CSpotlight: Building a peer support network

Moving to the United States from Vietnam was a huge change for B.S. student Dat Luong. Luckily, he found a supportive network through the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) that helped him navigate the transition. Now he's using his technical skills and personal experience to build a website that will aid other international students as they adapt and find success at the University.

Why did you choose to study computer science at the University of Minnesota?

The University of Minnesota has a prestigious program and offers many opportunities for students to grow as budding computer scientists. Also, contrary to what many people think, I was actually attracted to Minnesota because of the cold weather!

How did you become interested in computer science?

I've been playing on and working with computers since I was young. I first started coding in 8th grade, and the first language I learned was Pascal. I had a lot of fun using it to create computer games, which really drew me further toward programming as a career.

Another reason why computer science is attractive to me is that I like to challenge my logical thinking, and that is a big part of the field.

What made you decide to get involved with the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE)? Tell us more about your current position with the group.

I got involved with SASE during my freshman year through the Taste of SASE program. This is a mentorship program, and I was paired up with an upperclassmen mentor. I am so grateful for this experience because I was struggling to adapt to life in the United States and at the University. Everything was just so different from what I was used to back home in Vietnam. My mentor and I got along very well, and they helped me so much with everything. SASE, for me, means family because everyone in the group is so kind and affectionate.

I’m currently working as a co-treasurer, and my main responsibilities are to keep track of the group funding and help my other co-treasurer with applying for grants to fund or events and activities.

How did you become a UI/UX Developer for ISSS? Tell us more about the position.

I saw the opening for the position in the ISSS weekly email, and I was immediately interested. I am currently designing a Canvas site to help with the transition of international students during their first year at the UMN. Since I went through this transition myself just two years ago, and I know many of the struggles new international students face as a freshman. I'm glad I get the chance to share some of my experience and knowledge with others, and I'm having fun building the website.

What advice do you have for incoming computer science students?

Definitely try to get involved with research early. It’s pretty important to get some research experience while you're an undergrad.

Also, make sure to ask for help when you need it. I got through my first two years because of the support and guidance I received from my mentor.

What are your plans after graduation?

I am planning to look for a job that will allow me to apply what I have learned in school while continuing to deepen my practical knowledge in computer science.