Humans of the U: Sophie Wu

“A few years ago, when I was getting close to 30, I decided to pursue my doctoral degree abroad. At the time I began applying, I was in my home country and felt trapped in traditional social norms. I was repeatedly told I should be safely married or I would be a loser in the marriage market over time.

Many people today still face critical challenges due to social norms, regardless of their levels of education. They are given less freedom to follow their own agendas in pursuit of important life events. Just when I felt most doomed about my future, I received a full financial package from the University of Utah—arriving like a special gift from the sky, one that successfully lifted me here, to a state with liberty and freedom. What a great relief!

I knew I would be re-setting my future in a new direction with a lot of opportunities. I was lucky.

I started my own family midway through my doctoral studies. My daughter’s birth caused me to re-visit the old fears that have shadowed me since the starting point of my Ph.D. Fear is a mirror-image reflection of an old way of thinking. We feel trapped because we allow ourselves to feel that way. We allow other people to tell us what we should do to make them feel safe. Once we change our perception, our minds will no longer be chained.

Faculty at the College of Social and Behavior Science gave me tremendous support as a doctoral student who also was a first-time mother. They reassured me that I could accomplish my degree and be useful in the job market after graduation. And, I am no longer viewed as a depreciated wedding candidate in the marriage market.

Coming to Utah let me believe that age and gender will never be a barrier to success. With my deepest gratitude, I humbly share this thought with you: If you believe something is right to do, just do it. When you truly want a thing for better, the whole world will stay united to help you make it come true. Nothing will prevent you from moving further.

—Sophie Wu, Class of 2019, economics doctoral candidate, College of Social and Behavioral Science

We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at