Jason Han, who will soon graduate from medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, recently wrote about how his experience as an immigrant inspired his path to a medical career. Here, he shares what happened on Match Day, when he learned where he is headed next.
As I peeled open the envelope containing the culmination of years of hard work, I looked at a sea of inquisitive eyes that begged to know: Where?
"Penn Cardiac surgery!" I exclaimed.
An overwhelming sense of relief washed over me. I had matched at my first choice.
Like a child proudly bringing home his first trophy, I experienced an irresistible urge to share the news with my parents. I needed them to see what I had accomplished.
"Mom, Dad, look! I did it!"
I took out my phone. Opening the chat app my family uses as our main lifeline to communicate across the globe, I sent them a photo of me holding the Match letter. I eagerly awaited those three little dots indicating an elated response would be arriving, forgetting it was 2 a.m. in South Korea. Those words would remain unread until morning came, suspended in that luminous screen.
For the past 10 years, I have lived in the United States, apart from my parents, grappling with the nature of our relationship. Faced with the necessity to quickly grow independent, I struggled to define the scope of their influence on my growth.
At times, their absence has led me to harbor resentment. When I was deciding on which medical school to attend, my father encouraged me to consider an option I had already eliminated. His well-meaning counsel was quickly met with a scathing retort.
"Why do you think you have the right to tell me where I should or should not go?" I snapped.
In that moment, I could not pinpoint why I was so slighted by his comment, a suggestion any father would make. Looking back, what upset me was not the content of his advice but rather that he had dared to give any advice at all while living so far away from me, out of touch with my day-to-day. I was unfairly blaming him for our family's circumstances, which afflicted us all in different ways.
Over time, emotions have given way to understanding. Through steadfast love and support, they have taught me how to appreciate their presence despite their physical absence, and how to appreciate those who influence us even unknowingly.
I know deep in my heart that this journey, which has taken me across the globe in pursuit of the American Dream, will always circle back to where that dream was first born. My parents anchor me no matter how far I venture or strive to reach. In opening that envelope, I experienced their presence once more and the desire to share the fruit of our sacrifices, our accomplishments. They were the first people I wanted to tell, because we are in this together, no matter the physical distance between us.
Goodbyes at chaotic airport terminals have become routine in our family. Over the years, we have grown more reserved, subconsciously perhaps, to ease the pain of separation. My mother gradually learned to hold back her tears. Perhaps, for the same reason, I, too, held back my feelings. In all my memories of saying good-byes, I have no recollections of telling them I love them. But in thinking of them this Match Day, it is undeniable that their love for me has helped shape my passion for medicine and my capacity to care for others, I am deeply grateful for their presence in my life, and I love them very much.
Share Jason's Match Day excitement with the rest of PSOM's class of 2017 by following #PSOMMatch and checking this video highlighting all Match Day 2017 celebrations.