To quote one of my favorite shows, “When the snows fall and the winds blow, the long wolf dies, but the pack survives.” Since this a blog post for the Viterbi School of Engineering, you know I’m going to be connecting this to engineering somehow… Okay so maybe I was looking for a reason to quote Game of Thrones and this is a pretty extreme exaggeration for engineering which is certainly nowhere near as dramatic as this Game of Thrones quote, but the meaning behind the phrase definitely applies. Pursuing an engineering degree can be really tough at times and has challenged me in numerous ways that high school never did. Persevering through difficulties is undoubtedly a positive thing and the resilience that this course of study will teach me along with my computer science concepts will be a necessary skill for whatever I choose to do in the future. However, as with most things in life, going at it alone can make those difficulties worse which is why I’ve surrounded myself with a supportive and achieving group of my fellow peers to go through this CS journey with.

Meeting new people and making friends is a key aspect of attending college, and finding community within your major or general area of study is just as significant. These people are able to relate to you on an academic standing which, since you’re at college for the academics (or most are 😉 ), can be an incredibly nice part of the relationship. You are all pushing through the same classes, struggling on the same homework, and going deeper into some pretty hard course work together. For me especially, having fellow classmates as my friend and knowing that a request for help or explanation will not go unanswered is a great comfort. These pals aren’t special to me just because we remind one another of due dates for discrete math assignments or spend hours bouncing code ideas off one another (though it’s definitely nice to have people to have a late night study session with). They’re special because of the constant support they give me when I am having a particularly tough week or their willingness to share any resources they find to help others succeed along with them. This combination of ambition with remarkable care and kindness is something I feel very fortunate and thankful to have found within engineering.

With classes online this semester, that community looks a little different than before but is no less strong or important to me. If anything, the separation from one another encourages us to find ways to be present in each other’s lives that we didn’t before. That might be texting to check in on a friend more than you used to or reaching out just to say you miss them.  It also has opened up doors to new friendships. Zoom private messages, though a bit awkward at first, are a unique way to reach out to people in my classes and initiate creating connections. I’ve been able to make several new friends simply through messaging a person when I see their cute cat enter their zoom frames during class or commenting on a classmate’s profile pic, whether of themselves or of funny image. And as much as I complain about silent breakout rooms, more often than not I’m in constant conversation with someone in the room, and by the end of it we’ve exchanged numbers and made plans to study that weekend. These new connections have drastically changed my outlook on this virtual semester and made my course loads much easier to bear. And I can’t wait to meet these friends in person when we’re all back on campus. So lesson of the day: send that Zoom direct message, everyone else is eager for more people by their side as we go through these crazy months. 

The point in saying all this is, despite the challenges that come with engineering, having a little “team” to make it through with is not only comforting, but more rewarding in the end. I saw there was no reason to push myself to do things alone and took the small risks in reaching out to those around me. Now I have great memories of interrupting a midnight review session to make a ranking of the characters from Riverdale from worst to least worst or going for a spontaneous Boba tea run before getting back to lab work or being sent the perfect TikTok right after a stressful CS class. The pack truly thrives in engineering…

Gianna Beck

Gianna Beck

MAJOR: Computer Science (Games) YEAR: Class of 2023 HOMETOWN: Phoenix, Arizona PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @gianna__b I'm involved with computer science research investigating affective gesturing in robots in the Interaction Lab along with being a Freshman Engineering Academy Coach. Outside of Viterbi, I'm a part of Greek Life, SC Climbing, the Student Alumni Society leadership board, and I am a volunteer at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.