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My Dad Was Right, Civil Engineering is for Me

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MegMarie Stanchi

I chose the Coast Guard Academy for many reasons, but one of the main reasons was for the challenging educational opportunities. I wanted to study some sort of environmental science, and after a typical Google search for schools, my dad mentioned the Coast Guard Academy had a Marine and Environmental Sciences (MES) major if I was interested. I responded with “yeah right, I’m not going to a military academy.” However, after a lot of research and thinking, of course my dad was right, the Academy did spark my interest. I accepted my appointment and was set on studying MES. However, before I arrived on R-Day, I remember my dad talking to me and saying, “I know you’re interested in MES, but know that you’ll take some basic engineering courses your first year and that engineering is always something to keep in mind ‒ especially majors like Civil Engineering (CE) that have the environmental engineering aspect.” Again, I shot down that idea down and told him I would definitely not be studying engineering. I told people my whole first semester at the Academy that I was “not an engineering kind of person.” I just did not think there was an engineering major for me, and I also did not have the confidence that I could make it through. Here we are three years later and, you guessed it, my dad was right. I am two years in to studying Civil Engineering, and it was the most challenging but rewarding decision I have made since deciding to come to the Academy.

It was actually the 4/c academic major lectures held in the beginning of my spring semester that influenced me to switch to engineering. I remember a CE instructor standing in front of us and explaining the three focuses of Civil Engineering at the Academy ‒ structural, geotechnical, and environmental. During these lectures, I was enrolled in the 4/c basic engineering course Statics and Engineering Design (SED), which, at the time, all 4/c had to take. The class was very interesting and I really enjoyed my teacher, Commander Madalena. SED was a challenging class for me but I found myself constantly in my teacher’s office trying to figure out problems and the interesting concepts. I found that the concepts were physical things that I could make sense of, instead of sciences I had taken where interactions happened that I could not necessarily see. Those meetings lead to conversations of SED applications in the real world, and subsequently CDR Madalena’s experience in the Coast Guard with Civil Engineering. I eventually talked to him about my struggle in deciding whether to change majors, and within a few minutes I knew that I needed to switch. During this time, I also realized that my interest in environmental science was more toward fixing problems rather than studying them, and I felt engineering would allow me to do just that later in my life.

I never thought of myself as the kind of student who loved all things math and science and had no experience in high school with engineering/technological classes. I think this is why engineering seemed so impossible to me. However, once I got to the Academy, I saw how invested faculty were in cadet success. I saw how many opportunities there were for help and how often teachers were willing to meet with you to help you succeed. I realized that if I was going to study engineering, then there was no other place to do it than at the Coast Guard Academy. During my first year at the Academy, I also realized that math and science weren’t impossible, and I was able to work through them and do well. I always attack classes with a strong work ethic to continue to learn and understand the material as much as I can. With organizational skills and self-study habits, I have been able to continue this work ethic. My classes continue to get harder and my schedule has continued to be busy. I have not always been successful on exams or in certain classes, and the grades I got in high school are not the ones I get now. However, I try my hardest, I plan in advance, I meet with my teachers regularly, and I depend on the help of my classmates to get me through my classes.

I am very proud of myself for sticking with Civil Engineering and feel successful even in the busiest, most stressful, and academically challenging times. I enjoy being a member of a major that challenges me and I am excited to see what I can accomplish in the Coast Guard and the civilian sector as a civil engineer. My 2/c courses are my first major-specific courses and they are extremely interesting. I am enrolled in Environmental Engineering 1 and it is my favorite class! It is rewarding to get to my 2/c year and take the classes that I have been waiting for. I hope that anyone reading this, or anyone who may be doubting themselves about studying engineering, knows that it is completely possible if you continuously work hard, apply yourself, and use your resources. You have to believe in yourself, and trust that it will all pay off in the end once you get that diploma in your hand!