Hoa Vo is a psychology and human development and family sciences double major from DeKalb, IL
Hometown: DeKalb, IL
Year: Expected graduation: 2023
What scholarships did you receive and why did you receive them? How has the financial support impacted your experience at NIU?
I received a few merit scholarships from NIU and the DeKalb County Community Foundation for my academic performance. The scholarships were renewable, and this impacted my experience at NIU by allowing me to have consistent finances each semester.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you pursuing that as a major, or have you taken another path?
As a kid, I wanted to become a dolphin trainer or an actress. At one point, I even wanted to become a marketer. People can be drawn in many different directions, but those aren’t the routes I am taking now. I decided to take a different path because my personal experiences altered my perspective and interests.
I am also in the College of Health and Human Sciences. My major is human development and family sciences with an emphasis in family relations, prevention and wellness. I decided on a dual degree because I am interested in exploring the intricacies of relationships and the contextual factors encompassing them. Mental health and well-being cannot be neglected.
What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
One pleasantly surprising experience at NIU was being able to have classes close to the lagoon. I found it relaxing to be able to sit and read underneath a tree on sunny autumn mornings and walk around the East Lagoon with my friends. Moreover, it’s near Altgeld Hall so you can walk over to look at the Art Museum and exhibits NIU offers.
How have you connected with other students to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
I have connected with a variety of students by talking with them instead of at them. Some of my friends are engineering majors while others are in nursing. A few of them are non-traditional students who have their own children. I enjoy talking with my classmates and forming new friendships because it allows me to listen to different personal narratives and view situations through different lenses. Many of my friends struggled throughout the semesters. Being able to empathize with them and allowing them to share their truths highlighted the ways in which we are all social beings who strive for connection. Having a healthy social life is important because it allows us to form healthy relationships and boundaries.
Are you involved in any student organizations, mentoring programs or extra-curricular activities? If so, which ones? How have they added to your experience as a Huskie?
I am involved in the University Honors Program. This has added to my experience as a Huskie in a positive manner. I connected with other students who were interested in a variety of research work, and I was able to enroll in an incredible honors seminar with a small cohort. I also attended OHANA meetings. We had fun events such as karaoke night and a backyard BBQ event, but we also had more serious events discussing topics such as cultural sensitivity and mental health.
What NIU offices, departments or resources have helped you succeed? And how?
Angie Flannery from the Department of Psychology has been an incredible academic advisor. She supported my ambitions to graduate early since day one. She was there to celebrate with me when I made honors, and she was the person who helped me file for overload coursework. I could not have completed my dual degree without her.
What Honors Program opportunities or support have helped you get closer to your academic or career goals so far?
The University Honors Program has allowed me to register for classes earlier, and it helped me stay on track with graduating in 2023. Earning an Honors Enhancement Award also motivated me to finish my semester strong. Kappa Omicron Nu reminds me to continue to raise my academic standards.
What do you enjoy the most about the Honors Program?
There are a lot of benefits to being involved in honors. One of them is being able to meet Mission II and Mission III at the honors events. The students and staff adore having a puppy around, and the mood lightens. Students are often so caught up in academics that it can be difficult to relax. However, having a cute dog around makes it better.
Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
My favorite professor is Kathy Zeek (English). She helped me improve my writing skills immensely and encouraged me to submit my essays to the English department. Two of my essays even received the Maude Uhland Award. Whenever I doubted myself or my work, she reminded me that learning is a process. My other favorite professor is Katja Wiemer (psychology). She took the time to meet with each student individually and got to know us as people. She was creative with her assignments and allowed us to be creative with our project presentations.
How have you benefited by attending class regularly?
I have benefited from attending class regularly by receiving review material for upcoming exams (some professors even print out study guides for you). Moreover, professors tend to answer questions more quickly in person than online. Communication is less convoluted. Plus, some professors may even offer extra-credit opportunities. One time, a classmate brought Dunkin Donuts and coffee for everyone, so you never know.
Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
My favorite spot on campus is the East Lagoon. There are people laying on hammocks, sitting and drawing, or taking a jog. The area is filled with life and nature, and even though the campus is hustling, somehow this place remains calm.
What advice would you give to a student who is researching colleges to apply to?
The advice I would give to a student who is researching colleges is to think beyond the basics of ranking colleges and the average GPA or ACT/SAT scores the college accepts. Look into the actual resources the colleges offer. For instance, are mental health services available there, or are there food pantries? Sometimes, it's better to be overprepared than underprepared because anything can happen to anyone.
Why is a college education important to you?
A college education is important because it allows me to expand my perspective. It is a way to find out if what I want to study is really for me or not. I learn more about myself, my values and my work ethic, and I believe a college education also reduces some of the barriers to opportunities.
What strategies do you use to manage your time between the responsibilities of school, work, friends and family?
I like to manage my time by keeping a consistent structure and utilizing a planner. I also divide up my day. Most of the time, late-morning classes worked best, late afternoons were committed to working and evenings were dedicated to socializing (since most NIU events occur after 5 p.m.). This schedule shifted as semesters changed.
How do you stay informed about events and services that are available on campus?
I regularly check emails and the NIU website. There's also plenty of flyers posted on bulletin boards, and the Holmes Student Center has large posters as well.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
To recharge, I buy myself something nice, spend time with friends, go on walks, journal or play a video game. Most of the time, having something to look forward to also makes the day better.
Please tell us about your hobbies.
I enjoy hiking, playing tennis and badminton, and scrapbooking.