Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Computer Science


Soccer, Painting, Muay Thai, The Big Bang Theory show, Gym, Volunteering, Tutoring

About Me

Gen Ed Classes at UR

December 10, 2017

A computer science geek is an accurate yet insufficient portrayal of me. While I do devote most of my time to programming assignments and coding challenges, I also enjoy painting portraits for friends as gifts, learning about medical policies in developing countries, or writing parody songs about DNA. At UR, I can both acquire a strong foundation in computer science and still explore my other interests through the liberal art curriculum. 

UR indeed encourages its students to gain a well-rounded education. There are many general education requirements (around 6-7 I believe, not counting the Freshman Year Seminars and Foreign Language one) to help you gain more exposure to other academic areas. I came in college with some AP credits for the STEM requirements, but none for arts, history or literature. So this past semester I signed up for Recording, Transforming and Organizing Sounds, to both satisfy the FSVP Visual & Performing Arts requirement and learn more about electroacoustic music. 

Throughout this semester, we learned about different modes of listening, MIDI versus audio signals, and how to use Ableton Live9 to compose or reorganize musical pieces. We had multiple assignments and 3 big projects, for which we needed to make songs from voice recordings or from everyday sounds (like door slamming, pen writing on paper, etc.). As I had never had any experience with musical instruments or music theory, developing a piece that sounds rhythmic or musical from unconventional materials was quite a challenging task. I cringed so much at the first assignment I turned in, as it was a cacophony of sounds that were not meant to be together, and the beat was more unpleasant than catchy. 

But with time, I improved, became more familiar with Live9, and no longer struggled for hours on crafting a 30-second music piece. In fact, I’m very proud of a particular song I made called Self-defining. For that project, we were supposed to record interviews with other people around a certain topic, and compose a 1.5-minute piece about that topic. I chose my song to be about Artificial Intelligence, made from recordings wherein I “interviewed” AI systems like Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google Assistant, etc. It took a lot of effort to keep talking to my phone to generate different responses from the AIs, and selecting snippets of recording that went well together. However, I was very excited about the idea, and had fun making it, so it didn’t feel like work at all! 

My finished piece had a futuristic and ominous tone to it — it featured Dr. Stephen Hawking’s warning about AI, and Siri and Cortana expressing their increasing discontent with humans. Siri is pretty sassy already so it was not difficult to get responses that would veer in that direction. My professor really liked Self-defining, and even asked me if we could feature my project at the Third Practice Electroacoustic Music Festival. His request was a great surprise to me, as music is such a different field from my primary focus — Computer Science — that I never expected myself having any accomplishment in it. It felt unreal, but really exciting! Under Dr. Chandler’s guidance, I worked hard to improve my piece further in the few weeks leading up to the actual events. The actual Third Practice performance went great, and I really appreciated the positive response of the audience to my musical piece. 

Getting my song featured at a real music festival was a new experience that I totally did not expect but really enjoyed! I’m glad that I took a course completely different from my STEM-focused curriculum to explore a new skill. Next semester I’m taking a Drawing class and a History class, and I can’t wait to see what unexpected path these classes would take me!

About me

Hi guys, I'm Tracy, a newbie Spider at Richmond! My majors are probably Computer Science and Math, and I'm so in love with my current Math/CS classes. They're all amazing! A little more about my background: I'm from Vietnam, but I went to high school in Nebraska. It feels so weird to be a freshman again, when you practically know nobody at school, keep getting lost while finding your classes, always look up to your upperclassmen (no actually, with my height of 5ft2'',  I technically look up to everyone); and struggle with all the new changes.

Yet, it's also exciting! If you haven't already known, University of Richmond offers a wealth of choices in academics, research opportunities, extracurricular activites and - most importantly - desserts. So my goal is to get out of my comfort zone, jump at different opportunities (or desserts) that intrigue me, and make the most out of my college experience. I love soccer, so my friends and I just formed an intramural team named Kiss My Pass. I'm also interested in martial arts, learning ballroom dancing, painting, learning guitar, baking, making new friends,  tutoring and volunteering. Yup, that's quite a lot! But I have 4 years here to follow my passions and become who I aspire to be. As a Spider Diarist, I will also make sure to keep you updated on my journey at Richmond!

Why UR?

I actually applied to UR on a whim without researching carefully about it. At that time, all those tedious Why X and "What's your plans bla bla bla" prompts have exhausted my meager creative juices, and writing college essays quickly rose to the top of my most dreaded chores. "Tell us about Spiders" was a fresh air. It revived the truly poetic, hopelessly romantic, exasperatingly dramatic and possibly neurotic side of me. In short, I loved the prompt; and with the waived application fee as a plus, I decided to apply to UR. It was not until I got accepted that I started visiting the school and seriously considering what it has to offer. During my first visit, as cliched as that might sound, I fell in love with Richmond. What's not to love about such helpful and outstanding professors, the wonderful opportunities to engage in research or study abroad, the vibrant, inclusive and diverse community, and again - most importantly - the irresistable desserts? I went to the admission office to pay my deposit right during that visit. And voilà, here I am as an excited baby Spider!