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How Did I Survive Engineering School? I'm a Storyteller.

Mich is a Civil Engineering graduate with years of experience as a Writer. She talks about a lot of stuff. Maybe you can find what you need.

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

In my 5 years of being an engineering student, our instructors would often ask this on the first day. You would hear the same answers from my classmates: “This is my dream profession.” “I came from the family of engineers.” “My dad wants me to become an engineer.” While mine would always stand out:

“I wanted to prove to my male cousins, who are engineers, that even though I am a girl, I could also do what they do.”

“I wanted to take the course that would force my weakness to be something more.”

“I’m bad at math. I want to change that.”

Among dozens of students in every class, I was the only one with a reason that nobody could relate to. And it's not about wanting to be different or recognized. These reasons were genuinely why I took up civil engineering, despite knowing that storytelling and writing is my passion.

Knowing that I was a bird trying to brave the waves of the ocean, I already expected hurdles along the way. But are these challenges not the ones that teach us the most valuable lessons?

Diligence could make you great at anything

Being raised by a mother who wouldn’t take anything less than 100% was tough. That translated into how I deal with my performance in every aspect of my life.

Did you know that I almost lost my spot in my dream university for failing a certain number of units? I failed two subjects in one semester in my first year.

I expected challenges, yes, but not that kind in my first semester nonetheless.

What did I do? I gave my time to grieve. It was my first time failing after all. I ate all the cookies-and-cream flavored snacks I could find. Then after that, I planned my next move.

When I retook the subjects, I changed all my study habits that weren’t effective anymore.

I already knew that I am not a math wizard. So I had to work harder than anybody else.

Practice, practice, practice. That was all I did until I’m sure that I can answer a problem on that topic in my sleep.

I also made sure to review my lessons every day and take much-needed breaks. You can’t rely on working harder, you also have to work smarter.

Lo and behold, I ace every exam on the second take. I even perfected the major ones!

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Discipline is the root of good results

Following up on the previous, you can’t call yourself diligent if you were not disciplined as well. These two go hand in hand.

While for some, routines work, it doesn’t for me. I don’t like being stuck in a loop of doing the same things, at the same time, in the same way.

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To combat that and still be organized, I disciplined myself by making time for my studies. I made revising my notes a habit—since I absorb them better if I rewrite them.

I allot time for reviewing and revisions every day. Because I won't feel prepared and confident to pass the test if I only study the night before.

This way, I could still attend extracurricular activities and hangout with my friends. And also, it would lessen the things I have to cram.

You need to know where your priorities lie. Attaining balance in general could be a difficult task. But at least try.

Master the basics

When playing a game, you couldn’t proceed to the next stage if you haven’t passed the current one, right?

In school, you could probably proceed to the next course with a barely passing mark. But that would only make your life more difficult.

Wouldn’t it be annoying if you worked on a problem for an hour only to find out that you got it wrong because you forgot your algebra? It wouldn’t only be frustrating, but also embarrassing.

Don’t take the basics for granted because those are going to be your foundation.

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

Sometimes the right way is the easiest way

There is always going to be that one kid in your class who is gifted with a big brain. Someone who could give you a ridiculous approach to a problem yet still arrived at the same answer as the rest. And when you ask them how they did it, they’ll say, “Oh, it’s just basic physics and geometry.”

One thing I’ve learned in engineering school is to not overthink things. You need to analyze the situation first before taking the necessary step to conclude. There are many ways to achieve a solution in the field, you have to be smart in choosing which one.

One of my professors would say each time he gave us his exam, “There is no wrong procedure in solving the problem as long as we all arrive at the same answer.”

This is because when it comes to application, there are various ways to get the same results. The variety in your options could base on your experiences on the field.

Besides, there are a lot of things to consider i.e. saving time, money, and effort. You may not be book-smart, but you could be street-smart by widening your perspective.


Practice makes perfect is a passage we often hear anywhere. But for me, practice does not create perfection, it yields results. And these results are necessary for you to achieve your goal.

Don’t fret if your passion and chosen profession don’t coincide. To be honest, that is still a win-win situation. Because you wouldn’t be stuck doing one thing for the rest of your life if you don’t want to.

Today, versatility and having a diverse skill set reach farther heights than those who focus only on one thing.

Being a master-of-one is also amazing, don’t get me wrong. But for people like us who aspire to seek greater knowledge, there’s also nothing wrong with breaking the box you put yourself in—willingly or unwillingly.

Change is the only constant in this life. Being able to adapt to the ever-evolving world around us is one of many ways to survive, not only in engineering (or in any field) but also in life.

© 2022 Mich Camcam

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