Why I Was Scared of Being an Engineer

Cami Amein Cami, College Applications, Electrical, Major, Trojan Spirit, Uncategorized, Viterbi Life, Viterbi Plus, Why USC, Women In Engineering Leave a Comment

Being a senior in high school is not easy. There is so much pressure to know where you are going to college, what you want to study, basically everything else about the rest of your life and don’t forget to get good grades in all your classes. For people who thought they had it all planned out, good for them, that was definitely not me. I pretended to though, I acted like I knew where I was going to college, that I wanted to be an engineer just like my dad and have the perfect life. I think at some point I had actually convinced myself that I was on top of it and knew exactly what I wanted to do. But that just wasn’t true. I was terrified of being an engineer.

This is me pretending to have my life together

In my head it made sense, it was the rational choice. I got good grades in my math and science classes, I was good at problem solving, and engineers definitely made a lot of money.  But I couldn’t help feeling like I was going to be miserable working on boring math problems all day, wanting to pull all my hair out and run away. Not to mention, I was afraid of the “tech culture” and a bunch of boys wearing hoodies geeking out and pretending like I don’t exist. I was afraid of what society told me engineering was.

The funny thing is, I stuck with being an engineer because I thought it legitimized me as an artist. I went to a performing arts high school so everyone around me was an artist. I was a dancer, painter, writer, filmmaker, but really “just okay” at all of those things. I guess it was more impressive I could be artistic if I said I actually wanted to be an engineer and was killing it in my math and science classes (I think wanting to be amazing at everything makes me both stupid and an egomaniac, but who isn’t?). 

I still cringe at how obsessed I was with being a "good" artist

It wasn’t like I actually wanted to be in the art world, but was forced to pick a practical job. Actually my parents were super encouraging of me wanting to pursue whatever field made me happy; most of my life I wanted to work in the film industry and didn’t feel the pressure to pick something more realistic. With time (and a lot of terrible short films ) I learned that while I love film, I didn’t love making it. I did love my artistic community but I felt a little out of place, like I was too analytical and practical for them. So when I was picking colleges I cared about finding a place where I felt like I belonged and could get out of engineering if I hated it. If you look at my list of colleges I did a pretty good job meeting my criteria, every school was someplace that I felt like I could find friends and all were schools that were strong in a bunch of areas besides engineering. When it came to choosing though there just wasn’t any contest (spoiler: because obviously USC is the best).

I had actually applied to USC because it was my best friend’s dream school. I didn’t see it as a “real” option because it was too far away from where I lived, but I just kept getting drawn to it. The first time I seriously considered it was when an admissions officer (shoutout Kyle) came to talk at my high school. He went on about how strong USC was in the arts and engineering and how collaborative an environment it was. In my head I just thought “wait that’s exactly what I want, why has no one said that before!” I couldn’t shake it, I just felt like it was calling me in a weird way. So I told my parents that I needed to visit because it was one of the only places I could grow as an engineer and artist (even though secretly I just wanted to grow as an artist and maybe figure out how to ditch engineering). Long story short, USC was this magical fit for me. I felt so at home, it’s so cheesy but it felt meant to be. I felt like I belonged here and lucky enough that my parents were willing to pay for me to go to school across the country.

yep, I am the type of person to make a cake for everything, because cake!

So I loved USC but I didn’t know if I loved engineering, I was still afraid of it. I still saw it as boys in hoodies drinking red bull in front of a laptop. But after the first few weeks of class, I realized that basically everything I thought about engineering was wrong. It was actually incredibly creative and collaborative. It was way more like my art classes in high school than my math classes, except these people were just as analytical as me! I felt so at home in an engineering classroom; I was part of something important and meaningful and I was surrounded by people who understood me. I have never felt like that before in school, not in any art, math, science, or history class. I had engineering all backwards (which now makes sense because I didn’t actually have any experience with it), how was I supposed to know that engineering was basically just an extension of the arts but used tools like math instead of paint brushes. I still don’t get why no one talks about it like that, I know a lot of artist that would make pretty fantastic engineers if they knew how similar they are. So remember, engineering is nothing to be afraid of, I know I am so grateful I was egotistical enough not to give it up and have the chance to go to USC, which really is a dream come true.

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