Julia Chun: A thank you letter to my nameless mentor 

What I wish I could say to the woman who inspired me to study an MBA 

Julia Chun's journey to completing the MBA was not always so smooth; in fact, it almost didn't happen.
But thanks to one woman's inspiring words, it did. 

Now, Julia wishes to share her story as a tribute to the woman who gave her the courage to study the UQ MBA, and hopefully inspire others to do the same. 

The beginning

I nearly didn’t make it to the starting line of my MBA. I kept asking myself, Am I bright enough? Do I have anything of value to add? Am I too old? The negative thoughts churned over in my head as I struggled to gain confidence in my abilities. Am I really capable of completing an MBA?

Then, one afternoon, I was sitting in a meeting at work; a meeting where I was the only woman with a dozen male colleagues. This stirred something in me. I realised I wanted to get more value out of myself – I wanted to bring something more to the table. I contemplated an MBA many years ago, as I knew it covered such a broad range of subjects, from strategy, marketing, and management, to innovation, technology, accounting and finance. Despite studying for the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAT) exam, I was so scared of failing the entrance exam that I never took it. Years later, I always regretted this.

I also wondered why there weren’t more women in that meeting. As a mother with three children, if I wanted a future where my daughters weren’t outnumbered by their male counterparts, I was going to have to set an example. So, that evening, I raced home, googled ‘UQ MBA’, and took my first steps to what I was hoping would be a brighter future.

As luck would have it, the UQ MBA Information Evening was only a couple of weeks away. Time for me to start mentally preparing for my next journey – but the negative thoughts were still in the back of my mind. I contacted a friend who had not long ago completed the MBA. I asked all those questions that kept raising their evil head; but for each doubt, he returned an answer that slowly filled me with confidence. By the end of the coffee with him, I felt energised and excited to learn more.



A pivotal moment

The UQ MBA Information Evening was a turning point for me. Listening to the MBA alumni panel talk about their experiences, everyone seemed so enthusiastic. Feeling a little lost and out of my depth, I found a quiet corner and spoke to a lovely lady, whose name I don’t remember.

To this lady:

“I told you how I worked six days a week, 60 hours a week.

I told you how I had three small children, and life was hectic raising a young family.

I told you my concerns about being too old, not bright enough, not good enough.

While I said all this through smiles, I was very much fearful inside.

What if I failed? What if I didn’t fit in? What if I was way out of my depth?”

To which you responded:

“I’m a widow.

I, too, have three children. While one child helped prepare dinner, I would often be at the table studying with another child studying next to me.

On the evening I graduated, I remember my name being called out, and as I walked across the stage to receive my certificate, I could just see my kids at the back of the auditorium, cheering and calling out my name. They were so happy! I was so proud of myself.

It will be hard. You will constantly be juggling the different priorities in your life, but you can do it, Julia. You will inspire your kids”.

(Insert tears in my eyes and goosebumps!).

From the bottom of my heart, I thank this remarkable woman. YOU were also MY inspiration for completing my MBA.

My MBA outcome

It’s been two years since that evening, and I’m delighted to say I too experienced the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment as my family sat in the audience cheering and calling out my name.  

I couldn’t believe I had done it – I was now MBA qualified!  julia-chun-smiling

The first in my family to go to university. The only person in my family with a Master’s degree.

My kids saw me studying… all… the… time. They saw me in the mornings knowing I went to bed at 3am. They missed me on the weekends while they were out having fun with their friends. But, they also came to the UQ Library with me and did their homework. They marveled at the iconic sandstone buildings while I shared happy memories of my time as an undergrad, and we spoke of their endless career opportunities.

I won’t lie to you, it was hard. If you’re considering studying an MBA, know that there will probably be tears. But – grab your chocolate, your wine, and, most of all, find your support system. 

My tribe knows who they are, and to them, I also say thank you.

Lastly, to my husband, who brought many delicious meals for me to my desk; studying as a parent was no easy feat, as we both juggled the kids' schedules and household chores! A huge thank you for helping me get over the finish line and believing in me.

As I pack away the copious notes, exams, readings and case studies from my desk, I stumble upon the very first quote I put on my wall the first night of lectures.

“I want to inspire people.

I want someone to look at me and say:

 because of YOU,

I didn’t give up”.

As my kids squeeze me tight, and look up at me, and say, “Mama, I’m so proud of you”, my heart melts. I hug them back and say, “Kids, I hope you are. I really hope you are”.

But, inside, my heart quietly skips a beat as I acknowledge - “Julia, you did it!!”

Julia Chun was awarded a UQ Scholarship for Women. The University of Queensland offers a range of scholarships for undergraduate, postgraduate and Higher Degree by Research students, information relating to these scholarships can be found on the University's Scholarships website.

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