Opportunities, Mental Health and My Future: Why I've chosen to prioritize myself and my education.

This has been quite the summer for me. I finished my 9-week internship with ZODAJ, which is a start-up that was founded by students at Carnegie Mellon University (with a possibility of returning in the future), I am one week away from finishing my summer physics course for a college credit/requirement, and I'm starting to evaluate my future, as well as where I am at right now. And all of that is beginning to make me realize that my feelings during the on-going pandemic have shifted. And that doesn't make me a hypocrite.


At the beginning of the pandemic. I felt as though COVID-19 was not as personal to me despite understanding and abiding by all guidelines (I have not been outside my house or seen people outside of my family in person since March). For me, I just had more time inside, even less responsibilities than normal, and that made me excited to take on different projects and do different things from the comfort of my home.


But I never really took the time to think about the reality of coping during this time and how that process hugely impacts my motivation to do more. Now that I am at that point of processing the real impact of COVID-19 on me, people I love and people I have lost, I'm realizing something that I am glad has become obvious: I need to take a step back from all the extra activities for the sake of my mental health and my priorities in life. I feel like I've been taking on a lot to fill a void, or at least to close up one a little bit. But every time I fill the hole, the hole gets bigger and I find myself desperate to keep up with filling it.


I thought I was doing it to help my resume (which it does) or to help myself form industry connections (which it does), or make new friends/connections (which I have, although I wish I could form more diverse and more in-depth close friendships). The truth is, I just wanted to find a sense of belonging on campus. And now that I am comfortable with my place in Cornell and I've formed loving, genuine communities that accept me for my full self, I don't feel the need to look for things to do just to have friends. Instead, I'm looking to focus on my own mental health and taking on projects conservatively and based on my interests rather than any other ulterior motive.


I have many of those "obligation projects" lined up still through 2020, and I intend to complete those, and then look forward to taking time to pursue my own passion projects based on my career goals in pedagogical technology and the robotics industry. But more importantly, I look forward to taking more time to care for my mental health and priorities in life, like family and education.


Even though my junior year doesn't seem like it will be all I hoped for, I still have a lot to look forward to. For one thing, I had to change up my classes for the Fall because many of them were cancelled and I also want to limit the amount of spaces I'm in to my house and my college. Although I was disappointed at first, I am really happy with the two schedules I've come up with and the classes given the circumstances, and the fact that there's an 18-credit limit. Fingers cross these classes aren't cut too, but that's why I have two plans. I completed all college requirements except the swim test, which I'll do this summer likely, and Technical Communication, which I'll do this fall.


Fall 2020 Schedule - Option 1

The only downside of this schedule for me is that the timing of some of the class components are a bit awkward and uneven, which means that I will have to have somewhat separate routines for each day. But, it's worth it to me if it means I get classes that inspire and motivate me.


ECE 3030: Electromagnetic Fields and Waves (4 Credits)

This is one of my Foundation courses that I'm required to do for my major, for the Advanced Circuits requirement. I think I'll enjoy it because it applies to radio waves and broadcasting, which I encounter in my work with WVBR. I think there's a 50/50 chance that it will be offered online, since it was offered online-only this summer. We'll see.


ECE 3100: Probability and Interference (4 Credits)

This is for a Foundation requirement for Advanced Math, and it also satisfies my probability requirement. I think it's good that I can take it this Fall because then I can take ECE 4200: Foundations of Machine Learning in the Spring having done the material from 31oo.


ENGRC 3340: Social Justice in Engineering (1 Credit)

I immediately saw the syllabus and was excited about the Social Justice and Engineering course because I always felt like for a long time my education has treated the two as separate and I was excited to finally see a course that emphasizes that these are not mutually exclusive and that Social Justice and Engineering are necessary for one another. I am also an IDP Facilitator for Cornell, so I work with ideas of social justice and inclusivity on a regular basis. This satisfies my Technical Communication requirement which is a plus, but I'm just excited about the content of the course, and the fact that it is an independent study, asynchronous course, so I get to determine my own work schedule mostly, which helps.


INFO 3450: Human-Computer Interaction (4 credits)

I decided to take this class as an Out-of-Major ("Outside") Technical Elective because I'm interested in Robotics and the development of interactive technology (especially for special-needs/IEP individuals), and so Human-Computer Interaction really fits that, and is a prerequisite to a class I want to take next fall for the Robotics minor. I like that its project-based (more for the portfolio), and that the class is distance-learning for lecture with both in-person and distance-learning discussion options. It's one lecture and one discussion, which is just right for me.


MAE 3783: Mechatronics (4 Credits)

Mechatronics satisfies another Out-of-Major ("Outside") Technical Elective requirement and a Robotics minor requirement. I will also petition this in place of ECE 2100 since it is a basic college-level circuits class in electrical engineering. I like the fact that we build robots in this class because it's really good for me to get that exposure and add more robots to my portfolio.


Fall 2020 Schedule - Option 2

Because there's no guarantee that option 1 will go according to plan. Option 1 has better classes for me, but a worse time blocking schedule than this one (this one gives me long lunch breaks AND I end classes at 11am on Fridays). It's a good Plan B for me.


Staying the same as option 1:


ECE 3030: Electromagnetic Fields and Waves (4 Credits)

This is one of my Foundation courses that I'm required to do for my major, for the Advanced Circuits requirement. I think I'll enjoy it because it applies to radio waves and broadcasting, which I encounter in my work with WVBR. I think there's a 50/50 chance that it will be offered online, since it was offered online-only this summer. We'll see.


ECE 3100: Probability and Interference (4 Credits)

This is for a Foundation requirement for Advanced Math, and it also satisfies my probability requirement. I think it's good that I can take it this Fall because then I can take ECE 4200: Foundations of Machine Learning while doing the material from 31oo.


ENGRC 3340: Social Justice in Engineering (1 Credit)

I immediately saw the syllabus and was excited about the Social Justice and Engineering course because I always felt like for a long time my education has treated the two as separate and I was excited to finally see a course that emphasizes that these are not mutually exclusive and that Social Justice and Engineering are necessary for one another. I am also an IDP Facilitator for Cornell, so I work with ideas of social justice and inclusivity on a regular basis. This satisfies my Technical Communication requirement which is a plus, but I'm just excited about the content of the course, and the fact that it is an independent study, asynchronous course, so I get to determine my own work schedule mostly, which helps.


Changes:


ECE 3250: Math of Signal and System Analysis (4 Credits)

This is one of my Foundation courses that I'm required to do for my major, as a third miscellaneous one. One of my favorite professors, Professor Delchamps is teaching it, and I know a bunch of people in it to work with. Plus, its content helps prepare me for many of my planned electives in robotics and machine learning.


ECE 4200: Foundations of Machine Learning (4 Credits)

"The course will be devoted to understanding, implementation, and applications of various machine learning primitives. This course is intended to have three modules, and within each we will cover basic theory, and implementations. The modules will be supervised learning, unsupervised learning, and finally topics that are motivated by engineering applications such as speech recognition, and recommendation systems. Supervised learning will include regression, support vector machines, decision trees, random forests, naïve Bayes, boosting and bagging. Unsupervised learning includes clustering, k-means, k-NN, principal components analysis and other dimensionality reduction methods. We will give particular emphasis on engineering applications, e.g., text data, hand-writing, music, image, and time series data, and categorical datasets such those in recommendation systems. The course will have a programming component, which will be administered in the form of assignments, and in-class-kaggle competitions."

I want to take this class because I am looking to pursue opportunities in the machine-learning industry, so I think this would be a good place to start.


Lastly, I'm moving into my place off-campus in Ithaca in a week. This location could not be better for me, and one of my best friends, who is back from her co-op and is the same major as me, is living in the same house! Other best or close friends of mine are around the area, and it's in a prime location for me in terms of food, classes and it's an overall great and healthy environment for me. Plus, I have my own room with a nice closet.


So all in all, I'm ready to move into a new school year where I recognize how the situations and environments I allow myself to be in and be defined by shape my mental health, and I allow myself to feel the impact of all that has happened to me during this pandemic. I'm ready to do back into the real world after months inside, but continue to do so safely and responsibly.

Recent Posts

See All
Keep up with me!

© 2020 by Michelle Dominique Davies.