Getting through, getting out and moving on

Photo by Maya Flores, Student Publications

Tech was never my first choice. I knew as a high school senior that I would be studying engineering and so I — as your overachieving, overly involved high school senior — applied to all the highest ranking engineering schools in the country. At the time Tech ranked 4th for undergraduate computer engineering programs.

As Dec. 2016 turned into Jan. 2017, early application college decision letters began arriving.

As each new letter arrived I found myself imagining a different future for myself at the school in question.

If I ended up in Cambridge I’d be just an hour from home and keep the snowy winters, if I went to the Bay Area I could be in the center of tech, in southern California I could escape snowy winters.

But then, the stark reality of my actual future came into play. As a first generation college student with no college savings and parents who couldn’t afford to help with tuition, the most important factor of my college decision was whether or not I’d actually be able to afford it.

After totalling up estimated attendance costs, scholarship awards and financial aid letters my decision was made. I would be attending the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Before stepping into Tech Square for FASET I’d never been on campus, never even been in the state, nor in the South at all. The culture shock of my Northeast upbringing and the Georgia Tech culture in general was a rude awakening.

I’d really like to say that Tech ended up surprising me, that I fell in love with this school and this state, but that’s not quite true. The past four years have been rough — as they are for all Tech students, I know I’m not special.

The rude awakening of freshman year is something all first years must reckon with: going from a 4.0 high school student who’s never heard of studying to an overworked and overtired college freshman barely scraping by with Cs isn’t an easy transition.

What I didn’t expect to struggle with as much as I did was being so far from home.

I’m from the small rural and quaint state of New Hampshire, over 1,000 miles from Georgia. My family — my parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins — are a close knit bunch.

Being the only one far away was rough — and not being able to go home for a weekend after a rough week like all of my in-state friends took a toll.

Well into my second year, and unfortunately way too late and way too many credits in to do anything about it, I decided I hated my major.

Computer Engineering just wasn’t for me.

I hated all my major courses; I didn’t care about system architecture or how exactly bits are flipped and I felt vastly outnumbered and inferior to all the boys in my classes.

When choosing a STEM major, I was of course aware that I, as a girl, would be in the minority throughout my entire career, but it was not something I had truly considered.

I knew then that I should have been a computer science major but it was too late to change it and so I had to stick it out for two more years.

Then there’s the last year and a half of college — which was unforeseeably altered by COVID-19 resulting in some of my most stressful semesters ever at Tech.

My time at Tech has been rough, and I wish I had some advice for other students who might be having the same experience or a rough time, but I don’t.

Unfortunately, four years of college may have taught me a lot about semiconductors and oscilloscopes but they have not made me any wiser.

While my time at Tech was not what I expected college to be, I don’t want to just complain about how hard it was — I am glad to have had the change to attend Georgia Tech.

I got to live in a part of the country I would have never foreseen myself moving to. I got to explore all the neighborhoods of Atlanta. I joined the Technique, something I would have never imagined myself doing as a code-monkey high schooler.

I got to study abroad at Tech’s campus in Metz, France and travel the entire continent of Europe, something I never expected to have the opportunity to do as an engineering student.

And of course, I met some incredible people and forever friends.

After getting out in May I’ll start a full time job in consulting I’m incredibly excited for and move to Seattle, a city I’ve always wanted to live in.

College being the best four years of your life is a popular narrative in movies and TV that I grew up with.

My experience not aligning with these (and my own) expectations of higher education was something that took me a little bit of time to reckon with.

This wasn’t the future that a high school senior me may have imagined for myself, but it’s one I’m really looking forward to.