Lasting memories from late-night study sessions

Van Nguyen
Van Nguyen

When Van Nguyen recalls highlights of his four years at the University of Washington Bothell, he thinks of late-night study sessions in the library, Activities & Recreation Center or “one of those little corners with the vending machines in every building.”

“It might sound like a strange thing to miss, but there were more to these study sessions than discussing scientific theories and working out problems. My friends and I were also discussing our goals, our dreams, our insecurities and fears of the unknown,” said Nguyen. “It was through these late-night study sessions that I was able to establish some lifelong friends with whom I could grow during our undergraduate years and beyond.”

Nguyen, who was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and grew up in Renton, Washington, graduated in June with a degree in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Neuroscience from the School of STEM. His next goal is medical school.

“My long-term goal is to be a part of the new generation of physicians working together to tackle the many health care disparities and injustices in our system, bridging the gap that underserved, socioeconomically disadvantaged communities may face,” he said. “Being a gay Vietnamese man, I would also place an emphasis on being an advocate for Vietnamese and LGBTQ+ folks as well in our fight towards equity in health care.”

The right fit

Nguyen chose to attend UW Bothell after considering factors that would be the best fit for him.

“I value personal connections with others, so being a part of a tightknit community and having faculty and staff who know me personally were essential,” he said. “Looking back, I’m very happy that I was a part of this community.”

Nguyen was recognized this last academic year as one of the Husky 100, students from across all three UW campuses honored for making the most of their UW education. To Nguyen that meant saying yes to opportunities. The recognition was both an honor and boost of confidence, he said.

It was also a bright spot in a year that ended under the cloud of the coronavirus pandemic. For someone who valued study sessions with friends, the separation required was a major adjustment, Nguyen said. He navigated the situation with the help of professors and mentors, and focused on solidifying his plans for the next few years.

“My goals have not changed, so as long as I have my sights set on them, I think I’ll be okay,” said Nguyen. “I was so lucky for the memories I made and the relationships I built at UW Bothell.”

First-gen success

Meaningful relationships with faculty or staff members are vital for undergraduate success, said Nguyen.

“The scholarships, internships, research project and other growth opportunities that I had all came from single conversations with a professor or staff, starting with me introducing myself and asking them questions,” he said.

Nguyen advises incoming students to try new things and make the most of their time at UW Bothell. And he has personal advice for first-generation students such as himself — people who are the first in their immediate families to earn a degree from a four-year institution. Struggles with finances or college readiness may contribute to lowering their confidence and self-esteem, he said.

“That impostor syndrome is no joke, but I want you to remember that you are never alone here. There are so many other first-gen students at this school. Find your people, and do not be afraid to lean on them,” he said. “Never forget that there are so many people who believe in you.”

Each year, the University of Washington selects 100 students who are making the most of their Husky experience. Thirteen UW Bothell students were recognized as part of the Husky 100 Class of 2020. What’s special about a Husky 100 recipient? They dare to do. They use what they learn inside and outside the classroom to grow personally and to create change in their communities.

Read a message from UW President Ana Mari Cauce on “Celebrating the courage and impact of first-generation students.”

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