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What I learnt being 25% of the female representation in Mechanical Engineering class

When you are one of the four girls in a class of 120 in the university, on your first day you wonder, “How the hell did I end up here?!”. Then when you are the ‘only’ girl in a class of 12 studying Mechatronics subjects, the high pitched girly voice in your head screams “Where are the girls!? What the hell am I doing with my life!”. The experience has been a massive learning curve for me on how our choices in life lead us to situations and places you thought you could never handle and grow as a person.

As days go by, after learning one and half years in a male dominant field and spending most of my time away from my closest friends, these are what I’ve realized and learnt about life and everything in between.  

1.    That men and women are primarily DIFFERENT creatures. The way we approach a problem, think and reach conclusions are different. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.

2.    Males have a clear advantage in a field like mechanical engineering since they have been exposed and encouraged to learn such fields of interest by the society from a young age. The skills so developed are vital but it doesn’t mean we girls can’t put a brand new perspective to various aspects in mechanical engineering ;)

3.    “Nope!”, the guys are not going to approach you and offer you help. If you need help with your assignments or any subject matter. You have to ask for it.

4.    Despite common belief that guys discourage women to enter male dominated fields, my colleagues in our department have only been helpful in every way and has never dimmed my spirits for being a girl.

5.    The first semester was quite hard. Most guys from other departments told me that I was ‘one-of-the-guys’. Which I am most definitely not. Just because I am from the Mechanical Engineering Department doesn’t mean I am a guy. I am a girly girl. A very stubborn one.

6.    Being the only girl in practical groups, the guys will always expect for you to write down the readings. Which most of the time I do.

7.    Learn to say NO. Knowing your limits and maintaining healthy boundaries is important to survive.

8.    Making time for your close friends is important and you have to put effort in to it. When you are the only person in your friend circle from your department, the deadlines and schedules can crash your time to hang out like the titanic. But in the end you make time for those who matter because you truly love spending time with them.

9.    It is more than okay and so fulfilling to have great friends who love you though you don’t spend every minute together. I have accepted the fact that colleagues from my department and friends in my life are distinctively different and I prefer it to be that way.

10.    You learn to be alone without feeling lonely. Enjoying your time away from your closest friends is not a crime and you shouldn’t feel guilty for it.

11.    Make the best of your time. Sometimes you do feel like “What on earth am I doing? I don’t even like somethings that I am learning.” Well, I don’t think everyone else from other departments like everything that they are.

You can only enjoy the experiences that life brings you. You Only Live ‘this moment’ Once. YOLO. 

-Amali Herath-