Stories

Nathan on Engineering

From
St Arnaud, Victoria
Age
22
Study
Bachelor of Industrial Engineering, Latrobe University
Work
Student engineer, Loddon Shire

Making the most of my engineering degree

I thought I could be a life guard forever

I started working really early. I got my first job when I was about 13 as a shelf stacker at the local hardware store. Then, when I was about 16 I got a job as a lifeguard. For a while I thought I could be a lifeguard for the rest of my life. The money was really good, especially on weekends when it doubled. It made me question whether I really needed to go to uni at all. 

I had one teacher who I respected a lot and he had studied engineering. I guess because I really looked up to him, and because I liked fixing things, I was convinced by the people around me to sign up for engineering at Latrobe university.

Industrial engineering

I didn’t really care about school, so I came out of it with average grades. But I got into Latrobe through the Aspire Program with an early acceptance, as well as my year 12 score. 

The start of uni was my first time living away from home. I moved onto campus at Bundoora. It was pretty scary moving to Melbourne, but being a part of the Rural Youth Ambassador Program really helped me with the move. Already having the experience of being on a tram beforehand, which I wouldn’t have gotten without the program, really helped me to navigate Melbourne. 

I lived on college for two years. At first I lived at Menzies College, which is known for being a party college. It was really fun but not feasible long term and after the first five weeks I was pretty sick of it. Engineering is a demanding course and it was hard to study in that environment. 

At the end of first year, I received the Outstanding Student Award for my cohort, which was unexpected. I didn’t feel I was studying that hard. Honestly, I think I received it because, coming from the country, I felt comfortable going and speaking to the teachers. Whereas a lot of other students didn’t make those connections. 

In my second year I moved to a different college and became a residential assistant (RA). I did that because they provide a really good discount on accommodation. I also got to mentor the first year engineering students during weekly meetings we held throughout the year. It was great getting to speak to all the first years and being able to bring in teachers or industry people to speak to them as well. 

Combining study with travel

In my third year I went to Bosnia as part of a program delivered by Latrobe uni. I got my certificate in robotics from DKR which is a German robotics centre that’s currently in Bosnia. After that my team and I presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers conference in Banja Luka.  This was about the time that COVID was hitting the world. I was keen to go home because I was watching the numbers go up in China. 

I came back and went to uni throughout 2020. But I found being back at uni really frustrating. It was delivered online, we were promised practical elements of the course, but then they were cancelled when COVID numbers rose. During the year I applied for a scholarship called the NCP Scholarship. It’s designed to promote Indo-Pacific relations in Australia. The scholarship is worth $67,000, and supports students to go over to Indo-Pacific regions to improve relations with universities and workplaces. It covers the cost of language training, time studying over there and time doing internships. I was meant to be in Japan at the beginning of 2021, however COVID impacted that, so I’ve deferred the scholarship. 

Instead, I have spent some time working in the Loddon Shire as a student engineer. They gave me a job doing a management plan of their tracks and trails. I did a few more jobs with them before finishing up in June. Now I’m studying Japanese in preparation to go overseas again. I know it sounds like I’ve done a lot in the last three years but it doesn’t feel like that when you’re doing it.

My advice for anyone interseted in engineering

Engineering is not as much about numbers as everyone thinks. There is that aspect of it, where you need to be technically advanced and know a bit about computers. But I would say that when it comes down to it, engineering is about being able to communicate with a team. I’ve gone through uni, and I’ve been in a workplace. Some of the most technically advanced people that I went to classes with wouldn’t cut it in a workplace because they don’t know how to communicate with people. The most important thing for any job is being able to understand what you need to do and ask for help if you don’t understand. So you shouldn’t be concerned about not being technically skilled going into engineering. You can always learn how to do maths or science – it is hard and you will need to spend hours on it, but it will come. If you’ve got communication skills and you want to do it, then I say you can do it.

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