Former International Student, Whatcom Alum Returns to Campus

If you’ve stopped by the front desk in Syre Student Center on the Whatcom Community College campus you probably know Quan Duong. Chances are, he knows you too. In fact, if you see him during working hours, you will always be graced with a smile and a warm greeting.

“He is so kind, sweet and great to work with,” said Annika Jonson, Associated Students of Whatcom Community College vice president for clubs.

Quan Duong wearing a blue t-shirt that says "Orca Day 2022"
Quan Duong poses at the Student Life front desk. Photo Credit: Dakshayini Kasinathan


Duong was an international student from Vietnam who came to Whatcom in 2015.

“I came to Whatcom in hopes of majoring in science, biochemistry to be exact,” said Duong.

In addition to having gone through uncertainty with his major, Duong also had to survive college without his family and support system.

“At first, I was excited because when you’re 18, you feel like you can do anything. So, I tried to adapt, and join new clubs and activities,” he said.

Serving as one of the volunteers at the local food bank has been one of Duong’s ways of going out into his new environment and experiencing change.

“But later, as time went on, I began to miss my family more. Not being able to talk to them because of the different time zones and tell them about my day was hard,” he said.

He eventually shifted his focus toward his studies and realized he did not feel much of a connection to science but would rather start exploring philosophy and reasoning. It was then he found his interest in psychology.

Duong recently completed a degree at Western Washington University, the highest-ranking public university in the Pacific Northwest.

He now uses his psychology knowledge and skills not only as the Coordinator of Student Life and Development Office at Whatcom but in a second job where he mentors K-12 students in the Compass 2 Campus program (C2C). The C2C program focuses on giving a brighter future to K-12 students in the Whatcom and Skagit Valley area, predominantly minority students. K-12 students are students who had elementary up to 12th-grade education.

Duong felt that as an international student who is familiar with human minds and behavior, it was a perfect fit for him to serve as a mentor. The C2C program has successfully managed to work with 23 different school sites, including two Duong is stationed to work with.

He believed directing K-12 students in the C2C program to get a college education for their future was important to them, but also for him to build a personal connection and bond with them.

“During my time working with the K-12 students, connecting with them I felt so much better. I am putting more of myself into the work I do because I want to be a counselor to those in need,” Duong said.

Duong’s office is stationed in schools that offer the C2C program. He helps the students that come in for counseling and questions that they have for their mentors. He said, “Oftentimes I see myself in these students, because when I first came to the U.S. I had problems with communicating and making friends; it was tough, but being able to help these students to speak up reminds me that they will not have to go through what I went.”

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