Balancing two miniature apples in her hands, Trinity Ngo passes one over in her typical, casually generous way: “Take one! My aunt brought these.”
The voice recorder starts and we laugh at the formality. While many of us on campus might know Trinity Ngo for her outgoing, joyful personality and her colorfully bold outfits, she confesses that she hates attention. Ngo grew up in Highland Park, twenty minutes from UD. Though a neighborhood known for its glitz and affluence, she credits it for instilling a love of service in her from an early age, along with her family.
“Highland Park really emphasizes service and giving back to the community,” she explains. “I recognize how fortunate I am to have the life my parents have given me, who immigrated to America in order to flee the war in Vietnam. Growing up they would take us to serve the poor in Dallas, reminding us to see Christ in others.”
Ngo serves as the president of the Best Buddies chapter at UD and in her free time she works with Young Life Capernaum and Camp Barnabas during the summer in order to serve people with disabilities. As a biology major, her goal coming into UD was to go to medical school with the intention of helping people, especially children with Down syndrome and autism.
However, since catching COVID-19 this past fall, Ngo has been suffering from “long COVID” symptoms which have forced her to take a medical leave from school and to postpone her graduation this May.
“It’s been difficult,” she admits. “But it has also forced me to slow down and reflect in a way I haven’t done before in college. Up until COVID, I was just focused on getting to med school. But who was I doing it for? It wasn’t for God, I realized.”
Ngo points out that her medical leave has also led to new friendships, such as with Fr. Joseph Van House, O.Cist., whose office she regularly pops into these days.
Although Ngo’s parents were married at UD’s Church of the Incarnation, coming into UD as a freshman, she felt no connection to the school. She attended public school in Highland Park where her friends and peers were mostly non-Catholics. She admits that it wasn’t until she attended the Awakening retreat as a freshman that she learned what adoration was.
Through the Catholic community at UD and friends such as Fr. Van House, Fr. Lehrberger, and Fr. Esposito, Ngo has grown substantially in her faith, which has guided her during her health troubles this semester.
While Ngo references the Awakening retreat as a core UD memory, I ask her which other memory might serve as a gateway memory to her time at UD.
“It was when the two of us were sitting together on those red couches in Rome,” she smiles. “We were talking about how our class would soon go our separate ways in life after college. And I realized that the beautiful thing is that, in separating, we will have multiplied our homes on earth. It will make more places home because that’s where the people we love are.”
A pause falls for a moment and then she bursts out:
“Also, oh my gosh! Blowing bubbles on the mall with friends and professors. Small moments like that mean a lot these days. It’s in those moments that I truly realize how blessed I am to be surrounded by all these people.”
Ngo plans to graduate UD next semester and to possibly still attend medical school, but she recognizes that we are not in complete control of the plans we make in our life. She is looking forward to healing and to continue serving others through missionary work and everyday encounters. She also hopes to one day create an elephant sanctuary in Africa.
“It would be really stinky, you know, but it would be so fun.”
Naturally, the two of us laugh some more.
We look down at the voice recorder which reads 1hr:7min. I turn it off and we continue our conversation as we walk through campus, soaking in a Friday on the Mall. One of our last together, here at UD. Trinity reaches her hand out for me to hold and even when I let go and disappear into the silence of the Periodicals, I laugh to myself and know that somewhere, she is laughing with me.