|UST Student Heads to China for Miss International|
You may see Aileen Jan “AJ” Yap sporting a crown and sash as Miss United States International, but give her a few more years, and you may see her in a lab coat at the doctor’s office.
This University of St. Thomas junior biology major plans to complete her degree at UST and go on to attend medical school, but first she is vying for the title of Miss International on Nov. 28 in Chengdu, China.
Yap was crowned Miss United States International 2009 July 10 at the Stafford Conference Centre in Houston. In addition to taking classes at UST part time this semester, the 20-year-old Willis, Texas native has spent the summer and fall fulfilling her pageant title duties and preparing to compete against more than 60 contestants from all over the world.
The daughter of first-generation Filipino immigrants, Romeo and Virginia, Yap grew up admiring her parents for their dedication to helping others. Her father is a psychiatrist and her mother is a nurse who runs her own personal care facility for the elderly.
“I have always wanted to be a doctor. Seeing how my parents make a difference in other people’s lives inspired me to do the same,” she said. “I want to specialize in pediatrics because I love kids.” Yap said she is also considering dermatology as a medical specialty.
The pageant and her education at St. Thomas are keeping Yap on the right track to achieve her goal. If she wins the title, Yap plans to work with the American Diabetes Association by visiting schools.
“Childhood obesity is a really big problem, and I want to educate kids about healthy lifestyle choices early in life to help reduce the risk of developing diabetes when they get older,” Yap said.
Yap said she was drawn to UST because of the University’s Catholic foundation and high acceptance rate to medical school. Yap has found the low student-to-faculty ratio in the biology department and across the University grants students an unparalleled access to faculty whom she says, “are always willing and available to help.”
She also appreciates the international diversity at UST, citing a seamless integration of cultures, backgrounds and perspectives which is embraced on campus. Yap says she is honored to represent her school, city, state and country at the pageant.
“Being in pageants has helped me grow as a person,” Yap said. “I used to be the most shy person in the room, and now I am not afraid to step up and speak out. In addition to building my confidence and communication skills, I’ve become more involved in the community and made great connections. By honoring my faith and culture, I hope to set a good example as a role model.”
Photo above by Kevin Hoehne from See What Develops; hair and makeup by Gaspar Cruz