When Christian Truong arrived at UW-Madison as a freshman in the fall of 2001, he never imagined nearly a decade later, he’d still working toward his degree. But life has had a way of throwing obstacles in Truong’s path.
The first disruption came in 2004, when Truong, an army enlistee trained in emergency medicine, was deployed to Iraq. He spent a year serving as a medic for an infantry unit stationed north of Baghdad, an experience that taught him life is fleeting. “Seeing what the soldiers were fighting for … makes you realize how fortunate you are,” says Truong, a native of France who moved to the United States at age eight. “It really invigorated this drive to make the most of my life.”
By the time he returned to campus in 2006, Truong no longer felt inspired majoring in biomedical engineering. He took a botany class, which awakened his interest in the environment and eventually led him to a new field—biological systems engineering.
Then, another hurdle. After failing to finish nearly half of the problems on a routine midterm, Truong discovered he had a learning disability that hampered his ability to complete timed tests. Ever indefatigable, he learned to manage the issue. “I thought, after all I had been through, with moving to this country, learning a new language and going to war, this was easy. I just took it one step at a time,” he says.
Now, with a December graduation finally in sight, Truong has a summer internship lined up with ConAgra, which he hopes will lead to a job as a food process engineer. He’s also training with UW-Madison’s cycling team, where he’s had a couple of top-10 finishes in collegiate road races. And that should come as no surprise: He’s gotten pretty good at long, uphill climbs.