My parents came to the United States, like many others, for the opportunity to give their children a better life. They always emphasized the importance of education and the idea of seeking out knowledge was ingrained in me since birth. The American Dream that my parents had thought that I was getting was not the reality. Going to a Title I school in the Bronx meant that my school lacked funding, resources, and programs that would push me to be successful. With my parent’s support, I was able to seek out opportunities that would allow me to seek higher education. Through the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), I was able to come into Cornell Engineering.
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Coming to Cornell four years ago, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I was thrilled to be an engineer, excited about all the people I would meet, and looking forward to moving to New York, but beyond that I had no idea what it would be like. I could have never imagined this, finishing off my senior year in the midst of a pandemic with half of my classes on Zoom. I could never have imagined the powerful depth of the friendships I have made at Cornell, which have prevailed no matter the circumstances. And I could have never imagined the current career trajectory on which I have found myself, a trajectory which was completely off the table when I first stepped foot onto North Campus.
The Year It Has Been
Before the Australian bushfires could be quenched, Covid-19 hit the globe. California then caught fire and George Floyd died at the hands of the police. It did not end there. Chadwick Boseman and Ruth Bader Ginsburg then passed away; the first an artist dedicated to his craft; the second, an accomplished Cornellian dedicated to the pursuit of justice. Over in East Africa, love was lost between Kenya and Somalia while in Myanmar internal conflict and political crisis ensued. The world this past year, as it seems, has been like an infant experiencing endless bouts of colic.
In my first semester at Cornell, I decided to sign up for WICC’s (Women in Computing at Cornell’s) Lunch Bunch Program, which allowed female undergraduate students to converse with professors over a meal. In one session, there were around 7 other female undergraduates interested in computing majors getting to know Madeleine Udell, a professor in the Operations Research and Information Engineering department at Cornell. After hearing her impressive list of achievements, I needed to know: How had her experience as a woman in a predominantly male field been? She chuckled when I asked this and told me that she actually pushes against the status quo; she hasn’t had many terrible memories in which she was pushed against because of her gender. I almost did not believe her, until I realized that it was her resilient mindset that allowed her to not just come out of university and the workplace unscathed, but also stronger.
I believe that peer advisors are important because they provide an immediate support system and informational resource to new students.
Starting college, especially at an institution like Cornell, has its challenges and it is important for freshmen to have someone they can rely on who has navigated the same experiences they have. Peer Advisors were freshmen once too, so they understand exactly what new students are going through. I remember taking ENGRG 1050 as a freshman myself and I remember it being immensely helpful. I learned how the grading system worked, how to navigate prelims, and what opportunities existed on campus.
When I first arrived at Cornell, I participated in the Prefreshman Summer Program (PSP) to get accustomed the university atmosphere and to get started on classes. During this time, I met some of my closest friends that continue to support me. Specifically, many of my friends were other engineers that I interacted with during the Diversity Programs in Engineering (DPE) events and Ryan Scholars meetings. Leaning on the network that we created over that summer, many of us continued to work together as study partners throughout our introductory courses. As a first gen student, I found connecting with other first-generation students to be essential for my progress.
Cornell Steel Bridge: Designing, structural analyzing, fabricating, welding, and constructing!
Designing, structural analyzing, fabricating, welding, and constructing are the core experiences that Steel Bridge members gain from participating in a Cornell project team. Apart from providing hands-on experience simulating real-life practice in the industry, the Steel Bridge project team is also an opportunity for students to be involved in the nation-wide American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) Student Steel Bridge Competition. During every academic year, our members create bridge designs under the proposed competition specifications and conduct structural analysis on the design. After electing a bridge design with the best structural efficiency, our team proceeds to fabricate and weld all bridge members in-house. The finished bridge members are assembled and constructed at the competition.
Program: Semester at Sea
Countries visited: Japan, Vietnam, Mauritius, South Africa
In my junior year, I participated in Semester at Sea as my study abroad program. It is a global voyage program, where students and professors live on a cruise ship together, and travel around the world in about 100 days. During those 100 days, we usually visit 10 countries, meanwhile taking up to 15 academic credits.
Being a Cornell Engineer isn’t only about taking classes, but also about working and interacting with other students, both in and outside of the engineering college. One of the most notable activities is project teams. Taking classes really focuses on giving you the foundation you need to understand important concepts in different engineering fields, but it usually doesn’t offer as many chances to apply that knowledge to real, physical projects. I joined a project team called Cornell Cup Robotics in my freshman year, and even though I was still new to developing large software projects at the time, I was immediately integrated into teams working on core features for the robot we were developing. I really appreciated being able to work on major parts of the project, all while learning about the tools commonly used in the industry. Another nice perk is that many project teams usually have large lab spaces, which are also open outside of regular club meetings, making it a perfect study spot!
Looking back at the past four years, I see the evolution of an unconfident freshman uncertain of what he wanted to do, to a senior that is ready to graduate and face the challenges of the working world. My time as a senior, especially as a senior in the middle of a pandemic, has made me appreciate the people I’ve met, the education I’ve received, the events I’ve participated in. The struggles of my computer science problem sets were overshadowed by the triumphs of writing code that worked. The daunting tasks of certain projects were overshadowed by the relationships I developed with people who worked with me in classes over the past four years.