The story of Computer Information Systems (CIS) graduate and commencement banner bearer Aryan Dham's family is the story of the quintessential American dream. His parents gave up their established life in India, selling the general store his father owned and had worked in for more than 30 years, to come to the US with the hope of creating a better life for their son.
Now a successful first-generation student starting a six-figure job after he graduates this semester, Dham reflects on the ways life has changed over the last five years and where he's headed next.
"We came here from India in 2019. Back in India, I was preparing for my medical schooling, but during my time at Houston Community College I came to understand how different medical training is in the US than in India,” Dham said. “Here, you complete four years of undergraduate studies, take the MCAT, and then finally go to medical school and complete residency. Then, after all those years, you become a doctor. Best case, that's eight to 10 years and a lot of student loans, but my family was depending on me as we built our new life here. That forced me to take a step back and choose a different educational path – something that I would still find rewarding but would be able to complete in a shorter time and build a solid career with.”
After a year and a half of community college, he transferred to the University of Houston. Though he began as a Computer Science (CS) student, it was CIS that ultimately caught his attention.
"After my first semester at the University of Houston, I made the switch from CS to CIS. That pushed my graduation back by a year, but I'm glad for it because I truly enjoy what I have studied throughout this journey,” Dham said. “I'm really enthusiastic and passionate about what I know now, whether it be cloud computing or cybersecurity, and that is one of the reasons I have maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout my time in college.”
In addition to top academic performance, Dham also found success at this year's cloudathon@UH competition as a member of the first-place winning team.
"cloudathon@UH was a chance for me to prove that I have a strong understanding of this material and that I'm capable of incredible things. I started preparing for the cloud practitioner certification outside of school and really getting to know about the architecture, and it was around that time that I really grew a fondness for cloud computing. I'm still really enthusiastic about it. I want to make a career out of it.”
These achievements have not come easily. In addition to his own academic work, Dham has spent the last few years working part-time, securing an internship with Delta Air Lines, helping get his mother – who does not drive – to her own part-time work, and also helping both parents – neither of whom arrived speaking fluent English – to secure and retain work here.
He planned his classes and academic schedule around these responsibilities to ensure that the family's needs were met.
"I have been very blessed to have a very good job lined up for me ahead, and now I can tell my parents that even if they have to retire at this age, I can take care of them," Dham said.
"Everyone, I believe, has their own set of challenges," he continued. "But in our case, I'm grateful for the fact that we have been very lucky – things have worked out in our favor. Reflecting on this journey, I feel a profound sense of accomplishment. The road was challenging, marked by struggles, but with the unwavering support of my family, I have overcome it all. As I stand on the brink of a promising future, I am confident that this incredible opportunity will enable me to better support my family and provide them with a brighter tomorrow."