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Graduation speaker says you can find joy while balancing classes, work and stress

Ying Suet "Michelle" Chan will be the student speaker at the Spring 2019 Commencement ceremony.

The Spring 2019 Semester graduation speaker Ying Suet “Michelle” Chan, a senior from Hong Kong majoring in education, said words of encouragement from her professors and family helped her get beyond life’s stresses. She said their touching words taught her she could achieve her goals no matter how big or small.

Chan added she was inspired by a missionary in her home ward in Hong Kong who was the graduation speaker for the Fall 2013 Semester. She said she is happy to follow her example by speaking at graduation.

After hearing how she was chosen to be the graduation speaker, she described it as “my dream that has finally come true.”

Chan said she realized she needed to attend BYU–Hawaii after taking her high school public examination. However, she said her parents were initially not happy with her decision.

“My mom was still hoping that I would eventually transfer to other schools, but then I just told my mom, ‘One day, you will look back and be proud of the decision that I made today.’”

Chan said, “One year ago, she talked to me and said, ‘I’m really proud that [you went to BYUH].’”

Finding a balance

One of the challenges Chan said she faced as a student was the struggle of maintaining a balance between her work and life. She said people saw work to be a burden, and it was a place where there was “no joy or fulfillment.”

However, Chan explained she learned people can find joy in everything they do. “Through challenging myself, not only have I learned the limits of my stress level, but also I have figured out what type of drive and how much passion are required to be a teacher in the future.”

She said there were semesters where she juggled between being the president of the Hong Kong Club and TESOL Society, being an online EIL teacher and a project manager while taking 18 credits per semester.

“Of course I felt tired, but God has helped me along the way as I kept His commandments.”

Her husband, Tsz Hei “Chris” Chan, a senior from Hong Kong studying business management, said his wife not only works hard but also works smart. “She does everything she can to achieve her goals, and even if she doesn’t know if she can make it, in the end, she will [reach her goals].”

Dr. Neil Anderson, a professor of TESOL, said Chan’s goals are high but attainable. “She’s going to have to work hard, but she has the tenacity, persistence and the vision to pursue those goals.”

Achieving success in different ways

Growing up in Hong Kong, Chan explained schools there focused on examination results, which led to her feeling like she was not going to succeed.

At BYUH it was different, said Chan, as professors showed her everyone could succeed in various ways.

“[Professors] help us know that there are different paths in life, and you can achieve whatever you want. A professor told me, ‘There is no comparison between the sun, the moon and the stars as they shine when it is their time,’” recalled Chan.

Anderson remarked, “One of the things that set Michelle apart from [other students] is that she is very proactive. She does not wait for someone to give her instructions, but she figures out the instructions and then goes the extra mile.”

Chan encouraged students to fully enjoy this island while they are here. She explained a lot of students at the university strive for good grades so they spend most of their time in the library. However, they should try to go out and explore Hawaii at the same time, Chan advised.

She said she tries to finish all of her homework so on Saturday she can go to town. On Sundays, Chan said she does not do any homework “to keep the Sabbath Day holy.”

“If they want to succeed, they need to keep the commandments, pay tithing and also keep the Sabbath Day holy. Also, [students need] to participate in different clubs. Don’t do something because it gives you extra credit. Do something because you want to learn more.”

Writer: Esther Insigne