This blog was written by SWE member, aerospace engineering major, and pageant contestant Michelle Lin.
One of the first English words I learned was “astronaut” while tracing an aluminum-foil helmet, sitting on my father’s lap. One of the first novels I read by myself was Crowned by Julie Linker, which followed a teenage girl through the pageant world. As I’m now starting my own space habitat design research project, I’m also preparing for Miss Colorado USA. Both require discipline, tenacity, and most importantly, they are both things I love doing.
Entering college, I did not anticipate the emotional stress that came with being a minority in my field. That feeling was invisible to everyone who wasn’t experiencing it; things like being called “aggressive” like it was a bad trait, always being talked over in lab, or not knowing which rocket we sent the Apollo capsule on, much less the date of the moon landing. There were so many little things that collectively made me feel like I didn’t belong.
I had to learn thermodynamics and statics, as well as how to navigate a society that was never built to include people like me. I was afraid that if I spoke up about these struggles, I would somehow miss out on my childhood dream of space exploration. I felt this overwhelming need to dedicate myself to space so I could play catch up, and any time I spent on my other pursuits were ultimately distractions.
However, I am a talented aerospace engineer, and I am so much more. I am a first-generation immigrant from Taiwan who first learned English at the age of nine. I am one proud woman out of 30 sitting in a lecture hall with 200 other men. I am an empowered woman who stands up for injustices in our society. I am passionate about emphasizing diversity in the industry, and furthermore, making the aerospace world more accessible to those who don’t see themselves represented in it. I am a survivor, and a fighter, and a strong believer in a world where our personal identities no longer have to be segregated from our engineering ones.
At the University of Colorado, I have found a strong community of women in SWE that empower me on my journey. The sisterhood I have found inspires me to be a better engineer, citizen, and friend. I’ve surrounded myself with everything that interested me, disregarding those who tell me that my time would be better spent focusing on my classes instead. Being a well-rounded person makes me a better engineer. When the industry is constantly telling you to get more technical experience, when professors are assigning you mountains of homework, it is so easy to get lost in the world of STEM. But you need to remember that you are not just your major, and you deserve to pursue all your passions in equal capacity—no matter how far from engineering they are. After all, if I’m going for the pageant crown and the astronaut helmet, you can, too.
“You need to remember that you are not just your major, and you deserve to pursue all your passions in equal capacity—no matter how far from engineering they are.”
– Michelle Lin
>> SWE is sponsoring Michelle Lin in Miss Colorado 2019. You can read about that here. <<
- SWE is Sponsoring a Pageant Contestant. Here’s Why.
- Women Engineers: Be Your Own Feminine
- Together, We Can Change the Face of STEM
- Podcast: The Experience of Being an Asian American Female Engineer
- Hidden in Plain Sight: Asian-American Engineers
- Podcast: Dr. Kerri Phillips Encourages Girls to “Stay in the Game”