A year of living alone, for my generally extroverted and social self, meant a year of isolation, anguish, and being lost in my own mind. A year of online school, for my generally collaborative and hands-on approach to learning, meant stunted learning (despite high grades) and a nagging feeling of falling behind in my career goals.
I thought a return to in-person school would mean a return to building my community, earnestly and fully exploring my interests, sustaining my growth as a human being, and embracing chaos. Just like old times. Instead, I kept pulling 13-hour days on campus, becoming overinvolved in every aspect of the work I describe below. The stress and sleep deprivation kept piling up; the growth wasn't all rosy like I wanted it to be.
Is this really what I want? I think I'm only beginning to find out.
• ENGR 231, technical communication practice
• ENGR 498, leadership development for my new first-year workshop teaching role (the Engineering Design Coach program)
• M E 323, the most well-taught engine and mechanical system thermodynamics class I could've asked for (shoutout to Dr. Polagye)
• M E 354, a lab-based introduction to structural solid mechanics (what last quarter's strain gauge project is useful towards!)
September 17—19, 2021 | changing perspective
Before COVID, my relationship with my parents was rocky, not only due to regular teen sensibilities but also because of how busy I was with school. At the end of the second "COVID Summer," we decided to break a 2.5-year long drought between family trips at and return to New York City. Over 10 days, we split time between sightseeing independently and hanging out with our extended family in Westchester. Through both of these experiences, I got to get a lot closer to my parents... and, unexpectedly, to my parents' past.
I got to go to what's basically a Soviet expat bard festival. These festivals happened a lot when my parents were growing up in the USSR, and the setting for this one — a huge campground in the mountains about 3 hours northwest of NYC – was similar to the dense forests that my parents and their peers camped out in to hear their bard friends play classics and their own songs.
I heard music I don't usually hear and I got to explore parts of my parents' childhood and their nostalgia towards it. I also was surrounded by tipsy Soviet expats the entire time. The entire time, I felt completely out of my element and a bit misled. I was forming a closer relationship to my parents, but was this really what I wanted out of a trip to NYC?
November 23, 2021 | leadership development
At the end of my sophomore year, I got internally hired into the Design Chair position on the HuskyADAPT student executive board. I'd been working towards this position for over a year at that point, having already been on a HuskyADAPT Design Team and being a communications lead for the club that year. I knew that getting there was going to be only half the battle, as myself and two other engineering students were going to be responsible for turning around a sprawling student design challenge program after a COVID-induced slump.
After months of planning a new design curriculum and struggling to put together projects and student teams, a tour of the MILL was when it clicked for me that my work was coming into fruition. Using the managerial skills I built in high school to meet lots of new people and connect them to creative resources was exactly how I imagined a leadership role looking like in college.
December 6, 2021 | professional identity
This quarter, I built on my experience as a cell biomechanics researcher by... maquerading as a CompE student?
While I was wracking my brain over classes, I was doing so over an entirely new topic to me as well: neural networks. That is, trying to build on my experimental work from last quarter to analyze what was being experimented upon, improving that analysis by making it objective rather than subjective.
In the process, I took over lots of communication with very experienced professors across departments and disciplines to make it happen. I was very nervous about it, but my mentors made the introductions, helping me focus on what needed to get done. I faced lots of errors wrestling with C code, Python libraries, and Unix command lines, but I was able to produce documentation to hand my work off to another another PhD student at the end of the quarter.
Overall, my first research lab experience was fun, and I found it valuable towards my professional development as a "gateway drug" to biomedical engineering. I decided that I wanted more conventional and hands-on engineering research experience, so I left the lab on good terms in the first week of 2022. I was extremely official about taking that step out, but I was respected more by myself and by my mentors for advocating for my own interests and actively seeking resources to fulfill them and grow as an engineer.
December 21, 2021 | academic excellence
I grinded myself to the bone this quarter. I got good grades again. To me, this that I didn't lose my edge for in-person learning during the 1.5 years of Zoom University. I could be in engineering school! I belonged in my major! I could really do this Mechanical Engineering thing!
... at the cost of burnout. Is this, all of this, really what I wanted out of my college career?