Be Willing to Sacrifice - The FIF Professional Tip #3

Choosing a career in STEM is a very rewarding academic experience at the end of it all. But, before it feels like a rewarding experience, it’s going to feel like you chose the wrong major sometimes, especially when the value you calculated as your answer isn’t one of the multiple choice options on the exam, and that’s if you get lucky enough to have an exam with multiple choices…

It’s no secret, STEM majors have a tough path ahead of them, especially for us independent, first generation students, with other responsibilities outside of school, like work, rent, food, having a social life, surviving, etc… The honest truth is that if you’re one of these students, it’s going to be a little harder; mainly because of the time you’ll spend handling other aspects of your life, and not finding the time for studying, as you should. But do not worry, because although it may seem impossible at times, I am here to tell you that it is possible, but you have to be willing to sacrifice. 

I learned this the hard way; trying to juggle a full-time job while having a social life while going to school full-time is simply too difficult. Eventually, something is going to topple over and as a student you have to decide which is more important. These aren’t simple decisions, because they either mean that you will miss out on social events, make less money, or fail in school. For me it was the latter; I was working full-time, (in a dead-end-job where at some point I seriously considered to make a career out of) and I was hanging out way too much with my friends because I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun. “I was making good money,” or so I thought, working 50+hours and my reasoning behind that was that “I needed to have my own space,” after all, I was independent and I had a girlfriend who I needed to take out on dates. So I was renting my own room and I needed money for food and all the “fun” activities I was doing with my friends. But eventually reality hit me in the face like a cold slap! when I found out I had failed 2 courses out of the 3 that I was taking that semester.  I knew something had to change, so I took the following action:  

The first change I made was to find a less expensive place to live; I started renting a living room that I shared with my cousin and my uncle, which meant I gave up my “space.” Next, since my living costs had significantly decreased, I looked for a part-time job instead. This meant I didn’t have much money left after rent, which meant less dates with my girlfriend, and no more fun activities with my friends. I was willing to sacrifice my lifestyle momentarily for a better future.

Soon enough my grades started getting better, and I even had time to take on some extra programming courses. Also, not having the space to study at home meant I was in school until late hours doing homework, which I learned to appreciate and enjoy. My grades got better, which meant I was eligible for scholarships and that helped me greatly because I was using that money to pay for living expenses, which meant I didn’t have to work. Overall, the sacrifices I made eventually started to give me positive results and it felt very rewarding for once to be a top student because I actually had time to do my homework and read the material before class; I was prepared. Finally, the rest is history as I earned my degree in Electrical engineering, work as an engineer, have a good quality of life, and my girlfriend at the time is now my wife, who enjoys going out on more frequent dates than back then. Yes, the sacrifice was well worth it!