Ada Gu

In what seems like a whirlwind 23 years, I have had the opportunity to travel to over 50 countries, receive my B.A. from University of California, Berkeley, intern for healthcare giants and health-technology start-ups, and achieve my childhood dream of attending medical school. Admittedly, I have lived a life of privilege, but my parents ensured it was not a life of ignorance.

I have always had vague dreams of saving the world, but now that I'm a little bit older, and hopefully, a little bit wiser, these dreams have been put into perspective. Now, as a second year medical student, I see my way of changing the world as first becoming a surgeon, and later integrating my interests of public and global health, business and research through obtaining an MBA, and taking on leadership and administrative healthcare roles.

In 2012, I registered for the Miss BC Pageant. At the time, I had no idea what was involved with being in a pageant, I just knew it would be a great experience out of my personal comfort zone. I wanted to see what it would feel like to step on the stage in an evening gown, and maybe, just maybe, be a role model for other young women who strived for grace, intelligence, beauty and talent along with, rather than in conflict with, academic and professional success.

The pageant was undoubtedly a life-changing experience. Through workshops on modeling, manners and etiquette and self-defense, among other skill-building activities, I gained lifelong friends and mentors. I was inspired by the stories of the other women, their dedication to their own passions, and the compassion with which they led their own lives. Most women had a charity or cause that they championed both through the pageant and through their everyday life, which made me reflect on mine, and my own identity.

It's not the final night that I remember most, or when they announced the winners and called out "the title of Miss Greater Vancouver goes to..." but rather the celebrations before and after with these amazing women, and the integration of my newfound skills into my future endeavours.

I remember attending as many volunteer events as I could with the Miss BC organization, and reconnecting with the other titleholders whenever I returned to Vancouver. While I was only Miss Greater Vancouver for one year, it was the start of something beautiful, it was the start of greater confidence and excitement for the future.

At 23, I feel unbelievably lucky to live my passion on a daily basis, as a medical student at McMaster University. I'm able to reflect back on my experiences, appreciate the challenges, the failures, the heartbreaks and the successes that have made me into who I am today. I see the people, the friends, the family, the mentors, who have helped to shape my life, and continue to empower and inspire me.

I am grateful to Miss BC for giving me a chance to speak my story on-stage and help me become a stronger, brighter and introspective individual. I will take away the lessons I've learned, and I hope that other young women also take on this life-changing opportunity, so that they too can discover who they are, and who they want to become.

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