This blog post, I want to start with a list of my extracurriculars last semester:

  1. Founded Mundo—a language translation messaging service/company—with LavaLab and taught myself Python development to make our first app prototype
  2. Acted as Secretary and Treasurer of AIAA, a professional Aerospace organization
  3. Regularly practiced with the USC climbing team
  4. Designed and built a custom set of speakers (See my last blog!)
  5. Hunted for internships
  6. Took the largest course load of my aerospace engineering career (5 classes with ~30 hours of homework a week on average)

Mundo at Lavalab’s product demo night!

Going into the semester, I was excited to take on all these challenges, but my schedule got tighter and tighter every week. As I tried to commit fully to my involvements, my rigorous classes, and be present when hanging out with friends, things became difficult. Regardless, I chose to pursue Aerospace Engineering because I wanted a challenge and if I wanted to build rockets, I could definitely handle a busy semester.

As weeks passed, homework ramped up, dynamic systems on the chalk board became more complex and my CAD models transformed from small blocks to a full structural analysis of complex geometries. I had to fire on every cylinder every day to keep up. I would wake up at 8am and work until 12pm every night jumping from class to homework to projects to clubs until I could retreat back to my cozy bed exhausted and emotionally drained.

A beam under variable loading under Finite Element Analysis AKA Rainbow Processing (Non-technical)

Soon, I started sacrificing sleep to attend extra club meetings and social events and eventually I came down with a bad case of bronchitis. Around Thanksgiving when I met my family for the break, the first thing my told me was: “Michael, you sound terrible! Are you ok?” No. I definitely was not Ok but I had been too stubborn to admit it. I told her I could handle my classes… and the extracurriculars… and my social life, but she sarcastically replied: “Yeah, it’s not like you’re studying rocket science, OH WAIT! You are!”

As Mom’s usually are, she was right. She touched on an important fact that day. Whether you’re studying Aerospace, Biomedical, Computer Science, or any other forms of engineering, school isn’t easy. Engineering classes are hard, but finding a balance between classes, extracurriculars, and a social life is even harder. Last semester was a wake up call for me to find my balance, and sure enough I did.

This semester, I couldn’t be happier. I let a few involvements go, I got healthy and I have been going skiing and camping on the weekends. I am still involved on campus by all means, but at a more relaxing pace that works better with my temperament. So as my Mom reminded me, I want to remind you: engineering is difficult enough as is, so choose to spend your free time in ways that work well with who you want to be. If working from sunrise to sunset everyday works for you, then have fun! I’ll be out hiking instead!

Hiking in Sequoia National Park! Taking a little fresh air break from work

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