Back in Bethlehem

I can’t believe I’m back.  I just spent four months in Freiburg, Germany in a study abroad program taking courses in environmental science and environmental studies for my IDEAS environmental engineering major.  While students were studying at Lehigh for spring semester, I was studying here:


I can absolutely say it feels weird to be home.  In Freiburg I biked for 15 minutes along a river to class everyday, as well as to the grocery store and out to eat and to the park and essentially everywhere imaginable.  Fresh bread was offered on every corner, produce was cheap, and scoops of ice cream went for a euro!  Now, back at Lehigh for summer, I am struggling to readjust, but making the best of it!  There’s a new grocery store in South Bethlehem called C-Town that has super cheap produce, and I found an old, under-loved bike in my friend’s backyard.  My ultimate goal is to get the bike working, attach a basket, and bike to the grocery store just like I did in Freiburg.  People in Germany are a lot more wary of their ecological footprint, and I want to bring the trend here as much as I can.

Has study abroad changed me? Absolutely.  On the weekends and for spring break I ended up traveling to Paris, Berlin, Salzburg, Vienna, Stuttgart, Diemeringen, Colmar, Alsace, the Swiss Alps, the Vosges Mountains, Budapest, Athens, and Santorini…all on a meager college student budget.  In each city I can recall an experience that will forever be a warm and fulfilling memory.  For instance, in Vienna I got to see the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (aka one of the best in the world) perform at a palace:


And in Stuttgart, I got to meet my third cousins for the first time and see the house my Oma grew up in and the church she was married in.

I feel the need to explain my experiences because I want whoever is reading this, be it a potential or current Lehigh student, to know that if you want to study abroad you can make it happen.  I’m in the IDEAS program and could therefore incorporate my classes abroad into my humanities and social sciences requirements.  I found an internship over winter break to save up for traveling, and then I was off.  Study abroad is very intimidating, but totally doable, and absolutely worth it.

Paths of a CivE: Part 3/Me

Part 3 is me. Anyway like students 1&2 am a CivE and I am hoping to be in the Co-op program as well but I have a different path cut out for myself. I will be here over the summer for summer courses. I have signed a lease on my first apartment. I have begun taking classes in Economics for my Economics minor (something I wouldn’t have ever thought of before Lehigh) and I am involved with EWB and its project class (more on that in a future post). I am currently in CHOICE housing. I hope to move back to Connecticut with either my Co-op position  or future entry level position. I also blog, obviously.

So anyway, come to Lehigh and you can do anything you want. There are endless paths and I don’t think I know any two stories exactly alike here.

Paths of a CivE: Part 2

This is the second post of this blog. I am basically giving examples of the paths you can take at Lehigh!

Student 2 is also a CivE. His summer plans are similar to mine, but his other plans are not. He like me plans to be a co-op student. We have applied to the same jobs. But Lehigh has endless paths, we may intersect but no one’s life is the same.

Last summer he had an internship, which is much less common for sophomore students. This year he leads his own division of the steel bridge team where they design and build their own steel bridge for competition with other universities. This is their site if you were curious. and he plans to live on campus and wants to stay in PA. He is also a semester ahead in classes and on the water polo team.

Paths of a CivE: Part 1

Lehigh is great because it is a gateway to many options. Anything you read on this blog or another Lehigh blog is just one option of many. Don’t get me wrong if you read about someone who studied abroad and you want to follow in their footsteps, that is completely possible. However when it comes to Lehigh they are limitless. Take my group of friends for example. I won’t name names so lets call them Student 1,2 and 3. Thing three doesn’t exist to Dr. Seuss but for the sake of the post, he/she/it does now. It is important to note that everyone following is in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department! I decided to split these into multiple blog posts because it would be ridiculously Long

Student 1 is a CivE like me. He takes all the same courses and what not, but his summer plans differ greatly from mine. He is starting his own research project on Lehigh’s Mountaintop Campus. This is not normal for undergraduates, but at Lehigh these things are possible. He has a few professor’s backing and he will be paid healthily for his work. I believe he’s working on some kind of sustainable living on mars project. All his own creating, and all his own plan. If you are interested you can find more about it at Anyway Thing 1 lives in Rhode Island and is planning to become a writer on top of his CivE degree and Philosophy minor. Could see yourself doing this? Choose Lehigh CEE

Das Orchester

What’s fantastic about having this internship and basically living on campus is that I can still be involved in Lehigh activities.  For instance, the Lehigh Philharmonic Orchestra had a concerto concert this February where ambitious student musicians played orchestra-accompanied solo pieces.  Here are me and my fellow flute players, who, along with the rest of the orchestra, accompanied the prodigies that performed:


I will absolutely miss orchestra when I go abroad.  Even though three hours a week is a heavy commitment, it is worth being able to rehearse amongst the violins and violas in Baker Hall.

Having not been in an orchestra until coming to Lehigh, I remember when I first heard everyone warming up on stage.  Not only was I ecstatic about making the cut, I was super intimidated because of how amazing everybody sounded.  But above all of these feelings, I felt so relieved that I was going to be a part of a musical organization for another four years of my life.  Playing in orchestra is the ultimate stress reliever (as long as you practice so you’re good enough to not be stressed during rehearsal) because the music kind of envelopes you like a giant supportive and comforting cloud.  I’ve definitely gained some insight into the world of classical music over these past three years too, in addition to learning from my uber talented peers.  This past fall, we played Symphony No. 7 by Shostakovich, which was basically the music-form diary of his survival in war-stricken Leningrad during WWII.  It’s really amazing learning the history of the composers whose pieces we play, because it gives you that much more attachment to the piece.

Hopefully in Freiburg, Germany during study abroad, even though I won’t be in an orchestra, I’ll still be able to play my flute!  I have this horrifying image of a native German rapping on my door, pointing to my flute, and sternly saying, “nein!”  So, we’ll see if I have the guts to try playing or not!

Co-op and Changing

Lehigh never ceases to amaze me with its ability to mold me into a marketable engineering student.

With freshman year I was able to make connections with professors, get used to living on my own, and organize my goals for the future. Last semester I was finally introduced to classes within the Civil Engineering Department. I got aquatinted with actual engineering education and put it to use in many group projects. This year is the most astounding yet in my development. Before this semester I couldn’t even fathom applying for jobs in the engineering field, I wasn’t quite sure how to create a resume, write a cover letter, or introduce myself to a potential employee, but the co-op program has changed all of that in 1 short month.

What is a co-op?

Co-op stands for cooperative education. The program at Lehigh consists of 2 work rotations (like internships) with the same company. The first rotation occurs in fall of your junior year. Instead of taking classes you work with the company you were hired by for 4 months. The second rotation occurs during the summer between junior and senior year. You are paid, receive excellent in-field experience, and credits towards your major.

Sounds Great, So Whats The Trouble….

You have to get hired. This is where I am right now. I was accepted into the Lehigh co-op program itself, but in order to participate I have to be hired by a company offering a co-op position. This involves applications, resumes, interviews, phone calls, and getting familiar with companies.

So back to how Lehigh has improved me this semester!

I haven’t secured a position yet, offers don’t come out until march. However, even if I am not able to acquire a job I am excited with my new skills. I’ve been to several resume critiques and my resume is now something I can be proud of! I’ve interviewed for  two positions already and after the first one my confidence level has tripled. I no longer tremble at the thought of an interview. Finally I now know where to look for jobs, how to appeal to employers, and the etiquette required in interviews, information sessions and so on. I feel like even if I don’t get a co-op that I am extremely prepared for the job market when I graduate. Something that only a place like Lehigh could allow me to achieve in a month!

From Lehigh to Harrisburg

View of the Lehigh Valley on my way to work @ Synergy.

View of the Lehigh Valley on my way to work @ Synergy.

My winter as a Lehigh student has been out of the ordinary compared to most.  Since my study abroad program starts at the end of February, I have an awkward two-month gap period where I am not in Lehigh classes and not yet studying in Freiburg, Germany (this is my abroad destination, scroll down to learn more about the awesome opportunity I have to go!). In this gap of time, since I don’t have to worry about school, I’m interning at Synergy Environmental Inc., an environmental engineering consulting company.

Interning here has exposed me to so much knowledge and understanding, not only in the technical realm, but in the world of business.  I will post more about those details in the days to come.  What I want to highlight today is my experience in Harrisburg at the Environmental Justice Advisory Board (EJAB) meeting.  My boss is on the board as an environmental engineer representative and joined by environmental lawyers, professors, industry representatives, environmental justice (EJ) community representatives, and members of the DEP.


View of Harrisburg from DEP office.

The discussions that took place during this EJAB meeting revolved around EJ zones, established by the DEP, that need attention.  It was interesting witnessing the analysis of real-life ethical and environmental issues taking place in PA, like in Chester.  The fact that there are people worrying about problems like poor air quality in impoverished areas gives me hope for humanity.  I will say, however, that every member of the board is a member for a reason.  The reasons range from the more respectable, like having a keen interest in promoting ethical environmental practices, to the less respectable, like making the not quite eco-friendly company he/she represents look good.


Behind me are past secretaries of the DEP.

A highlight of this adventure was that I got to meet the new secretary of the PA DEP, John Quigley.

Check back soon if you want to read more about my internship and soon-to-come adventures in Deutschland!


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