Reflections on my first year…

When I joined university in 2014, I remember walking around Fresher’s fair thoroughly overwhelmed and confused. I was stressed about doing well at university but I did not want to lose out on extra-curricular life, so I decided to commit to only one thing. At that time, e.quinox was in a small corner of the Beit Quad, hidden behind the cheese society and whilst I was tempted by the deliciousness of the various dairy products being handed out to me, which I thoroughly enjoyed, hearing about e.quinox and their mission intrigued me. Here, in front of me, were a group of students bringing electricity to rural communities. And what was I doing? Eating cheese.

If at any point my decision to join the society was purely out of a guilt from excessive consumption, it was definitely being called to the test. Weeks became more and more challenging and the demands on me increased greatly during the progression of the term. Despite being an inexperienced first year, I was quickly asked to participate in the design teams and offer my guidance on the development of the fourth generation battery boxes. I was out of my depth but I was working on a real product so even if I wasn’t good at it, I felt as if I was doing something cool. At all points, I was drawn in by a genuine desire to be part of the change I wanted to see in the world. I had spent many years complaining about poverty and inequality, this time I wasn’t just an idle bystander, I was part of the solution.

Feeling motivated by for the type of work I was doing as an engineer, and the type of work I wanted to do in the future, I started on the impossible task of choosing between aluminium and steel as a material for the battery boxes. This decision was to be based on the weighted advantages and disadvantages of either material. This was a type of reasoning that was new to me. So far, my experience in consequential decision making had been limited to TV shows and chocolate bars. Nonetheless, I persevered and delivered a table of pros and cons to my technical team leader. Knowing it was a team decision took the pressure off entirely.

At the end of that term, a sudden need to visit Rwanda and conduct a survey of all the energy kiosks arose, and I was offered the opportuny to visit and participate in the project. I remember thinking how absolutely crazy it was to be considered; I was a first year – I can’t be trusted?! I have exams – deadlines – I’m too stressed to consider doing something fun or worthwhile. I’m glad that I put aside all my excuses, fears and uncertainties and did it anyway. Those 10 days in Rwanda was the first time I had ventured into Africa. It was incredible to be part of a team whose influence was clearly evident amongst the people we came across. The scenery and the views were breathtaking, and the people I came across were the nicest in the world. For a while during the trip, I felt that there was a constant internal battle between the “e.quinox-field engineer” me and the “first year student” me. I realised that there are many times in our lives where we will think about putting aside something exciting in the pursuit of a deadline or work commitment…this was not going to be one of those times.

Working as an engineer alongside my degree gave me a wealth of skills. I was implementing the things I was learning on my course but in a lateral, complimentary manner. Returning back to the cold bitter winter of London was depressing but I think I had gained a new perspective. I realised that I had been waiting for the right time or the right opportunity to have an impact in the world, when in reality there was no such thing as the perfect time. Six years later, I have had an incredible journey with the society…participated in countless design challenges, social and political debates and taken on a number of roles. Each one driven by a desire to do something in the present. In fact, at university such possibilities are endless.

– Aakeen P. 
Ex-Chair, Technical Adviser 

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