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Jin Lee

Major scholarship winner and iBioMed student motivated by late father July 13, 2020

David Chung likes to see things from all angles. The incoming McMaster Engineering student – who earned the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership ($70,000) and the Horatio Alger National Entrepreneurial Scholarship ($10,000) plus several others – says it’s one of his strengths.

“My friends tell me I overthink a lot,” Chung explains with a laugh. “But my guidance counsellor said it’s also one of my strengths because it helps with attention to detail.”

His guidance counsellor helped him navigate his worries, especially when deciding what to study at university. Chung says he explored a few options. 

“I have many interests, but the reason I chose engineering was because it encompasses a lot of things I like to do such as designing and building things as well as problem-solving.” 

Chung will be entering McMaster’s Integrated Biomedical Engineering & Health Sciences (iBioMed) program which allows him to explore his interests in both health sciences and engineering. He is considering the biomedical and software engineering stream in second year but hasn't decided yet.   

“I’m really interested in the intersection between health care and technology and want to learn more about it, especially as the field grows rapidly.”

Chung’s motivation comes from his father who worked hard throughout his life.

When Chung’s father was a young man fled war-torn Vietnam to Hong Kong as one of the Vietnamese “boat people.” Shortly after, he came to Canada as a refugee and settled in Ancaster.

He took on many manual labour jobs and eventually established his own sign-making business.

“The reason he worked hard was to give me the opportunity to go to school.”

“Growing up, he always instilled in me the importance of education because he never had a chance to finish high school and go to university.”

Chung’s father died from cancer three years ago. His mother spoke little English, so Chung took on many of his father’s responsibilities, including managing the family’s finances.

“It was stressful but a huge learning experience. I feel like it made me more responsible, accountable and definitely more mature.”

His experiences inspired him to create Foundations of Finance last year, an annual one-day program for high school students to learn about personal finance. He wanted to make financial education more accessible to students, especially since the topic was not explored in depth within his high school curriculum.

“Personal finance can be a boring topic and not many students will go out of their way to learn about it. I figured if they could dedicate just one day to learning personal finances, it would benefit them in the future. It doesn’t matter what career you want to pursue, managing your finances is essential.”

Around 100 people attended the program last year and although it was cancelled this year due to COVID-19, he hopes to continue holding it annually moving forward.

Chung continues to fulfil the responsibilities of his late father as he makes the transition to university. Although he’s taking on more than the average 18-year-old, he can put his worries to rest when it comes to supporting his family.

“I’m glad I can stay home [in Ancaster], save money and be there for my mother and my younger brothers. It’s a lot less stressful knowing I can be there for them.” 

When he is faced with challenges, he thinks about his father. 

“He overcame so much in life, and it’s nothing compared to anything I’ve experienced. I often think if he can do it, so can I.”