An Engineering Student Copes with COVID-19 Quarantine

This is a first in a series of articles written by the Science and Engineering library’s student assistants about their life during the COVID-19  quarantine.

My name is Nairah (Nay- er-ah) Moustafa , a junior biomedical engineering (BME) major with an engineering management (EngM) minor. I am from Alexandria, Egypt but was born and raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (No, I am not Saudi–it’s complicated). I hate taking pictures of myself, but well….here I am sweaty and smiling (despite the circumstances) on a very sunny day on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in South Carolina.

Living off campus and relocating while having to keep up with classes and exams wasn’t very straightforward. I stayed on campus as long as I could as it seemed the safest option. Travelling for 24+ hours during a pandemic is risky and my brother goes to Vandy also, so I had one family member with me. We clung together and tried to survive.

Taking classes online was truly terrible in every single way. I don’t feel I learned the material with as much depth and understanding as I did when I went to class. My professors were very understanding and tried to make the best out of the situation. When exams were over, my brother and I moved to a family friend’s house in South Carolina.

It was an adventure for me since I’ve never been that far out of state before. South Carolina reminds me of my hometown in Alexandria. The humidity and summer-y vibes are familiar. My brother and I used the opportunity of having more kitchen space and equipment to cook the Middle Eastern food that we so crave.

Every day we walk in the sun for hours getting tan as we explore the neighborhood. Every day we speak to the rest of the family for no less than five hours. Sometimes we would call not to talk, but to just feel their presence with us.

Two-and-a-half seasons of The Great British Baking Show, and three seasons of Once Upon a Time later, we moved to a friend’s house. Now we have even better kitchen facilities and we are cooking more, and , spending hours playing “Mario Party” on the game cube (I lose every time), and the board game Clue.

Now, I realize, it’s time to be a bit productive. I am a junior with a resume that is somewhat lacking. So, I decided to enroll in two Coursera courses for certification. They are a bit challenging, but I guess that’s what makes them fun?

I am doing a bit of investigating in the hopes of starting a biomedical engineering club. I know what I want it to be about, but am struggling with how to identify projects.  I am also trying to figure out what to do as a BME major. Should I go to grad school? Should I get a job? Should I leave the engineering field and do consulting? Should I switch majors and do something that I might like or hate just to have better chances of securing a job when I graduate? Is it too late?

In addition, I am still working with the Career Development Committee for the International Student Council on perfecting our LinkedIn group (Vanderbilt International Students and Alums Career Group) that hopefully will be a lasting legacy that will help international students ease their job search and not feel completely alone in the process of applying for optional practical training, finding internships and job opportunities and networking.


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