Take risks with your courses — and not worry about your GPA!

A friend of mine, Geoff Costeloe, posted a link to this article: Credit/D/F chugs along that I think everyone who’s not graduating until 2011 or later should take a look. (Because this option is available in Sept 2010.) (That’s you, Tina, Heidi, Charlie, et al.) 

Read the article for details. 

Basically, UBC is allowing students to choose whether they want to make a course count towards their GPA or not. They can now make any course a pass-fail course, and just shoot for a pass. 

This would have been awesome for me; I’ve taken a few challenger courses like Philosophy of Law with a bunch of intimidating pre-laws, and if I had the option to make that course Credit/D/F, I would have done that in a heart beat. I would probably take more of these interesting but GPA-bashing courses.

I wonder how this will affect the course-taking ecosystem at UBC. More people might take Pharmacology 305, for example, because this course is highly relevant to medicine but notoriously difficult. (Imagine a final exam that covers material from SEPTEMBER to APRIL.)

My brother thinks he might take sculpture if that class doesn’t have to count towards his GPA too. It is much too hard to get a great mark in fine arts than, say, math, because the marking is so subjective and arbitrary.


Storm the Wall – cheer squad rewarded


So, here at UBC, we pride ourselves with climbing a 12-foot wall after swimming, sprinting, biking, and running — a feat that surprises some certain high school individuals: “so that’s what they do in university?”

Yes, that’s what we do. And that’s what I will do next Tuesday, at 2:40pm, in front of the Knoll. 


I will not wear shorts like this guy, but otherwise this is what I will be doing at the above mentioned time. 

As you may know, I’m not a swimmer at any rate; if anything, I should be running the 1km. But no, I will be swimming, for if I don’t, my team will be disqualified

The swimming leg of the race is 225 yards, or 9 widths of the UBC pool. If I drown, which is likely given that the last time I did anything resembling a swimming training was at least 8 years ago, when I swam for a week then stopped, a life guard will jump in and save my life. But I won’t drown, for if I do, my team will be disqualified.

Imagine me struggling in the water, my sprinter (2nd leg of the race) waiting on the side of the pool watching the swimmers on other teams finishing one by one, a life guard deciding that I’m a lost cause, and jumping in to save me. If that’s not enough, allow me to add that the sprinter is Tina, who is super, super hyped up about storming the wall.

Yeah, that would be a worthy addition to  the dramatic moments in my undergrad career. 

But that’s not going to happen, because I am not letting my team get disqualified on the first leg. (Wow I just realized how much is on my shoulders… our team — the SPAC STORMERS — represents the SPAC program, and we are fully sponsored by Janet, who happens to be my adored med application reference.) 

So, let’s say I finish swimming. Tina will then sprint from the pools to Education Library, and Nelson will bike around (like he always do but faster) along Main Mall, and Jennie will run 1km to the wall. By that time, I should have regained my ability to walk and I will meet with everyone plus Linh, and the 5 of us will Storm the WALL!!!

NOW, how can YOU get involved?

Easy. Bring your voice and your camera to the Knoll next Tuesday, March 31st, around 2:30pm, and cheer for us! Then send us the pictures, and the SPAC STORMERS will designate you the official SUPER AWESOME FRIENDS OF SPAC STORMERS. 

If Tina, Jennie, Linh, Nelson and I climbing on top of each other is not enough incentive, please consider this picture:


Yeah, that’s my butt in tight spandex. Now you want to come cheer for us.

What’s more important, friendship or relationship?

A couple of nights ago a good friend of mine slept over on my floor. Before we fell asleep, he mentioned that he wanted to see Watchmen

“I want to see it with this girl, but I also want to go see it with the guys… maybe I will just go with her first and again with you guys later.”

“Uh, why?” I asked.

“Because friends are more important… right?”

Hm, one of those too-often asked questions that really don’t have an easy answer.

Actually, this is one of the questions that call for the “it depends on this, and you have to weigh in that, and before all those you need to define these, and finally maybe roll the dice for those” responses that don’t really count as a concrete answer. 

Anyway, I think we have to first define “importance.” How is friendship or a relationship important? I think in this context, “importance” means a mixture of things:

  • impact on our life’s goals, happiness, and growth, 
  • intimacy and trust, 
  • a sense of duty and loyalty,
  • a simple, general liking

Importance can also be prospective; the expectation that a friend or a relationship can lead to the above also make it important to us.

This is how we decide which friend is more important than which other friends. We value friends who we’ve known for a long time, who we can trust with our secrets. We value friends who are positive influences on ourselves, who are generous and kind. Friends who are fun to be with, who we feel compelled to help. Also, of course we value friends who we just like more than others. These may constitude “important” friends.

But a definition of importance is not enough to answer the question “What’s more important, friendship or relationship?” because both friendship and relationship are too general. A war comrade who saved your life, or even, who sacrificed himself for you and whose family is now dependent on you is probably more important than a girl you just met in the bar. On the other hand, a girl whom you’ve fallen in love with is likely more important than your poker buddies. 

So the question is oversimplified; we cannot compare friendship with relationship, much like we cannot compare which is better, Chinese food or French food. There are some Chinese restaurants better than some French ones, and vice versa. Besides, some people like their Shark Fin soup, and some people like their Foie gras. 

However, we can still talk about the tendency of the difference between an average close friend and an average relationship. I chose to compare a relationship to close friendship instead of just any friendship because to enter an relationship is already declaring a kind of bond that’s closer to most, if not all, other types of friendship. 

Now, I think it is quickly apparent that a typical relationship will win on much of the criteria for importance; you are happy with your partner, working together towards the future may be a mutual life goal, and the relationship should be teeming with intimacy, loyalty, and love. Seems like the answer to the question is pretty obvious in this light!

But while a passionate relationship may seem to dominate one’s mind, friendship may be more steady and constant. Besides, a group of supportive friends can add much happiness and sense of belonging that cannot be found in a relationship alone. 

So I think whether a particular relationship is more important than a particular friendship depends on what you want and what you need at the time you asked that question. (Which is to say, I refuse to give you a definitive answer! XD)

At 2am in the morning after some liquid conversation facilitation, though, I was unable to provide any insightful response to my friend. 

“Just go with the girl, man! How often do we go out for movies anyway? When’s the last time we went to a movie together?”

“Oh shit! You’re right. Hahaha…”



一年來玩到的、學到的、看到的、聽到的、想到的、做到的, 收穫真的很多。認識了很多因為共同背景而容易共鳴的朋友, 辦到了很多因為社團向心力才辦得到的事情。

但是我也不是沒有懷疑過。我並不特別欣賞以國籍分隔的社團, 我也不喜歡自我侷限在某種交友圈之內;在這個多元文化,處處是機會的國家裡,如此劃分似乎作繭自縛, 甚至劃地為王。融入加拿大的主流社會,我可以認識來自世界各地的人,享受廣大的社會資源。如果將自己清楚地定位在 “加拿大的台灣移民” 而只和跟自己一樣的人交流, 則有可能喪失掉許多寶貴的學習機會。

所以我是矛盾的。我大一的時候就曾經問過自己: “Am I a Taiwanese who’ve learned a lot already, or am I a Canadian who’s got a lot to learn?” (有看過這句話而且還記得的人我覺得只有一個 :P)

在社團裡那種自在的感覺在相較之下陌生許多,甚至暗地裡充斥著國家主義的衝突的主流社會裡是找不到的。而且畢竟英文是第二語言,說得再順,再沒有口音,都沒有母語來得好用。我在社團裡可以感覺到我能夠充分表達出我的優點,be it 幽默,感性,邏輯,辯才等等,雖然自忖英文勉強能辦到,但是再給我10年,我可能還是無法在英語系的團體裡表現出我所有的自信。這是在Shad Valley工作兩次的感想;我無法成為camp裡面的靈魂人物,找不到自己能滿意的位子,而我認為如果我能夠運用我所有的能力,我可以。


當我能夠參與campus wide的團體,做我比較有興趣的projects的時候,讓我留連淨心舍的不是活動planning本身(安排食物和遊戲實在不能算是我最喜歡或最拿手的工作項目),而是一起努力爆肝的幹部們的互相支持、透過社團尋求團體感的舍員們的滿足笑容、和提醒自己根在何處,進而找到血濃於水的安全自在。

其實我覺得我們這些移民小孩很幸福;很多人在大環境裡找不到能夠依賴、互信、互相支持、屬於自己的團體,而我們卻能夠很自然而然的湊在一起,凝結成洪流中的一塊小島。只是我的探險慾比較高,在小島上歇歇腳就又想要跳進洪流裡跟它搏鬥了 🙂

[Interview] Now we wait


I had my interview last weekend, and I had my celebratory dinner last night where I bought everyone beer and dessert. Needless to say, I was well in my happy state to pay that bill this happily. : )

I thought the interview went well, but then so did everything else in the past three weeks since Valentine’s day. (I almost wrote 2 weeks instead of 3… the happy times do go by really fast.)

I can spend lots of effort to attempt explaining this phenomenon, or I can sum it up with this video by The Carpenters, Top of the World:

But among all of the ecstatic feelings, I couldn’t help but feel a nagging sense of aloofness. Some kind of unreality, instability, or insecurity. Some kind of lostness, as if I can’t find my direction. Everything about med school is done for the time being, and now all I can do is wait. And this mentality seems to infiltrate my everyday activities; school work doesn’t seem as important, gloomy days seem glorious and bright, everything seems happy and fine.

And that can be dangerous.

On the most obvious level, slacking off school this early is unwise and short-sighted. I don’t know if I’ll get into med school, and if I don’t, bombing my 4th year grade is not going to help my chances when I apply again next year. Besides, I don’t want to let go of the enjoyment in learning, even though I may feel that I can afford the immediate, short term rewards of parties, movies, etc. I have to remind myself what is more rewarding in the long run; in other words, when the pressure to apply to med school is lifted (perhaps temporarily), I need more self-discipline to keep myself on track.

On another level, my sense of well-being and over-confidence can leave to a dramatic bubble burst when the letter of rejection comes in May. The bigger I blow up that bubble, the louder the bang is going to be. The more people to whom I reveal my confidence, the more people I will have to answer to when I don’t get in. That doesn’t feel like a big issue to me now, but I can see how it may be a bigger issue than I can imagine.

I foresaw this possibility when I announced my interview invitation. Back then, I asked myself: “Oh, aren’t I worried that I might not get past this interview and I have to come here and admit defeat?”

And I answered: “No, I would just blog about my defeat then, which would also make interesting reading material I’m sure.” 

Talk about a blog helping the blogger objectify everything : )

On yet another level, and this one I should really be more careful about, is becoming too much of a show-off and let my confidence become arrogance. This is the last thing I intend to do by talking about MCAT, interview, my activities and all that. I know I’m not exactly the most humble person, but I’d like to think that I am much less showy than I used to be 8, 10 years ago. 

I talk about these things for a few reasons. 1. is to document my life as an undergrad, 2. is to reflect and distill my learning, and 3. to share my thoughts with friends and everyone who may be interested in learning about these things. 

But an over-abundent sense of accomplishment is not going to help me achieve these goals. It can only project me as a content, arraogant, self-gratifying jerk. If I appear to be heading down that way, I hope my true friends will point this out for me =)

With that, I’d like to close the [Interview] series for now. Stay tuned for an emotional (for better or worse) update in May : )