Friday, December 18, 2015

Winter Break Week One

Apparently I have two modes of being: 1) workaholic and 2) lazy layabout who quits the nest of their blankets only with the greatest reluctance, and frequently after midday. Long live Winter Break.

I've been keeping my waking hours occupied: books, a few meetings, writing, and a great deal of wood-cutting for the competition team I'm on. With hundreds of notches to cut out of balsa wood, I've gone through several videos--including a couple of panels about climate action and a suite of videos on engineering ethics put together by ASCE--and audiobooks (first, The Hound of the Baskervilles; now I'm slicing my way through Pride and Prejudice).

Yesterday was actually a fairly active day, starting with a meeting in a relatively low-key SoMa startup hub, then working my leisurely way down the Embarcadero from the Ferry Building to the Caltrain station. I always seem to cover the same stretch when I'm in SF, and really need to expand my repertoire. On the train ride down I got it into my head to amuse myself by listing things I like that start with vowels, which range from "Architecture" and "Infrastructure" to "Eating Good Food" and "Open-minded People" and "Underwater Ruins."

I cooked dinner for my parents on Tuesday. Very simple: cut up a broccoli and one entire onion, put in a pan with oil and some salt, dump atop spaghetti along with sauce. Voila.

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In the middle of high school I remember feeling incapable of making solid plans for the future because I thought that the university I chose would change my life so irrevocably that none of my plans would matter anyway. That, I think, was missing the point. The point isn't the plan, it's making the plan.

I've been thinking again about life after college. Last year I was very into this whole college business and disowned the person I was before college, and thought of little else but the monumental changes that were set into motion when I arrived on campus for orientation. I think I needed that at the time, but there will come other thresholds and I need to think of them too, and how the person I am can become the person I need to be.

Listening to the videos on engineering ethics is probably the catalyst for these thoughts. Whatever specialization I choose, I need to become a competent engineer. That means being diligent with my studies now (junior year especially, when I take almost all civil engineering core classes) and in the future (going to grad school, possibly after an interval working [?] and finding a fellowship for such so that I'm not burdened by student debt). Choosing work experiences that make me grow.

(If I'm going to grad school I should probably do research, but when? This summer will be in an internship, if all goes well. Next summer I will be even better equipped for professional work, having taken the majority of the core. Perhaps during junior year? Seems I'm in for a rough haul, but even if I am not equal to the task now, better to suffer in pursuit of something worthy.)

My ambition has almost always been to work internationally. I'm looking into minoring in German, because it looks like I should be able to do so without too many additional classes, and this summer I intend to make the most of my introduction to the German engineering industry. But I should probably also pick up a few more languages, to make my global ambitions more feasible. Improving my Mandarin is advantageous, but since I'm focusing on Deutsch right now that will probably have to come in on my own time, after I get back from Germany. Learning Spanish would also help a lot, and since my Italian is still pretty good I don't anticipate a whole lot of trouble--but again, that must happen on my own time.

I came in expecting to major in CS and that's shot. My first CS class will probably be senior year. But since when have I depended upon formal classroom instruction to learn programming? I have a mind to learn Javascript and Ruby, although again--when? If I do research I'll probably have to brush up on Matlab, and I want to keep extending my Python capabilities. More important than the specific languages is the base of knowledge that will make programming a viable tool I can deploy to solve problems. I've not yet built up that base.

What other skills am I lacking that I should build up sooner rather than later? Public speaking. I hate raising my voice but that's a psychological block that I should do away with. Leading. Staying on top of the news.

The world is going to look significantly different when I enter the workforce from what it looks like now. Here I am, complacently chopping wood and listening to the tale of English ladies with nothing but marriage in their minds, and making grand plans all the while. I'm going to enjoy this break, as much as I can; because when it ends I know I have a lot of work to do.

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