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Meet Visal Saosuo: 2020 Vantage College Excellence Award Winner


Visal Saosuo is a Vantage One Engineering student and Entrance Award recipient. In this interview Visal details his aspirations of opening up his own research centre in his home country of Cambodia, as well as interest in pursuing Electrical Engineering and/or Computer Science. Most notably, Visal discusses some of the challenges he has faced when adjusting to online learning and navigating peer relationships with the time-zone differences. He offers some very candid advice on how he was able to work through those challenges, which many other Vantage One students may find useful in their own studies and experience.

Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, and what country and city you are from?

My name is Visal Saosuo (or Vee-Sal) and I come from Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia – which is well known for its ancient temples and culture as a country. 

What was your response when you achieved the Vantage College Excellence Award? What was your family’s response?

After spending weeks and weeks checking through my inbox waiting for the award acceptance letter, I sometimes feel like I lost my chance of getting the scholarship. However, all of my assumptions came to an end during the morning of April 16th. I got accepted for the Vantage College Excellence Award. I still remember that excitement and will remember that regardless of my age. I feel hopeful for myself, my family, my high school, and my country as there could be a brighter future approaching soon. That excitement also passed down to all of my family members as they were jumping and hugging me for this immense opportunity. I also got some spiritual blessings from my ancestor for spiritual congratulation.

What was it about Vantage College that interested you in the program?

To me, Vantage College is a program that has faith in young leaders and promising students all around the world regardless of their level of English. I am interested in Vantage College because I believe that my talent can be nurtured to its maximum potential by studying in this program. 

How have you adjusted to learning virtually? What have been some of the challenges?

My transition from high school to university has been a real struggle for me. One of the reasons is the level of difficulty with each course. Combine this with the time difference, I frequently fell behind the class, and it was hard to find the right person to reach to when I have some questions. To overcome these challenges, I always watch the recording of each class and research some more on the internet.

What are some of the ways the Vantage One programs could support the students more in their progress?

I think the current setup of the Vantage One program so far is very good. I do love the minimum amount of students per class that allows the professors to focus on each student individually.

How are you engaging with your peers and building community within your courses?

Due to the pandemic, everyone is staying home and study in a different time-zone. This limitation prevents me to reach out to some of my peers. Therefore, for this term I did not make as many friends as I expected, however, I did my best to engage with the class and online events as much as possible.  

Are there any extracurricular clubs or projects you have been a part of so far (inside or outside Vantage College)?

I do not participate in any of the clubs or projects. I looked into joining the undergrad research club, however, by the time I found the club the application has closed but I look forward to apply next year. Although this might seem like regret, I actually happy with this decision because it allows me to focus on my learning, resist the time difference, and find my learning peace.

Once you have completed your Vantage One-year, which programs or degrees are you looking into pursuing, and why?

Currently, I am looking forward to major in electrical engineering or computer science. With one of these two degrees, it would allow me to move toward my dream which is to bring the word to a better place.

Are there any academic goals you would like to achieves while studying at UBC? What would your dream job be?

I do not have any particular academic goals yet, although, I never want to be a smart student. Instead, I want to be creative, different, and influential. I want to do at least four research projects before I graduated, which means I need to complete one per year. On the other hand, my dream job is leading a research center in my own country that would positively impact lives.

For any students who are about to embrace virtual learning at UBC, what is some advice you can offer?

One advice I would offer to students is to enjoy the beauty and the pain. There is no real solution to overcome these challenges. Instead, being in there feeling the struggle and the success will help one find a method that would work. Also, start small and build on it later. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with us regarding your experience?

This term one really hit my confidence as a student. After my mid-term season ended, I thought I might drop out of college since most of my grades were really low. That did bring me down, but one of my seniors guided me to some resources available and I did follow his advice. I met with my advisors and professors to figure out strategies to better prepare for the finals. I think, I made a right decision and I got so many good advice from each person. That advice gained back my confidence and I do feel like I did well on my finals. From this experience, I learn to alway reach out to people for help, there is nothing hurt from getting people advice.


Reminder that if you have any questions regarding your program/classes or just need advice on your studies in general, please feel free to contact your program’s Academic Advisor:

ARTS: Shane Campbell - shane.campbell@ubc.ca

SCIENCE: Wendy Brett - wendy.brett@ubc.ca

ENGINEERING: Tina Chan - tina.chan@ubc.ca   

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Additionally, Vantage Peer Mentors host various social events throughout term and are here to help you engage with your fellow classmates and peers. 

For more information on events and how to get involved,        visit the Vantage Virtual Student Lounge