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For a better life

January 26, 2012


Feylin Goh.

Photo by Susan Theis.

Her education abroad meant leaving everything that was once familiar

By Bill Magdalene

When Felyn Goh was a young girl in Malaysia, her family's idea of her one day pursuing higher education in America seemed to her a far-fetched dream. Yet it came to be. As a U of M honors student in accounting she completed research on environmental and social issues involved in food production by US companies in Southeast Asia, where global demand for palm oil is wiping out forests to make way for plantations. Her research reveals that while companies' behaviors vary, most are looking at the production of sustainable palm oil as a possible remedy.

Recently, Felyn Goh talked about what she's aiming for in life and why.

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Q&A with Felyn Goh

How would you describe your research to a sixth grader?
I study how companies react to the fact that forests are disappearing in Southeast Asia because of a product they use.

Why is what you do important?
Because my family and I have made huge sacrifices to ensure that I have a solid higher education from the United States. Before immigrating to the United States, an education from America seemed like a far-fetched dream. It was a dream that only the rich could afford. And my family was by no means rich. Even if it was affordable, an education abroad often means long-term separation from family, leaving everything that was once familiar, and readjusting to new culture, people, language, behaviors, weather, and the most difficult part, knowing that things will never be the same again.

What's your big dream?
I do not have a great big dream that would put someone in awe. I enjoy the practice of yoga and believe that there is a lot of self-compassion that could be learned from the practice. I would love to someday travel the world and share my practice with another while learning more about self-compassion from others. That's for the future.

As for right now, I live simply to do the best I can in everything I've set myself to do. At this point of life, my biggest realistic dream is to someday be able to support and take care of my parents and do what they did for me.

What's been key to your student experience?
The people I've met and the support and encouragement I received from others. I've been blessed to meet professors, working professionals, instructors, friends, and have a supportive family who believed in me and encouraged me to strive through the ups and downs of academic life. There were many instances during my academic career that I was ready to throw in the towel and call it quits, maybe for something large like organizing an event or something small like an accounting assignment. Those were the instances when the people I've met have helped me pull through. A trip to an instructor's office hours, a coffee break with my mentor, and a midnight Facebook chat with a friend who is still up doing homework all remind me that I'm not alone on this crazy ride.

What inspires you in a teacher?
Their ability to make learning fun and to make a highly complex lesson understandable. Oftentimes those teachers who inspire me have remarkable personal skills and a true interest in the well-being of a student. Many of the teachers I look up to are those who have taught me lessons that extend beyond the boundaries of a classroom. They are those who are interested in what I do outside of school, those who take time from their busy schedule to talk to me, those who push me to do things I would never have thought of doing, and those that celebrate my accomplishment with me.

What inspires you in a student?
Their ability to be great leaders, to run a student organization, to work full time while studying, to support themselves, to dream big, to create and start up an idea that would last for many years, to innovate and recreate, etc. However, the students I most look up to are those who help another student unconditionally.

Why the University of Minnesota?
I like the large classroom setting, the abundance of resources, the huge class offerings, the wide array of diverse students, and how the campus never fails to awe me as it changes colors from season to season. The U is a beautiful place to be.

Do you pursue creativity outside of academics?
As a young girl in my home country (Malaysia), I had the privilege to be a child actress for a couple of years, choreographed Chinese dances for school events, picked up sewing, wrote poetry, played the piano, and more. However, I would say that I'm still searching for my creative path. For me, it's just a matter of finding inspiration, and my inspiration can come from listening to music, observing others, surfing the Internet (of course), talking to someone, watching a movie, or from something as simple as reading a book.

Advice for fellow searchers?
Be open to every opportunity that comes your way. Do not limit yourself in what you can do, but be sure to do what you want. There are many resources and wonderful people who are willing to extend help around campus. Don't be afraid to ask for it.

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