As an engineering major at USC, you won’t only be taking engineering classes. On top of your engineering coursework, USC also requires all students, regardless of their major, to take GE’s, or General Education classes. Each GE category has tons of different classes that meet the requirement, so it’s pretty easy to find something on the list that sounds interesting. Although some people think of GE’s as another couple classes they are forced to take, I think they’re an awesome opportunity to become exposed to new topics and ways of thinking that engineering coursework alone can’t expose you to.
One of my GE’s this semester is called Environmental Challenges, and is a political science class about the challenges associated with solving environmental problems on a personal, local, national, and global scale. For our first big report, we had to track and calculate our average fossil fuel emissions and try to reduce them as much as possible over a week. This was completely different from anything I’ve ever been assigned in an engineering class.
Because I live in USC housing and can’t feasibly (or legally) buy more efficient appliances to cut carbon emissions, I pushed myself to reduce emissions by making bunch of small changes to my daily routine. I was surprised to find how easy lifestyle adjustments could make a substantial environmental impact. Some of the changes I made were to limit my shower time, air dry clothes instead of using a dryer, only turn on one light in a room at a time, buy vegetables through Imperfect Produce (a company that helps combat food waste by selling fruits and veggies that are too “ugly” to be sold in stores), and cut meat out of my diet. Although I didn’t feel like I was doing anything huge, these small changes allowed me to reduce my carbon emissions by over 15%!
Realistically, I can’t keep up all of my lifestyle adjustments (I like chicken far too much for long-term vegetarianism to be feasible), but I learned a lot over the course of the week and I’m trying to continue to be as environmentally conscious as I can.
Reducing carbon emissions might not be correlated to my mechanical engineering degree, but it’s something that I think is important and was glad I was able to learn more about. The course material and in class discussions have also allowed me to feel much more more knowledgeable about environmental policy and current events related to climate change, which I think is incredibly important. When you’re trying to fulfill your general education requirements try not to just pick what ever fits in best (although that’s always a valid consideration). Look for a class that actually interests you because that can turn the class from a chore to a class that you look forward to and that teaches you really cool stuff.