I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I am a third / fourth generation Malaysian Chinese. My parents were extremely poor growing up. My grandfather passed away when my dad was five, and my grandmother raised five children under the age of 10 by herself. My mom had it marginally easier, her dad was a teacher and he was able to feed all 9 members of the household with his modest salary. My mom and her siblings would have Coca-Cola once a year, where they would take a sip every day for weeks. The hardship my parents endured, and their journey to today's comfort, are matchless to any challenges I can imagine experiencing.
Yet, I wouldn't learn to appreciate their sacrifices and to convert that into my motivation until much later. I so strongly disagreed with the Malaysian centralized high school system that I skipped 1/3 of all school days during my final year. I would do very well in subjects I like, but failed others, and this would later make it impossible for me to attend any good college, domestic or foreign.
So, I went to a community college in California, Diablo Valley College. Two years later I found myself at UCLA, falling in love with the rigor and versatility of economics -- it is like solving riddles, but well-defined ones, and for which clean intuitions were rewarded. And after another two years, Columbia.
These schools, these opportunities, these growths, I would never even dream of having. I owe everything to my advisors and my parents.