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Turning Passion into a Career

September 28, 2016

About Me

Mollie is a second year civil engineering student from Pittsfield, Massachusetts. She is on the environmental engineering track and is pursuing a minor in Spanish. She is currently working as a peer advisor in the Global Experience Office following a Dialogue of Civilizations this past summer and is also a member of Engineers Without Borders. She loves to travel, hike, and listen to music amongst other things and is very excited to begin co-op in the near future. 

Turning Passion into a Career 

Growing up in western Massachusetts, I was incredibly fortunate to have beautiful hiking trails, ski trails, ponds, lakes, fields, and forests at my disposal to explore. The time I spent outdoors as a child was so fundamental to my development that I did not even realize how much I appreciated it until I began to fully understand just how jeopardized our natural world is. From a young age I grew a passion for environmental protection, and through a high school chemistry project I discovered the world of environmental engineering. I was attracted to the idea of being able to address these problems head on, not by simply identifying the issues but by actively working toward solutions. Also, as a person with a constant thirst to explore the world, the idea of working in a hands on field and the reality of the universal need for environmental engineering efforts greatly appealed to my adventurous spirit. As my interest in the field grew, I discovered the application of civil and environmental engineering in the world of international development and I became passionate about the intersection of environmental efforts and humanitarian aid. Now I find myself at Northeastern, translating these interests into an academic plan and aggressively searching for ways to enhance that.

One of the biggest reasons that I chose to attend Northeastern is that I felt it offered more chances for me to go abroad and learn beyond the classroom than any other school I could find. I believe that Northeastern’s learning model encourages its students to mature, foster independence, push themselves out of their comfort zone, and explore their interests deeply. In an increasingly globalized society, I believe that it is incredibly important to experience other cultures and broaden our cultural perspectives. There is so much to learn about ourselves, our disciplines, and our world that simply cannot be taught within the walls of a classroom. It is a priority of mine to maximize my schedule to fit in as much experiential learning as possible and thus I began searching for opportunities to go abroad as soon as I stepped onto campus for my freshman year.

Consequently, I ended up on a Dialogue of Civilizations trip during Summer I to Seville and Barcelona, Spain to study Spanish language and culture. The experience itself was truly remarkable and I have made memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. Our dialogue had the unique opportunity to stay with host families during our four weeks in Seville which facilitated cultural immersion in a powerful way. Not only did my language skills improve, I believe I was able to capture the essence of Spanish culture as well as gain new perspective on the culture I come from. Traveling, I have learned, teaches us as much about our host culture as it does our own.  Later this past summer I then had the incredible experience to travel to a rural mountainous community in Panama with Northeastern’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders where we are working on implementing a new water system. This brief experience combined with my time abroad in Spain has ignited a fire inside me to continue to explore the world and soak up as much knowledge from other cultures and walks of life as possible.

I chose to participate in this dialogue because the credits work toward my Spanish minor and the timing of taking these courses during Summer I was perfect for me as it did not interrupt my engineering schedule. In turn, this study abroad aided me in my trip to Panama as I was able to serve as a secondary translator between our team of student engineers and the Spanish speaking community. I often receive the question “why are you minoring in Spanish as an engineer?”  I understand why many people may not see the correlation, but I see a multitude of reasons that make perfect sense. First, I believe that in a global society we should challenge ourselves to broaden our horizons and open ourselves up to communication with as many different types of people as possible. The second and more directly applicable reason is that I am currently pursuing a career in international development. Many developing countries speak Spanish and in any international field it is highly advantageous to be able to communicate in more than one language. Being able to speak Spanish will hopefully open up more doors for me to pursue my passions, push myself out of my comfort zone, and use my education to better the world in some way.

All in all, I think the ultimate goal is to find what you are passion about and pursue it, even if and perhaps especially if that means pushing your limits. My experiences traveling and learning outside of the classroom have been the highlights of my academic experience thus far and they have given genuine, tangible meaning to the things I am learning in the classroom. I wish for all of my peers that they have the opportunity to participate in at least some form of study abroad, service trip, or other form of experiential learning, as I believe the benefits are truly priceless.