As I am about to embark on this journey through my Master’s program, I am reminded of my initial feelings prior to starting the John Muir Trail last September. For months before, I endlessly researched and prepared for this 220-mile backpacking trip through the Sierra Nevadas; and despite that, nothing compared to the hardships and exhaustion I experienced. It was the difficult endeavors of each day on the trail where I encountered the biggest lessons. And at the end of it all, as I descended from the summit of Mt. Whitney, I knew it was the challenging moments along the trail that made me grow the most and it was my resiliency that led me to success in completing the trail.
I relate this life-changing experience and the lessons I extracted to what my next year in the GMI program will consist of. My education and extracurricular involvements have all prepared me very well; however, it will be through working side by side with the communities in Costa Rica and the progression of our projects where I will grow the most. The project-based nature of this program is what especially attracted me to it, as it parallels the process of trial and error that is harnessed in the work field.
Next week I will finally begin my Master’s program with GMI at Rice University and it is becoming more real to me the closer we reach the start of the Boot Camp before leaving to Costa Rica. I reflect back to my graduation day at UCLA last June to today. All that I have accomplished in my gap year has further shaped and confirmed the decisions I made throughout it. I’m thankful to have continued my research at UCLA after graduating, as it gave me the chance to learn about the GMI program through meeting Dr. Richardson on my campus. Throughout this past year I also set out on two eye-opening adventures: completing the John Muir Trail and a month long trip to Peru. My trip to Peru gave me the opportunity to interact with the local people along my different treks in the region, a perspective on their mindsets and the way they live their lives, and of course, an excellent chance to practice my Spanish. I aim to carry on this outlook and sensibility to our time in Costa Rica.
Coming from a background of Biochemistry, I am the only non-engineering student in this year’s cohort and I will admit that I am a bit apprehensive. But this feeling roots in my eagerness to learn about the medical device design process. Especially the “how’s” behind a design idea. As the cohort only consists of 10 students, I am excited to see how each individual’s skill set will contribute to our projects.
Like the unknowns I uncovered and engaged along my backpacking escapade, I look forward to the challenges we will face throughout our projects in the GMI program. I hope to expand my technical knowledge on contemporary engineering approaches and I hope the projects we work on will ultimately make a difference in the quality of life for communities that reside outside our country’s sphere of privilege.