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Shawana Habib

Dear first year me,

Get ready to experience the most difficult, exhausting and amazing years of your life. You are probably scared, and nervous too. You are in an unknown country, among people you have never met. It’s alright, you will be ok. No you are not weird. Stop trying to be “not weird”.

Remember how you always aced your exams? Well it’s not going to be that easy anymore. You will find yourself failing, barely passing exams. But don’t give up! Remind yourself why you chose to study engineering and KEEP PUSHING.

You have a dream job settled in your mind? Great! Use that as an inspiration. But always keep an OPEN MIND to learning new things. That four year plan you had created before coming here? Throw it out. It’s good to have a plan but don’t let it restrict you from exploring.

Grab all OPPORTUNITIES available. Is there a professor researching on a topic that interests you? Talk to him/her, tell them you are interested to work with them. Is there a really cool design team that you want to be a part of? Sign up! You might think that you don’t know enough but your greatest asset is your eagerness to learn.

SEEK MENTORS! I can’t stress this enough. Your courses won’t prepare you for the life that lies ahead. You can seek a student mentor in your program of study, who will tell you all about which classes to take with which professors, how to get prepared for internships, etc. You can also find a mentor who is a professional and can guide you in carving out your career path.

Join as many clubs as you can! “I don’t have time for this” is not a good excuse and one that you will regret later. Getting involved is a great way to MEET PEOPLE and learn from their experiences. When you surround yourself with people radiating positive energy, people who are inspiring, you will automatically feel good and strive to be better.

SLEEP. Yes you will always have a never ending list of things to do but the solution isn’t being up all night to do them all. Learn to manage your time, learn to prioritize your tasks and make sure you get enough sleep. If you are having trouble coping, seek help.

Speaking of help, there will be many a times when you get depressed. University is difficult, it’s tiring. You will miss home, you will miss food that isn’t frozen and comes in a box. Once again, seek help. MENTAL HEALTH stability is important if you want to be successful.

Now for the most important part, HAVE FUN! At the end of the day, always ask yourself: “Am I happy?” If not, what can I do to change this? If yes, you keep doing you!

Much love,

The older you


Shawana Habib is a third year Mechanical Engineering student at McGill University. Her dream job is designing engineering solutions to solve problems faced by people and/or communities. She loves food and cooking so she combines the two and volunteers at Santropol Roulant, where she makes food that are sent out to the elderly with disabilities. She is also involved with POWE: Promoting Opportunities for Women in Engineering, at McGill. She is always looking out for opportunities she could learn from. If you want to have a chat with her/ask questions, feel free to send her an email at [email protected]

I am at the top (extreme right) with my fellow executive members of POWE. Being a part of this group has been a great learning experience!

Through outreach and professional development activities, research, partnerships, thought leadership and online initiatives, we work with industry and academia to educate on the value of diversity for innovation, to inspire women to thrive and to celebrate the contributions of women in science and engineering.
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