Jocelyn Chau: The Old and the New

Jocelyn Chau: The Old and the New

By: John Hunt and Jocelyn Chau

As a fresh graduate Jocelyn Chau left behind her at Del a sparkling career in academics, athletics, music, volunteering, indeed in every corner of school life. She grasped every opportunity and made the most of them. Graduating with very high marks in all her subjects, she moved along seamlessly to Yale University, a remarkable achievement in this country. Her summary of her time at Del is exactly what we hope for and aim for. She stresses moral training, gospel values, especially making an effort to benefit the less fortunate. Based on her early commitment to altruism we can confidently hope that her career in medicine will continue this trajectory. Note that she is taking nothing for granted. Every experience must be grasped as a learning opportunity, even if for a while she may feel like “a small fish in a big pond”, an expression somewhat reminiscent of the trials of Julius Caesar. How did that remote allusion come to be hers? Enlightened? Such fusions of concepts that appear on the surface to be completely different can be fused to create a novel insight if they have one thing in common. This is the essence of creativity, that rare glimpse that escapes the bulk of humanity and which is the gift of the few great innovative imaginations. It is Shakespeare comparing life to a candle when he has Macbeth cry out in despair over his doomed existence, “Out, out brief candle.” Sadly. It is too easily snuffed out, an observation available to all but grasped by only one, framed in an immortal speech, repeated often by Lincoln as he walked up and down sleeplessly in the White House halls. Such is the essence of Newton’s apple and Darwin’s finches. If Plato is right, this gift is rare indeed.

As a NCAA athlete she is learning in a new environment that what she used to call “running” is now a “dog fight, a serious business”. Going from being a winner in Toronto to the “middle of the pack ”in the U.S.A. she saw as not a negative experience but rather as a valuable one that would be an opportunity to develop “resilience, both mentally and physically”. How can we teach this positive attitude to all our students, namely to see every event, welcome or unwelcome, as a stepping stone to improvement. This attitude, essentially Stoicism from Classical times, exemplified in the great Emperor Marcus Aurelius who in his invaluable, neglected book “Meditations” provides a guide, showing how, in Jocelyn’s words to find “values and habits that transcend a simple race.” Our task as teachers is to discover if such insights are her own or part of her education at Del. Then we must do our best to duplicate it in our classes, remembering that “there is nothing new under the sun.” For example, though there was disappointment in just missing the National Championships this year, the team is confident of being there in the coming years.

Regarding Yale generally, we see again her inclination to make the best of every novel opportunity for “an immersive learning experience”. She finds it “humbling and amazing to connect with such accomplished people.” She also cherishes her deep involvement in Yale’s Catholic community which rounds out her life there: athletic, intellectual, cultural and moral. Read about her classes and see that the future holds much promise for herself, but more likely for us as she explores the molecular future. Jocelyn once learned from us. Now it is our turn to learn from her.

NCAA Experiences
Some call running in the NCAA a dog fight. The competition is immense, and cross-country is serious business. It is sometimes discouraging to go from winning many races in high school to being a “middle-of-the-pack” runner in the NCAA, but these experiences are valuable for any athlete trying to develop resilience, both physically and mentally. As my coach said, there is much to be gained in running confidently, even if it be in 100th place, without worrying about other competitors. Another interesting aspect of cross-country here is the “team” element. The focus is less so on individual successes, and more so on team successes, such as scoring well, working together during a race, etc. Although this was something new for me, I found that it helps to develop a strong sense of camaraderie and friendship, values and habits hat transcend more than a simple race. This season, our cross-country team came third at NCAA Northeast Regionals, just 6 points shy of gaining a berth at NCAA Nationals. It was disappointing to come so close to qualifying, but we are confident that we have a good chance at making nationals in the coming years.

Yale’s Community & Standards
Yale’s community is rich and diverse; students from all around the world, each with their special talents contribute to an immersive learning experience. To give some context to this,  my suitemate is a concert pianist who has travelled the world. My friend sings in the prestigious Glee club, and several of my teammates on the track team have represented their countries on the national stage. It is humbling and amazing to connect with such  accomplished people. Contrary to popular thought, the learning environment is not that of “cut-throat competition”, but more of a mutual collaboration. There is also a strong and vibrant Catholic community at Yale; they regularly host lectures, retreats, and student prayer groups. There is also an  organization called the Thomistic Institute that regularly brings in Catholic professors and priests to deliver lectures on relevant philosophical topics. The Catholic community here does not overlook its intellectual life. The standards here are very high; the academics are rigorous, and to my great surprise, yes, school can be harder than Del.

My Classes
This term, I am taking organic chemistry, the lab for organic chemistry, math modeling in the biosciences, and French. I hope to major in molecular biochemistry and biophysics, but I have yet to declare a major because Yale allows undergraduates to declare their majors in their second year. The courses are tough and very fast-paced, but the rigorous academic preparation from Del have given me the study habits I need to manage my time. The preparation from Del also allowed me to place into some of the more  advanced introductory classes, such as organic chemistry.

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