An Open Letter To The ‘Struggling and Insecure” Engineering Students

Some were born rich and can easily afford education while some of us have to do everything to make ends meet. How can life be so unfair?

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Not all of us were born with parents who could provide us with everything that we need. With unstable systems that offer us education at such high cost, it’s doesn’t even feel like a ‘right’ for students to pursue quality education. With too many bills to pay and tuition fees to worry about, engineering students everywhere have suffered the harsh reality that life will always be unfair. Some were born rich and can easily afford education while some of us have to do everything to make ends meet.

I had to deal with this issue ever since high school. Lucky enough for me, I got a full scholarship in one of the premier schools in the country and I eventually got accepted to one of the best universities later on. While the tuition is not as high as the others, I still had to look for part-time jobs and save money just so I could survive my everyday life in college. Unlike the rich kids in other schools, I had to settle with a hand-me-down laptop where some of the letters don’t work anymore. Whenever I had to represent my university in events, I always felt inferior compared to the rich kids who had everything they ever wanted. I was just insecure because life was hard on me. There were nights when I envy those rich kids from other engineering schools.

Source: Giphy Engineering Students

But one night, feeling bored while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I ended up listening to Michelle Obama’s commencement speech (her last as the First Lady of the United States – FLOTUS) at the City College of New York. In front of its graduates, where half of these students came from low-income families, the FLOTUS reminded them that living without privilege shouldn’t be seen a disadvantage.

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One of the important highlights of her wonderful speech is how every challenge we face can prepare us for the difficulties we’ll face later on in our lives. She also pointed out that the adversities we endure teach us that there are far worse things in life than getting a bad grade – something not everybody can handle easily.

See the highlight of her speech below:

Source: Sumit Basu via YouTube Engineering Students

“You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage.  Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.  And I know that because I’ve seen it myself, not just as a student working my way through school, but years later when I became — before I came to the White House and I worked as a dean at a college.

In that role, I encountered students who had every advantage –- their parents paid their full tuition, they lived in beautiful campus dorms.  They had every material possession a college kid could want –- cars, computers, spending money. But when some of them got their first bad grade, they just fell apart.  They lost it, because they were ill-equipped to handle their first encounter with disappointment or falling short.

But, graduates, as you all know, life will put many obstacles in your path that are far worse than a bad grade.  You’ll have unreasonable bosses and difficult clients and patients.  You’ll experience illnesses and losses, crises and setbacks that will come out of nowhere and knock you off your feet.  But unlike so many other young people, you have already developed the resilience and the maturity that you need to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and keep moving through the pain, keep moving forward.  You have developed that muscle. 

Thank you for allowing me to share this final commencement with you.  I have so much faith in who you will be.  Just keep working hard and keep the faith.  I can’t wait to see what you all achieve in the years ahead.”

For the full commencement speech, read it here.

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So if you happen to be like me who feels inferior around her peers just because you think they have it better than us, I advice you to shake that feeling off and focus on what you have with you. You are currently on your way in becoming an engineer. You may not have everything that you want with you, but you have everything that you need to succeed. With the passion and the intelligence, you’ll getting that degree in no time. Stop comparing yourself to others. That’s something I’ve taught myself lately and listening to the FLOTUS talk about the lack of privilege and how it helped a lot of people succeed helps.

So good luck and have faith.

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Engr. Maryam Khalid
Mechanical engineer living in Dubai. Blogger, writer and tech nerd. Love Dubai, love earth, love social good stuff. Follow me on Twitter @maryamkhalid95


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