Bao, a chemistry major from Vietnam, grew as a person and a scholar during his time at Texas Tech.
After speaking to family members, Bao said he started looking for schools that had successful petroleum engineering programs.
After finding out that Texas Tech had a top-five program in the Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering, Bao chose to come to Lubbock to continue his education.
Bao said he was first exposed to college by the teachers at his international school in his home country. He got the chance to ask them about college and what it was like to be a student.
When Bao first came to Texas Tech, he was exposed to many new things. Bao said he had not heard of Lubbock before, and the weather was different than he was used to. This change, as well as being away from home, affected him during his first year.
“My first year, I would say that I was pretty shy and kept to myself,” Bao said. “It was all about getting the good grades; that's how the Asian culture is. I went to class, was a good student. The most interaction with my classmates would be my roommates because I found out they were gamers as well.”
Bao said he bonded with his roommates over anime and video games like “League of Legends.” After doing some research, Bao found that Texas Tech had an Esports club.
“Video games are something I am passionate about,” Bao said. “When I came here, I looked to be a part of a team with an understanding that video games were accepted.”
After finding his place in the Esports club, Bao got the chance to focus on a hobby and realized he did not have to concentrate on schoolwork all the time.
“Tech Esports gave me a side gig,” Bao said. “My career at school would be the main focus, and Esports, friends and hobbies would be the focus in my spare time. Those things gave me some breathing room from my parents' expectations and that cultural pressure. That's how it shaped my college experience.”
Bao said he went on to start the “Overwatch” team, which became the most successful Esports team at Texas Tech, finishing in the top 32 nationally. He also became president of the organization.
As the club grew, so did the success of the teams that came from the club. Bao said at the time when he started the Overwatch group, it was the most successful Esports team. But now, the Hearthstone team is the most successful at Texas Tech after winning the 2017 Fall Tespa National tournament.
Tony Le, a senior mathematics major from Houston, first met Bao through the Esports club. Le said their friendship felt natural and they became close friends soon after.
Le and Bao bonded over their mutual love for video games and through hanging out at community game nights hosted by the club.
“We were only competitive gamers then, but as time went on, we became very close friends,” Le said. “When he took over the presidency of the Esports club, I knew he would do an amazing job, and I wholeheartedly supported him every step of the way.”
Though initially starting in the petroleum engineering program, three years ago, Bao changed his major to chemistry after talking with his family in Vietnam. Bao said he spoke with his grandmother, who worked in pharmacies when she was younger.
His grandma encouraged him to get a job that help people and makes an impact on the community. That conversation made an impact on him.
After he graduates in summer 2019, Bao said he plans to be a pharmacy technician for a year before he enters pharmacy school.
Bao said he is glad he came to Texas Tech because he met people who made a significant impact on him. He believes that attending the university has given him a new perspective on schooling as well as life.
“Talking to non-Vietnamese people or non-Asian people, it struck me that their careers do not always align with what their parents want,” Bao said. “It's more what they want to do because they love it. I now have a new perspective because all I knew before was what my parents wanted me to do.”
Le said Bao has a vibrant and energetic personality that attracts many people and will help him be successful after graduation.
“I respect him on a high level,” Le said. “He puts 200 percent effort into everything he does, whether it is in his classes or in the club. Not once has he stopped and settled for less.”