Paper Squares

Last week I visited the engineering advising center on campus for help deciding what classes I should take in the fall. My registration priority wasn’t very good, but it wasn’t bad either, and I didn’t know what to take or what to do, especially because I just switched majors. One of the first things my advisor told me was this:

“Rework your flowchart.”

As engineers, our major gives us a strict flowchart that we must follow if we want to graduate on time. One would think this would be simple, since all of our classes are mapped out for us, right? But you must remember to take into account the fact that everyone else has to take these classes too, and because of budget cuts, it’s hard to get all of the classes you need when you need them.

Since the middle of last year I’ve been realistic about graduation. I’d tell people that I was okay with graduating in five years instead of in four. No big deal, right? But it wasn’t until I was actually looking at the classes I need that I realized that I’ll be spending a full extra year in school. I’m okay with that concept, I suppose. But the idea that some of my friends might not be here too kind of freaked me out a little. Well, more than a little.

So I sat down with my flowchart for a few hours. I cut out all the tiny little squares and spread them out on my desk. Classes like “Operations Research I,” “Quality Engineering,” “Ergonomics Lab,” and “Human Factors” told me that I am finally in the right major. I can’t wait to take these classes, but I dutifully spaced them out in between the more boring “Strength of Materials” class and other not-so-exciting subjects. Looking at it again, I see that most of the classes I’m going to take appeal to me in some way or another. I rearranged these little papers until they fit perfectly, like pieces of a puzzle that slid into place.

Four and a quarter. I can graduate in four and a quarter.

What’s interesting to think about is what these squares actually mean. Sure, they’re class numbers, just words on paper, but really: behind each square is knowledge that I will probably use for the rest of my life. The pile on my desk was what I had to go through to become a full-fledged engineer. And the best part about it is that I think I’ll like most of the classes!

My new chart is beautiful. I’ll be taking fifteen or sixteen units each quarter, which might be tough, but I know it’s doable. I also have to take summer school, which I signed up for last week, but I’m actually really excited for it. I’m taking two online classes: one about American film, and another about psychology.

Yay flowcharts. Yay happy reworkings. Yay doable schedules and classes that I’m excited for. I finally feel like I’m in the right place.

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