*This post was originally featured on purduewiep.blogspot.com
Coming out of my last final this semester, I felt nothing but relief, excitement, and immense confidence; it was time to take on summer. This summer would be special as I was going to take that leap into adulthood by working at my first internship with a steel manufacturing company. It was going to be that initial taste into what life after college will be like and honestly, after that semester of quantum mechanics and thermodynamics, how hard could this really be?
As I drove up to the main building on my first day of work, I was pumped. Ecstatic. Meeting the other interns and going through orientation only elevated my anticipation for what was to come. The completion of our safely training marked the end of orientation and all of the interns were sent to their respective departments; I was stationed to work at the rolling mill where steel slabs and ingots are rolled out into flat plates. I tagged along my mentor as we attended the daily mill meeting, a meeting I would not forget.
As the meeting commenced, I felt myself teleporting to another planet; abbreviations and numbers were thrown around and the phrases used seemed like a foreign language. My once in-the-clouds confidence began to follow an exponential decay even with all the side explanations from my mentor. After the meeting, I made my way to my desk and that was when it all hit me. Was I really cut out for all this? I did not understand anything at that meeting even though a lot of it had to do with concepts I learn in my major. What if I mess up, what will all these experienced engineers think of me? I could not fathom the thought of becoming fluent in the language that was so casually spoken here. Just minutes after these thoughts I heard crashing against the roof in the form of a torrential downpour; to my mind at the time (which was in slight panic mode), this was a bad sign.
Fast forward a month and these concerns took a turn for the better. By now I would have attended and spoken at numerous mill meetings, assisted with the completion of an important experiment, and was starting to understand all the abbreviations and common lingo used at the plant. I was given the freedom to go off on my own and figure out how each part of the mill fit in with the other and got to inspect defects on plates firsthand. I befriended the operators, asked them about their responsibilities and how they would go about resolving a certain situation; the operators spend the most time with the machines and plates, making them a wealth of knowledge and information for almost anything that happens at the plant. Speaking with the engineers at the plant gave me insight into how a lot of the machinery worked and how specific delays or malfunctions can lead to different defects on the plates.
That first month taught me a lot, but most importantly to ask questions, and a lot of them.Curiosity does not always kill the cat, it makes it more alert and observant of what is going on. I made sure to clear up any doubts I had at the start of my internship and it sure made the transition a lot easier. My curiosity often led to impromptu projects and allowed me to interact with a diverse group of individuals on an everyday basis. My opinions where always heard and sometimes challenged but it all contributed to the learning experience. I no longer doubt whether I can undertake a particular task because there is always a way to the solution and a person to talk to. My confidence level continues to rise a little every week and I am excited to see what the next month will hold and how much I will learn in that time. There may be another horrible thunderstorm again, but it will not bother me because I know I can get through it.