Sunlight entered my bedroom illuminating it. As the rays grew in intensity, a single ray beamed from a crack in the window onto my eyes. I slowly open my eyes to the harsh light and turn my head away from it, but at that moment I jolted off from my bed realizing that today is my seventh birthday and a special gift was waiting for me. Immediately, I rushed out of my bed room while eagerly thinking to myself: “I hope it’s a new toy!”
It was nine in the morning when I rushed into the living room. My mom, uncle, and grandma were all sitting on the cream colored couch talking to each other about something. I immediately focused my attention to the large box on the floor. With gleaming eyes and a smile on my face, I rushed to open the box, but my uncle immediately stopped me from opening it. He scolded me about not thanking my mom for buying it for me before I tried to open it. My grandma interject telling my uncle to be nice to me. I turned to my mom, telling her how thankful I am. She smiled and told me in Teochew: “We want you to do well in school.” I immediately opened the box to see that it was a toy like no other toy I had before. I pulled it out carefully as my uncle instructed me. Looking at it, I was confused on what it was.
My uncle explained: “It’s a toy computer. This one is practice for the real one later.” He grabbed the screen out of my hands and placed it on the wooden table. Afterwards, he grabbed the power cord to plug it into the outlet. I came to the table and he showed me how to turn it on. I pressed the circular button and the screen came to life!
My family did not grow up with many opportunities for a good education. My mom did not go to high school when she was growing up because she had to take care of her brothers and her mom. Growing up in Hawaii with a Chinese-Vietnamese family was definitely an eye opener to how different they grew up compared to me. In Vietnam, they did not have the opportunity to go to school because they did not have the money to and war was prevalent back then. They immigrated to Hawaii during the war. It was not difficult for them to adjust since Hawaii, in the plantation days, drew people from many different cultural backgrounds.
Many established communities for their ethnic group; predominately the Asians and Hawaiians. Though they had a hard time finding a job because of their limited English, they adapted and survived with the help of the community. In contrast, I grew up during a time where there is no war, more opportunities, and what mom considers “prosperity.”
I was always pushed to go further by my family because I had the opportunity to learn so much more than they could. My uncle gave me his Windows XP computer to me in the fifth grade for me to learn and my mom bought a cheap slow internet connection for me. It was during the fifth grade my curiosity ran amuck. I would end up staying up late learning about the web and how websites got on the internet. By the middle of fifth grade, I was already making my own website. Though simple, I was happy that I was doing something that makes my mom happy; I was learning.
Throughout middle school, I refined my web developing skills. During the eighth grade, I learned of craigslist and looked around the site. I found an ad looking for someone to set up a WordPress blog for them. I replied to the ad and I met with the person. He was surprised that I was such a young boy and I already knew how to set up a database! The setup process to me was very simple, but to him it was foreign. He was pleased with my work and paid me a large sum. At that point, I felt as if I should have rejected the payment for the work I did because I did it for fun than the cash, but I took it anyways. After I left, I was overjoyed that I was able to do something I love to do for fun to help someone else.
High school came and became my biggest obstacle. I tried to find web development classes, but I was unable to do so. Instead, I took computer hardware classes and computer programming class. I even got involved with the chess club and a cyber security team and eventually ended up as vice president and captain, respectively, in senior year. However, I was not satisfied with what the high school offered. Though I enjoyed doing all of that and it gave me more knowledge about computers, it was never like web designing and developing.
I was accepted into the University of Hawaii in 2014 into their computer science program. Again, the classes that I took for computer science lacked an emphasis on web technologies that I have been expecting from the university. I tried to look for clubs that focuses on web design and development, but to no avail. I tried to look for people who would be interested, but it seemed as if students were more interested in looking for a computer science club that has connections to big companies rather than a student ran club. Even though the university did not have classes that fully interests me, I am maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.6 through the countless hours I put into understanding the materials that was taught in class.
Though the amount of opportunities were small, I made great efforts to make the best of what was offered. The coursework that I had done in high school and at the University of Hawaii has given me a broader sight in the computer field. All the knowledge gained and all the opportunities that I took significantly helped me achieve more than what I would have done if I had not taken them. At the University of Washington, I intend to change my major to user centered design because the classes available in the degree interests me far more than computer science would have.