A mid-degree refocus helped new alumnus Melissa Nguyen set her sights on a career in optometry

October 03, 2022

New alumnus Melissa Nguyen has always been interested in helping people. “I applied to Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University knowing that I wanted a career in health care,” she says.

But her first two years at SFU were challenging. “I honestly thought I was not cut out for sciences,” she says. “I remember feeling extremely discouraged by my low GPA, and at the time I did not know exactly what I wanted to do as my career.”

Feeling lost, Nguyen reached out for help. “I talked to a few advisors to try to figure out what I should do,” she says. “I learned that everyone, my peers, staff, and faculty, wanted me to succeed.”

Nguyen looked to her experiences for inspiration. Throughout high school she’d worked a variety of volunteer roles with children, seniors and people with developmental disabilities, and during university she had the opportunity to work in medical offices and shadow some medical professionals.

“Working as a receptionist at a medical clinic throughout undergrad, I enjoyed meeting new people every day as well as seeing returning patients,” she says. “I loved the idea of taking your knowledge, experience, and expertise to solve someone's vision problem and improve their quality of life. I’ve been working in customer service for over seven years and so it is clear to me that I want to work in a setting where I can be as interactive as possible. Becoming an optometrist seemed to be an excellent fit for my personality.”

That realization helped turn everything around. “I started staying on campus more often,” she says. “I made study groups with other students in my classes and that really helped me. When I narrowed down my focus and had clarity around my goals, it prevented me from being easily distracted and that allowed me to dedicate most of my time, energy, and focus to achieving my goal.”

Her hard work has paid off with an offer from the Southern California College of Optometry.

“I learned that it was impossible to get through university alone,” she says. “It’s important to recognize that it is completely normal to reach out for help.”