First week

Talking with friends who currently work, we often reminisce the “good ole college days.”  Our fond memories were of the crazy things we did and friends we made.  Being able to remember and converse those past events was like watching a rerun of your favorite episode of a TV show.  Often times, when we meet a person who is just starting college for the first time, we get very jealous since we know that person will get to experience all the fun aspects of college that we had.

“Gosh, I miss those times!”

“Yeah, I wish were back in college again.” 

Post-college life is very different.  Typically, when you enter work, you will find that it can be very stressful and exhausting.

Gone are the days where every year is something new and different.
Gone are the days where you can easily meet up with friends and have a good time.
Gone are the days where you are superman and can do anything and everything.

While my post-college journey was atypical compared to most, it was never the same.

Now, I want to ask you this:
What if you were given a chance to have that experience it all again?
After having that college experience under your belt, what would it be like to do it all over again now?

With that in mind, here are some snapshots from my first/orientation week at dental school.

nyu1

August 18, 2014 @ 8:00 am. In an auditorium with 359 of my fellow classmates.

nyu2

My official student ID for the next 4 years.

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Myself with 6 other fellow classmates. This is us getting ready to go on the scheduled booze cruise.

All 360 of us (my dental school class) are in the same boat (no pun intended).  We come from all different places and walks of life.  It’s nice to know that there’s a lot of people around my age since we can relate in terms of life experience.  There is a huge difference in conversing with “older” classmates than with classmates fresh out of college since age plays a significant difference in maturity.  It’s not to say that people out of college are immature, but rather, years of life experience (in my case, 4 years post-college), gives you a different mentality in how you live and approach things.

No one knows each other, but we all know that we will be seeing each other everyday for the next 4 years (like high school!).  Before starting school, the biggest tip from NYU dental students is to make FRIENDS.  Not just for social purposes, but you will need each other for study groups and resources in order to survive dental school.  Having that graduate school work under my belt will give me an edge on the sciences and, while I am always prepared to do things alone, studying with classmates for exams ALWAYS helps.

It’s a far cry from what I’ve been raised with:

“Survival of the fittest.” A phrase in the evolutionary theory, which best describes natural selection.

I actually look forward to starting classes next Tuesday (August 26, 2014).
While dental school will be very tough, I feel so ready to take it head-on.
It was through God’s grace that got me here today and it will be His grace that will help me to succeed.

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Filed under August 2014

A new beginning

This morning at Hillsong for church service, one aspect of the sermon spoke to me today.  It was about God’s grace and how we are given a new life through it.  However, this new life doesn’t mean we will have amnesia from our old life nor does it mean we can erase the hurt suffered in the past.  Rather, this new life means that we can have a new beginning and free ourselves from the past.  

It means that our lives moving forward no longer has to be dictated by those hurtful past years. 

As I reflected on my life, I realize that there was a silver lining to every hurt I endured and how well things have threaded into place.

After college and up to this point, I was able to:

  • Finish my master degree 
  • Build a solid science foundation 
  • Meet the love of my life
  • Build strong friendships
  • Obtain admissions into NYU dental school
  • Mature mentally and spiritually

It wasn’t an easy path and there were many times that I cried or lost my temper at my situation.  But I always held out hope that God will ALWAYS provide.  It was hard for me to see it at the time, but I had faith that God would eventually reveal his will to me.  In hindsight, I now understand and am in awe at what had transpired thus far.   

Can you believe it? I will be starting my dental school career tomorrow.  This whole week is devoted to orientation and classes officially start next Monday (August 25).  

My thoughts?

While I will always be on edge and pressured to do well, I know that through God, I will succeed.
He brought me here for a reason and I know that something good will come from this.
God gave me a new life and I intend to fully live it. 

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Filed under August 2014

To: My future fellowship

Dear Fellowship,

This letter is directly addressed to my future fellowship.  Indeed it seems absurd that I am addressing this letter to my future fellowship even though I have yet to settle in New York.  However, I want to record my thoughts and feelings in this entry as I address a matter that has been plaguing my mind for quite some time. 

During my grade school years, the majority of my church life was spent at Wilmington Chinese Evangelical Church (WCEC) in Wilmington, Delaware.  It was there that I made a few good friends, accepted Christ in my life, and got baptized.  All was well until around 2000/2001, my church decided to plant another church in West Chester, PA.  Moving there was hard.  Planting a church meant a new beginning for everything.  Despite my insistence of staying in familiar territory, my parents insisted that we try to support the planting of this church.  A few good friends moved to this church with me, so my time at this West Chester Church was more bearable.  When I obtained my driver’s license, I decided to visit my old church at WCEC.  During my visit, I found that things weren’t quite the same.  There were a ton of new faces I didn’t recognize and the people there had formed their own friend groups.  I had essentially missed out the time period to join those groups.

In college at Penn State, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a fellowship called AACF (Asian American Christian Fellowship).  It was there that I got involved and made a lot of solid friends.  I loved my bible study groups and I felt that I matured as an individual and grew spiritually.  Sadly, nothing lasts forever.  

After I graduated, I attended nursing school in Philadelphia.  Unlike my time in college, I had to do a lot of church and fellowship hopping.  While I did visit a number of churches and fellowships, I was never really able to plug myself in to any of them.  Of all the fellowships, I think I was only able to make a one or two friends.  While this was a big change from my time in college, I didn’t complain.  School was the main reason I wasn’t able to be an active participant.  It was here that I realized and missed that strong fellowship I had back in college.

After I left my nursing school, I was back at home and in limbo.  I didn’t know where else to go, but to church at West Chester, PA.  Of course, I had a lot of pressing issues and matters ongoing during this time, but I still made a point to continue my spiritual growth.  At my church at West Chester, PA, I found there was more people attending, but they were largely in middle and high school.  There was no fellowship for young adults.  

“Going to church shouldn’t be the selfish desire to make friends, but rather, grow spiritually.”

This was the thinking I carried with me during that time.  Indeed, I did learn a lot of Christian theology.  My years spent at the West Chester church helped me understand the bible and taught me to think in a different perspective.  However, one thing was missing:

I had no fellowship.

When I say this, I mean that I had no group of people where I could talk and hang out with.  Again, the majority of the people at my church were in middle and high school.  The generation gap was too wide.  While the church did have a few young adults here and there, the age gap was still a huge factor.  

Is it really too much to ask to be around people my age?

I started a bible study group at the church in hopes of building a strong young adult fellowship.  For a few months, things seem to be working out quite well!  However, the time and effort started to wear on me.  I couldn’t do this by myself and I had to attend to matters in my own life.  Having no one around my age started to become a problem and I found myself just attending church and going home.  Just come and go.  

Going to church is important, but having a solid fellowship is also equally important.

When I started dating with Youwen, we attended an American church.  It was at this church that she got baptized and met a lot of great people, who cared for her and mentored her.  While I wasn’t quite plugged into the church yet, going to church and doing devotions with her inspired me again.  There was a sense of fellowship, but not the same one in my grade school/college years.  A men’s bible study group and fellowship with that special someone are two entirely different experiences.  In the background, my life was finally at peace and now I can finally enjoy going to church with my girlfriend and growing spiritually together.

Unfortunately, the next chapter of my life is in New York city, where I will be attending dental school for the next four years.  Youwen still has another year at West Chester before she graduates so there will be at least one year where we will be apart.  Thanks to technology, I know we will keep in touch via video chat, text, and phone calls.  During this year, I hope we will encourage each other to get more involved in church and grow in our spiritual life.  

In closing, once I get settled in New York, I really hope to find that fellowship.  While there is no perfect fellowship, I just want to attend a place where I can worship God and fellowship with people around my age.  

To my future fellowship in New York for the next four years, I hope you can be a home for me (and eventually Youwen) to come, worship, and fellowship.  
Please consider me as an applicant to your fellowship.
Please take me in.

Sincerely,

Eric Cheng

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Filed under July 2014

An update on things

Hello all!

Hard to believe that it’s been a while since my last written entry.  The last month has been non-stop busy for me with major life events and crazy adventures.  So much so that I did not have any respite until now.  Now that I have that moment, I want to give you some insight on what’s been going on thus far.

Graduation

Hard to believe that I’ve finally reached this point since starting graduate school in the Fall 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The purpose of me entering graduate school was to better my dental application.  It’s hard to describe to you how hard it is these days to obtain admissions to dental school.  In fact, my father told me that he recently read an article from the ADA (American Dental Association) journal and saw that admissions to dental school is now even harder than medical school.  In addition to my graduation schoolwork and dental applications, I also worked two jobs for money and to build my resume.  And while I did manage to schedule in fun times with friends, I was mostly stressed out and worried.  Worried about all my classes.  Worried that I would fail a class.  Worried that I would screw up something.  There was no room for error for me.  One screw up and I can kiss my chances at dental school good-bye.  Even moreso, I was also worried what I would do if I couldn’t get into dental school after my 3rd try.  In all honesty, I had no back-up plan.  A master degree in Biology (quite honestly), cannot guarantee you a good job.  Essentially, I was putting all my eggs in one basket.  It was dental school or bust.

But as you read in earlier entries, you know how this story ended.  Graduate school at West Chester University (WCU) has been a blessing.  I matured a lot, built strong relationships, and established a solid science foundation.  I no longer fear the science coursework that awaits me at dental school. I definitely recommend graduate school to everyone.  Unlike undergraduate school, there is much less nonsense and professors treating you with more respect.  If you want to have a competitive edge to bigger and better things, a master degree is a game-changer.

Her

Spring break-trip 2014: Savannah, Georgia

I don’t talk much about this, but being single since my previous relationship has been a lonely and sad experience.  Sure, being single has its advantages, but there is always that longing to be with someone.  Someone to comfort you.  Someone to have fun with.  Someone to love you.  I attended church and bible study and waited for that nice girl to come into my life.  Of course, attending church and bible study wasn’t for the sole purpose of finding that special someone, but it was an ideal place to meet my type of girl.  When that didn’t work out, I resorted to advice from friends.  I went to bars and clubs and met many types of girls.  However, despite all of that, I couldn’t find that special girl that I wanted to be with.  Perhaps (I really thought), I was meant to be single.

And then, on September 2013, I met her at a bar in West Chester, PA.  Okay, to give some background on this, the Graduate Student Association at WCU hosts events for its graduate students to come together and hang out.  One of these events so happened to be at a bar, so I went with two other graduate students to get some free food and take a break from studying.  While I was there, I met a few Chinese students and…since Asian people are so rare at my university, we came together like magnets.  While I was ordering a mojita from the bartender, she approached me.  Truth be told, it wasn’t anything magical.  We just had some small chit-chat and exchanged contact information.  I think what really made the difference is what happened afterwards.  Afterwards, we chatted on facebook and texting.  We hung out at parties and got to know each other more.  Eventually, there came to a point where we had to decide whether we wanted be in a relationship.  There were a lot of concerns that we talked over, but we decided to give it a try.  And since then, we’ve never looked back!

Now

Now that I am back from my Japan/China vacation trip, I have some work that needs to be done.  There is still a whole summer until I start school, so I can’t wait to tackle the challenges that lay ahead of me.  Now that I’m back, please feel free to hit me up to hang out before I start the gauntlet of dental school!

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Filed under June 2014

Finally

Friends, I am finally free to update you all on what’s going on with my life now.  Throughout this whole spring semester, I have been in “lock-down” mode.  Initially, I had thought that this would be an easy spring semester now that I got into dental school.  Unfortunately, this was not the case.  It seems that every semester here in graduate school has its own unique and excruciating challenges that somehow pains me so much to think, “Truly, this is the hardest semester!”

The biggest challenge for this spring semester was completing my comprehensive exam and a graduation project.  For my comprehensive exam, I had 3 take-home exams given to me by 3 professors.  My answer was required to be 5-7 pages SINGLE-SPACED along with a ton of research and journal articles to back up my answers.  I was basically writing 3 research papers, but the more daunting challenge with this exam was that it all had to be completed within 30 days from when I started it.  Therefore, I had 10 days to complete each question and had to invest hours of painstaking research in answering each question fully.  Being the perfectionist I am, I take a lot of pride in my work and ensure everything I submit is “A” quality material.

Thank you Elsa for all those winter storm class and work cancellations! The extra-time was well spent in completing my comprehensive exam questions!

 

There was a moment of respite after completing my comprehensive around the first week of March.  The second task at hand was completing my graduation project.  For my graduation project, my adviser wanted me to write a 20-30 page paper (double-space) and do a 40-minute presentation to my committee on a topic concerning immunizations against dental caries.  The topic was chosen in light of my dental career and, while I was initially hesitant in taking on this challenge, it proved to be a worthwhile experience.  I started researching and writing my during winter break and completed a good chunk of it before I started my comprehensive exam.  Since I heard too many horror stories about students unable to graduate because they couldn’t finish this project, I made it a priority to quickly finish this project after I completed my comprehensive exam.  My school’s spring break gifted me the needed extra time to complete the paper.  After completing the necessary suggestions and corrections by my adviser, I was finally given the green light to prepare for my presentation to my committee.  On the biggest stage of my graduate school career, I made sure to give it my all.

The presentation date was set at Friday (4/18/2014) @ 9 am. 40 minute talk with 15 Q&A. It was time to either put up or shut up!

After my presentation, I was finally done.  Although I am still recovering from the stress that I had invested in my comprehensive exam and graduation project, it was finally over.  Completing this graduation project ensures that I will be finished my graduate school for good.  The only thing left I have is my 2 finals for the 2 classes I’m currently taking this semester.  While both of them will require time and effort to complete, it will be a non-issue for me to complete them both. 🙂

There is more news that I want update all of you on my life, but I’ll save it for the next entry. 🙂

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Filed under April 2014

Vindicated

It’s the new year.

A new beginning.

A lot has happened this year with the biggest news of finally obtaining admissions to dental school this application cycle.

For those who have been following since my xanga years or who know of my past struggles, you can truly understand how much of big deal this is.

After the huge debacle from my nursing school, I spent the next 2 years recovering from the hurt I got there.  Thanks to the power of church, prayer, and the grace of God, I was finally able to find a peace of mind and emotionally overcome it.

Unfortunately, the scars of my nursing school would continue to haunt me.  While it’s true that admissions to dental school has gotten harder in recent years, I was dealt with a heavy hand.  Aside from my emotional recovery, overcoming this baggage to get into dental school turned out to be the greatest challenge I have ever faced in my life.

My nursing baggage scared the dental school admission committees because it raised a question about my competency as a student.  You can only imagine how frustraing this was on me.  To make matters worse, there was no advice on how best to solve this.

Could this truly be something so great that no one can overcome it?

During the past 2-3 years, there wasn’t a single moment where I hadn’t pondered about this, however, I still felt convicted that dentistry was my calling.  When you feel called to something, you do whatever it takes to fulfill it.  Despite the negativity and doubts that I was constantly bombared with, I still continued to believe.

If God hadn’t intended for me to be in dentistry, it would have ended for me a long time ago.

Signs for this 3rd application cycle pointed in a positive direction since I was nailing more interviews than the previous 2 cycles.  However, I had to remain cautious.  Sure, interviews are great, but I’ve done this dance many times before being rejected.

I just didn’t want to be disappointed again.

Since this was my last year of applying, I was also getting ready to move on.  To be quite honest, I did not have a concrete back-up plan.  After completing graduate school, I debated whether to take some time off.  While I don’t have any impeding deadlines, I’m very cognizant about my age and how I should trying to stablize my life ASAP.  I’m not a child anymore and I can’t be living off of my parents forever.  Dentistry is not my idol and I wasn’t going to die over it.  However, with that said, killing my calling would be a huge set-back for me and force me to reflect and rethink my life.

I would have been forever bitter at my nursing school for doing this to me.

When the news finally broke that I finally got in on December 2, 2013, I breathed a deep sigh of relief.  I finally knew where I would be after I finished graduate school.  My family and I finally found peace with the knowledge that I would have a stable job and future.

I will begin a new chapter in my life.

I hope this ordeal will serve as a testimony and inspiration to all who are struggling in life.  While everyone has their own unique circumstances, I just want to emphasize the point on the importance of relying on God.  He helped me emotionally recover and conquer this baggage.  Without Him, my nursing baggage would have eaten me alive.

The nightmare was finally over.    

I was finally vindicated.

I’m finally free.

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Filed under January 2014

More pressure

This past fall semester turned out to be a smashing success.

  • I got into dental school.
  • I did very well in all of my classes (best semester of my graduate school career).
  • I got to see my friends married off.
  • I’m still in good health!

So now’s a good time to celebrate, right?

Actually, your boy here hasn’t had the chance to celebrate anything at all.  In fact, the moment he finished his fall semester, he’s been greeted with a demand to lose 15-20 pounds in a matter of 2 weeks.  I’m currently applying for the Army HPSP (Health Professional Scholarship Program) and I need to make weight to meet their physical requirements.  When the recruiters saw that I was about 15-20 pounds over, he had his doubts and told me that I needed to cut weight.  Instead of being discouraged, your boy here took the challenge head-on.  I’ve been spending 6-8 hours at the gym everyday doing cardio non-stop and going on a vegetarian diet.  In addition, I’ve also been aggressive in getting my paperwork completed.

With the aggressive play-calling approach, I think there’s a chance that I will complete my application soon.  In fact, I’m going to go for a weigh-in tomorrow at the recruiter’s office.  If I make it (or if I pass the body fat measurement), my recruiter will then schedule me to go to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station), where I will do the official weigh-in and complete my physical.

It’s been really difficult.  I haven’t done this kind of extreme weight loss since my high school wrestling days 10 years ago.  When taking on this challenge, I thought to myself,

Do I still have it in me to do this again?

It’s really tough.  Not only am I not wrestling anymore, but I’m also older and I haven’t worked out in this intensity level in years.  Nonetheless, I still kept at it.  There’s a lot at stake here.  Obtaining this scholarship means full-tuition coverage, money for food and rent, and a stipend for dental school.  Given the expenses at dental school, this is a LOT of money we’re talking here.  Of course, I’ve always had an interest to do the military and the Army has a number of career opportunities to expand my dental career.  But none of this can happen unless I make weight!

When life throws a challenge at you, instead of taking the easy route, you take a big stick and go at it.  This is the attitude I have nowadays.

Once this is all over, then I can finally celebrate.

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Filed under December 2013