The easy path would have been to take the Credit Suisse well-paying IT job in Manhattan, and start my life as a young professional with a bright future in finance. I saw all of my EE graduates tempted by these delicious dangling treats, and many of them gladly following the flow and natural subsequent phases. It was a difficult decision choosing between money and exploration, but it was a bold move that I’m very glad to say was the right decision. Starting with a 3-month study abroad program in Osaka University, I caught the travel bug and began looking for the less conventional methods of enjoying life after obtaining a Cooper education. While I was still in Japan, I connected with the engineering department in Hamburg University in Germany for another research opportunity. With the free semester in-between, I finished and defended my master’s thesis at Cooper. I was able to do this in a speedy-manner because I finished undergraduate with 25 credits more than required. These credits were mostly graduate level courses, so I only needed to finish a thesis to obtain a Master’s degree.
From February 2009 to the beginning of September 2009, I worked on an artificial intelligence algorithm applied to robotics at Hamburg University. With my free time, I conducted my personal comparisons and social experiments between German, Japanese, and American work ethics. However, the majority of my observations involved weekend, solo backpacking travels at hostels in major cities around Europe. It may have seemed like a continuous journey of posting thousands of pictures, videos, and status updates (which to the untrained eye looks like I was only partying), but I was actually learning some of the essential socializing techniques that were completely stunted by the Cooper professors’ endless problem sets and impossible exams. I tried my best to communicate with strangers in order to practice being more friendly and learning from these eccentric individuals’ experiences to narrow down my personal preferences for career choices.
I was told recently that my personality was unusually extrovert for an engineer. Not that all engineers are socially inept, but to be honest, we don’t get much practice talking to living things. I remember nights screaming at my computer programs for not working properly. After observing different environments and following the life cycles of more projects, I slowly matured into (what I consider) the thinking of a true-engineer. I discovered the importance of community and teamwork as projects grew more complicated and deadlines piled on top of each other. My initial notions of competition and grades were immature and silly. In a crazy backwards way, I discovered the importance of liberal arts. It took 6 months after 4.5 years of neglecting liberal arts to find how unbelievably important it is to realize the complexity of people and the numerous different options a person has to feel successful.
A little more than a year has passed since I’ve graduated, but with the majority of the time abroad and finally seeing things from another perspective, I know I’ve made the right decision to think outside the box by literally leaving the box to look back in. My adventures are far from over – I am returning to Osaka University for 6 months in January 2010 to work on a different application of artificial intelligence to robotics. Who said “settling down” and “growing up” were strictly inclusive?
~See Lemons Continue as Always