By Kevin Hernandez
Innovation has always excited me and peaked my curiosity. I often found myself taking apart electronic devices such as cellphones and toys and, over time, it became clear to me that I wanted to be an engineer. As I reached high school, I was drawn towards two fields: Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering (EE). Because I always saw myself designing and creating, I finally decided that EE fit better into my interests. When I found out I had been accepted into USC Viterbi, I was full of joy. But along with that joy came fear – I had no idea what to expect!
Being a freshman Viterbi student was no walk in the park. To a certain extent, I felt as if I was at a disadvantage. I was introduced to new content that was foreign to most of my high school education. I had never written a program or coded in my life, I had never built a circuit, I had never heard most of the sophisticated terms and concepts that were being thrown at me in my GE classes. I also noticed that many of my peers were actually quite familiar with it and had little to no struggles with assignments. Having come from a low-income community and school, I was not presented with many opportunities to really accelerate my learning; no robotics class, no engineering projects, and if I’m being completely honest, no practical engineering experience whatsoever. I began to ask myself if I would really be able to make it as an engineer.
The most important thing I learned from the Open House was that, as an EE student at USC, I was part of a supportive community of students, faculty members, and staff.
When I heard about the MHI Open House I made sure to be in attendance. I hoped to gain some insight into what to expect as an EE student, learn about resources available to us, interact with peers who may be in a similar situation as me, and secure overall reassurance. Now, as a sophomore, I strongly advise any and all incoming EE freshman to attend our department’s open house. With a day off from class, free food, and a social gathering of peers with similar academic interests all in once place, there really is no excuse not to go.
Upon arrival I was immediately hooked, I saw many faces from class, free Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering T-shirts, faculty from the department, and of course free pizza. While eating you’ll have the perfect opportunity to meet new friends, see familiar faces, meet the amazing EE faculty, and learn about new clubs and opportunities. After a short meet and greet/eating period the presentation begins. The presentation is very informational and is sure to answer any questions you may have about the EE department. The upperclassmen and faculty presenters do a great job of explaining to EE students what to expect down the road. You can also expect to draw a bit of inspiration from the meeting as you get to hear incredible stories, visualize all the available resources offered, and explore the amazing faculty that you will be working with as a member of the EE department; you will be excited for your future as an Electrical Engineering student!
Although the event ends after the presentations, I strongly suggest you stick around for networking with your peers and faculty members. This point ended up being a crucial moment for me during last year’s Open House. Before the Open House, I had solidified my decision to not apply for USC Makers, a Viterbi-sponsored club for electronic hobbyists. Simply put, I was afraid I didn’t have enough engineering experience. However, a quick chat with Lindsay (a Member of Makers E-Board) at the Open House overturned my self-doubt and I decided to apply after all. I was accepted to the club, and Makers ended up having a huge impact on my experience not only as a Freshman but as an engineering student altogether.
The meeting left me feeling secure. I made some good friends, many of whom I keep in touch with today. Because of this new network, I was able to form study groups for EE classes and others as well, such as physics and math. The Open House also brought me closer to the EE staff and familiarized me with resources available to me which I quickly began to explore. For the first time in my educational career I found myself attending office hours, asking many more questions, forming study groups, meeting with tutors and making use of all resources available to me.
The most important thing I learned from the Open House was that, as an EE student at USC, I was part of a supportive community of students, faculty members, and staff. I came into it nervous about what life in the department would be like. I left with a sense of direction, confidence, and many new friends.
Kevin Hernandez is a sophomore EE student from the South Gate neighborhood of Los Angeles. He is a member of USC Makers club and enjoys basketball and RC piloting.