Welcome to my blog! Today was a special day, and I’ve been so nervous about it for the past week. This week has been restless as it was filled with excitement and mixed emotions as I prepared myself for graduation. In celebration of this big milestone, I wanted to capture the emotions of my self-reflection period as I finished another chapter, the college chapter.
Graduating from college and getting a good job were things that have been ingrained into me since I was young. Especially in Asian cultures, graduating from college is a common expectation, and it carried the same connotation as graduating from high school. The expectations for me to graduate from college weighed heavy on my shoulders because I was a vessel of hopes for my parents. They sacrificed their lives and migrated to the U.S so I can have a good future. I want to repay my parents by supporting them down the road so they can retire without financial worries. Beyond just meeting the family’s expectations, my parents were the biggest motivation for my academic success.
It is okay to start over and not knowing where you would end up. As long as you have faith in your own ability and perseverance, you will be able to achieve anything.
During my first semester of college, I was in the dilemma of not knowing what I wanted to study. I was urged to become a pharmacist since high school, so I took a bunch of science courses in order to prepare myself for college classes. Then I got to college, and I realized I did not want to do pharmacy. But I was too scared to tell my family that I ended up pushing through my first year with classes that would prepare me for pharmacy school. I tried so hard to fall in love with the idea of pursuing it as a career, but deep down I knew that it wasn’t something for me. I even bought books, study aids, and connected with several pharmacists. After three months of working as a pharmacy technician, I had it! No offense to anyone who is a pharmacist, sorting through drugs, and filling out prescriptions were things I couldn’t see myself doing for a career.
I didn’t see myself in any other field, so I was getting really nervous about my future. I couldn’t decide if I should stay with the pharmacy track or start over with another major. Then one of my friends turned mentor, recommended Computer Science (CS), and I thought he was crazy for recommending it to me. At the time, the things I knew to do with a computer was how to turn it on, how to use Microsoft Office and surfing the internet. I was gripped with anxiety, but I told myself “What do you have to lose? You don’t like dealing with money so Business is not for you. Math is not your cup of tea so probably not Engineering. Any other majors would require you to start over anyway.” I got into my own head with so many obstacles and fear of failures. I didn’t know anything about CS, so I was scared to make such a risky decision. But the CS program at our school required students to have an outside concentration. Since I was only a couple of classes short to a Biology minor, I would still be on track to graduate in four years. Looking back, I didn’t want to disappoint my family for not graduating in four years. I was so worried about disappointing them that I rushed my own timeline and growth.
Perseverance and a strong work ethic are the secret ingredients to success.
Starting a new major was scary, it took a lot of work and perseverance to pick myself back up. Imagine knowing something all your life, then being told you have to start over from ground zero. The despair of starting over and feeling unaccomplished were things I felt during my first semester of CS. I can’t tell you how many breakdowns I had because of my classes, and I was in the darkest time of my college career. There wasn’t a lot of women in my major, so I felt so uneasy about always being one of the few girls in classes. Some of the students have been working with computers for years, so I felt intimidated by their knowledge. A typical assignment would take them one to two days, but it would take me one whole week to complete. It wasn’t just learning how to code, I was relearning how to learn. Biology was mostly memorization, where I would study the notes and spit it out during exams. CS was mostly implementation based, so I had to be able to understand the structure of the code, the syntax, and the logic behind them. I basically started at zero, all the study skills that I learned previously went out of the window.
I wasn’t willing to give up. It didn’t take me long to realize that CS doesn’t require you to be smart. You have to work hard and practice a lot in order to become familiar with different computer languages. And if it is anything that I am confident in, it is my strong work ethic. I put in hours at the tutoring center, office hours, and personal time to practice and learn on my own. I also found new friends who helped me along the way, and I began to develop confidence in my newfound major. Back then, if someone were to ask me if I liked CS, I would say it is a love/hate relationship, I liked it because of the promising job market. It wasn’t until my third semester of the program that I felt that I was going to be okay. I started attending conferences, Hackathons, and workshops for IT. I soon found passion in technology, especially within a field with a constantly changing landscape. Now I would tell anyone that I am in a field that I am in love with because of the endless opportunities to learn.
I graduated from undergrad in May 2018, and I continued straight into the Master’s program. Our school has an early entry program that allowed students to take graduate-level courses as a senior. And the way I got there was also interesting. My family was against me majoring in CS because they were not familiar with the field, and they were worried that I would have a hard time finding a job. Plus, Asian families are really big on degrees so I thought “hmm, why don’t I just go a step higher and get a Master’s degree so they can get off my back.” My plan worked because they were thrilled to learn that I was pursuing higher education, and the icing on the cake was that I would finish it in one year. In the beginning, the motivation was for my family to accept my decision, but it was my “go big or go home” mentality that urged me to pursue a Master’s Degree. I got an internship last summer for a leadership development program, and it was an awesome experience. I learned so much and I saw great potential within the field and got a job offer upon graduating, so I am so proud that my efforts paid off.
I’ve been waiting for this moment for thirteen years, and I am finally graduated from college with a Master’s of Science degree in Information Technology. My journey to college wasn’t easy but it made the outcome that much more rewarding. It was one of my biggest accomplishments yet, but more than anything, the biggest reward is for my parents. I hope they can finally feel lighter because the weight has been lifted off their shoulders. I have been so blessed with such supporting parents, family, friends, and sisters. Another chapter is completed, and I cannot wait to start a brand new chapter of my life.
I will be taking a couple of trips after graduation, first is to go see the Big Apple, then Washington DC, and then Vietnam. I am so excited about all my travel plans and career explorations, and I cannot wait to share them with you. Please stay tuned for more entries and new experienced!