If you asked the majority of teens in today’s world what is the major they aspire to pursue in college, they would not have a definitive answer. But if you asked me the same question when I was eleven years old, I would answer, without hesitation, mechanical or civil engineering. Growing up, I always knew I was going to be an engineer because I always had a passion for cars and buildings. Nothing sparked my curiosity more than these two things.
As a kid, whenever I would see a sports car on TV, I would be amazed at the sight of it. Whenever I drove by the New York skyscrapers, the size and poise of the structures baffled me. I would always ask myself how could someone make such marvelous objects. Curiosity was my motivation.
For me, the choice was always between automotive or civil engineering. The day when I knew for certain which one I would choose was the first day I came to the United States. I was originally born in Uzbekistan, a nation in which my family sought refuge from the rapid growth of the Taliban in our former homeland of Afghanistan. With my dad being a government official, Uzbekistan was a beacon of hope.
Luckily, in Uzbekistan, we were chosen through the immigration system to come to the United States. I clearly remember my first day here: I walked out of the airport in New York City, and with just a quick scanning of my surroundings, I fell into a trance. I never thought I would see in real life the buildings I had always seen in movies. It is an unforgettable feeling. I also remember the amazing experience of driving through the Brooklyn Bridge the first time. That’s when I knew for sure what my passion was and what I wanted to do for a living.
No matter what, my goal was to transmit the same experience and feelings I had that day in New York to my friends in Uzbekistan and my family in Afghanistan. That day, I knew that driving by those big building and beautiful bridges was a privilege that not every kid gets to experience. This is why I chose civil engineering as my major; moreover, I want to contribute to society by inspiring others the same way that those engineers inspired me as a foreign child.
The biggest challenges were yet to come, however. Being an engineer is much easier said than done. Coming into a foreign country with a totally different culture from my former one and with zero knowledge of the English language and customs was tough. I came into the local school system at the end of fifth grade. So I had a lot of catching up to do in terms of education. Through countless hours of hard work and dedication, however, I picked up English rather quickly and, by eighth grade, began enrolling in classes with American-born students. Thereafter, I was able to not only cope with the academic system but also excel and get into honors classes in high school.
My work ethic and drive took me beyond what I could have imagined and made my high school years a success. I became the captain of my soccer and wrestling team while progressing academically. Starting from only one honors class as a freshman, I showed promise in all of my courses and leveled up to more difficult classes. By the time I was a senior, I was elected by my peers to be the diversity coordinator of the student government in our school and was taking all honor courses as well as three AP courses, the highest math and science classes that our school offered.
From humble beginnings, I learned, if only one thing, that hard work can get anyone anywhere. With these principles, I enrolled at Penn State University, a nationally ranked engineering school. Graduating with a civil engineering degree from PSU will be the completion of a childhood dream. It would mean that all of the struggles my family and I went through and the countless hours of work I put in finally paid off.
We are proud to announce Qadir Quddus is one of the current DiversityJobs Scholarship finalists. Vote for his essay (Facebook and other social media sharing options in left column) and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.