Vera Zhang wasn’t always interested in Computer Science (CS). Despite her mother pushing her to select it as her major, it wasn’t until she took her first CS class at Wake Forest that she realized how much she enjoys it. Programming comes as a second nature to her, as she enjoys logical thinking and problem solving.
The best part of being a CS major is the community that comes with it. Zhang says that she always feels supported by faculty, staff and classmates, whether inside or outside the classroom. There’s a broad support system that can help with class materials, extracurriculars or anything else she needs. It’s hard to choose just one class as a favorite within the Computer Science department, but if pressed, Zhang would say High Performance Computing. But more broadly, any and all classes taught by professor William Turkett.
Her advice to those who want to major in CS? “Talk to professors, find resources, join clubs (GO WiCS!), be patient with yourself — it’s not that hard!”
Although programming can seem daunting at first, there is every opportunity available to Wake Forest students to help them succeed. For freshmen she advises being open-minded and trying different things. However, if you find yourself particularly interested in some specific subject — go for it and start early.
Her two most important extracurriculars represent a wide variety of interests. The first, Women in Computer Science (WiCS) held events to help build a closer knit community of female programmers at Wake Forest, as well as further develop their programming skills. Zhang is also involved in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship where she met some of her closest friends and got to help serve the local Winston-Salem community.
When applying to colleges Zhang wanted a libral arts school that would enable her to try a variety of subjects. Wake Forest offered the perfect balance through its core curriculum and small faculty to student ratio. So Zhang applied for Early Decision and never looked back.
Throughout her time here, she has made many memories she will treasure for the rest of her life, including: “picnics and badminton on the quad, birthday parties in our Magnolia suites, watching [the] sunset behind Wait Chapel, busily running around Manchester and so many more.”
Of all her professional and education accomplishments achieved while studying here, receiving the URECA Research Fellowship in 2018, the Grace Hopper Celebration Student Scholarship in 2018, first place in Reproducibility Challenge at Student Cluster Competition 2019 and making the Dean’s List every semester are some of the most important to her.
Zhang has mixed feelings about graduating during the pandemic, but she feels ready for the next stages of life.
“I had been getting ready for graduation for a long time and now it finally came. It definitely feels like I’m entering a new life stage. I get emotional when I think about leaving an environment that I’m so used to, but I’m also excited for stepping into the real society and being independent,” she said. “This time has been difficult for everyone. I hope our lives can be back to normal soon.”