Pioneer Student: Young Immigrant is Called a Trailblazer by His University

Immigrant Mark Chua is a rising star in Canadas software industry.Although he is just 22 years old, Simon Fraser University graduate Mark Chua can add “trailblazer” to his list of credentials. The newly minted software developer at Vancouver’s Reva Solutions is still stunned by his achievements as the first graduate of the SFU-ZU dual degree program in computing science.

“It was gruelling because the program was going through growing pains and kept updating its requirements. But it’s neat to be a pioneer,” says Chua, who maintained a 4.00-plus (highest is 4.33) cumulative grade-point average.

Fresh out of high school and 18 years old, Chua was the first of nine students to enrol in the program, which grants two bachelor degrees in computing science — one from SFU, the other from Zhejiang University (ZU) in Hangzhou, China. SFU-based students take a total of five years, learning Mandarin alongside computing science in a first year at SFU and doing their next two years at ZU, where some courses are delivered in Mandarin.

They complete their final two years at SFU. But Chua completed the program in only three-and-a-half years. 

Born in Manila, Philippines, but of Chinese heritage, Chua’s graduation from the International School of Manila’s International Baccalaureate high school program immediately earned him a year’s worth of lower-division university credits. That enabled him to take upper division courses at ZU and complete his degree requirements early.

While his academics were top notch, he says he did face some challenges in Canada after high school. “I wasn’t in tune fully with Canadian culture and didn’t know many people,” he says.

“But it wasn’t that hard to get into it after you’ve been here for a while.”

Leaving Canada to study in China was a rewarding experience for him, too. Not only did it give him a chance to connect with his Chinese heritage, but it also allowed him to study Mandarin, a language he had always wanted to learn. Chua concedes with a smile that his Chinese classmates at ZU were a great help, given that he still has a lot of work to do before achieving fluency in Mandarin.

“Mark’s ability to study upper division courses almost entirely in Mandarin in a challenging subject such as computing science was an amazing feat, especially given his youth,” says SFU dual degree program co-ordinator Vivian Chu.

Now the young software developer — who describes his job succinctly with the words, “I code,” — is looking forward to a long, successful computing career. “I want to earn some money and buy a house,” he says with a chuckle.

Visit canadianimmigant.ca/education/postsecondary for more stories on postsecondary education.

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