If you’re looking at this blong, you are considering becoming an engineering student. And that is amazing! However, you might not feel like an engineer on the first day of classes. There isn’t a specific time in the engineering curriculum where the “aha moment” happens. Entering my final semester of undergrad (eek!) I wanted to reflect on my time at USC and look back at my journey as an engineer.

Freshman Year

Freshman year was a fun, fresh, and exciting time. I was finally a college student! There were so many exciting things happening both inside and outside the classroom. And because of that, I am glad I didn’t feel thrown into the engineering curriculum. Yes, there were engineering classes integrated into my schedule, but the combination of Freshman Academy, GEs, and core math/science classes gave me a chance to breathe. At the end of my freshman year, I didn’t feel like an engineer, but I was excited to be working my way down that path.

Sophomore Year

The 2019-2020 school year was… to say the least… not as I expected it. The first semester mimicked my freshman year schedule, so there is not much to report there. Second semester is where I began taking a majority of my classes in the STEM field, and I was very excited about it.

Then March rolled around.

I think I was well on my way to understanding what it meant to be an engineer, but taking classes from my childhood bedroom set me back to high school. While 4 out of 5 classes were in Viterbi, the major shift in the pace of my (and everyone’s) life kept me from feeling like I was becoming an engineer.

Junior Year

The year of virtual classes went better than I expected. My coursework was shifting to very specific engineering classes like CAD, Fluid Dynamics, and Stress Analysis. I was beginning to see the importance of all those theoretical classes like calculus and physics. Was I ready to become an engineer? Almost. Two internships cancelled at the last second left me without industry experience. In terms of academics, I felt ready to take on the tech world. However, I was yearning for that work experience to really seal the deal.

Senior Year

Finally… finally I feel like an engineer! I spent the summer working in two research labs on campus and continue to do so during the school year. My classes are getting more specific and even extending into graduate studies. The most important thing, however, was my capstone project. While the capstone project (AME 441) was the most stressful 15 weeks of my life, the payout was unreal. Looking at my project on the final showcase day, I saw an apparatus that I designed, built and tested from scratch. My group of four was able to design an experiment that not only proved our hypothesis, but also created new technology that we are currently seeking to patent. The capstone project was the last thing I needed to feel like an engineer. I have academic experience, conduct research, and I designed a project from the ground up. I know that I am ready to leave USC as an engineer, and I can’t wait for what the future holds.

There is no specific point in which you begin to feel like an engineer. I began to truly come into my own as an independent thinker and scientist while completing research over the summer, but I definitely noticed those skills developing much earlier. I think the important thing to remember is that everyone understands and applies the knowledge we gain through school in different ways and not to give up on yourself when things seem fruitless. Some people feel like an engineer in their freshman year and some feel that way just before graduation. Both are totally okay. Just be proud of the journey you are on and be excited about every new opportunity to grow.

If you’re looking at this blong, you are considering becoming an engineering student. And that is amazing! However, you might not feel like an engineer on the first day of classes. There isn’t a specific time in the engineering curriculum where the “aha moment” happens. Entering my final semester of undergrad (eek!) I wanted to reflect on my time at USC and look back at my journey as an engineer.

 

Freshman Year

Freshman year was a fun, fresh, and exciting time. I was finally a college student! There were so many exciting things happening both inside and outside the classroom. And because of that, I am glad I didn’t feel thrown into the engineering curriculum. Yes, there were engineering classes integrated into my schedule, but the combination of Freshman Academy, GEs, and core math/science classes gave me a chance to breathe. At the end of my freshman year, I didn’t feel like an engineer, but I was excited to be working my way down that path.

 

Sophomore Year

The 2019-2020 school year was… to say the least… not as I expected it. The first semester mimicked my freshman year schedule, so there is not much to report there. Second semester is where I began taking a majority of my classes in the STEM field, and I was very excited about it.

Then March rolled around.

I think I was well on my way to understanding what it meant to be an engineer, but taking classes from my childhood bedroom set me back to high school. While 4 out of 5 classes were in Viterbi, the major shift in the pace of my (and everyone’s) life kept me from feeling like I was becoming an engineer.

 

Junior Year

The year of virtual classes went better than I expected. My coursework was shifting to very specific engineering classes like CAD, Fluid Dynamics, and Stress Analysis. I was beginning to see the importance of all those theoretical classes like calculus and physics. Was I ready to become an engineer? Almost. Two internships cancelled at the last second left me without industry experience. In terms of academics, I felt ready to take on the tech world. However, I was yearning for that work experience to really seal the deal.

 

Senior Year

Finally… finally I feel like an engineer! I spent the summer working in two research labs on campus and continue to do so during the school year. My classes are getting more specific and even extending into graduate studies. The most important thing, however, was my capstone project. While the capstone project (AME 441) was the most stressful 15 weeks of my life, the payout was unreal. Looking at my project on the final showcase day, I saw an apparatus that I designed, built and tested from scratch. My group of four was able to design an experiment that not only proved our hypothesis, but also created new technology that we are currently seeking to patent. The capstone project was the last thing I needed to feel like an engineer. I have academic experience, conduct research, and I designed a project from the ground up. I know that I am ready to leave USC as an engineer, and I can’t wait for what the future holds.

 

There is no specific point in which you begin to feel like an engineer. I began to truly come into my own as an independent thinker and scientist while completing research over the summer, but I definitely noticed those skills developing much earlier. I think the important thing to remember is that everyone understands and applies the knowledge we gain through school in different ways and not to give up on yourself when things seem fruitless. Some people feel like an engineer in their freshman year and some feel that way just before graduation. Both are totally okay. Just be proud of the journey you are on and be excited about every new opportunity to grow.

Nick Bortolon

Nick Bortolon

MAJOR: Mechanical Engineering YEAR: Class of 2022 HOMETOWN: Alamo, California PRONOUNS: he/him/his INSTA: @nick_bortolon On campus I am a Student Ambassador (better known as a Tour Guide) and I am part of the USC Club Rock Climbing Team. In my free time, I like to ride roller coasters, compose music for piano, and explore Los Angeles.

Want to learn more? Here's the best place to ask:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.