Tim Cung: In Pursuit of the American Dream

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(Fordham News profiled incoming freshmen breaking new ground as the first in their families to go to college.)

In his early teens, Tim Cung saw the movie Wall Street, and began watching films focused on the financial industry.

“The movies I saw had a lot of financial jargon, and I started to research the [terminology],” said Cung, a freshman at the Gabelli School of Business who grew up as an only child of immigrant parents.

His curiosity hit a peak when his high school, Brooklyn Tech, began offering finance as a pre-college major. He took courses in accounting, finance, and enrolled in AP economics—which was, coincidentally, taught by an instructor who once worked on Wall Street.

“Before I took AP economics, I thought [economics]was all about money,” he said. “But it’s actually about resources, and how to allocate them effectively.”

Now, Cung is the first person in his family to attend college, where he plans to study finance.

Cung said his father was born in Vietnam after his grandparents fled China when the communists came into power in the late 1940s. His mother, also of Chinese heritage, was born in Malaysia after her family fled from their homeland. Neither of his parents graduated from high school.

“It’s exciting to be attending college, because I’m venturing into uncharted territories,” he said.

Cung, who grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, said his family “always seemed to be going from place to place to achieve a better life.” Since his parents didn’t understand the American education system, Cung said, he learned how to be self-reliant and independent—as early as elementary school.

“Ever since I started school, my parents said, ‘We’re sorry, we couldn’t provide any aid for you in terms of your education. We can’t help you get awards or fill out paperwork. We’re sorry about that. You’re going to have to learn to take care of those matters by yourself.’”

As Cung enters his first year at Fordham, which he said was made possible through a scholarship and a generous aid package from the University, he is determined to accomplish his goals.

“Being a first generation student means that I’m in pursuit of the American dream,” he said.

“It’s all about providing a better future for our families and for ourselves.”

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