When I told my Mechanical Engineering classmates I sent an application to study Computer Science in Dundee next year, they all stared at me quite confused. Many discussions derived from that point. One question, though, came back as a refrain: “Aren’t you disappointed to have lost two years of study ?”
Two years back
In june, I will (hopefully) graduate from the IUT Cachan — the Technology University of Cachan, which is, in France, equivalent to the first two years of B-Eng, although more practice-oriented. basically, we learn how products — mainly mechanical systems — are designed, as well as how they’re made. The diploma I’ll hold will enable me to work as a Superior Technician in mechanical engineering, or keep on studying to become a graduate Engineer.
I’ve dreamed of becoming a pilot since I was ten. When we had to send applications for schools, a few month before sitting the French Baccalaureate, I sent some to Preparatory Classes. Although they are meant to prepare students to Engineering College (like the B-Eng in England), they are considered as the sacred way to sit the piloting schools exams — unless you want to join the Armée de l’air.
My substantial lack of work played against me on that level. I wasn’t really a bad student, just the average one, much more interested by its friends and his computer than his homework. As an “insurance” choice, I added Cachan. The practical side of it, as well as my ever-going want to understand the way things work, drove me to it. Furthermore, the ENAC exam (which decides wether you can become a student pilot in the only public piloting school in France), was said to be “affordable” to Technology Universities student — at least in theory.
As I thought, I didn’t get an offer to attend preparatory classes. I was admitted in Cachan though, and I was quite happy with it.
But there was a catch: the fact I love understanding how things around us work doesn’t mean I am thrilled to design them, especially when they’re Renault oil pumps. I love applying what I learned in Cachan to my hobbies, but I don’t see myself making it my everyday job. So here am I, almost two years later, filling my application form for a Computer Science BSc at Aberaty University, in Dundee. Far from Mechanical Engineering, away from France and back to the first year after Baccalaureate.
Nothing is lost
I disagree, however, that I lost those two years. I consider it quite the contrary, actually. There is much, much more than classes to be taken from a course. The two last years gave me the occasion to meet wonderful people. As much as I got bored during some classes, I was thrilled to learn about Engineering Design, aeroplane building, computing…
Those two years allowed me to meet Cachan’s Engineering Design teachers. Their passion spilled on me, and I’ll miss discussing and learning with them for hours after the classes’ end. I’ll miss watching SpaceX launches with them, hidden in empty classrooms. They not only taught me Engineering Design: they taught me to stay curious, to always stay alert and, by all means, to always keep learning new things. To stay hungry.
So yes, next september, I will be starting my studies again. New place, new subjects; but that doesn’t mean I lost the last two years of my life. Those two years allowed me to figure out what I want to do for a living. They made me stop considering the Air Force. Working on Mechanical Engineering and doing aeronautics projects made me re-discover space exploration. It gave me skills that might help me if I want to apply for a Computer Engineering vacancy at SpaceX one day.
One more thing
It took me one and a half year to take a decision. To open an UCAS account and send applications for courses that interested me, abroad, to travel and discover somewhere else. Admitting you were wrong the first time is probably the hardest part of the process, but it must not stop you. When it wasn’t my family, my friends were there to support me. However long it takes to notice you missed the right path, no time is lost: you’ll always learn from what you do, even if it isn’t obvious right away.
If you ever feel you’re in the wrong place, studying something that doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, change. No year will be lost, and you’ll feel better learning things that make you thrive.