Influencers

The Hustle: How One Student Became an International Scholar

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Andy Ng learned about hard work early on.

While other students were participating in extracurricular activities, Andy held a full-time job to help support his family. From this experience, he developed a strong work ethic. It paid off when he was selected as a Gates Millennium Scholar as a student at New York University.

Andy spent his first year of college in London and since then he has worked with nonprofits, traveled the world and even helped co-found a startup. He says that he has come a long way from the shy kid that he once was.

We talked with Andy to learn about his eclectic past, his mission to make his parents proud, and the brighter future ahead of him.

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What’s unique about your story?

I’ve had a really eclectic mix of life experiences. I grew up in a beautiful beach town in Florida where I was lucky to attend two performing arts schools. There I studied ballet, theatre, creating writing and film. My family didn’t have much so I had to work full-time while I went to school. Those years were tough and taxing, but it paid off when I was selected as a Gates Millennium Scholar and accepted into NYU’s first year away program. I packed my bags, moved to London and placed a lot of faith in the future.

I’ve always believed that good things will happen with the right preparation and by surrounding yourself with the right people. I spent the summer after my first year of college in Rome to study leadership then moved to New York with the biggest appetite for success.

I’ve since worked with nonprofits and schools, co-founded a startup, and had a stint in finance and still fit in time to travel the world. It’s been an unbelievable journey and every moment and person I’ve met is special to me because I feel so privileged. Privileged to have had the freedom to think and explore critically and openly, to engage with others in a meaningful way. I’ve come a long way from the shy, poor kid that I was to where I am today.

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What’s something that not many people know about you that has defined who you are today?

I grew up with enormous expectations to be the best, particularly from my parents. Traditional, conservative Chinese parents, my mom and dad didn’t shower me with congratulatory remarks – it’s simply not in our culture.

Balancing my traditional Chinese upbringing with my American education and social life was tough. I wondered why my parents weren’t as supportive as my friends’ parents, and became obsessed with the idea of winning my parents’ attention. Even though I understand the circumstances that led to why my relationship with my parents is the way it is, I am still fueled by the desire to make them proud.

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Where do you find inspiration?

Last year I heard Ted Gonder, CEO of Moneythink, say, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” When I think about those people in my life (my roommate, best friends, co-workers, mentors) I’m enamored by their talent, generosity and worldview. They’re each different from me, yet the ferocity with which they tackle every part of their life, whether it’s leaving a legacy in education or maintaining relationships, motivates me to get up each morning and go in hard just as much as them.

What lead you to choose to attend your college?

Have you ever met someone who hasn’t been infatuated with the idea of moving to New York at some point in his or her life? As great as it was to grow up with the beach in my backyard, I craved a city with energy and I wanted a school that would challenge me academically and socially. NYU is a large school and you have to work hard, work passionately to stand out both at school and in the city, and that was a task that excited me.

What’s been your favorite experience as a college student thus far?

NYU prides itself on being the global network university and I got a firsthand experience of what that meant from the first day of school. My first year in London is something I think about almost every day.

To study English where the greatest writers once walked made my learning come alive in an unbelievable way – I lived down the street from Charles Dickens’ house for crying out loud! Moving across the world alone was obviously scary, but doing so tested my maturity and living with three other guys for the first time also tested my patience. But I’m incredibly thankful for the people I met that year – I’ve never bonded with a group of people so quickly and I can still call those people my best friends today.

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Finish this sentence: “College life is…”

…a test you don’t really need to study for, but can still pass.

What will make college worth it for you?

Getting a smile or some tears out of my parents at my graduation.

You get to invite 5 influential people (currently living) to a dinner party. Who are they and why?

  1. Bill Gates – to thank him for funding my entire education.
  2. Oprah – to learn from her humility and generosity.
  3. Beyoncé – to take amazing Instagram photos with her.
  4. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama – to share stories of compassion and reflection.
  5. Jordan Bach – to feel his calm and courageous energy.

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Zoë Björnson Zoë is a Product Marketing Manager at about.me. She loves cheese and is currently traveling the world while working remotely. about.me/kzoeb