I would like to start off by congratulating myself for my first journal entry! Secondly, I think this is a good opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Megan, I recently completed my undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from University of Michigan, and this fall I will pursue a MPhil in gender studies from University of Cambridge. The year after Cambridge I will return to University of Michigan to pursue a one-year MEng in aerospace engineering.
I still cannot believe that I’m leaving in four weeks, it hasn’t sunk in yet, but at the same time I daydream about the future. For example, (and this exposes how much of a nerd I am by saying this) I imagine how I will do my assignments. I daydream about walking through the city center on my way to a fancy library, hearing city bells ring around the corner, passing by groups of students hanging out and chatting, but on the way to the library finding a shady patch of grass to read there instead. I have already been working through my summer reading list like a happy camper. At first I felt overwhelmed because, honestly, who wouldn’t be when looking at a list of about twenty books, but after it washed over me I remembered that this is what it is like to be in graduate school. I am proud to say that I already read Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life, and whenever the overwhelming feeling creeps in again I remember to frame the reading as a fun, explorative process.
In my research proposal for the Cambridge application I described trying to make STEM more inclusive, that goal is still very strong in my heart, and since it is still early in the school year I purposefully keep my options open. I’ve also noticed a recurring question that I’ve struggled to answer: why did I choose gender studies? This was asked by the Roger M Jones interviewers, my peers, and by Sara Ahmed. I have my prepared response about inclusion within STEM, but now I’m reflecting on why I chose inclusion within STEM. Oddly, this was not asked by my family nor my closest friends. I assume this means that I talk about social justice often enough to the people closest to me. The next question to myself is: what makes me talk about justice in the first place? Was it how my family raised me to stand up for myself and others? Was it how I may have experienced an injustice? Did something external inspire me?
I started speaking out at a very young age– I have memories of approaching bullies on the playground in elementary school and telling them that it’s not ok to treat people disrespectfully. Of course, just like how we’re all human, I also had moments where I wasn’t brave, but it is part of life to forgive oneself and learn how to stand up for others better in the future.
I hope that this year I may reflect on my past and present to figure out why I pursue gender studies. I understand the logical steps like how I first applied for this fellowship to make STEM inclusive, then I completed my undergraduate degree, but instead I now look for more of a self-awareness and “internal reflection” answer. We shall see if I strike gold through one of my summer reading assignments, or maybe later as I choose a research topic, or maybe even later as I research and write my heart out.
Even if I never figure out what motivates me at my core, I am genuinely excited about this year. I want to learn more about myself, meet amazing people, and be better equipped to make space for those historically marginalized.