Thinking about freshman year icebreakers (What’s your name? Major? Hometown? What dorm do you live in?) will make any senior groan. The countless introductions during orientation week are exhausting. But they work. The first week of my freshman year, I walked to the other side of my floor in Donlon Hall, engaging in yet another name-major-hometown conversation. I met two other girls that were also studying mechanical engineering and were in the same ENRGI lecture (MAE 1170: Introduction to Mechanical Engineering) as I was. I felt a small sense of relief and was glad to have found some people to navigate the engineering quad with the next day, but otherwise was unphased by the interaction. Little did I know, those two girls would not only help me find my way to the right lecture hall on the first day of class, but also would help me find my way through the entire mechanical engineering curriculum over the next four years.

Since that first day of class, the three of us have stuck together. Freshman year, we did our first ever design project together, building a small, battery powered car for MAE 1170. Sophomore year, we Zoomed to problem solve through our ENGRD 2020 problem sets and machined water pumps side-by-side for MAE 2250. Junior year, we spent late nights in Upson Hall finishing our robot project for MAE 3780 and got to dive into the world of biomechanics together in our upper-level MAE electives. As we wrap up senior year, we meet to finalize MAE 4272 reports or bounce ideas off one another for senior design projects. Each year, classes became more complex, assignments required deeper levels of thinking, and we began to lean on each other more, both inside and outside of academics.

This year as a senior, I came full circle and served as a TA for MAE 1170. I got the chance to observe freshman mechanical engineers form their first project groups and perhaps begin friendships that will carry them through the next 3 years. Sitting in lab and watching them build their cars, I had lots of time to reflect on how lucky I am to have built such a solid community within my major. Engineering at Cornell is truly a collaborative environment–the three of us have experienced an entire curriculum together and have worked through some of our toughest mental and academic challenges side-by-side. My engineering friends have become my all-the-time friends–the people I turn to in and out of the classroom and love spending time with. A year from now, we’ll all be in different places–one in medical school, one in graduate school, and one working in industry–and I will truly miss having the support system I have right now. Cornell Engineering can take you down whatever path you want, but make sure you take the time to appreciate the people who are by your side every step of the way.

— Ali, mechanical engineering