As the new academic year begins, I think it’s a good time to reflect and ask ourselves what we wish to achieve this year. Is it to finish off your degree, to run the marathon? To join an association or to eat healthier? Whatever it may be, something I always struggle with when it comes to these moments of deep reflection is to not simply go with the flock, but to look within myself and blur out everyone else.
In my first year of bachelor’s I was a little overwhelmed by the smart, hard core technical future engineers. Having had multiple fields of interest be it in psychology or medicine or engineering, I found it hard to be surrounded by peers who seemed to be super passionate with only science and engineering. “Why am I even here? These people are too smart for me. I like science and engineering but maybe not enough? Shall I drop out?”
Calculus, physics, organic chemistry, thermodynamics…arghh will I make it? Is this not too much?
And then the first exam results are published and you barely manage to pass. You ask your friends and many of them are celebrating their victories of scoring 9s and 10s. “What is going on?” I made an appointment with my study advisor. And that’s when tables started turning…
I opened up to her about how I feel like I am in the wrong place and although I love science and engineering, I am not as passionate about it as my colleagues are and I also carry strong interests in fields like psychology, management, sustainability et cetera. Kim Pauwels (my study advisor), pointed out how I should use that to stand out from my colleagues whose paths I was trying to follow and imitate. This got me to sketching out my study plan which was customized to fit my personal interests and skills.
This new approach gave me a whole new light and outlook to how I could design my degree! I started taking up electives from other departments and trying to find out what fits me the best. The first year was difficult, since I was bombarded with challenging courses. Slowly however, as I had more room for electives I grew more comfortable and started enjoying my unique study programme more.
It still is not easy when I hear from my colleagues who are studying physical chemistry while I am taking a sociology course or when everyone complains about USE but I fitted 2 USE packages in my programme - sounds a little crazy huh?
All in all, if you are someone who doubts whether you fit in to this technical environment then go out and explore how you may be able to potentially design your programme to include your additional passions and interests. Of course it is okay if the TU/e is not your place and in that case I wish you luck in finding your safe haven, but if you do continue here, make sure you use your uniqueness to stand out as a shining gem. As Matsona Dhliwayo says: ’The world accommodates you for fitting in, but only rewards you for standing out’.