When I began writing this piece, I already knew which picture I wanted to feature.
So I scrolled through Google Photos to find it.
And kept scrolling.
I remember thinking to myself, “no way it was this long ago.”
I finally found it under April 2014.
Yeah, I guess it really has been that long.
Choosing My Path
I remember my first-ever class up at Simon Fraser University: the seminar component of Introduction to Business, held at 11:30am over at the West Mall Complex (WMC).
There, we were immersed in the Beedie School of Business’ culture and learned about case competitions, leadership workshops, and more. And to prepare for our journey, we also did a little bit of course planning.
Now that was fun.
We received a sheet detailing the different concentrations offered and the courses needed to complete them. But with no idea what most of the fields entailed, let alone which one I wanted to pursue for the next four years, I just put down the one my parents wanted me to go into: Accounting.
A few months later, I took Financial Accounting and hated it.
It wasn’t until the beginning of my third year that I decided on Marketing and Human Resources. I was selecting courses in Organizational Theory class when I realized I had taken all the required ones. It was time to really think about what I wanted to do in life.
I had taken my first marketing course about a year prior, and had lots of fun learning about consumer behavior and creating a brand strategy for Jones Soda, so that was what I went with.
Huge shoutout to my TA, Gianni, and teammates Miki and Michael for making the experience so enjoyable. Without them, my academic life may have turned out completely different.
Throughout my first and second years, I was part of a student-run organization called AIESEC. With chapters all over the world, the organization’s goal is to promote youth leadership and cultural awareness through international internships. My sister was a member of the UBC chapter, so I had heard about it before.
Funnily enough, my FROSH leader happened to be the President of the SFU chapter, and my mentor was the Vice President of Marketing and Communications. I think it’s fair to say that AIESEC was already a big part of my SFU life before it even began.
At SFU, the second week of the semester is dedicated “Clubs Week,” when many student-run organization would have booths set up in the Convocation Mall and Academic Quadrangle trying to entice students to join. I already applied online, but still hung out at the AIESEC booth to meet some of the members and learn more about what they did.
I ended up going through the group interview, then Assessment Centre before accepting a position with the Corporate Relations portfolio.
Looking back, it was probably the best choice of my entire university career.
Through AIESEC, I gained my first bits of ‘work’ experience (which helped me land my first real job), and later, my first leadership experience as a Director of Business Development. Moreover, I learned how to enjoy school outside of class and discovered hidden secrets around campus.
But most of all, throughout the two years, I met countless people of various backgrounds and degree paths that later became friends, classmates, and mentors – a support network like no other.
My First A+
I’m not gonna lie; my grades weren’t great when I first started at SFU. It took me until the spring of 2015 to get my first A+, and it wasn’t even in a business class – it was a Kineseology elective.
I decided to give the course a shot after it was recommended as a GPA Booster. After all, biology was always one of my favourite topics back in high school.
The course itself was pretty easy. I took Biology in both Grade 11 and 12, so many of the concepts were familiar to me. I scored almost perfect on both midterm exams, and came out of the final exam pretty confident.
Now that’s not to say I didn’t take anything away asides from my grade. In fact, I learned a lot about healthy eating and the importance of exercise – knowledge that still influences my decisions today.
But I needed the grade, especially after feeling disappointed semester after semester.
Because after seeing that A+ on my report card, University finally felt like something I could conquer.
One thing I learned quickly was that if you’re enrolled in a business program, you will be working in groups all the time. I mean, it makes sense, seeing that much of the business world is centered around teams.
But that also means that working within the “right” group can make all the difference.
Professors know this too. That’s why in some classes, the groups are assembled at random. In others, groups are chosen based on skillset and experience. And in my New Product Development and Design class, we chose our own groups. Risky business.
Luckily enough, I ended up with the best group in the world.
But the road ahead wasn’t going to be easy; we needed to design, manufacture, brand, and market a new product of our choice.
To start, Kat had a great idea: an portable utensil that could reduce waste from disposable ones. While the idea originally called for a keychained fork, we decided on chopsticks instead after some deliberation.
And thus, Chopkeys was born.
The following weeks leading up to our final presentation was crazy, split between running around Vancouver trying to manufacture a prototype and spending countless hours at coffee shops creating a marketing campaign.
But when all was said and done, we had a working, marketable pair of Chopkeys along with a branding scheme, website, and social media strategy. It’s weird how 13 weeks can seem like an eternity, but also pass in a blink of an eye.
Through this project, I not only gained some valuable real-world experience in marketing and product design, but also made friends that I still keep close to my heart almost two years later.
Thank you, Kat, Nida, and Tim.
After four years of non-stop schooling, I was finally heading into the final stretch. But then I started thinking back to what I wanted my University experience to be back in first year.
There was so many things that I didn’t do, like go abroad for a semester or participate in a co-op internship. But it was too late, I thought.
Might as well just graduate and go from there.
Then, right before the deadline to cancel graduation, I received an email from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong inviting me for an interview over Skype.
My interviewer later told me I sounded nervous, but the important thing is that I got the position.
And two weeks later, I was on a plane to Hong Kong. Yup, almost exactly four years after I left the city to attend SFU, I was back.
Life at the Chamber was great. I learned to use industry-standard tools and met some wonderful people, including fellow interns from schools across the country. In our spare time, we roamed around the city attending wine festivals, networking events, and more. Unforgettable.
But the end of my term wasn’t the end of my adventure. My entire family found themselves in Hong Kong at the same time for the first time since 2006, and my girlfriend made her first trip to the city a few days later.
Together, we spent four weeks exploring Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Zhongshan, and Beijing.
Flipping the Tassel
As it gets closer to my graduation date, I can’t help but think back at my time at Simon Fraser University.
“Remember that time I pulled an all-nighter on the couches at the Maggie Benston Centre to prepare for our case competition we completely forgot about?
How about that time I overslept for a final presentation and had to pay $13 for parking after driving up the mountain?
Or that time I answered about 4 of the 70 questions on my final exam but somehow passed?”
Man, five years and these are the memories that come to mind?
How did that irresponsible kid make it through even one day of University?
Yet here I am, getting ready to walk across the stage.
You know, maybe it’s not always the biggest moments that make the greatest impact.
Maybe it’s little things that poke, prod, and shape you into the person you eventually become. ∎