By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Fallon Jung may be headed to the Ivy Leagues to study medicine, but don’t think she’s going to get too serious.
The recent Niskayuna graduate will study Medicine and Literature in Society at Columbia University this fall, but her sense of wonder and fun promise to keep her from growing up anytime soon — and that’s the way she wants it.
Jung fell in love with Columbia University after a visit to New York City. “Seeing people on the steps outside of the library, it was really great seeing so many people there and such a cool, diverse community,” she said.
Her love for the place was solidified when Jung talked to another Niskayuna alumna who had recently completed her undergraduate degree at Columbia. Her friend told her about a major at the school that seemed to fit perfectly.
“I was explaining to her that I am really interested in foreign language and culture, but also in medicine,” Jung said. She discovered she wouldn’t have to choose if she could make it into Columbia’s Medicine and Literature in Society major. She poured all her energy into the application, fighting hard for her spot.
“I did my very, very, very best job on it because I knew if I did anything less than my best, I would never forgive myself,” Jung said. “To be honest, after I finished it I was pooped.”
Now that she has solidified her college plans and finally graduated high school, Jung has shifted her focus to something a bit less taxing: summer camp.
Jung has no less enthusiasm for Camp Chingachgook than she has for Columbia University, although one begins to suspect her energy applies to everything she cares about. She’s been attending the camp since she was 10 years old.
“It’s the best place in the whole wide world, and literally from the time I leave in August to now, I want to go back to camp,” she said.
It’s been years since she first set foot there, but now Jung enjoys spending her summer passing the lessons she’s learned on to younger campers.
“We’re really forced to grow up so quickly, and being in a summer camp is a nice time to get away from everything, and allow them to still believe in the tooth fairy and run around with their friends all day and go swimming,” she said.
She is passionately dedicated to special Chingachgook programs that help foster children and refugees find a safe space to relax and learn those lessons about childhood. “It’s so amazing that something that seems so trivial as a summer camp can be so inspiring and helpful to a whole slew of different people,” she said.
Running around with little kids, covered in dirt and sunscreen all summer long, may not gel with the buttoned-up stereotype of future Ivy Leaguers. But Jung says one special teacher at Niskayuna High School taught her not to care about that.
Her Latin teacher, Thomas Caffrey, taught lessons about life through classic language.
“He ended the year with Horace, and Horace was the guy who wrote the Carpe Diem poem and made the phrase famous,” she said. “I guess Mr. Caffrey asked us a lot, ‘What do you think Carpe Diem is? What does that sound like, smell like, look like?’ At first I couldn’t answer the question.”
Later, the meaning struck her, and it stuck. She was singing in the car with the windows open when she had to stop in traffic. “I stopped singing because I felt self-conscious about it, and then that question popped up in my head: why are you stopping?” she said.
“If it makes you happy, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be doing it right now,” she said.