Buffalo Grove student is first in his family to graduate from college

  • Sarun "Mac" Chanprung was set to graduate in May 2020, but then the pandemic changed the course of his collegiate career. Chanprung, who came to the U.S. at age 11 with his parents, owners of Fuji Thai restaurant in Buffalo Grove, will be the first in his family to earn a four-year college degree.

    Sarun "Mac" Chanprung was set to graduate in May 2020, but then the pandemic changed the course of his collegiate career. Chanprung, who came to the U.S. at age 11 with his parents, owners of Fuji Thai restaurant in Buffalo Grove, will be the first in his family to earn a four-year college degree. Courtesy of UIC

 
 
Posted12/10/2020 9:30 AM

Sarun "Mac" Chanprung was set to graduate in May 2020, but then the pandemic changed the course of his collegiate career.

The only requirement Chanprung had yet to complete for his kinesiology degree was an internship. But due to COVID-19 restrictions, he could not complete an internship as planned.

 

"But I feel like it all worked out somehow," said Chanprung, a senior in the College of Applied Health Sciences at University of Illinois Chicago.

"My personality has always been pretty laid back and relaxed, and I do really well with being flexible. Pushing my graduation back wasn't something that I wanted to do, but it wasn't the worst thing. It just meant that I had more time to try new classes and do new things."

He's back on track after finding an internship at a suburban chiropractic office this semester, allowing him to celebrate commencement Dec. 12, an accomplishment that means a lot to Chanprung and his parents.

They moved from Bangkok, Thailand, to the U.S. when Chanprung was 11 years old, settling in Buffalo Grove. He will become the first person in his family to attain a four-year college degree.

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"One thing that my parents wanted me to be able to do is establish myself in this country since things were hard when we first moved here," he said. "It means a great deal to my parents; they sacrificed a lot just to bring me here. For me being able to finish school is kind of like getting that jump-start to being able to support myself in this country."

He's set a goal of becoming a physical therapist and owning his own clinic someday. The first step on that path was attending UIC for his undergraduate studies, with a double major in kinesiology and psychology. He found his passion for kinesiology during his own journey to become more physically fit.

"Growing up, I was super overweight," he said. "It wasn't until my last years of high school that I started working out and getting into fitness, and eventually I just enjoyed it a lot and wanted to continue down that path. I've also always been interested in psychology and how the mind works and how people come to think the way they do."

In order to be considered a full-time student this fall, Chanprung had 12 credit hours to fill, and all of the requirements for his majors had been completed. So, he decided to find some courses that interested him to fill out his schedule, such as Spanish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I didn't think of it being a hindrance -- I looked at it as an opportunity take classes that I didn't have time for before that I wanted to try, and a chance to improve my GPA," he said.

Chanprung chose UIC because of its affordability and proximity to Buffalo Grove, where he's helped his parents with their restaurant, Fuji Thai, since he was 12 years old.

"And now that I'm doing my internship, I'm working at school and outside of school, and I'm still in class. So, I'm really, really busy," he said. "I've learned to multi-task."

His internship has helped him strengthen the skills he will need in his future career as a physical therapist.

"It used to take a lot of time for me to open up to someone and get used to being comfortable talking to them, so an internship where I meet different people daily does challenge me on how can I talk to them and develop that professional relationship," he said.

His advice to future UIC students whose path to graduation isn't linear: take your time.

"You never know what's going to happen," he said. "It's good to have a plan and a goal, but you don't know how things are going to go. It's not about the destination, it's about the journey."

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