Hebron

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

— Matthew 25:37-40

***

Today was my last Sunday at Hebron Presbyterian Church in Prospect Heights, Illinois.  It feels like I just started coming to this church, but suddenly it has been almost 4 years and I have to say goodbye.

In Aug 2014 I drove 2000 miles from California to Illinois for medical school, then I came to Hebron at the recommendation of a classmate who knew the people at Hebron.  I remember being blown away by the praise band that was super skilled and filled the entire building with great music despite only having 4 people on stage.  I remember Pastor John being super duper passionate and yelling into the microphone about the Grace of God despite his loud voice not needing a microphone to begin with.

All my life I had attended churches where the vast majority of the people were older adults and very few people near my age, so I was delighted to find that Hebron was full of men and women at my age (+/-1).  The pastor as well as these church members welcomed me and made sure to talk to me after service.  One by one they would introduce me to another person at church and my circle of friends grew.

As a medical student, I would study at a coffee shop near church on Sundays, and you guys wanted to “study” together for several hours although you didn’t have anything to study.  You introduced me to Portillos and gave me tips on getting it soaked in the juice and to ask for hot peppers.  You took me downtown to show me Chicago and your favorite places to eat such as Joy Yees and Great Seas.  You took me guitar shopping and helped me find what I should buy.

When I went to a small group meeting, you all further welcomed me into your apartments and definitely made me feel like one of you although I had barely been going to Hebron for a month.  For my birthday you brought a surprise birthday cake after the meeting.  Despite it being my first birthday away from home, I never felt an ounce of loneliness because of you guys.

You paid for my meals because I was a poor and hungry medical student, and packed me leftover food whenever it was available.  You made sure I was equipped to face the Chicago winter.  You invited me into your homes.  You invited me to your weddings.  You invited me to your hangouts.  I was a stranger but you took me in like I had always been among you all.  I only wish I had been able to say yes to more of your invitations and to have blessed you in return.

Lastly, as my time in Chicago was nearing its end, you took the time to meet up with me, asked me to come back to Chicago after residency, and organized a goodbye party for me.  I don’t know why I deserve any of this, but I am truly lucky to have you guys.  They say the early churches were known for their love, and thanks to Hebron I know exactly what that must have been like.

So after I leave and someone else new comes to Hebron, treat him/her like you treated me, and he/she will know God’s love for you and your love for God.  And wherever I go, I promise to take the love you have shown me and share that with others.  I probably won’t miss Chicago the city of parking tickets or Chicago the winter, but I will miss Hebron, my home away from home.

 

Simeon Koh

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Road Trip from CA to IL – Day 6 (Nashville, TN to Chicago, IL)

On Day 6, the final day of my journey, I drove back to Chicago.  If I had more time, energy, and money I would have adventured through Kentucky and Indiana too, but after 6 days, I had enough of driving.  I just wanted to go back to my hobbit hole in Chicago and not drive.

However, I had one last grand finale waiting for me at the end of my trip.  My good friend from college days, Sarah, was gonna be visiting so we were going to have lots of fun.  Thanks to my youthful spirit, I drove 6.5 hours to Chicago, put away my stuff from my car, laid in my bed for 15 minutes, then went out to meet up with her.  I could rest plenty after I’m dead anyways.

We met at the French Market where they sold French stuff and other cute things.  We didn’t buy anything there but just walked around and looked at stuff while talking.  Then we sat at the train station next to the French Market because we wanted to sit down and freeze our buttocks.  We stared at some crazy pre-teens run around yelling gibberish and entertaining themselves and let time pass by until we were hungry.

We went to eat ramen for dinner, which was awesome in that frigid evening.  I forgot what the restaurant was called, but it was one of the best that I’ve had.  Then we braved the frigid winter again to get dessert.  We went to Bombobar for hot chocolate.  The crowd waiting for these hot chocolates were incredibly long, even though everyone had to wait outside in the cold.  Moreover, these hot chocolates were like $9 each, which is still mind-blowing to me. #firstworldproblems.  They were incredibly rich and delicious, but rich is probably more descriptive of the people who can afford these regularly.

I quickly learned that with a $9 price tag, this was no ordinary hot chocolate; this was a living thing!  When the lady was handing me my cup of hot chocolate, it bubbled over and dripped all over her hand and the counter.  Instead of wiping it down for me, she just left the cup at the window for me and turned quickly to take orders form the bazillion other customers waiting for their bubbling drinks.  I don’t know what kind of dark sorcery they performed on these hot chocolates, but it had a mind of its own.  I picked it up and even with the gentlest grip, the liquid blobbed over the cup and dripped all over my gloves, and continued to bubble over even after I put it down.  Sarah and I must have spent 5 minutes and 50 napkins trying to clean up after my live hot chocolate while the rest of the crowd curiously watched.

Anyways, thus ended my 6-day road trip from California to Illinois.  It was so much fun and I only wish I had more time and money to have seen and done more.

Simeon Koh

Road Trip from CA to IL – Day 5 (Memphis and Nashville, TN)

Yes, this trip occured in January, and now it’s April.  I’ve been so busy relaxing so please forgive me.

Day 5

***

Recall that Day 4 of my trip ended with exploring Memphis in the rain which could not deter my thirst for adventure.  Then Day 5 began with hail and snow.

I had planned on visiting Graceland, where Elvis Presley lived, but I was afraid that Graceland wouldn’t open due to the snow, despite my overabundantly flaming spirit of adventure.  Luckily Graceland had a Twitter account which said that they would be opening as usual.  #dedication

I drove very slowly through the snowstorm and was almost to Graceland when I decided to pull over briefly at a CVS parking lot to clear some stuff off my windows.  I checked Graceland’s Twitter feed and it now said they would open an hour later because the staff needed to clear the facilities of the snow and ice.  So I sat in my car amidst the snowstorm for another 45 minutes before heading over to Graceland.  I got some reading done for my online class I was supposed to be taking instead of traveling, so that was good.

Apparently I wasn’t the only dedicated tourist in the world because surprisingly there were others who arrived at Graceland before I did.  They must have not checked Twitter about the hour delay.  Thankfully the snow stopped and we were good to go.

To be honest, Elvis Presley isn’t that important to my life.  He was more for my parents’ generation whereas I grew up listening to OG K-Pop stars like BoA and SNSD, etc.  But I’m glad I didn’t pass by this experience on my road trip.

Elvis had the ultimate dream house.  He apparently bought this mansion in his early 20s to live with and bless his parents, which is something I don’t think most Americans tend to do.  Also he frequently invited people over for dinner and to hang out.  He had TVs everywhere (in one room he had 3 TVs to watch 3 channels at once), music room, pool table, bars, horses, go-karts, indoor racquetball court, etc.  In contrast to Elvis, I am in my late 20s and living in a low-quality apartment in Chicago with 3 housemates with hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans.  Thank you God for teaching me how to live humbly, but I would like to bless my family and friends with riches too, thank you Amen.

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***

Already my plans delayed, I headed towards Nashville.  I wanted to go to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Jack Daniels distillery, the replica of the Parthenon, etc.  However in the South, when there is a little bit of snow on the ground, everybody panics and roads close down.  The drive from Graceland to Nashville should have taken ~3.5 hours but instead took >7 hours, due to a multi-vehicle collision involving several cars and jack-knifed trailer trucks.

I finally arrived in Nashville at 8 or 9PM and all the attractions were closed.  I was super tired and had to urinate so desperately that I just found a random bar, ordered my late dinner, and then emptied my bladder (in the bathroom).  Like Memphis, every restaurant/bar had a live band performing and that was awesome, although I would have liked to have seen more of the city.

After dinner, I walked past the blocks of music-filled bars and restaurants, then towards some bridges.  It was snowing and cold but it was good to experience the quiet side of Nashville.  I did see something sad though.  I walked by cops talking to a man in quiet voices near the base of the bridge.  I couldn’t hear their conversation, but I saw legs of someone else lying on the ground at the base of the bridge.  Probably some poor homeless person froze to death in the cold while the rest of us were having fun just a couple blocks away.

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***

With a lot of regrets and unfinished business, I left to find a Motel 6 an hour north of Nashville (because the motels/hotels in the city are expensive).  And the highways were in very bad conditions.  Unlike in Chicago where people are prepared for snow through April, Tennessee doesn’t do a great job of clearing the snow from the roads.  The highways had only 1 or maybe 2 lanes partially cleared of snow, and the rest were all covered in snow and ice.  Some of us (including me) occasionally and carefully waded into the icy lanes to pass the slower trucks which I shouldn’t have been doing.  By the Grace of God I made it safely to my Motel 6 where I spent the night as piles of snow continued to fall on my car outside (that I had to clear the next morning).

Simeon Koh

 

* Special Thanks to Chicago for training me how to drive in snow and ice, as well as doing such a great job clearing the snow so quickly.  I had taken it for granted the last 4 years and learned that life could be so much harder.

Road Trip from CA to IL – Day 4 (Memphis, TN)

 

Day 4

After saying good-bye to Derrick, his wife, and their baby, I headed towards Memphis, TN, passing through Arkansas along the way.  Unfortunately, Arkansas isn’t a state to visit, but a state to drive through.  There is nothing for tourists, but offers plenty of scenic driving routes that didn’t fit my direction anyways.

However, there is a giant Korean-style gate and memorial in Little Rock, AK called H.U. Lee International Gate.  It’s to commemorate this Korean guy who lived in Arkansas and founded the American Taekwondo Association.  Never in a million years would I have expected to find anything Korean in Arkansas, but adventure leads you to the least expected discoveries.

Sadly, I really had to pee when I got to Little Rock.  I was hoping this Korean gate would have a public restroom but it was in a small place without convenient parking.  I circled around the area until I thought my bladder was going to burst.  So I just peeked at the gate from a far distance from my car then just headed towards a gas station with a bathroom since the possibility of an exploding bladder heavily outweighed my desire to visit a random Korean gate in Arkansas.  Even after finding relief, I was so mentally worn out that I just went on towards Memphis without a second glance at the Korean gate.

***

 

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MLK’s motel room

In Memphis, I went to the Civil Rights Museum which is built around the old Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.  Having just previously been to where JFK was assassinated, I somehow found myself at a place of another assassination.

The Civil Rights Movement is such a big movement that I was overwhelmed by the flood of information, and ashamed at how little I knew about it.  As an Asian in America, I benefit from the sacrifices and martyrdom of so many black folks of the Civil Rights Movement, yet I hardly know anything about its history.  For the second time this year I wished I had paid more attention in history class.

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The balcony (marked with the circle flower thing) where MLK was shot.

***

After the museum, I went to try what “real southern BBQ” was like.  I ate at “Central BBQ” which was admittedly one of the better BBQ I’ve had, but I wasn’t blown out of my mind.  I guess I’ve been spoiled with too much great food in LA and Chicago.

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Pork ribs with mac and cheese, collard greens, and sweet tea.

***

When I finished eating, it was dark and raining pretty hard.  However I had come too far to let petty rain hinder my tourism.  I walked lonesomely through the downpour across the Harahan bridge across the Mississippi river to the border of Tennessee and Arkansas and took some selfies with my feet in 2 different states.  I was the only one there and I looked as sketchy as heck but thankfully the police at the base of the bridge didn’t stop me.

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By the time I drove to Beale Street, the rain had let down a bit.  Beale Street is a strip of restaurants/bars/shops where live bands play every night.  As the birthplace of blues and soul music, there was an unknown indie band playing at every other bar/restaurant.  I walked into a random bar, drank whiskey from a plastic cup, and listened to a band I didn’t know for hours.  I didn’t know any of their songs, but it was awesome to be in an environment where everybody loved music and played what they loved, regardless of how not-famous they were.

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Simeon Koh

 

Road Trip from CA to IL – Day 3 (Dallas, TX)

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On Day 3 of my road trip I drove to Dallas and experienced how big Texas is.  So much land, so many oil pumps, so much of nothing in between awesome things.  They say between stars and galaxies are mostly empty space.  To me, Texas felt like the 2D analog of outer space.

In Dalls I visited the 6th Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which is where the assassination of President John F. Kennedy occurred.  History has always been my weakest subject, especially U.S. history, so all I knew was that, yeah JFK got assassinated, the end.  The museum did a great job explaining a bit about JFK’s political career, the assassination, and the conspiracy theories surrounding it.

Apparently during the motorcade through Dallas, JFK had the roof of the limousine down so he can be more interactive with the crowd and stuff.  Unfortunately, this guy named Lee Harvey Oswald was waiting on the 6th floor of Dealey Plaza with a sniper rifle and shot him through the back/neck.

The interesting thing I learned was the role photography and television played in JFK’s life.  Television and photography helped the American public get to know the good-looking JFK, and put his family life under the spotlight like a celebrity.  Throughout the beginnings of the civil rights movement, landing on the moon, cuban missile crisis, etc. television and photography played big roles somehow.  And lastly, he was shot in the midst of numerous amateur photographers which helped tremendously in the investigation afterwards.  His assassination happened to be videographed (aka Zapruder film), and later on the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald by a Dallas nightclub owner was recorded as well.

Anyways, the museum does a much better job at explaining things so you should go check it out.  There’s also plenty of conspiracy theories so knock yourself out.  Why was Lee Harvey Oswald so easily caught?  Why so quickly murdered before his trial?

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***

Afterwards I didn’t have too much time to do a ton of stuff, but went to Pioneer Plaza to see statues of cattle.  It was really fun looking at all the metal cows and taking fun photos with them.

 

***

Lastly, I stayed the night at Derrick’s house.  Derrick is a high school friend who is now a dental student in Dallas.  His wife cooked us awesome food and I got to meet their super adorable daughter.  I love babies.  Anyways he gave me a tour of his dental school which was very cool, and we spent the night talking and catching up.  As great as it is to tour around different states and see cool stuff, it doesn’t beat the time you get to be loved by friends and catch up with them.  They were so hospitable and I’m blessed to have a friend like Derrick.  Staying at their apartment was a nice upgrade from the lonely basic Motel 6 rooms I had been using.

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Simeon Koh

 

Road Trip from CA to IL – Day 2 (White Sands National Monument)

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On Day 2 I drove a couple hours to White Sands Monument in New Mexico which was highly recommended to me by a couple of friends.  It’s a giant desert terrain with white sand dunes.  It wasn’t very cold even in January, but I had to wear sunscreen and sunglasses because of the intense sunlight reflecting off the beautiful sand.

I loved the quiet stillness of the vast desert where you don’t have people making noises with their mouths, no cars driving by, no noisy espresso machines, no sirens blaring, no text messages ringing…  Except for the few off-season tourists, the park was pretty empty which was nice.  But the footprints on the sands were evidence that people, birds, foxes, and other animals were there too.

And there were desert bushes that seemed to grow on sand platforms above the rest of the sand.  According to the educational video at the visitor center, these plants start growing and take root on the ground, but over time the wind blows the sand dunes beneath them so the little patch of ground held together by the roots stay but the rest of the ground has lowered.  Sometimes you find trees that seem to be growing above the ground (pictured below), where the sand has blown away.IMG_1471

Originally I had also planned on exploring the Carlsbad Cavern afterwards, but I didn’t start the day as early as I had planned, which put me on a time crunch.  Carlsbad Cavern was ~4 hours away from White Sands and they close early (makes sense that caves would close before things get dark).  I had been to Carlsbad Cavern before, so I decided to give up on the magnificent cave and spend more time at White Sands instead.

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***

On my drive from White Sands to San Angelo, TX (Motel 6), I also realized that New Mexico isn’t all desert rocks and sand.  I drove through a beautiful mountain path with tall trees and green stuff that made me question what part of the county I was driving through.

However, after I made it out of the mountains my good mood turned into progressive anxiety as the terrain returned to desert-of-nowhere with seemingly infinite stretch of straight road with no gas stations in sight.  I last saw a gas station in the little mountain villages but my car fuel gauge said I could still go ~100 miles.  Surely there would be multiple gas stations within 100 miles!  Well, America is big.  I kept going and going and as I was passing by this small town called Hope, NM, I ironically had no hope because that town literally doesn’t have a gas station (or anything else for that matter).  My car stops estimating how many miles’ worth of fuel I have left after a certain point, but from the latest estimation, I knew I had about 30 miles left.  I started to get seriously worried and used my phone to Google the nearest gas station… which was 33 miles away in Artesia, NM!

I turned off the air conditioner to try to conserve as much fuel as I could, turned off the music because I thought maybe it’ll save some tiny bit of fuel and because I was in no mood to sing along to anything except perhaps something of the death metal genre.  I Googled the most fuel-efficient car speed and drove at 55 mph on cruise control (thinking cruise control is more fuel-efficient than me trying to control the acceleration), all the while praying to God and repenting of all my sins, trying to convince myself that the estimates that my car gave must be lower than actual miles I can still drive.  My mathematically-inclined mind was also constantly calculating and recalculating how many miles I had left to go, how long it would take me at this speed, how long it would take me to run how many miles in my current fitness to get fuel and speedwalk back to my car before the time of sunset and the coyotes come out, etc. etc.

It was the 2nd most thrilling part of my road trip, but I somehow made it to the gas station without my car stopping.  I refueled, thanked the Lord, muttered some curses at the state of New Mexico, and then continued my way to Motel 6 in San Angelo, TX.

 

Simeon Koh

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Day 2

Road Trip from CA to IL – Day 1 (Granite Dells, AZ)

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On the first day of my journey, I said good bye to my mom, sister, and Pinky our dog and headed off to Arizona.  For those who have never been to Arizona, there are so many canyons besides the Grand Canyon (Zion canyon, upper and lower antelope canyons, etc.) as well as the petrified forest.  Anyways since I had been to Arizona multiple times with my family in the past, this time I only made a stop at Granite Dells.

It was a random place with lots of interesting rocks surrounding lakes.  I expected it to be isolated from civilization, but the rocks were basically just an extension of the town in Prescott, AZ.  There wasn’t a clear entrance with big signs and visitor centers as in many such places.  That was very painful because after driving for 6 hours I really really really needed to pee and I couldn’t find where to park.  After a while, I just pulled into a local park and in my desperation I peed in the bushes hoping no innocent child may walk by with his/her parents.  After I regained normal mental capacity, it was much easier to locate another park that was closer to the lake and rocks.

I had so much fun climbing up and down rocks and probably went to dangerous parts that I should not have done so as a solo traveler with no experience rock-climbing.  The good thing is that I picked up some empty water bottles that people accidentally dropped into such out-of-reach places, so that made it worth the danger.  If I were like Bear Grylls and had a professional cameraman follow me up and down these rocks I would have much cooler photos but unfortunately it was impossible to take selfies while climbing down big rocks with other people’s trash in my hand.  You can peruse the Internet for pictures of Granite Dells and imagine a little Korean man traversing those rocks picking up trash and watching ducks swim in the lake.

I wish I had more time spend there, but I still had 5 more hours to drive to my reserved Motel 6 at Lordsburg, NM.  Maybe next time I’ll make a longer stay and hike the trails a bit more.

Simeon Koh

Day 1

 

Road Trip from CA to IL – Day 0 (Intro)

Road Trip Day 0

Many of you guys know that I have been all over the place for the past 6 months.  I was back in LA with my parents while studying for Step 2 of my board exams, an audition rotation, then back to Chicago for a month of rotation, then 1 month in Colorado, 1 month in San Diego, and then back in LA staying with my parents while traveling for 17 residency interviews.  Lots of challenging and wonderful things have happened during the past 6 months, but right now I want to talk about my journey back to Chicago from California.

Most people simply fly to their away rotations and rent cars (or do without a car) but as the son of a trucker I decided to drive all the way.  Then on my way back to Chicago, I knew I would have some flexibility of time to make a road trip and see all the interesting things that lay in between my 2 homes.

Instead of braving the icy snow through the mountains in Colorado as I typically do, this time I decided to go through warmer southern places:  California –> Arizona –> Texas –> Arkansas (briefly) –> Tennessee –> Indiana (just driving through) –> Illinois.  In total took a little less than 3000 miles of traveling alone, but it was a lot of fun.

  • Day 1 – Shenanigans at Granite Dells, AZ where I saw lots of cool rocks around a lake
  • Day 2 – Shenanigans at White Sands Monument, NM with beautiful white sand dunes
  • Day 3 – Shenanigans at Dallas, TX where I went to explore the assassination of JFK, and was hosted overnight by Derrick C. my high school buddy
  • Day 4 – Shenanigans at Memphis, TN where I explored the assassination of MLK Jr. and the live music scene
  • Day 5 – Shenanigans at Memphis continued at Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley; then 6 hour snow-induced traffic jam to Nashville, TN for country music dinner
  • Day 6 – Shenanigans wrap up back to Chicago, and one last hurrah by immediately going out again to see Sarah B. my college friend

I’ll be writing a blog post about the shenanigans of each day, so prepare thyself for the lore of Simeon’s roadtrip.  Wish you could have there with me!

Simeon Koh

Difficult Conversation #1

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During one of my rotations, my patient was a 40-something year old lady with leukemia who was admitted for her chemotherapy.  In one of her urine samples we found Trichomonas vaginalis, which is a sexually-transmitted infection (infects the vaginal tract but can come out in urine sometimes).  I had to sit down with her and ask about her sexual history.

Are you currently sexually active?  No.  When was the last time you had intercourse?  2 months ago.  She smiles shyly.  How many partners do you have or have had in the past?  She laughs a little to ease the awkwardness.  Just one, my husband.  How long have you been together?  25 years.

I pause and take a deep breath.

The reason I ask these questions is because we found an infection in your urine, and it’s an infection that you get from sex. … Oh my God! … There was a half-second delay in her response as it clicks in her brain that her husband must have cheated on her.

I expect her to break down and cry hysterically, but thankfully she keeps calm.  I try my best to express sympathy but I need to continue with my explanations.

I’m sorry.  (About what?  I don’t know, everything that is happening to her, from her leukemia to her husband’s infidelity.)  The good news is that with antibiotics, there is 90-something percent chance of getting rid of the infection, and we’ll give it to you today.  Side effects can be some headache or nausea, but most people don’t have any problems.  Also, after you take this medicine, you shouldn’t drink alcohol for a while because it will make you feel sick.  I know you don’t drink alcohol and won’t be drinking while you’re in the hospital for your chemotherapy, but I need to tell you these things.  She nods as I finish the “good news” and get ready for the part that is a bit more challenging.

But we need your husband to get treated with antibiotics.  Since he is not our patient we can’t give him the medicine.  You need to tell your husband about this and tell him to go see a doctor to get treated.  Okay.

Awkward pause.  I am still waiting for her to start crying, or to flip out.  She doesn’t.

Do you have any questions?  She probably has no questions but might need to talk some stuff out.  Or is there anything you want to talk about?  She shakes her head no.  I give a small sigh.  I’m sorry about all this.  Let us know if you come up with questions or need anything else from us.  We put in the orders for your antibiotics so the nurse will bring it to you later.  Okay.  Thank you, doctor.  I keep telling her I’m a medical student but she keeps calling me doctor.

I hang up the interpreter phone we’ve been using for this conversation.  I wish I knew how to speak Spanish.

 

Simeon Koh

Throwback: “The Kind of Place that Harvey Mudd was for Me”

Since my non-college friends have no idea what my undergraduate experience was like at Harvey Mudd College, I thought I would write a throwback blogpost.  This is a speech I gave at a senior lunch banquet event near graduation almost exactly 5 years ago.  Enjoy!

***

The Kind of Place that Harvey Mudd was for Me

written 05/12/2012

            If someone were to ask me to describe Harvey Mudd College, I would tell that person about a class I took in the spring of our sophomore year.  There was carbons lab, where I accidentally learned how to dissolve my wrist watch and get it to drip all over my arm.  There was STEMS where I was taught to pretend that everything is just a mass on a spring.  But actually, the one class that best embodies the essence of Harvey Mudd College was a class called Real Analysis.

            In Real Analysis I learned to question the very definition of real numbers and everything I knew about mathematics.  What do you mean I have to prove how to add two real numbers?  Proof by common sense and elementary education were strictly prohibited.

            Real Analysis was perhaps the hardest class I’ve taken, and my first experience of struggling in math.  I wasn’t getting the concepts as quickly as some of my peers, and I couldn’t help feeling incompetent in math, a subject I had always felt confident in.  Professor Su said this class was “the gateway to being a math major,” and I think he was trying to motivate us or something.  However, to me the “gateway” to mathematics never felt so narrow and without space for an incompetent student like me.  In a way, that’s the kind of place that Harvey Mudd was.

            Fortunately, there’s more to the story.  During that semester I was doing a book study with Prof. Su outside of class, and I was uncomfortable.  Sitting before me was a super smart incredible professor, and I felt really unworthy to be hanging out with him because I wasn’t doing so well in his class, and I thought I might disappoint him once he got to know me personally.  But at our last meeting, we were talking and he said, “I want students to understand that professors don’t value students based on their academic performances.”  I’ve heard that from friends, upper classmen, deans, whatever.  But to hear from my own professor, whom I really love and admire, at a time when I felt ashamed of my intelligence and thus unworthy of his friendship, that I wasn’t just a student in a seat, not just a letter grade or a number on my transcript, but a valuable person who he wants to know on a personal level, was perhaps the most incredible moment of my college career.  And that’s the kind of place that Harvey Mudd was.

            There was also a guy name Ryan Muller, who tutored for Real Analysis, and here is why he was incredible.  I was at Analysis tutoring, and Ryan Muller, stayed an extra 2 hours to save our butts once again.  That was nice.  But the story doesn’t end there.  Later that night I was working on Analysis in Platt.  It was 2 AM and the night was still young, and so was I.  I looked up and I saw Ryan Muller working on the circle table near the coffee machine.  It was 4 AM and the night was no longer young.  I looked up and I saw Ryan Muller worn out but still working.  I finished around 5, as the sun came up, and I left Ryan alone and working in Platt.  And here’s what I thought:  “Are you kidding me?  You had this much work but you spent an extra 2 hours tutoring us?  Ryan Muller, you are so incredible that I want to be just like you.”  And that’s the kind of place that Harvey Mudd was.

            You see, it’s true what they say that with great trials, comes strength that help us get through.  It was a tough 4 years getting through this narrow “gateway” to higher education, but it was also an incredible 4 years learning from professors and fellow students who helped me and inspired me to stick it through.  I am still light-years away from being like Professor Su or Ryan Muller, but I intend to take that part of Harvey Mudd along with me wherever I go.

***

Simeon Koh