|Huy Tran didn't let moving to a new country and having to learn a new language get in his way when it came to academic success, and he's using the same can-do attitude and strong work ethic as he strives toward a college degree and a successful career.
Tran, 20, a sophomore, is studying to become an optometrist. He has always wanted to help others, and he set his sights on a career in the medical field early on. Becoming an optometrist is a practical solution to the one problem which could have hindered him from achieving his goal.
"I cannot stand the sight of blood, so becoming an optometrist was a way for me to still be able to help people without having to deal with the blood," he said.
Tran is working toward a B.S. degree in Biology and plans to take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) next year. Attending UT Arlington has allowed him to stay close to his parents and younger brother, who also live in Arlington.
Tran moved to the United States from his native Vietnam at the age of seven with his family. He vividly recalls the journey to America and his initial experience in his new country.
"First and foremost, I cannot forget the moment when I rode in a car for the first time in my life and saw all the city lights as we were leaving the D/FW Airport," he said. "It was very exciting being in my new country for the first time, but there was so much that was new to me that I knew nothing about."
The family settled in Arlington and Tran, who didn't know a word of English upon his arrival, was like a sponge, eagerly soaking up and learning everything he could about his new home country. He took English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and pored over books and periodicals such as Highlights, the popular children's magazine. He says he didn't feel completely comfortable speaking English until he was in the fifth grade.
Tran applied the same strong work ethic in all of his classroom efforts as he did to learning English, and his hard work definitely has been rewarded. He rose to the top of his high school class academically and graduated as class valedictorian at Arlington's Seguin High School in 2010.
"I would not say that academics came to me easily. Rather, I have always felt that I was gifted with the determination to never give up on what I set my mind to," he said. "One good example of this was my drive to do well in school to make my parents proud and thank them for all their hard work and sacrifices."
The soft-spoken Tran made a lasting impression on those who knew him in high school.
"We have very fond memories of this amazing young man," said Tom Land, Tran's class counselor at Seguin High School. "Not only was he an awesome student, but he was so warm and giving. He was willing to lend a hand at any time, and he did everything with a smile on his face. Academically, he was a hard worker and really challenged himself by taking many rigorous classes. We were honored to have Huy in our school."
Donna Marshall-Knowles, a science teacher at Seguin, remembers Tran inquiring about the school's college preparatory program even before he was eligible to take part, and says it was an example of Tran's dedication to education and to doing all he could to succeed.
"As well as being a focused and diligent student, Huy had a wonderful group of friends and was a wonderful role model for them all," Marshall-Knowles said. "I actually ran into him a couple of weeks ago on the UTA campus. I was walking in the University Center and heard, 'Ms. Knowles!' It was wonderful to see him and hear his enthusiasm for his college experience. I cannot say