A Quick Study with Derek Mui

This ongoing series is aimed at getting to know what motivates and inspires UBC students about their learning — inside and outside the classroom.

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On self-exploration, personal growth, leadership, Michael Buble, and Settlers.

Meet Derek Mui, Commerce student.

Derek Mui


Why UBC?

DM: At first, UBC was the practical choice.  Being raised in Vancouver and having your much older brother graduate from UBC 10 years ago, it just “made sense.” But, I think it was about second year that it truly started to feel like the right choice – my choice.


What are you studying and why?

DM: I still consider myself a hybrid student. Having spent more time in the Faculty of Arts studying Economics and Psychology, and now studying Human Resources in the Sauder School of Business, I can proudly say that I have embraced my time in both faculties. When I initially applied for UBC, I knew I wanted to pursue a degree that would allow me to help people become better versions of themselves. And, through pursuing Human Resources and Psychology, it has allowed me to gain a better understanding of human behaviour, and how to effectively communicate with different individuals.

To go into university with the expectation of immediately finding what you’re passionate about is totally unrealistic. Self-exploration takes time and patience. It takes trial and error, which may seem daunting at times. And, I guess you could say that it took a while for me to find my niche, but now that I have, I can proudly say that I am happy with what I am learning. But really, your “Next Step” doesn’t have to be a conventional one – that’s what this year’s SLC is all about!


What are your favourite hangouts on campus?

DM: Currently, I spend most of my time in the Centre for Student Involvement and Careers. It’s essentially the hub for the UBC Student Leadership Conference Planning Committee. It never fails to bring a smile to my face, especially if I’m having a rough day.

For people watching? The quiet study area on the 4th floor of Koerner Library overlooking Koerner Plaza – especially, when students are rushing to their next class and you’re just sitting there observing the ebb and flow of the crowd. It’s quite calming!


What has to happen for you to lose yourself in your work?

DM: I have to be passionate about what I am doing. I have to understand why I am doing it, and derive some form of meaning. And, honestly, I don’t know if I can say that I have ever experienced this. Perhaps I have, but whenever I get asked if I’ve personally experienced Flow, I sadly draw a blank.


What is one thing you’d like to share about leadership that you have learned during your time planning the Leadership Conference at UBC?

DM: I think the most important thing I have learned from spending countless hours with the SLC Planning Committee is how leadership can come from such a diverse group of individuals. We are all so different and have such varied experiences to offer one another that the perspectives are endless! Yet, regardless of what you study, where you come from or where you are now, the bonds you form while planning for this one event will uncover the qualities you share to help shape the identity of the committee, and ultimately, the conference.

I never truly considered myself to be a leader up until quite recently. Leadership is a word that always seems to be so abstract – or, at least to me. Through childhood, adolescence, and now, young adulthood, I am only now coming to terms with who I am – not who I think I should be – and realizing the value in listening to my own voice instead of everyone else’s.  It’s been a matter of believing in myself and embracing my idiosyncrasies, and I can attribute this new sense of self-confidence to the encouragement I’ve received from this year’s committee.


What’s on your playlist these days?

DM: For finals, I study best by listening to the same song over and over again. This term, it just so happens to be the Nelly & Kelly smash hit from the early 00’s! I could never get sick of it, and it keeps me focused on my work. Not to mention, I’m a sucker for the old school R&B throwbacks. For the holiday season, I’ll probably be playing Michael Buble’s Christmas album.


Where do you go for inspiration?

DM: I think back into my past. I think about where I was at the beginning of university, where I was in high school, where I was in elementary, and then think about where I am now. It’s amazing how much I have grown. You’ll often hear me say that I am a constant. And that I will always be the person who has withstood the hands of time – that if you leave me for a decade and come back to check-up on me, I will be the same ditsy person I’ve always been. But that is what has changed. The fact that I am able to fully admit to my laughable moments of stupidity, and not be scared that people will judge me for it.

I have faced several setbacks during my 21 years of living, but so has everyone else. The mere fact that we have made it as far as we have today, is inspiration within itself. The adversity that had to be overcome, whether handled poorly or gracefully, all contribute to a lifelong learning process. I am still a work in progress. I will never stop being a student.  I may not be perfect, but I will always try to be better. And I am more than OK with that.


The time when you had second thoughts?

DM: When do I not have second thoughts? Right, never. Second guessing is essentially a part of who I am. In the past, I let my introspection debilitate my ability to pursue opportunities that interest me. But now, I ignore the unhealthy thoughts and push myself to step out of my comfort zone whenever possible.

It’s pretty normal to doubt yourself. It’s a sign that you care about what you’re doing. And it’s still one of the characteristics I value most about myself.


What are you really looking forward to doing over the holidays?

DM: I am seriously looking forward to my childhood friends coming home for the holidays! It’s been a couple years since we have all been in the same city at the same time. Probably two years ago? Maybe even longer than that? It’s amazing how time has passed, yet whenever we get together, it feels like we have only been separated a couple months ago. And like that one quote says, you know you’ve found great friends when you can grow separately without growing apart.

Oh! And to answer the question, we will be popping a bottle of Shiraz (or two), and screaming at each other over a game of Settlers of Catan.


Any special holiday wishes for the UBC community?

DM: Slow down. Indulge in happiness and laughter. All of it. With family, with friends, and maybe even with strangers – I promise they’re not all scary.

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