Hellllooooooooo! This is about to be the story of how I found Engineers Without Borders, and then how I discovered the Peace Corps. I have been sitting on this story for about 6 months, and couldn’t decide whether to share or not because it is quite personal… but I realized that this is my blog. and I can use this platform for anything I think it important. So, here’s Part 1. Part 2 is also up, (and quite a bit longer) so fair warning, you’re strapping in for a long-ish read.
The summer before my senior year of college, I worked in an engineering internship. Very typical hours, great pay, nice people, good atmosphere–a dream internship for most people my age. Most. For me, I found that while I was enjoying the engineering aspect–the projects, problem-solving, learning a lot–I didn’t enjoy using my skills or knowledge for this cause. At the end of the day, I didn’t feel like I was using my time and energy for something that mattered to me. I had this constant feeling that the work I was doing was meaningless (to me).
At UPJ, I have spent a lot of time questioning whether I was even supposed to be an engineer. I thought almost everybody followed really similar “9-5 job that pays well” paths post-graduation. I watched people choose jobs based on pay and the fact that it was located in a specific place–completely disregarding the environmental, social, economic, etc., impacts or the type of work. I knew this isn’t what I wanted..but knew that I loved learning. and problem-solving. and I absolutely loved math and physics, thermodynamics and fluids. However, this internship just further cemented in my head that engineering wasn’t for me. I thought, honestly, that I wasn’t meant to be an engineer. I thought, “This is what engineering is. This is it. You’re doing it.. and you freaking hate it.”
One day, I finally just broke. I spent an entire day at home researching phrases like: “humanitarian engineering jobs,” “how to help people with engineering,” and these led me to “international development engineering,” and, “what does Engineers Without Borders do?”
I ended up discovering a company called Burn. They make cleaner cookstoves for Kenya and other Eastern African countries. I then came across Janicki Bioenergy which basically is working in water sanitation with an Omni Processor in Dakar, Senegal. I then found BioLite. Through selling cookstoves, solar panels, lights/lamps, etc, for camping in the ‘developed world’, they are able to use the same technology in other developing countries with something called the HomeStove. (If you have an extra second, go to their websites. Cool companies, doing cool things.)
When I saw all of these things, I happy-cried in my kitchen. I called my mom. I couldn’t believe that I had spent almost 2 years questioning being an engineer. I knew, seeing these things, that I was on the right path. I KNEW. I can’t explain this feeling. It feels like ecstatic, happy crying mixed with comfort, and relief, and almost a feeling of “ohhh duh Sarah. This is where you’re supposed to be. Everything is going to be completely fine.” It felt like the Universe was cheering me on, things were falling into place. I knew I was somehow onto something.
This day was the first time I had ever heard of Engineers Without Borders. Little did I know, seeing this organization that day would literally change the course of the next few years of my life. That longer, slightly more interesting story is found in: Listen to your gut, to your instinct, to that little voice deep down telling you what is important to you. (Part 2/2).