All posts by Courtney

Spring Break in the Smokies

It’s the first week back from spring break – I’m happy to be back on campus and see my friends, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the time off from assignments and tests! For spring break, I went to the Smoky Mountains with a group of friends and spent a few days camping. I’m not the most outdoorsy person in the world, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but it was a great time!

The first two days/3 nights were primitive camping, which means we packed up all of our stuff and hiked a few miles into the woods to our campsite. Our site was a bit of a clearing with a fire ring and pulley system to raise our stuff up at night to discourage any curious bears that might be wandering through. (We didn’t see any bears during the week, which was a little disappointing, but also we’re all still alive, which is nice.) The second day, we went on a 14 mile hike, where a few cool things happened.

Also, this was the general consensus after all that hiking.
Also, this was the general consensus after all that hiking.

The first cool thing was this – about 4 or 5 miles into the hike, we reached the top of one of the mountains, where we came across a group of people from Purdue – some of which we knew! Purdue is a big school, but who could have imagined running into other students – some of them engineering students – at the literal top of a mountain 8 hours away from campus? After talking for a while, we continued on our hike until we reached Abrams Falls, where we climbed down a path that turned out not to be a real path and came across this:

Abrams Falls
Abrams Falls

Beautiful, right? The third cool thing was this: about 12 miles into our hike, it got dark and we were all tired and more than ready to be sitting around a campfire eating. Unfortunately, it had rained all night and for part of the day, meaning all the wood was wet, and we also were not the best fire makers, as had been demonstrated the night before.

As we got closer to our campsite, though, we saw a light, which was kind of weird. Eventually, we got to our campsite and saw a man sitting next to a huge fire in the fire ring. I’ll be honest, for a moment I was less focused on the fire and more focused on an escape plan, but when we introduced ourselves, it turns out he was a Purdue alum! He hung out with us and talked around the fire for a few hours before we went to bed. (Also, apparently in the Smoky Mountains it works out that you’re often camping at the same camp site as other groups of people you don’t necessarily know, at least for the sites capable of holding bigger groups.)

I couldn’t believe that we had traveled south for spring break and run across so many people from Purdue IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MOUNTAINS. Every week I give presentations to visiting families and talk about how large and widespread our alumni network is, but it was really cool to see that played out! Plus, the guy at our campsite definitely saved us from another night of peanut butter on tortillas.

The Six Stages of a New Semester

Whether this was your last first day of school or you’re still trying to figure out the printing on campus (or both), you’re probably experiencing the same highs and lows of a new semester. After what seems like a record-setting month of winter break winds down…

1. You have to leave your family.

For a lot of us, this looks something like this:


After all, who else is going to hang out with you 16 hours a day and only get annoyed at you a few (dozen) times?

And for the rest, this may be a more accurate picture:


You love them, but 4 weeks is a long time.

2. You finally get to see your friends!


Don’t pretend you haven’t missed their weird little quirks.

3. But only after you buy your books for the semester.


So much for that laptop you had your eye on. Also the boots I wanted to buy will have to stay in my dreams.

4. You just know you’re going to be so much more on top of things this semester.


ALL of your credit hours are engineering classes? No big. You and your multi-colored pens are totally prepared.

5. But then you realize it’s 11:30 the night before classes.


Actually, you’re not totally prepared. And your graphing calculator is begging for new batteries. Where did the day go?!

But by some miracle (AKA your own capabilities), you pull everything together and have a totally focused and productive first day.


Good luck this semester, Boilermakers – you’re smart, talented and off to a great start! For any help or advice you may need staying on top of academics this semester, check out some of our academic support resources here.

(gifs taken from

Study Notes from a Procrastinator

Everyone tells you that college is a lot of work, but if you’re anything like me, it’s tempting to think “maybe it was hard for that person, but it won’t be a problem for me.” (Conceited, I know, but I have to be honest with you if my experiences are going to help at all.) You may have excellent study habits in high school, and if you do, then congratulations, you’re on your way to success! Half the battle is building those habits.

I was the opposite of those incoming students with excellent study habits. I coasted through high school on minimal effort, not because I was genius level smart, but because I was lazy. My senior showcase essay for AP Composition was written about procrastination, since I didn’t start it until the night before it was due and I knew I could get away with it by crafting some clever sentences about how it was a fitting topic. I still remember the conclusion – a pretty lame Harry Potter joke, followed by the quip “I could think of a better analogy than Harry Potter, but it’s getting late and I have math homework to finish.”

As it turns out, engineering classes don’t accept jokes about popular culture in place of the correct answer, something I quickly learned upon arrival at Purdue. I’ll be honest – I was not a model student when it came to studying. Or finishing homework. Or going to class. As a matter of fact, I probably attended 50 percent of my Calc I classes. DO NOT DO THAT. I had taken calculus in high school and had gotten a good score on the AP test, but had decided to retake the class since I didn’t feel ready to move on to Calc II. “I can totally do this, Calc wasn’t even hard in high school” I rationalized every time I didn’t feel like waking up for class. The 37% I got on the second test of the year shocked me into studying, but by that point I had tanked my grade enough that I got a C in the class, which is not easy to admit.

I would argue that learning to study was my hardest assignment that first year. There was a lot of trial and error, and I learned that studying for hours if you’re distracted or if you’re studying things you don’t really need to review is not as effective as diligently focusing on the right things for a shorter amount of time. You have to find what works for you – I get by on my monstrous to-do lists, color coded calendars and by keeping myself busy, since I’m more likely to study if I know this is my only opportunity to do so.

I’m not going to pretend that I now have it all together, and frankly there are much better people to take study advice from. There are so many parts of my study habits that I am trying to improve upon, and I still fall into the trap of thinking I can handle more than I actually can. I also can’t pretend that the bad grade I received my first semester kicked me into gear and suddenly I studied diligently between classes from 8 AM to 6 PM (which is not a bad strategy, honestly); even my junior year of college, I stepped back and realized “yikes, I need to re-evaluate what I’m doing to study.” But the sooner you realize that you need to put consistent, dedicated time and effort into your classes, the better – your grades will improve, your stress levels will drop, and you can stop living entire days hopped up on deadline adrenaline. Procrastination feels good in the moment; a well-earned grade keeps you proud and confident for days.

Summer After Freshman Year

This summer, as many of my class of 2015 counterparts headed off into industry to start their internships, I have found myself as Miss Molly, a camp counselor up in Michigan. At the beginning of the summer I felt as if I was missing out on all of the valuable experiences my friends were getting working for engineering firms around the country. I felt as if I would find myself behind the curve as my peers were not only strengthening their resumes but learning a great deal about their professional fields. However I get to wake up every morning to Revile and help my 5 year old campers get dressed, teach my campers about getting along with others after conflict , and make 75 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a day just to make them happy. This summer for me is more about growing as a person than a student. I can feel myself getting better in stressful situations, gaining patience for things I cannot control, and getting revitalized to get back to Purdue and learn everything I need to know to pave a future for myself. Kids depend of me all day long to be their everything. I am their stand-in parent, their teacher, their mentor, and their rocking chair on those late nights when they miss their parents.

I am indirectly being better prepared for industry through this job. Work is not about preforming the bare minimum. It’s about rising above and beyond and making a difference, just like we’re doing at camp for the young children. Camp counseling is making me both a more creative person and a more employable one. We are not kids. We are the adults. There are not compliments given to us or books to prepare us, we are the definitive people in charge of making or breaking a kids experience. I hope to get back to school in the fall and land an internship so I can utilize all I’ve gained.


I was reading a book today called “Words on Calm” when I came across something appalling, something I feel that I would never hear at Purdue.  The book itself is just one of those small feel-good Hallmark books that my mom picked up for one reason or another, and most of the things found in it are beautiful little poems about the importance of keeping calm. But this poem astonished me. “While others miserably pledge themselves to the insatiable pursuit of ambition and brief power, I will be stretched out in the shade, singing.”
My first reaction is, why are you singing you useless unhelpful blob? My second reaction is not much better, how can you be happy enough to sing without ambition? My definition of life is something with a pursuit. If we are not aiming for something how can you be living?

I am at Purdue to aim the highest I can. I am pledging myself to pursue genetic engineering, just as every other engineer here is pledging themselves to be successful. We’re not doing it for fame or power, we’re doing it because we realize the sweetest things in life come from accomplishment. Especially selfless accomplishment, aiming to making the world a better place.We realize that we did not choose the easiest route, but that none of us would be happy if we weren’t using our brains to their fullest capacity.

Engineers are people who love efficiency. We like getting things done as quickly and successfully as possible. I can’t speak for the others, however my life would be a waste if I sat back and watched others “miserably pledge themselves to the insatiable pursuit of ambition” as the poem said. Ambition gives us a reason to get out of bed.

As it is the summer and I have been out of classes for about a month now, I appreciate the fast paced environment of college more than ever. So far this summer I’ve worked a few times, seen some high school friends, and sewed a pretty awesome purse, but this is not the type of stagnant life style I could ever keep up for long. I love Purdue because I feel like I’m surrounded by people who would think the same way, the type of people who wake up in the morning and see opportunity in the future and would do anything to achieve it. We would not be happy avoiding ambition and singing by a river instead.

What I Wish I Would Have Known!

If there was one thing I wish I would have known before coming to Purdue, it would be to take more physics in high school.

This is my theory… the more successful you are in college physics is in direct correlation to the amount of high school physics you had. I ended the semester with a B minus. This is the worst grade I have ever received, but also the hardest I have ever worked for.

The classes here are Purdue are not necessarily harder than any I took in high school, in fact the hardest class I’ve ever taken (after Physics 172) was my anatomy/physiology class junior year of high school. The true difference lies in the amount of accomplishment you feel after completing them. In college you cover twice the amount of material in half the time. The work isn’t harder, there is just more of it. It is not out of anyone’s capability, it is just out of some peoples will.

One of my favorite parts about Purdue is that students will put their school work first. We work hard to accomplish that A and will not settle for the bare minimum. We are here to learn. I pay good money to sit in these classes and will not accept from myself or my professors,  anything less than a great education. I’m excited to go back in the fall and work hard. With Physics 172 out the way, I feel like I can tackle any material I set my mind to.

Women In Engineering Program (WIEP) Event

Last night I helped run a booth for PSEF at a Women in Engineering (WIEP) event.There was a great turn out and girls asked a ton of great questions so I thought I’d blog about a few of the frequent questions girls asked last night. I often got, are the classes really as scary as people make them out to be? You will often hear that first year engineering is just one huge weed out process, but I have found that as long as you keep up with your work, you’ll do just fine. It’s true that you know longer have your parents there to remind you to do your homework, but chances are that if you’re interested in Purdue Engineering, they probably don’t have to anyway.

I also got asked about whether or not they they had to know what type of engineering they wanted to go into before they got here.  All first year engineers start off as just that, First-Year Engineers (FYE’s). You don’t declare which school you want to be in until sophomore year. All FYE’s are required to take an engineering class that allows them to be exposed to all the different types of engineering disciplines. For example my engineering class is visited by at least two professional schools a week. They come into our class, give us a presentation trying to sell us their school, and then they are there to answer any school specific questions we may have. It’s nice because I came in thinking I wanted biomedical engineering but then learned that biological engineering was more what I wanted. Now I’m even thinking Industrial Engineering, something I didn’t even know what it was until the schools representatives came into my Engineering 131 class.

One last common question was about learning communities. I am in the Women in Engineering learning community and I take the Women in Enigneering Seminar. There is an application for learning communities on your myPortal account (what you used to apply to Purdue). Purdue offers many learning communities, some require you to live with the other members and some require you to take classes. Women in Engineering is a residency hall program that allows me to live with just other women engineers. It’s kind of nice because if I have a homework question, I can just walk down the hall and knock on doors until I find someone who can help me, because we’re all taking virtually the same classes. Another popular learning community is EPICS. This is another residency program where you live with other engineers in EPICS. You also take classes with them and work on a real world project. Many students who do EPICS put it down as real work experience on their resumes because they are projects that are actually implemented by the companies who hire Purdue’s EPICS program.

There are so many great things about being a Purdue Engineer. I never visited campus before I came here, I just knew what high regards Purdue Engineers were held in and knew I wanted it for myself. That’s not to say you shouldn’t visit, everyone should come get a tour of the engineering campus from PSEF! If you’re interested, you can even shadow one of us to our classes. :)

Hello Guys!

My name is Molly Chamberlin and I am a First Year Engineer looking to go into Biological Engineering. I didn’t always know I wanted to come to Purdue.  After my junior year in high school I visited many schools, none of which were Purdue. I’m from South Bend Indiana (around Notre Dame) and the one thing I “knew” for sure was that I wanted to go out of state for college.  Every school I visited had something about it that I liked, and as application time rolled around, I was still completely undecided about where I wanted to end up. This was very frustrating for me, because I had been planning college since sixth grade when I picked up my first “college guide.” So I decided to think about where I wanted to end up, then how I wanted to get there.

I’ve always been drawn to math and science, so in high school I took a lot of those classes.  I knew I wanted to work with cells and genetics in my future so I tried to find majors that could help me do that.  I realized that I had been overlooking Purdue’s engineering program, and not giving it a chance, just because it was close to my hometown. I never visited Purdue; I applied, got in, and signed up for STAR (the freshman scheduling day over the summer).  I was so sure that Purdue’s engineering program was exactly what I needed and wanted to succeed that I didn’t hesitate to come here. I wanted an environment that would push my abilities to their full potential and to be around students who felt the same.

Since I’ve been here I have not regretted my decision.  There is always something to do; whether it is homework or a student organization.  At the beginning of the year I wanted to join the sailing team, Adopt-a-Grandparent, Circle-K, Timmy Health Foundation, Run Club and many other organizations.  There is just so much to choose from.  In the end I chose to joined PSEF (Purdue’s Student Engineering Foundation) and APO (Alpha Phi Omega), which is a service fraternity. Both of these organizations are like family. Between gaining a mentor in PSEF, go Dennis, and “parents” in APO, there are always upper classmen I can talk to if I need help.

I look forward to sharing more about my experiences here at Purdue later, but until then, Boiler Up!