“Huntington Beach is the perfect place for me to capture beautiful moments,” says international student Nhat Minh Doan. Even before arriving, Doan was already sold on Southern California as the ultimate study abroad destination. He knew it was the picture-perfect place to make new friends, celebrate achievements, practice his love for photography, and balance out the rigors of a comprehensive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program from Golden West College. What more could an aspiring 21st century professional ask for?
Doan remembers being curious about computer technology for as long as he can remember. Growing up in Vietnam, he marveled at how innovations grew and evolved like he did year after year. “I realized that if I wanted to change the world, all I needed was a computer and a creative mind,” he says. “I chose Golden West College because it always tries to stay updated with new teaching styles and equipment, which any computer science student would significantly appreciate.”
It’s little wonder why this community college is highly regarded for its academic quality and innovation. Located in the coastal community of Huntington Beach, also known as “Surf City,” Golden West College is an open-access institution. This means all students can join if they have a high school diploma, or equivalent, or are at least 18 years of age.
This is especially welcome news for international students keen on sampling a more western approach to education before transferring to a four-year institution. At the college, they earn associate degrees, complete certificates in career and technical education, advance their careers, and master the art of demonstrating college readiness.
Doan is pursuing an Associate Degree in Computer Science to eventually take his next academic step at California State University — GWC students successfully transfer to the University of California as well, with transfer rates placing GWC among the top 10% of all California community colleges.
So far, his favorite lessons are in Calculus-based Physics: Mechanical and Introduction to Java Programming. “These classes taught me to practice my problem-solving skills reasonably and creatively,” he says. “I love how science, especially physics and technology, are connected.”
While classroom sessions are enriching, for Doan, nothing quite comes close to practical lessons. Once lockdowns were lifted, he stepped into the laboratory and refused to look back. “All ideas are meaningless if you learn without doing,” he says.
“Modern projectors, touch, and interactive devices have shown me a different aspect of the way I study and practice. My program has helped me understand what my learning style is and use that to apply to my academic setting. Moreover, using modern learning tools and equipment helps me to learn more efficiently.”
Plenty of knowledge is applied in Golden West College’s STEM Center — an open space where students are welcome to study independently, form study groups or engage with their college’s approachable yet knowledgeable STEM faculty and staff. These individuals are more than willing to support students looking to participate in STEM-related Research and Internship Programs at local universities, as well as public and private industry partners.
Enduring connections are made through the STEM Peer Mentor Program too, which sees more senior students guiding juniors through their community college journey. Together, they gain experience worth highlighting on resumes and college applications as they forge core leadership skills.
The main reason why students feel compelled to take charge at Golden West College is that they learn from the best. Educators here lead by example while broadening horizons in ways textbooks cannot. Guest faculty speakers from universities like California State University, Fullerton offer more insight on how to expand career opportunities in STEM fields.
“My favorite educators are Professor Gita Alemansour and Abraham Tarango,” says Doan. “They understand my struggle as an international student and always offer to help me in numerous ways. They taught me how to look at problems from different angles, which is helpful when I try to solve a math problem or even a life crisis. They often went the extra mile to help and show me how to solve challenging problems.”
Soon, Doan hopes to emulate the same level of excellence his educators have exposed him to as an intern at an IT company in California before beginning his degree at California State University.
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