MMSEA Alumni Spotlight: Thanh Nguyen

ThanhSince graduating from MMSEA’s inaugural class of 2016, Thanh Nguyen has remained an active member of the alumni community. We recently caught up with Thanh to learn more about her experience as a sophomore at Princeton, where she plans to major in Computer Science with a certificate in cognitive science.

Where are you from and what made you decide to join Minds Matter?

Eight years ago, my family and I emigrated from Vietnam to the United States. We lived in California before moving to Seattle for my parents’ jobs. It was rough at first. I knew what to do in school, but didn’t have anyone to guide me. In the middle of English class one day, my teacher told me about a mentoring program that helps students go to summer programs. At first, I was nervous that attending session every Saturday would cause my school work to suffer, but I decided to join.

What was the most impactful part of being a member of Minds Matter?

The volunteers and mentors taught me things I never knew about and prepared me very well for Junior and Senior year of high school. SAT prep was a huge help, as it was a test I was not familiar with before the program. I got better with practice problems and identified my testing weaknesses. The summer programs also allowed me to get ahead of stuff I was interested in. Lastly, college prep (eg. applications, finances, personal life, and finding colleges that fit my personality) was very helpful.

Who were your mentors in Minds Matter? What were their backgrounds?

I had two mentors who were relaxed and didn’t push me too hard. James worked in finance, and Daniel was a software developer. If I needed help deciding something or if I was falling behind, they’d make sure I was on track. They talked through certain problems with me that I couldn’t talk to my parents about without stressing them out.

How has it been attending Princeton?

Princeton allows me to take a diverse array of classes, and I like that it was on the east coast – far away from home! Coming here, I was mentally and emotionally prepared for college, but I was underprepared regarding how to study and prepare for classes. My first few weeks at Princeton were difficult. Everyone seemed really prepared, and I didn’t. But I knew from Minds Matter that I could do well if I tried.

What do you miss most about Seattle when you’re away on the East Coast?

I miss the rain! I miss it so much! It’s always sunny here. When it rains, it’s always flooding. Seattle is also cheaper and provides me with access to lots of fun stuff. In Princeton, I’m in a bubble and need to go to Philly or New York to have fun. I also miss my mom’s cooking. It’s more difficult to go home and see my home friends. The plus side is that I can start over and am in control of what I want to do. I don’t have to worry about what my parents are going to think and am more independent when I’m at school.

Do you have career plans for after graduation or for this summer?

This summer, I’m applying to be a software developer for a startup tech company. Maybe I’ll go to grad school or join the workforce after college. I’m keeping the door open to all the possibilities!