Hun Choi traveled halfway around the world to attend Princeton. Originally from Korea, he moved to New Zealand when he was about five years old and decided in high school that he wanted to continue his studies in the United States.
His journey has been similar to the one taken by his older brother, Gyeong-Sik, who graduated from Princeton in 2010 and is now working as a software engineer at Google.
“He’s working in the computer science field, and I thought that looked like a lot of fun,” he says. “He surrounds himself with gadgets, and I’ve always loved playing with them, too. So I have chosen computer science as my major.”
Before coming to Princeton, Choi had not studied computer science, favoring math and physics instead. But in his first year at Princeton he took an introductory computer science course, “COS 126: General Computer Science,” which is a requirement for all engineering majors and, as he says, “it just clicked.”
He was surprised by how engaging the content was for an introductory course. One project involved using software to simulate the sounds of a guitar that could be played. “In other courses, you might be asked to do something abstract or theoretical that means nothing to you, but in ‘Com Sci’ you get to work on something tangible, and that’s really gratifying.”
For another project in this course, students learned how to automate a laborious mathematical process called a Markov chain to generate text. Markov chains are widely used in speech recognition programs, spam filtering and data compression. “It was fascinating,” Choi says. “You can tell it to print a number of random words, and it will make a somewhat comprehensible sentence out of them.”
Choi’s main interest outside the classroom is singing. He is a member of Princeton University Glee Club. He sang in high school, and when he joined the glee club at Princeton as a bass he says he was surprised by the level of musicianship. “Much more is expected of you,” he explains. “Here, you sing because you have a passion.”
In his first year, Choi traveled with the glee club to Germany and the Czech Republic. The tour included four well-attended concerts over the winter break, including one in the spectacular 17th-century Church of the Holy Saviour in Prague. “It had these huge vaulted ceilings,” Choi recalls. “I’ve never seen anything like it. The sound we made echoed for two seconds. We would sing a few notes and then just listen.”
The trip also included stops in Leipzig, Germany and Nuremburg, Germany, where they spent a few nights inside the castled walls of the medieval city. “Going to Europe had been on my bucket list for a while. So when someone said we were going to Europe, and it would cost us nothing, I said I’ll take that. The whole tour was great.”
Choi says coming to Princeton was the right choice for him. “If you want a challenge and a great reward at the end, come to Princeton. You will be taught by professors who have had a hand in making the real world what it is now.”