Student blog post

Reflection: Civil Engineering through the years and my favourite parts!

Civil Engineering student, Julia, reflects on the five years of her course.

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As my time at University comes to an end, I have been reflecting back on the long but short 5 years.

I came to University hopeful, excited and a little nervous. Like the majority of students, my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t make friends. That quickly changed of course once I realized all the opportunities around me. I met many friends during freshers; I had people to talk to on my course; and I joined Netball and other societies! There were plentiful of ways to meet people!

Maybe some of these friends drifted naturally through the years, but we made memories together that is part of the jigsaw that was my overall experience in University. These will be key life moments and I cherish those early memories.

One of the experiences I will treasure forever was the opportunity to study a summer school in Shanghai, China, at the end of my 1st year. For 8 weeks I explored Shanghai and China, fell in love with travelling, and fell in love with a new culture. Strangers became friends for life during an intense but thrilling time in a foreign country. We bonded over stress, home sickness, tiredness, fun, excitement, and adventure.

We explored together and saw some amazing sights and interesting projects along the way!

After this trip, I became more independent, in my personal life and in my academic life. In second year, I pushed myself to become more involved in STEM events by becoming an ambassador. Through the years I participated in events with the aim to promote Civil Engineering and encourage more girls to pursue STEM pathways.

I managed to gain a week placement with Balfour Beatty, work shadowing a graduate site engineer on the site of the new Dundee Railway Station. This opened my eyes to the life of and engineering project on site and a possible future role in Civil Engineering. It was inspiring to see a project before completion and being part of building a structure which will be at the forefront of the city. It felt like seeing a baby before it was born, a sense of respect and privilege.

Fast forward to my first semester of 3rd year when I studied abroad in Canada. I made so many memories with so many amazing people from across the world. Out width studying I joined the outdoor club which propelled me into the wilderness of Canada on many of my weekends and holidays. I camped in -20 degree temperatures; tried skiing for the first time; I cross country skied; I skated on a frozen lake; I hiked many a mountain with snowshoes and ice axes. These are just some of the experiences I had while abroad.

I would certainly recommend studying abroad to anyone. The challenge is well worth the result. You learn many skills including how to cope under pressure and problem solve during stressful situations; all while developing your adaptability skills.

On my return, I searched for summer placements. I had a great experience working for BEAR Scotland and the friendly team of the North West Road Safety Department. This meant I commuted to Perth from Dundee in my summer and got a taste of working life. It was exciting to finally work in an office and receive work that was related to my studies. It allowed me to use my academic knowledge in real life projects. This included using a program called Civil 3D to model the Glen Ogle hillside using topographical surveys and design a vehicle restraint barrier for the steep verges on the side of the road. Another project involved designing the foundations for a VMS road sign in Glencoe and Tyndrum. For many of the schemes that I had the privilege of working on, I got to attend a site visit for many, (sadly not the Isle of Skye). It was a great starting role for a junior engineer, and it set my goal to work on bigger projects in the future!

student in fluorescent yellow jacket and hard hat with a measuring device

Another great event I attended during my time at university was the Future Female Engineers at the Arup headquarters in London! I was lucky to have another female friend attend the event and so we travelled down together and made a weekend of it. The event itself was inspiring and it allowed me to hear the stories of successful women in engineering and their path that led them there. I was able to network and ask questions to senior staff, as well as recent graduates. It was a fantastic experience, enough so that I wrote a blog on the event at the time if you would like further information.

By this point in my young career, I felt a lot more empowered, in control and excited for the future. This was down to having had gone out and participated in different experiences. With all these, I had built a network, and had friends who I could rely on for advice and for general chat about Civil Engineering and our business field.

Although the academics of university is very important, the variety of experiences I have been involved in has been equally important for me in the preparation to transition into working life. I have gained many skills and a reservoir of diverse knowledge and unique experiences.

University offers you to study a degree, but it also offers the chance to expand your development through different ways and make yourself unique to employers.

It is now that I have realised how this applies to me.

After my final year, as a Master’s student, I feel very much the same but also hugely changed. I am confident to say that I am ready for a professional role in an engineering design office wherever that may be. I have done so many interviews from my time as a first year, to applying for graduate roles, that I have gained confidence and resilience throughout my early career journey. This will serve me well in the future.

student standing in front of screen with presentation

I feel very grateful to have had all these experiences: the good, the bad, and the ugly. They have shaped me into who I am, and to who I will become

Final Farewell: I want to thank everyone who has read, followed, and supported my blogs. I gained such enjoyment from writing them and I hope I covered some interesting topics that you enjoyed equally.

I want to give a special thank you to my fellow blogger Ethan Jones for his tireless support and wisdom. As a course-mate and friend, I wouldn’t be who I am today without him.

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Julia Craig

Studying Civil Engineering at the University of Dundee.

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