors and other contacts that could help me grow spiritually
    • INTENSE courseload: 18-22 credits per QUARTER omg
    • I would grow a lot as a student and in time management/discipline here. I would be trained as a highly effective public health professional in basically any field.
  • Yale
    • More theoretical/research-focused courses
    • BUT I get to take any course from the entire University. Like I could take Systematic Theology from the Divinity School, I could take classes from the #7 business school in the nation, the #1 law school in the world.
      • Flexible curriculum
    • More established connections with organizations around the country/world, but not necessarily in PH
    • Access to the Yale network, not just the YSPH network
    • Only 1 internship opportunity (summer)
    • 50% off of tuition through scholarship/grants
    • No prior knowledge of churches/personal contacts in the area that would help me grow spiritually
    • Everyone I met was just so nice and genuine and helpful

Honestly, I had all of the facts. I had all of the answers. But at the end of the day, I felt like I was comparing apples to oranges, and I felt paralyzed because I was afraid of making the wrong decision.

But one of my friends put it well: When I weighed the pros and cons, they were about equal. I just needed to figure out what I wanted, and to commit.

finally began to seriously seek the Lord and His heart for this time. I heard a voice loud and clear saying,

“Janet, more than the right/wrong decision, I want you to remain full of joy and worship in the process.”

And that’s exactly what I needed to hear. I was letting fear cripple me from making a decision–fear of the JHU curriculum, fear of lack of job prospects if I don’t go to JHU, fear of moving away, etc. etc. etc.

And as others prayed for me and listened to me, God covered me with this immense sense of peace that put me in a place to listen intently to His voice and His alone.

Once I sought out God’s heart, the decision was so easy. I began to realize that with JHU, there are SO many perks. Like why wouldn’t I go?? It’s #1! But I would go for very selfish reasons–to simply further my own career, to grow as a student, to more easily fulfill my dreams and ambitions. I initially had doubts like, “WHAT IF IM JONAH IN THE BIBLE AND GOD WILL MAKE ME BE AT JHU BC I KNOW THAT’S WHERE I’LL STRUGGLE??” As I described it to others, at Yale I’ll thrive. At JHU, I’ll struggle to survive. I assumed that God always calls us to take the harder road.

But God started telling me that I’m his daughter, and that there are times in which I can enjoy myself HAHA. 

With Yale, I was already thinking of ways I can start outreaching to my fellow classmates/professors/the community. I had a Kingdom mindset already. That was the biggest indicator for my commitment. I also started to see that maybe not having many contacts there would be better for my own faith–to become more independent, and seek growth and Truth individually. And I know that I’ll continue to have a community from back home that will keep me accountable with this. And the people really were amazing. The opportunities at Yale seemed better fit for me, too! I know that at Yale, I’ll grow in really incredible ways, and I know it won’t come easily. But I’m up for the challenge!

Most people probably may think that I made the *wrong* choice. But I don’t. I’m definitely not saying that Yale is a terrible program. It’s amazing. And I’m so so SO incredibly blessed and humbled to be able to attend–with financial help! But what I’m trying to hone in on is that my life is not my own. I serve a God who is so faithful when I am far from it. I am loved by the Father who lays everything out in front of me and blesses me when I least deserve it, even when I turn my back on Him. I worship the Gracious Redeemer who blesses even my mistakes. I follow the Lord who calls me to things bigger and better than myself, One who uses a broken vessel like me for His glory. 

As I meditate on what God has planned for me in this upcoming life stage which seems so far away right now, I hope you will meditate with me on this passage:

“Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.  This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:6-9

So friends, if you got to this point, thank you so much. I just kind of word-vomitted for an hour haha. Special shoutout to the friends that walked me through this whole journey: Christina for trying to listen as we worked out every TTH, Charlotte for always encouraging me and listening to me rant, Jacky/Nick/Joanne/Kyle/Ethan for reading my long messages and encouraging me every step of the way, Alyssa for your caring heart, Andrew for walking with me and being able to empathize as we journeyed through decisions together, Ethan for your insight and analyzing mind, the prayer warriors who at Luke 4:18 ministries, Lina/Jenny/Vicki/Bianca who listened to me during discipleship even if we didn’t get to read the Bible/pray as much together, and the Pastors (PG, P. Art, Pastor Steve) who texted and FB messaged me and prayed for me and asked me for updates. And anyone else I forgot to mention!! Really you are all so special and made me feel so supported and loved and cared for throughout this whole intense journey. Thank you for being in my life, and I hope that we will continue journeying through this mess called life together with joy and in worship! (:

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Ok but before I leave I gotta graduate please pray that I pass all of my classes LOL

A Tribute to the Lady Friends

UM EGGSCUSE. WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE LESS THAN 2.5 MONTHS UNTIL GRADUATION???

Cue knots in my stomach, fears of moving out of the state, excitement for the future, spontaneous decisions that make every day a #treatyoself day, feelings of nostalgia and reminiscing of the craziness that was my undergraduate experience.

I’ll save all of the end-of-undergrad reflections for when I actually graduate, but today is International Women’s Day. And if I could point out the biggest blessing from the past four years in college, it’s been the lady friends I’ve been blessed to love and to know deeply and to invest in and to receive love from.

When I think about the women that have played critical roles in my life, I think of three groups:

  1. the unapologetic independent leaders who will change the world

…because they already are. When I think of “great leadership”, four women come to mind: Rachel A. Osterloh, Geetika Jerath, Yaneli Rubio, Katherine Coleman. They overcome adversity. They love mercy and seek justice. They do anything and everything they can to do good for the world around them, and all three happen to have really great eyes for fashion h e h. By their example, I’ve become inspired, starstruck by their passion. *insert heart eyes emoji* If I could reach even half of their greatness, that’s more than enough to make me think that I led a successful life.

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2. the “squad”

While everyone else sees the outward facades of looking like I have my life (sort of) together, these are the people that see right through me. They’re the ones that encourage me to challenge myself–to be a woman of action. They’re the ones that continue to believe in me more than I believe in myself. They’re the ones that aren’t afraid of my intimidating demeanor but instead call me an idiot when I do stupid things…even if it took a hell of a lot of courage to do the first time. They’re the ones who take my critiques and know that they come from a place of love. They’re the ones that also embrace my emotional side–the intense feelings that I never have any idea what to do with. They’re the ones that have stood by me in the good and the bad, and the ones that I know will continue to stand by me post-grad.

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3. the cute, emotional ones aka the girls that I disciple/mentor

God is so funny. Traditionally in my life, I despised anything cute or anything about …emotions, really. Like all that kawaii or aegyo stuff? *shudder* And me? Crying? Especially in public? HAHA.

Yet, God blessed me with four of the most adorable, emotional, teachable, faithful, lovely, servant-hearted, genuine women to mentor. Lina, Jenny, Vicki, Bianca: I get to meet with these amazing humans weekly, and honestly these weekly meetings have been the biggest blessing of my final semester. The only regret I have is that I’m graduating soon and I don’t get to take them with me ]: AND YOU TOO, ERIKA ONG (even if we don’t meet up weekly u r an immense blessing please don’t be a stranger once I leave ATX).

Honestly, the majority of the time, I feel like I’m learning from them and that the roles should be switched. They’re all just so intelligent like what. I’M SO UNWORTHY AHHH. Ugh I love them all so much wow.

LOOK HOW CUTE THEY ARE AHHHHH:

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~~~

I’m a firm believer that women rule the world. These amazing people have made my life such a fulfilling experience, more than any man ever could. Today, I celebrate each and every one of you great humans. Thank you for welcoming me into your life and for being just…so great. You all have touched me in such deep and inexplicable ways, maybe ways you don’t even know. So happy International Women’s Day, y’all. 💕

P.S. this list is not all-inclusive. If I talked about all of the lovely ladies who made me who I am today, then it would take me literal days to write h e h. I didn’t even talk about my mommy!! She the real superhero hehe (:

 

A Valentine’s Worth More than $597.18

How did you experience love this Valentine’s Day?

Ok let’s be honest–February 14th marks probably my least favorite day of the entire calendar year. Maybe because this “holiday” epitomizes the capitalism and the ridiculousness of consumerism. Maybe because it took forever for me to find a box of red velvet cake batter to make cake balls for my life group that night. Maybe because I felt lactose intolerant that day (b/c of all the cheese on social media looool but also omg this is tru in real life sos). Or maybe because, as much as I hate to admit it, being single kinda sucks sometimes.

This Valentine’s Day started off no different than any other Feb 14th. (If anything, it was worse than previous years because so many new couples have popped up recently.) As the day started, I made a point to avoid social media as much as possible, I got excited to mooch off of the homemade sweets people gave out, and expected to hang out with fellow single gal pals and my life group.

In the morning, I remembered that I had forgotten to mention something to one of the pastors at the church I attend, so I sent him a FB message. At the end, I asked him how I could be praying for him. He said that I could pray for one of the families in the neighborhood that our church serves–the father recently got deported, and the mother was left to take care of three children.

My mom has three kids. Well, it seems like she has four, including my dad, but technically she has three (LOL). She gave up her dream career and never fully utilized her graduate degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management for the sake of becoming a full time stay-at-home mom for us.

If you know anything about me, you probably wouldn’t expect me to become a domestic housewife. My mom’s a more extreme version of me, so for her to sacrifice her desires and time and education for a role like this–that’s huge. It also means that my dad is the sole breadwinner of our household.

So I pictured my family in that situation–imagining my dad getting deported, leaving my mom left to raise and support us three kids, financially, emotionally, spiritually, physically, intellectually. Think about the heartbreak and the stress and the anxiety and the loneliness and the hopelessness this mom feels. The feelings of overwhelmed. The uncertainty of the future. The inadequacy to raise her kids on her own. The fear of never seeing her husband again. The fear of the deportation of the rest of the family.

Think about the kids. The questions of “where’s dad?” and “Why did they take him?” and “Will I ever see him again?” And the inability to welcome him home every night and eat with him and play with him. Think about the crushed spirits of finally making it to America, the land of dreams, but having reality hit that it’s not as great as it was supposed to be. And then your dad is taken away. Can you even imagine?

I couldn’t put myself in their shoes for more than a minute. I didn’t want to face those emotions. Empathy seemed all too painful.

But how can one know about this and not take action? Yes, prayer is powerful. Yes, it moves people in amazing ways. But sometimes, we’re called to act, too.

So then I asked Pastor Art what else I can do to help. He responded with this: “Could you round up some college students who might want to donate money? We can then buy some fresh food for the family to tidy them over.”

So I literally went to the FB group for college students at Austin Chinese Church, and I messaged every single one of them individually.

I expected most people to ignore my message. I expected to gather maybe like…idk $25.

But no. Within 13 minutes, a bunch of people donated, adding to a total of $133.50. Minute after minute, my Venmo count jumped up. People gave anywhere from $3.08 to $50. Within 24 hours, our total came out to be $577.18.

Let me reiterate that. Within 24 hours, 35 college students put their finances together to raise $577.18 to help a family in need, simply after of a lengthy FB message they received.

That’s crazy. It’s actually insane.

We raised enough not only to support the family, but also to support other families, as well as restock a food pantry that our church started in this underserved area of Austin.

Us. College students. Us poor college students, who refuse to buy soft drinks at restaurants to save $2. Us poor college students, who always look for the best deals and try to save as many pennies as possible. Us poor college students, who suffer to carry 5 handfuls of groceries to their dorms because they don’t want to pay 50 cents for a grocery bag.

What happened this Valentine’s Day is actually a miracle.

Wow. God is just so faithful. He goes above and beyond every. single. time.

I think more than the amount though, what humbled me was the immediate faithfulness that so many of these people displayed. It’s not the amount that matters, really. God looks at the heart. And I got to experience how the love of Christ compels us and moves us to action in such sweet and beautiful and compassionate ways. Jesus did it all. This sweet, sweet Jesus who cares for every single soul. This compassionate Jesus who forgave us and showed us love, even when we didn’t even want him (Romans 5:8). This great God. He’s just. So, so great.

It is because of this amazing God and His great Love that we love. Because he first loved us. This is God’s heart. That we love Him and love others (Matthew 22: 26-40).

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God? // Micah 6:8

To everyone that gave, thank you so much. Honestly. You probably didn’t even realize what was going to happen. Maybe you doubted that your $5 donation would do anything. But know that it did. So thank you, so very much. You helped create a Valentine’s Day miracle worth so much more than $597.18.

r e c l a i m i n g

I’m once again beginning to experience the joy that comes only through Christ.

It makes me sad that I once lost the sweetness and the joy and the hope and the peace and the life and the love and the refreshment that I once held so near and dear, the intimacy that I cherished so deeply, that I held onto so tightly in fear that it would slip away from me.

And it has.

And that sucked.

I felt lost, disconnected, distracted, purposeless. I lived for my own comfort, not for the needs of others nor for a greater purpose. Prayer dwindled to nothingness, time in the Word became sparse and unfruitful, worship full of fake gestures and meaningless words. Relationships suffered, intentionality lost. And outreach? HAH. Rarely even crossed my mind.

Turning away from Jesus hurt not only me, but it also hurt my friends, my family, my church, my ministry, my God’s Kingdom. I mourn the pain I caused others and the hindrance to their joy and growth that I caused.

As I continue climbing upwards towards the sweet, sweet place I once knew, I hope to sit with Jesus, to kneel at His feet, to do the Work He calls me to do, going where He wants me to go. May restoration, zeal, and worship be my anthem as I reclaim what once was and what will be. May I pursue the souls He created for the sake of the Kingdom with perseverance and boldness and truth. May I bask in His glory in humility and awe and wonder.

You have never, ever once forsaken me, and You never will. 

God, my God. I’ve turned away, even when I never thought I would. My God, I hurt so many people. WhaI have I done??? ‘m so so so sorry. How can a God like you love someone like me? So relentlessly? So radically? With such forgiveness? God, it’s not fair. You’re too good. And yet you still choose to say yes to me, every second of every day. I know I’ll never fully do the same for you. And You know that, too. Yet, you still love and welcome me back. Every. Single. Time. I am so undeserving wow. God, full of mercy and power and justice. Thank you for reminding me of the power of the Good News once again in my life. I have so much to say that I’m just speechless. You’re so good. So so good to me.

Thank you. 

 

svintageheartsabbathsenate

 

Long Time No See

I recently realized that I haven’t blogged in a while–since mid-October, in fact. I only blogged twice since the summer ended, and I guess it’s because my last post basically defined the majority of my fall semester.

I haven’t finished processing about last semester or this winter break yet, but it’s taken me over 5 hours to feel content with an instagram caption to sum up winter break, so I decided to blog instead.

Since my last post, my life saw many changes. For one, I now have a part-time retail job. Also, I’m discipling another person, and I’ve become a worship leader at my church in Austin. New Years Eve was spent with childhood friends whom I love very dearly and have had the privilege of knowing since diaper days. I’ve travelled to west Texas x New Mexico with fun friends who love Hunger Games, beer&OJ combos, face masks, and hiking. I successfully drove atop icy roads and snow in 20 degree weather. I saw rolling hills and snowy mountains, a faraway lake and underground caverns. Cru and Epic Movement featured my stuff a few times during Winter Conference….so basically I’m a Cru-lebrity, now taking autographs. HAHAHA JUST KIDDING LOLOL.

In terms of grad school, I scored higher than expected on my GRE, and I’ve been accepted into two programs so far (Boston University and George Washington University, ranked #10 and #14 respectively), with a merit based scholarship awarded to me for the first program. I interviewed for another program, which happens to be my childhood dream undergrad institution! HOORAY!! And now we’re just playing the waiting game until March when I *should* have heard back from all of the programs 😀

All of this sounds great, and for sure, I’m celebrating these things; but I have so much regret, guilt, shame. I won’t go into detail here, but basically, I’m dissatisfied with my first semester of senior year. It hurts to even think about it, honestly. And I’m completely at fault for all of it. But change will happen. I won’t let myself go on the same way, especially for my last semester of undergrad.

And despite these things, I’m still proud of myself. This past month, I embraced spontaneity. I took risks. I ventured out of my comfort zone. I didn’t plan anything. Most of all, I let myself fall. As a result, I’m a mess. An utter mess.

I feel like a shattered vase: broken, scattered, vulnerable. Yet at the cross I’m mended and whole (these words may or may not be inspired by a certain song LOL). I’m starting to experience once again the healing of the Gospel, proclaiming that Christ himself is truly more than enough for me. I’m not there yet, but slowly but surely, as I draw near to Him, I know that He will draw near to me. I have hope that this last semester’s gonna be a blast.

Hey, Dad. I missed you.

There’s a TL;DR at the End

Word’s out: Surprise…I’m not pre-med anymore!

DISCLAIMER: this will be super long. I’m SO sorry L O L. But as the title says, there’s a TL;DR at the end!!!!


I’m a senior in college. My best friend had seven interviews with companies for full time positions. My roommate basically lived in business professional attire the whole semester, recruiting for consulting, software development, tech consulting, and business analytics. AND she was successful.

Entering my last year of undergrad, all of my peers pretty much knew what they hoped to do post-grad. Well, I guess they had to at least decide on something, because recruiting started up pretty immediately. But at the time, I just told everyone that I decided to take a gap year before applying to medical school.

When asked what I had planned for that year, I weighed options like getting my EMT certificate and working as a paramedic for a year, or going on short term international missions, or fellowships in health policy. As I tried to discern what I really wanted to do for a year, little did I know that through the process, my actual career aspirations would change.


| B A C K G R O U N D |

I honestly believe that I genuinely wanted to become a physician for most of my life, for many actually substantial reasons. Once, I shared with someone why I wanted to be a doctor, and she almost cried 😮 LOL idk. I won’t talk about all of those reasons because that would be like my personal statement for med school LOL. But I will touch on some highlights because they’re relevant to how I switched my career path.

// c a m p    b a r n a b a s //

So back in my high school years, I counseled at a camp called “Camp Barnabas”, a summer camp in Missouri for children and adults who are differently-abled. Some may label these people as “disabled” or having “special needs” (but I feel uncomfortable using those terms). I served at this camp for three summers, and I always ended up serving the same general population: adults with physical (and subsequently mental) disabilities. My role involved anything from waking my camper up in the morning to clothing them, feeding them, changing their brief (kinda like a “diaper” for adults), caring for them whenever they had an epileptic episode, pushing manual wheelchairs up the steep Missouri hills, simply being their friend, and more. You might think that this role required a lot of sacrifice and energy. I honestly agree, but I never once saw it as work.

Time after time, the campers blew me away with their stories, their wisdom, their vulnerability. Most of them came from broken homes and families wrecked by substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, emotional slams, and SO much more. More than those things, I felt an intense anger for these people because none of it was their fault. They had no choice in being born with these conditions; they obviously didn’t ask for abuse. They did nothing to warrant the pointed fingers, the children asking mom “Why are they like that?”, the passerby avoiding gazes and making an unnecessarily wide circle around them to avoid even the possibility of physical contact, as if their conditions had some sort of contagious vector.

Yet, despite all of the tragedies and injustices they faced, they remained hopeful because of the Almighty God that carried them through. They had this incredible passion and zeal for both life and the Lord that I–an able-bodied, able-minded teenager (at the time)–lacked. Can you picture that? A wheelchair-bound 40 year old woman, blind in one eye with the mental age of a 10 year old who can’t move her arms enough to bring food to her mouth, loving life? I sure couldn’t until God brought these beautiful people into my life.

In their circumstances, they had such a tremendous impact on me. Though I was there to serve THEM, they in fact served ME and taught ME more than words alone can say. In them, I witnessed true joy in its purest form. This experience launched my passion for medicine. I thought, “How much more of an impact could they have on this world and for the Lord if they were fully physically healed?” And thus, I wanted to walk alongside these people. I wanted to heal them physically while caring for them spiritually and emotionally and mentally because ultimately, I wanted others to hear their stories. I wanted to give them a voice, and I thought that healing them physically could play a huge role in that because their disabilities prevented people from even stepping into a five-foot radius around them.

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// o t h e r     e x p e r i e n c e s //

After my peaked interest in medicine, I sought more clinical experiences to affirm my occupation of choice. Still in my high school years, I started volunteering at Texas Children’s Hospital and shadowed physicians, solidifying my desires to pursue medicine and ultimately become a surgeon.


| C O L L E G E |

Anyone who knows me well has probably heard about how I ended up at UT against my will/choosing. Funny enough, UT was the only university I applied to as a non-science major. To every other school, I applied as a Human Biology or General Biology or Biochemistry major, simply because out of the natural sciences, I loved bio. I still do. I just hate studying for the tests LOL.

Coming into my freshman year, I assumed that the classes would fly by like a breeze. Low and behold, my overestimation soon slapped me in the face like a level 8 hurricane that no weather forecaster could predict. The rude awakening that I have to actually study aka try seemed like a whole new and foreign concept to me because schoolwork always came pretty easily for me prior.

Nonetheless, I encouraged myself, saying that these hard science classes played a role in the big picture to get to where I thought God wanted me to head. I thought that over time, I would learn how to study and eventually excel as I did in the past; but that never truly happened, at least not with natural science courses.

Instead of responding by prioritizing my studies, I tried to take my mind off of it, telling myself that freshman year doesn’t matter too much (this is partly true), as long as I have mediocre performance. I started prioritizing other people and obligations over my duties as a student, and eventually, it was way too late, past the point of redemption. *****Disclaimer: this was not right. Don’t be like me.*****

As my freshman year came to a close, I made a vow to prioritize my schoolwork more the coming years. And to my surprise, I actually started to enjoy learning. I found genetics so incredibly intricate and detail-oriented, and ochem seemed like a puzzle I looked forward to solving every week. I would even spend up to three hours figuring out one synthesis problem for ochem sometimes!!! Yet, despite my newfound passion for learning and higher education, other doubts crept into my mind.

I started asking myself why I chose the pre-med life, if that’s what I really could only see myself as, what other interests I wanted to pursue, etc. I faced identity crisis after identity crisis. Tbh this life crisis happened almost every semester for me in college. Ultimately, at the end of that school year during finals week (so like literally the end LOL), I started questioning everything. By the end of finals, more than 70% done with my pre-med prerequisites, I decided to switch my major to Corporate Communications.

I won’t go into the reasonings here, but long story short, I thought that decision was too irrationally made, so I decided to take the summer to pray about it. When the next fall started up, with encouragement from my peers and the support of my parents, I decided to go ahead and begin the transfer process to the Moody College of Communications. SUPER LONG story short, it didn’t happen because I had completed too much of my degree plan. Essentially, I made the decision to switch too late.

So that door shut closed. And thus, even when I tried to switch out of my major/pre-med prior, God didn’t let that happen. At first, I didn’t understand why. EVERYTHING fell into place perfectly until the advisor refused to let me even apply to be considered to transfer. (Yes, there’s an application process to even get approved to transfer.) It made absolutely no sense. I WAS SO UPSET. ]:

But little by little, God began showing me that His ways are higher than my own and that His plans have so much more in store for me than I could ever imagine.

And so, stuck as an IRG/Pre-Med, I actually took my MCAT that winter break, and the following semester, I started to deal with my major and suck it up. I began praying that God would reveal to me how and why He wanted me to stay in IRG, and so I pursued my academic interests in the classroom as I took my “Foundations of International Relations and Global Studies” course, “Politics of Food in Latin America”, “Biomedicine, Ethics, and Culture” and more. I sought ways to bridge my career aspirations and what I learned in school, and in the majority of these classes, I had to write papers regarding a topic of my choice. For some odd reason, though I had freedom to choose literally anything to write about, my research and topic choices always returned to healthcare (See samples: 1 2 3).

And God remained faithful (of course). I actually loved my classes that semester and made a super high GPA without even trying. This is not to brag, but the reality is that I began to understand how loving what you learn/do can impact the results in major ways (seems like common sense but still. Experiencing it makes it so much more real than just knowing it). Even if I didn’t get make such a high GPA, I’m pretty sure I would have come to the same conclusion because the assignments didn’t seem like work. I looked forward to researching my topics of interest. The trek from my apartment to the law school (where my classes were held) took at least 25 minutes every MWF, and yet I showed up early every time. Sure, sometimes I complained about the uphill as I hauled my overpacked backpack past the stadium, up the stairs, finally into the building. But it was so worth it. Heck, I even went to my class in RLM even though attendance didn’t matter.

In these classes, I realized that I can’t fully empathize with the struggles of certain people groups (like the indigenous communities of Guatemala/Mexico, migrant workers, the Japanese, people with deafness), BUT God has given me a unique, keen ability to instantly connect with these people. I instantly identified parallels between their customs/cultures and my own–the ways everything reflects our need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our desires to find community. In regards to medicine, I could easily point out non-medical causes and barriers to accessibility of healthcare, treatment as an actual human, and the need to contextualize medical practices when Westerners go abroad.

By this time, I had committed to staying pre-med for the rest of undergrad after my breakdown first semester of junior year, but I didn’t actively pursue the typical pre-med lifestyle. I wasn’t even taking any hard science classes, I never volunteered at a hospital in college, didn’t apply for HCMP/AED/AMSA/any other pre-med org, my research experience centered around psychology (the cognitive development and executive functioning of twins), not genetic code or bacterial culture growth or infectious diseases. In fact, most of my undergrad resume included other things, like student advocacy (aka Senate, LEAP, Registrar Focus Group), leadership, my faith (Epic/church), music (TCA/ACC), cultural diversity (Diversity and Equity Student Advisory and Action Council), serving youth (D-Camp/Impact) and part time jobs (Anthropologie, Specialty Clinic). The only “pre-med” stuff like my internship at the Dell Medical School and the Student Health Advisory Committee actually turned out very differently than I imagined. At this point, I started realizing that my gifts and talents as well as my interests stretched far and wide. I was simply too curious and too passionate about a variety of different things that didn’t scream medicine. 

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| S T U D Y    A B R O A D : O A X A C A |

In this mess of sticking with IRG and committing to apply to medical school despite my doubts, I chose to study abroad the summer between my junior and senior year because in order to graduate, I have to study abroad. So as I researched, a variety of programs caught my eye–anything from social justice in England to sustainable development in Africa, photography in Prague, cultural diversity in Guatemala, language & culture in Spain. I narrowed down my list more and more and finally decided to complete the application for the Global Health program in Oaxaca, Mexico. (Now that I think about it, I probably should have applied to more than one just in case I didn’t get accepted…welp! PTL I got accepted HAHAHA)

I chose this program for many reasons. For one, the courses offered would be useful to me in the future (Global Health and Spanish for Healthcare Professions). And for my first time abroad for academic purposes, I wanted to study in a place where I already knew the language. But more than anything, I chose this program because it offered clinical shadowing experience, which I had failed to complete previously in my undergraduate years. This program also perfectly fused all of my academic interests–medicine, Latin America, and interdisciplinary studies.

Going in, I decided to eventually apply to medical school, but decided to take a gap year before then due to lack of science professor recommendations and to take a break before the hardcore rigor that comes with a medical education. I hoped that participating in this program would 1. reinvigorate my passion for medicine, and 2. help me discern what to do for my gap year. (You can read my weekly blog posts about my time in Oaxaca on this blog.)

Ultimately, those two goals came true. I DID regain a heart for medicine, I found my shadowing experiences highly intriguing, and I engaged fully in conversations about medical practice, accessibility to healthcare, structural barriers that individuals face to obtain quality care, contextualization of provision (as opposed to just giving out pills), and more. Not only did I learn about these things; I got to see them unfold in real life!!!

And as far as my gap year plans went, I ruled out graduate school by that point and decided to try getting a job related to medical insurance, or apply to fellowships for public policy, or get my EMT certificate and become a paramedic. Prior, I had considered getting my Masters in Healthcare Administration or my Masters in Public Health. For the first one, I thought it would be more valuable to get an MHA after becoming a physician after researching various programs. As far as an MPH goes, one of the professors of our study abroad program led a research institute of public health, and she was an internationally recognized  UNICEF researcher. But that’s all I saw to public health: research, data, numbers. Not my thing. So I ruled that out, too.

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And so the summer came to a close, and I began my senior year.


| S E N I O R     Y E A R |

Coming back to school, everyone asked about Mexico. You know how the further away from an experience you are, the less you remember? And the only things you really remember are the things that truly played a significant role during your time there.

And so I would share. I talked about the city, the people, the culture. I spoke about the disparities. The things that I saw. The stories I became a part of. And it all didn’t sit well with me. I had this wrestling in my heart that I can’t just experience these things and simply share them, because no one will ever truly understand, and others simply don’t care. But I cared, and I was called to action.

Every free moment, I searched opportunities to volunteer or work at clinics/social services that target minority and oppressed groups, but none fit into my schedule. I continued to pray that God would give me hands on experience so I won’t forget everything I learned and so I could impact the community around me. I’ve probably said this before, but I believe that God not only placed me here as a student at UT, but I believe that He’s also placed me here as someone living in Austin, in Texas, in the U.S., strategically placed at a university, sitting in Central Austin, with a car, with Spanish speaking abilities and the gift to connect with others easily.

Discouraged, I put my search on hold but continued to pray. And wow, how the Lord answers prayer.

Long story short, a friend (s/o to Jamie) dragged me to the Communications career fair one afternoon. I went with her to support her, and because I figured, you never know what you’ll find, though I didn’t expect any health-related opportunities there. To my surprise, a number of health-centered companies had booths, though most looked to recruit Public Relations/Advertising majors. Not looking for an internship, I just talked to recruiters, dropped my resume, and said thank you.

Once I had finished talking to whoever caught my eye, Jamie said she was almost done but still needed to talk to one recruiter. I decided to kill time by talking to another company, and so I stopped by the Susan G. Komen table. I had read online that they sought interns for the spring semester to work on website/PR material, and so I prefaced that I was an IRG major not looking for any opportunity, simply wanting to learn more about what they do.

I talked to the recruiter about my passion for the social determinants of health and my interest in community involvement and advocacy, and few minutes later, basically I was offered an internship for the school year on the spot. A week later, it became official, and I started as the Education and Outreach intern!

Going in, same deal. I hoped that this experience would help me discern more about my future plans. This non-profit relates to healthcare delivery as opposed to medicine directly, which made me really intrigued as to what that would look like. I thought that maybe if I liked it enough, I would just work in this type of field without having to go to med school or whatever.

A week in, I already knew this was not for me.


| K O M E N    I N T E R N S H I P |

So my job description on the website dictates the following as my duties:

  • Work with Director of Mission to refine and implement outreach/education plan and grant administration
  • Writes social media post and maintains communication with both Hispanic and African American women’s group leaders
  • Assist with the identification of events for both groups
  • Assist Director of Mission services with miscellaneous projects as needed
  • Work with staff, and interns to assure communication is relayed on all events and assist and seek assistance as needed

Basically, those are fancy terms on a sheet of paper that mean: lots and lots of tabling and telling the VP of Mission Services my opinion on things that she plans on doing regardless LOL.

And to be frank, I’m simply not passionate about breast cancer. I know that sounds bad, but I see it as a blessing. No one immediately around me has ever suffered from breast cancer (yet), and so I don’t have a personal connection to that infirmity. (Maybe that would be different if I worked for a non-profit about mental health or migrants or leukemia).

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the organization. They do great work towards development efforts to provide free services to men and women who are either uninsured or underinsured–anything from transportation to mammograms to biopsies to emotional support, and they target underserved minority groups too! BUT I’d rather have someone who actually has been helped by Susan G. Komen or has experienced the impacts of breast cancer on a loved one. Then, these people can education their own community and empower the people around them, partner with them, keep one another accountable.

And honestly, this sounds really bad, but tbh I think I can do more. This is not to say that community education isn’t worth it. I completely and totally is worth it. But knowing my personality and my experiences, I’m just not cut out to do be the one doing this work. I’d much rather partner with community advocates and strategize ways we can impact populations with efficiency and efficacy.

So then I began to think: what then, do I really want to do?


| P  O S T – G R A D  P L A N S |

I then realized that I desired to work on a more macro scale while partnering with communities, individuals, and organizations to advocate for change in the status quo. And I also realized that though I’ve had academic exposure to these the topics that I’m passionate about, I just don’t know enough. And thus, I started to look towards non-medical, post-graduate education.

Though I initially felt turned off by Public Health due to the statistics-rich exposure I’ve had, I became pleasantly surprised. I realized that Public Health is an interdisciplinary, broad field that requires collaboration and cooperation between many different disciplines. Sound familiar?

And many of the programs offered do in fact have a research heavy aspect, but a lot of them specialize in healthcare policy, or in the biosocial aspect of public health (like the social determinants of health). Others focus on epidemiology/disease prevention. But I asked myself, “Do I really want to do this? I thought you weren’t about the school life, and that’s why you wanted to take a gap year before med school?” Then I started reflecting on my time in undergrad. I soon realized that I actually really like learning, but only the topics I’m actually interested in, like the ones from the previous semester. And so, after much more contemplation and prayer, I realized that I would in fact love studying this stuff. And most of the programs I looked into have field experience as part of the curriculum, so I won’t be sitting in a lecture hall all day!!!

So that’s that. I’m doing it!! So uh yeah I’m taking my GRE in 3 weeks, I’m applying to most of the programs by 12/1, and I already have met with professors about professor recommendations. It’s almost official!!! I just have to get accepted. And who knows, maybe even this is still not what God wants me to do for the next season of my life. But maybe it is. Might as well try and see if He opens those doors, right?


| T L D R |

So it’s taken me DAYS to write this, and I may have rambled on and on unnecessarily, so here’s a tl;dr of everything:

I was pre-med up until like the middle of like last week. And now I’m currently in the process of applying to graduate school for my Masters in Public Health! Aka GRE is in 3 weeks, apps due 12/1 welp.

It’s not that I gave up. I honestly think God used my stubbornness with sticking to pre-med for so long to show me what I really was called to do. His timing is so confusing yet so perfect wow. If I hadn’t stayed IRG/Pre-Med, I wouldn’t have found my passion for healthcare, I wouldn’t have gone to Oaxaca, I wouldn’t have discovered my heart for social justice and desire to bridge the social and economic gaps that produce health disparities. I didn’t really take wrong turns or hold on too long. It was all part of God’s plan from the start.

Considering my experiences, my personality, my diverse interests, ultimately, just how God created me, my newfound potential career path just kind of comes naturally. It’s something I’m truly interested in, something I get fired up about. And I cannot be more excited, even if I’m not even accepted yet.

I read somewhere that our desire to right wrongs, to become agents for change, to advocate for the hurt and the broken, to stand up against injustice–all of these things stem from the Fall. The Gospel is at the center of why I grew a heart for this. And God simply placed healthcare into that mix. Isn’t that SO COOL? Because I love Jesus, He gives me HIS desires and makes them my own!!!!

Do I regret taking so long to figure this out? No. Like I said–I honestly believe this is God’s timing. And he made it all come perfectly to when I still have enough time to apply and take my GRE this cycle!!

Overall, God is sovereign over every single experience and moment and thought that led me to where I am today. It took me just opening my hands and truly surrendering without preconceived expectations. As confused and frustrated as I felt, I wouldn’t have had it any other way because only then could I truly experience the peace that transcends understanding, the hope that anchored my soul, the joy that I felt deep within my being. His ways are truly higher than my own.

What a great, almighty, patient, kind, just, loving, faithful Father. ElohimScreen Shot 2016-10-22 at 7.18.52 PM.png.

I’m so incredibly humbled and excited right now. Remembering God’s faithfulness through it all truly gives me chills. And I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the community that embraced me along the way. Thanks, friends, for reading all of this and for boldly telling me your honest opinions even though they oftentimes differed from my own. To commitment and the future!!!

So ya this is me. I’m always kind of a mess. But I feel joyful and hopeful! Life update to come if/when I get accepted l o l

Blessings,

Janet [‘: