Don’t let the title of George Wang’s podcast fool you. He’s anything but Young and Foolish. Wang’s more of an old and wise soul. Focused on fulfillment rather than pursuing happiness and the expectations of others, his activities at Western were driven by what mattered to him ─ including his podcast with friends, a summer research project and immersing himself in Italian language and culture.
Wang, who earned his bachelor of medical sciences (honours specialization and biochemistry and cell biology), as well as a major in Italian language and culture, is one of approximately 8,000 students graduating this spring. He joins more than 330,000 Western alumni from more than 160 countries.
Coming to Western on a continuing admissions scholarship, the 22-year-old Vancouver native had his pick of schools and programs.
“Western felt like a better fit than all of them,” he said. “One of the biggest reasons was hearing current students and alumni speak about having a really great undergraduate experience, and that aspect appealed to me overall.”
For him, that meant living on campus for four years, where he could easily access intramural soccer, pickup basketball and early morning swims at the rec centre.
All his decisions seem as deliberate as his quest to know himself better.
“Two key things I tried to figure out early on were understanding myself and knowing what I wanted,” Wang said. “Seeing how others were easily influenced by trends, social norms, parents and peer pressure led me to think and be really honest and aware about what actually matters to me,” he said.
When we understand who we are as individuals, know what we want out of life, and decide accordingly, we can live intentionally, ultimately allowing us to become fulfilled.-George Wang, BMSc’22
Pursuing a double major took a lot of time and effort, but the Taekwondo black belt welcomed the intense study. Focusing on the work, rather than the outcome, he consistently made the dean’s list.
Wang’s love for learning languages influenced elective selection during his first year at Western.
“I chose Italian specifically because I love how it sounds,” he said. His appreciation for Italian food, opera, the renaissance, and footballer Andrea Pirlo engaged his learning further.
“George came into the course with no background in Italian and was able to learn very quickly,” said Italian professor Pietro Pirani. “He was so enthusiastic, extremely positive and very smart. I really appreciated the way he moved between the different subjects in science and the humanities. It makes him a very well-rounded person.”
Wang’s second-year courses in Italian came as part of a travel abroad opportunity to Italy. A core component of the trip includes spending time at the Rondine Cittadella della pace institution, an international organization established to promote dialogue and conflict resolution through education.
There, young people from opposing war-torn and conflict-ridden regions of the world, who at home would be considered enemies, work together on joint projects around conflict de-escalation and cross-cultural understanding.
“Taking part in the experience at Rondine Cittadella of peace was everything I hoped for,” Wang said. “I was able to meet graduate students living with their ‘enemies’ and understand the program in action.”
The timing of Western’s trip to Rondine coincided with a visit from Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte. Wang and his classmates looked on as the leader made good on a promise to Rondine’s Leaders for Peace campaign, re-allocating money earmarked for rifles to a scholarship fund.
“It was really cool to witness that and to see the campaign be successful,” Wang said.
Master of media
Wang took advantage of another learning experience during the summer of his third year. As part of a biochemistry accelerated research program, Wang completed a capstone project studying the vinculin enzyme in professor Eric Ball’s lab.
“I chose medical sciences for the research aspect, so getting hands-on experience doing background research, planning and designing experiments, writing a lab report and analyzing and presenting results was an awesome process.”
It also made Wang’s final year lighter, giving him more time to explore other areas of interest, including starting the podcast with friends Lorenzo Sierra and Raymond Xiao. Each week, they “try to make sense of this complicated world,” hoping to inspire listeners to “deepen their understanding of themselves, and others.”
“Creating the podcast involved a lot of different things to figure out, like the technology, the software, the hardware, and skills like video editing and learning not to talk over each other,” Wang said.
He also writes a regular blog for the show’s website, adding to a skill set that will serve him well entering Western’s master of media in journalism and communication (MMJC) program this fall.
Pirani has no doubt Wang will thrive in the field, citing his quiet nature as an asset.
“It’s actually a nice quality, because right now so many people on social media believe they have to be over the top in order to get through,” Pirani said. “George works very hard. It’s a wonderful aspect about him, because hard work is important and will take you further than flashy behaviour. He’s also a wonderful example of what you can do in life when you marry science and the humanities.”