Overcoming Hurdles

November 13, 2016 Region 5 Leadership

Overcoming Hurdles

By Luisa Florez

27114982335_f0dbdd995b_oWe all may be different, but in some ways we’re the same. Though our goals, aspirations, and dreams may be different, we all have them. Though our moments of struggles may be different, we all have hurdles to overcome. When I realized this, I felt less alone and more motivated to conquer the obstacle, because I knew it was possible. After all, somebody already had. These struggles, as gloomy as they may seem, can help us grow, but sometimes it is difficult to be so optimistic. That is why having a support system, like your SHPE Familia, is important. These support systems can really help you stay motivated. Below, three members of your SHPE Familia share their stories and their hurdles, so that you know you’re not alone and can ask for advice. We’ve all been there in some way or form. No matter how different the hurdle, there is always a way to overcome.


Mirka Mendez. Undergraduate Student.

Q: What has been a challenging hurdle you’ve had as an undergraduate student?
A: “Before coming to UT, I had been in the United States for three years already. My whole family is still in Mexico so living independently was not a new challenge for me but what impacted me was that instead of going home every one or two months, now I will be able to go only once per year because I’ll be busy for the summers and it is too far to go during breaks. I felt some disconnection. Another challenge was the fact that I didn’t know English when I first came to the US and had to complete high school in three years. As a result I couldn’t get any college credits or even take calculus, making the first year in college even more challenging for me than it was for many others and I struggled a lot to learn totally new concepts at a really fast pace.


Q: What did you learn from it? 

A: “Independence is something everyone should look forward to and accepting that we are now adults with a lot more things to do is essential in advancing personally and professionally. Don’t be afraid of change, embrace it instead. It is important to invest time in our future. And even if it seems like you are struggling a lot more than everyone else, that might not be true because people have many different backgrounds that you might not know of. In college you are not competing with your peers. I see it as a collaborative space where people are willing to help you as part of the community because at the end of the day we are here to learn together. At the beginning I was afraid of asking for help but I learned that it is completely normal and even necessary in your college career.”


Q: Any advice for fellow undergrads?

A: “Set high goals for yourself but at a safe pace. It is true that we want to do a lot of things and sometimes we think that we can do all of them at once while comparing ourselves to other people. My second semester of freshmen year I overloaded myself with seventeen credit hours, two labs and an officer position with SHPE; I thought I could do it all and follow along my degree plan but that was not the case. I struggled the whole semester. I was constantly exhausted and ended up dropping one of my classes. It is better to take more time to accomplish your goals than trying to do all at once and fail at it. I would say know yourself and how much work you can take without risking your health and grades. There is no shame on falling behind because our final goal is to learn and we learn at different paces.”


Q: Any advice for high school seniors getting ready to go to college?

A: “If you want to study a STEM career be prepared to struggle, they are definitely not easy careers but like John F. Kennedy said “We choose to do things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. As an engineering student, I admit that sometimes classes can give you a hard time but engineering itself is really rewarding and it gives you a sense of satisfaction that. Also, try to get a support system (hint: my SHPE familia is mine) that you can rely on, it is necessary to have close friends who can listen and talk to you and that will help you no matter what; that will make your college experience better, fun and unique.”


Michael Omaña. Graduate Student.

Q: What has been a challenging hurdle you’ve had as a graduate student?
A: “The most challenging hurdle as a graduate student has been believing I deserve to be here. Graduate school, particularly at a school like The University of Texas at Austin, is made up of the best students from across the world. Therefore, it can be a little intimidating at first and it is easy to become frustrated with classes when the material is not so simple to understand. If you take the time to get to know your peers, you will realize they are struggling as well and sometimes with things that come easier to you.



Q: What did you learn from it?
A: “You have to learn to embrace your strengths and not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. If you are already in graduate school, it is now more imperative to read the textbooks before the lectures and definitely take the time to review lectures afterwards. Sometimes just doing the homework will not cut it on the exams.”


Q: Any advice for other graduate students or undergrads thinking of pursuing a graduate degree?
A: “For those interested in pursuing a graduate degree, do not allow self-doubt to be the reason you choose not to go. Wherever you get accepted it is because that place truly believes you can succeed in their program. Try and minimize the time you spend comparing yourself with others and identify your own skills and what you would like to improve on.”


Tania Vazquez. Professional.

Q: What has been a challenging hurdle you’ve had as a graduate student?
A: “The most challenging hurdle I have had to overcome as a professional would be going into a field that is man-dominated and starting to have credibility not only as a young professional, but as a young woman engineer. I form part of the HVAC/construction community, which is slowly increasing with female participation. Despite more women going into the engineering field, we still have ways to go, but slowly we will get there. In many of the corporate meetings I attend, I often get confused as an intern or assistant, but once I make my position known and start to speak about a project and my role as a design engineer views start to change.”


Q: What have you learned from it?
A: “What I have learned from this is that we are the ones to dictate our success in life. No matter the gender, as a young professional we have to take opportunities into our hands and not be scared of what we do not know. The fact is that women are as capable as men to carry on projects, schedules and leadership positions, but we have to speak up in order to show our potential.”


Q: Any advice for future or recent young professionals?
A: “I have been lucky enough to work for a company where everyone is treated equally, and where I have had to opportunity to learn and grow. Some advice I can give is to look for those positions and environments that will allow you to grow not only as a professional but as a person and [will allow you to] take on new projects [in areas] where you don’t know anything about. Being a well-rounded person and having knowledge in various specialties will become one of your best qualities.”

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