I remember being in my final year of high school, all excited and nervous for university life. I had already accepted UofT Engineering feeling pretty good about myself since I’d be studying in the heart of downtown Toronto, attending that program that required you to be smart (definitely some arrogance there)… Aside from the excitement though, I was stressing out about where I was going in life. Parents mentioned law school or med school in brief, but I told myself that I needed to be the one to decide how I was going to “live for the rest of my life”—no pressure at all.
I’m also a person who has been, is, and will forever be captivated by “magic”. Christmas magic (121 days until Christmas 2013 as I am writing this). Disney magic (Hakuna matata!). Harry Potter magic (Weasley twins are the best characters, hands down). And I’ll be frank; high school physics blew my mind when I discovered a hockey puck and a bowling ball would hit the ground at the same time if dropped from the same height. (It seems obvious now given the scientific explanation. But you have to admit, to anyone not knowing the scientific explanation, this is freaking magical.) Or how about those trig identities in calculus class, when you were able to write Q.E.D. at the end of the proof—pretty magical. Or how about (shout out to my old Destination Imagination team) building a 20g wooden structure, ~20cm in height, to withstand the weight of 60kg directly on top of it?
Yep, pretty magical. While doing some online browsing, I came across a quote by Robert Heinlein who sums my thoughts pretty well. “One man’s ‘magic’ is another man’s engineering.” BAM. Then I thought about how things in society exist today; structures like the CN Tower that are built kilometers into the sky, things like planes that are essentially massive chunks of metal flying around the world in a matter of hours, or tiny chips of silicon being able to store more than 938384 songs that can fit in your pocket…
Engineering was looking mighty cool right about now, though, I still couldn’t define engineering when someone asked me what it was and why I wanted to go into it. I remember going to the university open houses to try to learn more, but I hadn’t come out with much more information than I had going in. Summer came, still totally anxious, nervous, excited, and curious. (Yay for having an emotional range wider than a teaspoon). While continuing with my engineering undergrad research, I came across a note written by someone who was a part of the SKULETM community. This letter was where my research stopped. It had put my mind at ease about the decision I was making. To do the letter just, I opted to not summarize it, but rather to include an excerpt instead:
Dear future engineer,
…Throughout the course of attending the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, I learned that Engineers are spirited group that has a lot of fun together. I also learned that engineers have a strong work ethic, overcoming assignments and labs together. However, in the midst of the curricular, extracurricular and other distractions of campus life, Engineers have a calling. The role of an engineer carries a great deal of meaning. The history of our Faculty and our Society of Engineers is both storied and gloried. It is rich with traditions and character. It gave me the purpose I craved. Engineers know how to have fun and how to work hard. But they also learn to do the responsible thing. Their duty. In our profession, every building that successfully goes up and resists the tests of nature, every airplane that rises above the landing strip, every community that receives heat and electricity in the cold of winter – there is an engineer standing vigil. Ours is a life of duty, honour and integrity. We all carry the burden of cold iron, and it does well to understand this responsibility we take on. So you might have always wanted to be an engineer. If you have, then you could not have chosen a nobler profession. If you were like me, a little unsure of yourself, a little uncertain of the meaning in your life, know that you have entered a faculty and society with deep, rich traditions of camaraderie, duty and responsibility.
Traditions of camaraderie, duty and responsibility… There was the meaningful something I was seeking out in my decision and the adventures of undergrad I was embarking on. Then my F!rosh Week came. I had arrived on Front Campus, and looked at everyone around me; I felt lost in the mass and my nervousness was taking the best of me. Despite the feeling, I remembered what the letter said about engineers and their value of camaraderie, and approached my greek letter team with my chin up, smiling through my nervousness of starting university life. The amount of enthusiasm that came back at me felt completely unreal, and all I thought was, “this is the start of my new life chapter and my story in becoming an engineer, and it’s going to be great”.
There’s something pretty magical about sharing the same experiences as others. Experiences shape who you are and how you perceive the environment around you. To be able to share experiences connects you with more people than you can ever meet in a lifetime. I found that with F!rosh Week, you become connected with people across your year, across the different generations of SKULETM, and across the greater community that has heard the “stories and glories” of the UofT Engineering antics. Thinking of how everyone I was surrounded by during F!rosh Week is a potential future engineer, and how I was sharing Day 1 of a thousand engineering stories that were about to unfold right then and there, at F!rosh Week, I couldn’t find any reason to not participate in the opportunities that presented themselves, be it new friendships, crazy shenanigans, or any opportunity to live out the engineering integrity. The journey of engineering undergrad I knew would be challenging, but with the camaraderie I felt during F!rosh Week, no way was I going in this alone, I knew that for sure.
So how I see things now, after three years of studying here; Engineers make the impossible possible through the technical understanding and analytical problem solving skills. The ones who work hard and play hard. The sometimes even clever ones. The ones with an obligation to society. What isn’t there they can’t do?
I go to SKULE and I was a Head Leedur for F!rosh Week 1T3.
My name is Teresa Nguyen and I am proud to be an Engineer.