My Life As… An Engineering Student
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I’d bet my graphing calculator that you don’t have many girlfriends that are engineers. It’s not because we’re antisocial (well, I’ll speak for myself on that one…), it’s because there aren’t many of us to begin with. Sure, it may seem like a pretty sweet deal to be one of seven girls in a class of 100, but I promise its not all it’s cracked up to be.
Let’s start with a day in the life of. Unlike most other college girls, I get taken less seriously if I dress well. Yes, wearing a cute blazer and jeans (or make-up and accessories) actually diminishes how seriously my peers and professors take me. For some reason, certain professors seem to hold it against me that I am a girl going into a seriously male dominated world. However, being taken seriously is seemingly on the bottom of my to-do list when it comes to classes.
For example, this past semester I had one assignment due per each one of my five classes per week. An average assignment is about 5 problems long, making around 25 problems due per week. Not so bad, right? That is until you take into account the level of difficulty, the amount of time spent and precision required for each section of each problem. Whether it’s the 16 points I got off an assignment once for writing Page 1 instead of Page 1/8 on each page, or the time I neglected to box my answers properly (apparently circling them wasn’t sufficient that day…), every assignment seems to bring its own headache in a unique form. Four hours, two lattes, and nearly half a pad of engineering paper later, I might have finished half of an assignment.
That is, if I had no other commitments and rarely made a mistake.
Forget weeknight TV marathons or $1 pitcher night at the campus bar – the night before an assignment’s due is for nothing other than that assignment. I could go on for hours about the extreme amount of time dedicated to our assigned projects (like the time when I spent more hours in the computer lab than in my dorm one week), or the high expectations we’re held to, but I think you get the picture. Engineering is hard.
It’s not only classes where I receive a luke-warm welcome. I can’t even count (and trust me, that’s something I’m good at) how many times I’ve been asked what exactly I do as a civil engineer. “Bridges, buildings, roads, stuff like that,” seems to be my auto-answer, though that barely scratches the surface. I know people at parties or in coffee shops could care less to hear my drawn out “it’s really soil cohesion and pile driving techniques” answer, but there’s so much more than what meets the eye.
Oh, and bring on those stereotypes. Sure, I laugh at derivative jokes and I carry a pencil sharpener and calculator in my purse at most times, but not all of them are true. My engineering friends are some of the most personable and funniest people I know. They’re not all stiff and uptight and they don’t only speak in greek letters. Like any other major, engineers come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them even have girlfriends! Okay, that was kind of mean, but you get the point.
Someday I’ll be standing on a construction site, wearing Tims, a hardhat and a pencil skirt, doing mental calculations and managing an entire project. Despite how idiosyncratic of a picture that might paint, I’m excited to graduate, dive right in and get my hands dirty. Haha get it? I’ll work on a dirty construction site? No one? Okay… so maybe engineers aren’t as funny as they think…
So next time you’re sitting in traffic thinking about what you could be doing where ever it is that you’re going, just think about me in the car next to you, calculating how much more efficient the light cycle could be if they just increased the number of lanes so that the capacity would… okay, I promise I’ll stop now.