Personal Essay | Teen Ink

Personal Essay

August 27, 2023
By Anonymous

The task seemed simple: construct a small structure that was both practical and innovative using only blocks. I examined the blocks, noticing that each had a different purpose and shape, making it challenging to create a viable structure. I thought of the buildings I admired in Kuwait, namely the Kuwait Towers and the Liberation Tower, and how the engineers who designed them had carefully considered the shape, strength, and environmental impact of each material used during construction while striving for excellence in design. Imagining the numerous possibilities for my project, I began to arrange the blocks in various combinations to form walls, floors, and roofs. I thought of the broader framework- judging how the blocks interlocked and weighing the potential obstacles and solutions to each formation. My imagination filled in structural details, and I began to see the state-of-the-art tower coming to life in the real world.

This building project was just one of the hands-on projects I took part in last summer during my internship with The Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS). The experience solidified my love of math and science and uncovered a deeper interest in civil engineering. As a Middle Eastern, Muslim woman my choice to pursue engineering is unusual, much less in the US. In many Middle Eastern societies, traditional gender norms and expectations generally require that women focus on household duties and prioritize family life over professional pursuits. However, my determination to pursue a career in math and science has led me to challenge societal norms. I was one of the only women in advanced classes such as AP-Calculus and Physics. As I grew more absorbed in the difficulties of these subjects, their complexity became a source of excitement rather than intimidation. I became obsessed with the challenge of grasping complex mathematical principles and applying them to real-world settings such as how my country, Kuwait, roughly the size of New Jersey, has overcome construction challenges to create buildings such as the Al Hamra Tower and The Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Cultural Centre.

The encouraging and collaborative environment gave me the confidence and precision I needed to handle difficult engineering challenges in the KFAS program and showed me the real-world work of civil engineers. I put my preparation into action junior year, working with a civil engineer to help renovate an old school that was in disrepair. I learned that the prolonged shutdown of schools during COVID-19 caused the walls to deteriorate, which was worsened by the intense summer heat in Kuwait. Using heat-resistant replacements, such as insulated concrete blocks and thermal paint, we gave the walls new life to battle the intense heat and support the building. I saw firsthand how reducing the environmental impact of construction improves the quality of life for communities. Motivated by my enthusiasm for engineering and desire to make a difference, I took the initiative to arrange workshops and seminars for young girls. They peppered me with questions as I discussed my journey, obstacles, and victories, declaring their interest in engineering, as well. 

To further my understanding of engineering basics, I took Introduction to Engineering online through Columbia University this fall. I learned the fundamentals of engineering such as the concepts of mechanics and thermodynamics and improved my problem-solving abilities through group projects. As my knowledge expanded, so did my interest in sustainable engineering and eventually constructing structures that are environmentally friendly yet meet human requirements. 

As I look towards the future, I plan to continue my study of civil engineering and eventually work to minimize ecological impact while maximizing resource consumption. Through sustainable design practices, energy-efficient technologies, and using renewable materials, I plan to establish a more resilient and environmentally conscious future. As I break traditional cultural expectations, I hope to inspire other Middle Eastern women to challenge societal standards and work for a sustainable future. 

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