Hello, I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and reflect on my experiences during my first week in classes at Virginia Tech. My name is Abram and I am a first year direct PhD student in the mechanical engineering department. I grew up in a very poor family and often had to deal with difficult circumstances in my home life. As a child the idea of getting any college degree seemed like a great challenge and something I was never confident that I would attain. I first began my college career at the University of New Mexico in my home town of Albuquerque. I was not prepared for the rigors and responsibility required to succeed at the university level and after three very poor semesters I dropped out. During the time that I was out of school I became a manager at a local pizzaria and helped open a new restaurant. This was a great experience for me in many ways and I think most importantly I became aware of how much I missed learning. I also realized my desire to have a more meaningful career in which I could contribute to improving my community and the world. I returned to school at the Central New Mexico Community College and then transferred to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology where I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. I am so proud of the hard work and challenges that I overcame to graduate from college and as the first person in my family to do so, I feel I have motivated my younger brothers to also attain college degrees.
I still have a burning desire to learn and grow, so here I am starting a PhD program at Virginia Tech. The differences coming from a very small school in rural New Mexico to such a large school in the Appalachian hills have been immense. Humidity! The number of people on the sidewalks during the day is overwhelming as well as the extensive size of the campus. I have also felt a little intimidated by the academic level of my peers. The support that I have received so far, however, has been amazing. The mechanical engineering department has done a great job connecting me with various groups such as the New Horizons Graduate Scholar Program and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. I am also enjoying the benefits of being at a large institution. I have been very impressed with the labs and equipment that is available for research and have enjoyed the wide array of opportunities to explore research outside my field. I did not realize how much I would enjoy being on a campus with so much academic diversity. I am looking forward to the many new experiences I will have and challenges I will overcome during the next several years here at Virginia Tech.