I completely understand your conflict. It is difficult to pin point what you would like to study within the Engineering fields. You are doing the best and most efficient thing right now in terms of getting exposure to all Engineering and Science careers. You are thinking like an Engineer! Remember to be flexible and willing to learn new/different things.
When I enrolled into college, I thought I wanted to major in Mathematics. During the first week, I had an in-depth tour of campus prior to classes starting and was awe struck when I saw the display of an F-4 Phantom outside of the Engineering building. Right then and there, I changed my major to Aerospace Science Engineering because I thought it would make me a better Pilot. I was right. Since earning my Bachelor of Science degree I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world and learn so much more. I’ve learned how to be a Mechanic/Technician, Customer Service Representative, Accountant, etc.
As a Liaison Engineer, a normal day for me involves researching specific problems with a component or aircraft and writing the repair instructions to correct the problem. I also volunteer with different diversity groups to keep me involved socially with the events and projects coming up outside of my immediate workspace.
As a young African-American woman in a senior Caucasian male dominated field and company, yes discrimination exists. I am fortunate to have a thick skin about most things, but there have been sometimes where I have had to address and issue head on and wait for the outcome. Sometimes things will get under your skin and you have to make a decision if it’s worth addressing or not, but that goes with learning more about you as a person and your own limitations.
Most importantly for your college career, enjoy the learning and growing process. It is definitely a process! Take personal notes that will help you navigate lifelong choices and decisions. Try to have just a little fun! Best of luck, I believe in you.
I actually asked one of my coworkers to comment as well, just to show a different perspective.
His comments follow below.
My advice to you is just keep your mind and eyes open to all the opportunities and possibilities that will open up as you pursue your passion for engineering. As a first or second year engineering student, most programs are going to be the same anyway, so you have plenty of time to decide your specialty. Focus on the basics for now, like the math and physics. As far as choosing one goes, in the real world, the boundaries between the engineering disciplines are often very fluid, and you may find yourself working and excelling outside of your discipline. I can guarantee you that there are no guarantees except that things will always change. Engineers who can adapt and work outside their own comfort zones will excel. Those who cannot or will not will struggle. Try to keep in mind that your years in high school and college are basically teaching you to learn and exposing you to concepts. Your real education begins after you graduate and there are no more textbooks; when you are on the team developing the new airliner, wonder drug, or consumer electronic item that doesn’t exist today. The point is that you might decide to go mechanical, and find yourself spending the majority of your career in aerospace, like most of my colleagues have, or any other combination you can come up with.
My day consists of problem solving in multiple disciplines, providing leadership and education for those I support as a technical specialist, and acting as a resource for management decision makers. We are mentors, judges, teachers, facilitators, technical resources, innovators and entrepreneurs.
College will be what you make of it. It can be four of the best years of your life, independence and new adulthood, or the hardest thing you have ever done. Most of the time it will be a bit of both. Just remember that college just gets you the paper that says you have been there and done what it takes to complete the program. It is just a snap shot of what was “state of the art” when you were there. Technology will march on and make most of what you learned obsolete. What will never be obsolete is the scientific approach, research skills, and task discipline college will teach you.
Discrimination can rear its ugly head, certainly, but this should not be an issue for anyone on top of his/her game. If you are good at what you do and live by the golden rule, that will rise to the surface no matter what others may do. People with bad intentions and evil in their hearts will never succeed in the end and fortunately, people like this are rather few. You may encounter this in your journey, but it is part of the learning experience and not just limited to sexism or racism. Some colleges are hostile to conservatives, for example. You may want to research discrimination at a particular school before applying there if you are concerned about this.” – Doug J.