Eric Nguyen on Moving Past Setbacks and Working in Biomedical Engineering

Noodle Expert Eric Nguyen tells our readers what he learned from getting a D in calculus, and shares some advice from both Teddy Roosevelt and Shia LaBeouf.

Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?

If I could pick one person to be my teacher for a year, it would be my high school world history teacher, Dr. Myovich. I had the pleasure of taking two classes with him — one as a freshman and one as a senior. His courses were very tough, but also very rewarding. What I really liked about him was the way in which he always related history to the present, and how he would always provide perspective and context. He always emphasized both sides of a story and taught us that there were no "bad guys" — only that the history books were written by the victors. He taught me much more in high school than many of my professors taught me in college. If I could relive one of my classes (without having to worry about grades!), it would definitely be his class. He is truly an inspirational teacher and one that I shall never forget.

What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?

One small piece of advice that has had a huge impact on my life comes from a quote from Theodore Roosevelt: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." There will be many times in life when you may feel hopeless and that the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Maybe you have a final exam in 24 hours that you don’t feel prepared for. Maybe you have a huge project to complete in only a few days. Perhaps you procrastinated and didn’t make wise use of your time. I often found myself in situations like this back in school. Whatever the case, stressing out and worrying about it will not make matters better. The best thing you can do is make the most of whatever time you have left with whatever resources are available to you. Your scenario may not be ideal, but worrying about it won’t help. You just need to start. Do the most you can within your existing circumstances. In the words of Shia LaBeouf, "DO IT!"

Where would you send a student who hasn't traveled before?

For non-American students, I would definitely send them to the United States — to a large city such as Los Angeles or New York. The United States is one of the most diverse countries in the world and it has so much to teach a student, both academically and culturally. Plus, with such a diverse population, there is definitely a niche for any student to find and explore!

For American students, I would probably have to say a large European country such as Germany or Spain. I believe European countries can offer a very different perspective and a different environment for studying. Many of the continent's nations are just gorgeous, and there is plenty to explore when one isn’t studying. I know that if I were still a student, I'd want to study there!

When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?

The only class I have ever failed was a calculus class during my freshman year of undergrad. I was always getting distracted my freshman year and I never put much effort into that class. I paid dearly for it with a D. Technically, this isn’t failing, but it was definitely a burden on my GPA and a red flag to anyone looking at my transcript. A year later, I had the chance to retake that class over the summer. This time, I really focused on doing well and avoiding distractions; I improved my study habits and really concentrated. The class wasn’t any easier the second time around, but sure enough, with hard work, I managed to pull off an A to replace the D I had gotten earlier.

Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?

I chose my field of biomedical engineering because I had always wanted to go into the medical field. I considered being a doctor, but after taking AP biology, I realized that memorizing was not my forte. Also, the many years of med school did not appeal to me (not to deter those of you interested in medical school!). I also knew that I was strong in math and physics. Luckily for me, when I was in high school, my mom told me about this emerging field called biomedical engineering. It was perfect because it combined my knack for math and physics with the fields of medicine and biotechnology. So naturally, I chose this as a college major.

In college, it actually turned out to be better than I had imagined. I expected to take a considerable number of biology classes, but I ended up only taking two or three in total. And even better, the classes were geared toward engineers. The rest of my courses were in math, physics, and engineering, but they were all oriented toward the medical field. I was much more comfortable with these classes because they didn't require much memorization — but they were definitely still hard. Just because courses can be tough doesn't mean that you're in the wrong major. School will be a lot of work no matter what major you pursue. But looking back, I’m glad I made the choices that I did and I’m glad that I stuck with my major.

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