Storytelling is one of the many things that define my childhood. I have found myself reminiscing upon sitting in the living room with my family, listening as my uncles, aunts, and grandparents told me, my siblings, and my cousins of their treacherous path across a war-ridden Cambodia, later making their way to America as immigrants and slowly progressing towards their individual aspirations. Their stories have been passed on to me, and I value these as I use them to guide me through my story. As I begin the next chapter of my story at UT Austin, I’d like to reminisce on the previous chapters of my life.
Chapter One: Inspiration
One of my fondest memories of my childhood is sitting on the couch with my family watching The Spy Next Door, starring Jackie Chan. The family-oriented action movie initiated my interest in martial arts, and soon enough, I was enrolled in a local Taekwondo school at the age of 6. As a young martial artist, I have been mesmerized by the capabilities of talented martial artists, some of who are my mentors and some of who are featured on the internet. Lee Dae-hoon’s lightning fast kicks in the Olympics, Lee Chan Min’s flying kicks in demonstrations across the world, and Aaron Cook’s rib-breaking roundhouses are testaments to how martial arts have enabled devoted individuals to seemingly transcend the human body’s physical limits. It was at this stage where I began to find my role models and create aspirations that would be fulfilled later. Later, in May of 2013, I earned my first-degree black belt. I remember thinking to myself, “I DID IT! I’M A BLACK BELT MASTER.” How wrong I was. In my first black belt class, I remember feeling defeated by the rigor of new advanced techniques. For the first time in a while, I continuously fell in my practice of new kicks. Discipline became significantly harsher, and I began to feel discouraged. However, with my aspirations in mind and my role models in front of me, I utilized these hardships as a catalyst for improvement.
Chapter Two: Encounter with Cancer
My encounter with cancer was one characterized with fear and anticipation like I had never experienced before. Someone extremely close to me was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, and it altered my perspective of vulnerability. Seeing someone who was one of my biggest role models bedridden for weeks disheartened me, and I realized how even the strongest people are subject to the detriments that exist in this world. Fortunately, he recovered, and he continues to be one of my role models to this day. Despite this feat, cancer would return a few years later in a battle with my grandfather. After two grueling years, my grandfather lost this fight, and it was at this moment I promised myself to join the battle against cancer. I had lost a storyteller, one who told me of his persistence through the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian genocide. As he brought upon kindness and aid to his peers in scarcity, I hope to bring kindness and service to those facing detriments in their health as a physician.
Chapter Three: A Rising Artist
After nearly eight years of Taekwondo, I earned my third-degree black belt. Upon this, I was invited to join the leadership team, which trains select students to become potential instructors, as well as the demonstration team, which consists of elite students that represent Taekwondo in cultural events and tournaments across the nation. Through these programs, I was introduced to a spectrum of Taekwondo that formed the foundation for this passion of Taekwondo I have today. Through leadership, I created bonds with students that augmented my love for teaching and deepened my understanding of Taekwondo techniques. Through the demonstration team, I was met with a group of passionate martial artists who motivated me to train at my fullest extent, as well as use my failed attempts at challenging techniques as a mental stimulant to persist towards success. Through neck injuries, fractured limbs, and torn ligaments, I have succeeded in performing the acrobatics, flying kicks, and powerful strikes that my role models have displayed to me as a white belt. Eventually, I was blessed with becoming an instructor, a mentor for upcoming leaders, and a team captain of our demonstration team, to which I have spread my passion and understanding of Taekwondo to others.
Chapter Four: Reminiscence
As I prepare for the next chapter of my life, I look back at what I’m stepping away from. The family that supported me in my aspirations for medicine and the Taekwondo school that was my second home for twelve years are treasures that will remain in my heart, and I can say without a doubt that they will be my motivation as I step foot in The University of Texas at Austin. Going forward, I hope to do research that will make strides in the eradication of cancer, provide services in medical deserts across the globe, and offer hope to patients facing obstacles in their health as a physician. I look forward to the day where the term “terminal cancer” may never have to be heard again and where families of low income can access necessary medical provisions across the world. But as I conclude this chapter of my life, I reminisce upon the smiling faces of my students as I tie their new Taekwondo belts, the stories my family has passed on to me, and the priceless memories of conversing and laughing with my mentors. All of these have left a lasting imprint on my life through the inspiration I received from them, and with these memories, I am blessed to keep, I promise to make an imprint on the world as my next chapter on the Forty Acres begins.
Other Academic Interests
Freshman Research Initiative, UT Taekwondo
What drew you to the Forty Acres Scholars Program?
Without a doubt, family. Family is one major thing I feel as if I can go to whenever I face obstacles in my life. The family that raised me and my second family in our Taekwondo school have always been there to support me and my ambitions. Preparing to go to The University of Texas at Austin, I felt as if I would be potentially leaving my families behind. However, when I came across the Forty Acres Scholarship Program, I was given a sense of reassurance. When I met other scholars, it felt as if bonds were formed instantly. The networking the program offers and the genuine care from other scholars and alumni provide a familial feeling that I have grown up with, and I know I am becoming embedded in a Forty Acres family. Additionally, I was blown away by how the program attentively listens to students’ ambitions and provides the support and resources to aid them in their prospects. This combined with the close community of alumni and scholars has given me confidence that I, as well as many others, can push past our obstacles towards success while being supported by an organization that genuinely cares and desires for us to become the best version of ourselves.