Tag Archive | Graduation

Just My Luck … With Graduations

If I am a black cloud in something, that something is graduation.  My gloomy graduation history dates back to 2006.  What are the chances that every landmark graduation ceremony in my education process elicits tears from the sky?  Count them, thrice – high school, undergraduate (Baccalaureate AND Commencement) and last week, medical school.

High School Days

Out of all my career graduations, this was the least I cared about; hence, I was the most okay with nearly missing it.  At that time, I was a girl of few needs:  1) go to an Ivy League college, or somewhere close enough to a prestigious brand, 2) be valedictorian, or settle for salutatorian and 3) get off Long Island.  I fulfilled about 1½ points on that list.  I was most bummed that I did not graduate in the top 2 of my class to attain the lofty title of valedictorian or salutatorian (I was ranked #3, with no Olympic bronze medal recognition for that achievement).  The gunner in me then forever held a grudge against the high school that cheated me of my accomplishments, especially since I clean-swept all the senior awards with the highest, nearly perfect grades in all my classes.  Connetquot was unfortunately still on a “quality points system” that year, as opposed to the more mainstream “weighted average system.”  I still remember Connetquot as the school that essentially dinged a student for trying to be well rounded by playing in the orchestra (a lowly level 4 course), while another student with less stellar grades who was able to take more advanced classes received more points and ranked higher.  It was also the school that held me back from taking more Advanced Placement (AP) classes early enough to count more before college applications went out.  Except for a few special teachers who nurtured my potential and vision for success, there was nothing memorable about the high school that tethered my wings to a wall.

Now you have a basic understanding of my residual bitterness and how I could careless about graduating high school?  Maybe I did not get into my top choice of colleges (Cornell) and yet, I was happy and looking forward to life and school in the city (NYU).  Let’s not forget, I was bouncing off Long Island after 18 years of suburban, if not rural, life.

Excellence My Ends

Excellence My Ends

The morning of graduation was cloudy, humid and rainy.  I looked out the window and heard the pitter-patter of rain … and rolled back to sleep.  I assumed the graduation ceremony was cancelled due to inclement weather.  Nope, it was on.  In haste, I rinsed my curls and threw on my white cap and gown and ran in 4-inch heels.  I was not the only idiot who thought there was no graduation, seeing girls and guys getting dropped off and running into the school.  And here were the beginnings of my tardy tendencies.

I rushed to find my spot on line, somewhere amongst the honor society gang.  Because I was late, I also lost the spot I had on stage, one I personally requested and squeezed from the principal to make something worthwhile out of being #3.

The graduation could not have been more of a drag. The only family spectator was my father; my mother and sister did not come, given how rushed the morning was.  My hair was frizzing from the humidity.  I was nervously looking up at the sky, believing it would shower at any moment’s strike.  What was I proud of?  Getting through with perfect grades and off the island?  My school failed me and perfect grades did not get me on stage where I belonged.  In a deviant way, I was glad that it was dark and gloomy, for I believed the heavens above saw it befitting to make the day miserable for Connetquot and it’s Class of 2006 Graduates.

Wow, I still sound bitter 8 years later …

NYU Memories

The little chunk of campus I experienced

The little chunk of campus I experienced

Every May in honor of NYU graduates, the Empire State Building lights up Violet!

Every May in honor of NYU graduates, the Empire State Building lights up Violet!

College epitomized my glory years.  It was a fresh environment with a much more intellectual and social crowd.  I was happier, the butterfly that emerged from a tight, suffocating cocoon and spread its wings to fly and discover the world.  Come on, I was going to school in the middle of Manhattan!!!  I had no campus, but that did not matter, because my fun-filled campus was uniquely all of NYC.  These were the years I spent finding myself, exploring the city, reconnecting with my Asian heritage and making awesome friends to last a lifetime.

Four years bounced by, and now I was part of NYU College of Arts & Science, Class of 2010.  My Baccalaureate Ceremony took place at the famous Radio City Music Hall.  Center stage and Magna Cum Laude.

While the ceremony was indoors, outside it was again, dreary and gray. There were a few sprinkles, but not significant enough to ruin my wonderful graduation day.


Commencement was a different situation, that fateful Wednesday in May at Yankee Stadium.  It was cold and horribly wet and more like May showers.  Ponchos and caps were passed out for barely enough coverage.  I was freezing in my violet gown that did nothing for insulation.  There I sat, for the next few hours, under a bright yellow umbrella ready to break or fly away, listening to Alec Baldwin and other VIP people give speeches about inspiration and success.  Where was the sunshine I so anticipated for my huge and memorable college graduation?  Apparently, it was playing hide-and-seek in the ultimate hiding spot and refusing to budge.

Okay, it was pretty cool to graduate at Yankee Stadium

Okay, it was pretty cool to graduate at Yankee Stadium

All the special people get FULL coverage from Mother Nature's wrath

All the special people get FULL coverage from Mother Nature’s wrath

President Sexton, meet Dr. Alec Baldwin, crowned Doc of Fine Arts in 2010

President Sexton, meet Dr. Alec Baldwin, crowned Doc of Fine Arts in 2010

What you giggly about Alec?

What you giggly about Alec?

Here are my previous blog entries back in May 2010:

End of a very Violet Era, Part 1

End of a very Violet Era, Part 2

Those days were less okay for rain to ruin, but I had another 4 years to gain graduation redemption, with medical school.

Freshly Minted MD

Fat chance.

The forecast for my medical school graduation on Thursday May 22, 2014 was just as glum as my luck with the last two cycles of graduation.  The morning started off bleak, but relatively dry.  Just as my fellow soon-to-be doctors assembled for the Class of 2014 photograph outside by the campus fountain, the droplets of rain started to pitter-patter.  Perfect timing.

At least the ceremony took place in the Staller Center for the Performing Arts, with a stable enough roof for coverage.

Fat chance again.  We had just finished the hooding process on stage, the ceremonial initiation into Doctordom.  Then something epically unprecedented happened:  the fire alarm went off in the middle of the Hippocratic Oath.  It did not cease to stop, in case it was a false alarm, so we all had to evacuate.  Into pouring rain.  Perfect timing, again.

On top of my day of unfortunate occurrences, my dear sister missed my graduation.  She rushed to take all her finals in order to catch a flight out from California in time for my once-in-a-lifetime graduation from medical school.  Except en route, unprecedented and unseasonal weather in Denver derailed her flight (and many other travelers with important, but less so, itineraries) into New York and in time for my special day.  Inclement weather in the form of wild tornadoes and shooting hailstorms was rarely seen in Denver, except on that one fateful Wednesday.  I was bummed my sister could not make it to my graduation, the one person who has put up with my shenanigans all these years, like stressing out and taking a marathon of final exams back to back just come home in time for me.  After the chaos that comes with flight cancellations and angry mobs of travelers, it took her a grand total of 24 hours and hopping through 5 cities before she touched down safely.  Now I’m beginning to wonder, would I just be a bad luck charm for her graduation next year?


Ray of Sunshine Despite being a black cloud given my dark history of graduations, finally a sliver of sunshine peeks through the gray clouds. My education has taken a grand total of 20 years (if you count kindergarten), but it has not stopped there.  Learning is a lifelong endeavor, an ever-changing process.  It has been an uphill trek, with each step building a foundation for the next higher step.

Elementary school was defined by the basics of the alphabet and arithmetic.  For me, it was also learning English as a second language.  If I put a brown paper bag over my head and spoke, I would sound like any young white girl off the streets.  You would not guess I was in ESL for 3 years.

The large chunk of time defined by middle and high school was all about mastering the SATs and AP exams to get into the best university personally possible.  Those were my hard-working, gunner days.

From college onwards, there was a gradual decline in my gunner ways.  I still worked my butt off for good grades, but I valued my youth and social life more.  There, I built a nice liberal arts foundation and fulfilled rigorous premedical requirements, and took too much time for retail therapy and bubble tea and culinary excursions.

And now, the last 4 years have been defined as my medical enlightenment saga, where the real beginnings develop for a young doctor-in-training.  From burying my brain in books and medical lingo to falling asleep in lectures almost on a daily basis to roaming the wards and chasing after residents who think you’re a pestilent ghost, medical school have nurtured fine memories.  I graduated at the tender age of 25; I have learned so much, and yet so little.  Just as there’s always wiggle room for dessert, there’s also room for personal and academic development.

Thank you to my family and friends for their love and support.  I have made some wonderful, intelligent, compassionate and talented friends who I am glad to call my dear physician colleagues.  Together, we will be friends to last a lifetime, forever connected by our beginnings at Stony Brook Medicine as we journey forward on a magic carpet ride into the world of medicine.

Haha, my Mama's donning a white coat!

Haha, my Mama’s donning a white coat!

Proud Mama and Papa at Graduation Din Din

Proud Mama and Papa at Graduation Din Din

(Gray) Graduation Day!!!

(Gray) Graduation Day!!!

Sister, Sister

Sister, Sister

Sister, Sister ... Take 2

Sister, Sister … Take 2

WORLD, prepare for some awesomely bad ass doctors coming your way! 

Congratulations to all 129 Graduates of Stony Brook School of Medicine, Class of 2014!!!

At the end of the alphabet, where the cool kids are

At the end of the alphabet, where the cool kids are


Still at the end of the alphabet

Still at the end of the alphabet

The obligatory, Connie Yu MD graduation selfie

The obligatory, Connie Yu MD graduation selfie


End of a Very Violet Era: NYU (Part 2)

The Stage... VIP get coverage

NYU Commencement 2010 took place on Wednesday May 12.  Here’s my heartfelt impression:  cold, cold, COLD and freaking harsh.  It’s May, April showers is over, and flowers should be blooming. And yet, NY was cursed with frigid drizzles and blustery winds at Yankees stadium.  Mind you, this is only the second time in 25+ years of NYU Commencement that it rained! It also was not a good idea to wear leggings, white flats, and a tank top inside my purple robes.  While I sat through the 2 hours of wetness and windiness, I was practically a human popsicle.  I used my violet robes to its fullest potential by curving myself into a shivering ball. I put on the purple cap and ridiculous plastic poncho and just hid myself like a turtle.  At first, I had my yellow umbrella up to shield myself from rain, but I think I was pissing people off behind me since I’d be blocking their view.

My friend Jeffrey and me

Besides being blessed with horrendous weather and a very sedentary 2 hours, I was there to celebrate with my friends.  My family did not come because of the immense crowds and initially, the shining UV radiation from the smiling sun (but that did not become an issue anyway).  I was just glad to enjoy my time sitting with long-time buddies and taking pictures to last into the future.  As John Sexton said in his speech, “Bless the rain. You will not dampen our spirit!”

John Sexton, he likes hugs and he totally capped well at Yankee Stade

Alec Baldwin managed to show up this time.  Four years ago, he suddenly ditched the entering freshman class of 2010 during Freshman Convocation (I believe it was because he was in drug rehab or something).  Anyway, we had no speaker that late August afternoon on Gould Plaza and forever was the class irked, until he sort of redeemed himself on Commencement Day.  Technically, he had to show up and speak to our class because he was receiving an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts, which makes him Dr. Baldwin now.  Sound funny? Yes, I had my giggles too.  Well, he kept his speech short and choppy, just the way I like it.  The one part that I would like to comment about is his emphasis on “commitment.”  From a man who did commit to coming out on a torrential day and who did commit to donating millions to the Tisch School of the Arts, I figured I’d pay my respects.

Boy, Alec Baldwin looks giddy now that he's Doctor to you.

Commitment extends to 1) family & friends, 2) you, and 3) society.  First, I do believe it essential to maintain a social circle and family connections.  You can always depend on your parents, until the role reversal when you have a steady job and they get old.  Remember, according to Confucius teachings, parents have given the child the gift of life and the child is forever bound and indebted to the parents.  This is the root of filial piety.  You also have siblings and extended family who care as well, unless some rivalry and bad blood ruins that connection.  But, you also have friends that can be dependent, loyal, supportive, and understanding.  Without friends, who will you be? Will you be lonely or independent?  As another friend reflected on this very question, he said he did not need to depend on friends or family, because by himself, he learns to be more independent and introspective.  He has come to peace with his inner self.  Distance is also an illusion, so it can never sever relationships.  As everyone grows up and moves on, the bond should always be present because there’s always a way to stay connected (hmm, Skype, Gmail, cell phones, etc… thank you modern technology).

Lindsey, Neeti, Me:  We've weathered through a cold day in our ponchos AND lots of pre-med horror

Lindsey, Neeti, Me: We've weathered through a cold day in our ponchos AND lots of pre-med horror

Julie, Jane, Me, Tiff:  How many Asian girls does it take to pass the Chemistry reqs???

Julie, Jane, Me, Tiff: How many Asian girls does it take to pass the Chemistry reqs???

And this segways nicely into the second concern:  You.  You have the responsibility to look out for your own well-being, your health, your duties, your lifestyle, and your happiness.  You would like to become self-sufficient and successful.  You also need to stay healthy and happy well into the future, and let nothing take that away. You take the time to look inside, find yourself, and figure out the best path to bring out those defining attributes.

As one friend quoted,

“For within emptiness, you already have space for change within yourself for growth. It allows you to expand as a person and not confine you to be just a rock on the side of the road, full of dense material and unmoving.”

The third point, commitment to society, is important because you can contribute to the well-being of the greater community.  For me, I have extended my compassionate nature to community service projects and hospital volunteer work throughout my undergraduate years.  I have met patients who commend my “purpose” in the Emergency Room, devoting free time to circulate around and talk to them.  Deep down, I realized my good-nature can go towards patient care in the medical profession.  There, I’d like to see my compassionate nature continue to blossum.  I like chatting and interacting with people, and what better place to communicate and save lives than in the health care field.  As a future physician, I can be a giver of my time and patience, a healer, an educator, and a chatterbox, given I find the right specialty that suits the time I intend to give.  This is what I have committed my next decade of training to, commitments that incorporate family, friends, me, and the larger society.  I have adopted a healthy diet and lifestyle for myself, that I’d like to share with everyone else.  This is where I can be healthy and happy, here in the US or abroad in Asia.

Yay! I graduated. Now, next chapter of my life.

I will leave with a few quotes by Al Einstein as last thoughts:

The value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive.
I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.

End of a very Violet Era: NYU (Part 1)

I can officially say, I’m an NYU Graduate!!!  Today was the last graduation ceremony I attended to commemorate my 4 years as an NYU undergraduate.  From the Dean’s Awards Ceremony (5.4) to the Chemistry Department Graduation (5.10)) to CAS Baccalaureate (5.11) to the final Commencement (5.12), I had an amazing time with family, friends, and faculty!

Picture time w/Ma and Ba

At the Chemistry Graduation/Reception, I received my “unofficial,” paper diploma from the department and recognition for several Chemistry Honors that were given out at the Dean’s Awards Night.  I had the chance to hang out with my long-time chemistry buddies, toast champagne with my parents and friends, and shake hands with all the faculty members, who I’ve visited too often during office hours 😉 Since I have taught General Chemistry clinics and lab since sophomore year, I had a close chat with Professor Halpin and Rugg, both super great individuals.

Me and Mommy

My super-friend Stephanie and I toast to 香檳 ;D

Radio City NYU Spectacular

Next came the CAS Baccaulaureate (5.11.10) at Radio City Music Hall.  I sported my vibrant violet gown over super comfortable leggings and a cute, frilled tank from Express.  The black cap poached unstably atop my size 7 head, with my dangling gold tassel.  At least I can say I was on the Radio City Music Hall performance stage!!! I sat there with several commendable friends-Tharani, David, and John, beneath the exploding white lights and behind all the action up front.  I could only watch the speeches and performances from the TV.  Over 400 out of roughly 1200 students had the honorable seats on stage, though it was very long and boring.  The longest segment, of course, was the naming of every single CAS student (who showed up) and procession up to the deans on stage.  We ended up chatting, texting, joking, and napping; it helped to pass the time.  For 21 years, I never realized another pun on name, courtesy of John:  Connie Y. Yu (behind my ticket for the announcer up front) = Connie Why You?  Well would it not sound amusing when the announcer called out name to the audience?  But, the all-time classic was when one student handed his ticket to the dean and proceeded across as the Dean said “Optimus Prime” (apparently, from the Transformers)… Just earlier, David and I were wondering what would happen if we whited-out the name on the ticket and wrote “Boy of Destiny.”  Technically, John could have done it because he had a blank card.  Oh, it was a classic moment.

To reflect on one of the speakers, Professor Waley-Cohen of the East Asian Studies Department, I wanted to mention her discussion of Chinese culture and traditions.  She studied extensively on ancient Chinese history, so I’m also assuming she knows the language more than I’ve accumulated over 20 years.  I caught the part about multiple meanings in the Chinese language, and for an example, she mentioned 家 (“jia”).  It can translate to house, home, family, a person engaged in a certain art or profession, or measure word for stores and schools.  Confusing right? Welcome to Mandarin, because this is only one example.  Anyway, back in the Confucian times, the home and family were equated with the state and government.  Respect, duty, and love were aspects of family relationships that also extended to the well-being and integrity of the country.  Recall filial piety? Recall the bidirectional superior/inferior ends of the hierarchy?  Similarly, the Taoist principles emphasized the interwoven network of life, nature, heaven and earth.  Everything and everyone is connected, someplace, somehow, someday. We’ve all heard about the 3 degrees of separation among the Asian crowd- someone knows someone else, at one point or another, from class or some random food event.  Anyway, my point is, we are based on relationships, and that’s what I want to take away with me from college.  I’ve made the most incredible and diverse set of friends since entering NYU.  They have become like family to me, and I do not want to forget them, because they are just as important as family.  I have many photos to look back and hold in my memories- karaoke, restaurant outings, clubbing, random Asian cultural events, baking and cooking, and other adventures.  They have defined what it means to enjoy life in addition to completing higher education.  We should not forget that life is meant to be lived.  And we should forever remember our old and new connections, all the people that enter in our lives (friends, family, professors, co-workers, neighbors, even strangers), and the meaning of life.  Life should not be about money or luxury, it should be about love, gratitude, and giving.  This is what I’d like to share with the friends I’ve made at NYU, where I’ve matured significantly over the years.

Mom and Me at the Fountain

Almost graduated actually... from CAS at least