During my time at UNC-Charlotte, I have learned some incredible things, including that I love to travel and that I do not want college to end. Over the past two summers, I have had the opportunity to complete a study-abroad program in South Africa and an engineering internship in Lisbon, Portugal. I enjoyed these cultural experiences so much that I wanted to see what other opportunities I could participate in, which led me to apply for an out-of-state Mechanical Engineering co-op for the spring semester of 2020, and land a unique experience in Madison, Wisconsin.
I was offered a six-month co-op at Cummins as a design engineer. A co-op is essentially an extended internship that takes place during a typical academic semester instead of the summer. Although my Cummins internship will delay my graduation by one semester, the valuable work experience will, hopefully, translate into more job opportunities upon graduation.
The drive from North Carolina to Wisconsin is a 14-hour road trip. To break the long drive up, I made a pit stop in Chicago, a place I had never visited. For two days, I ate my way around the city consuming deep dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, and Italian beef sandwiches. In-between all of the delicious food stops, I was able to visit The Art Institute of Chicago, the Bean, and the Sears Tower. I have to say I really enjoyed my time in Chicago and look forward to returning someday.
Once I arrived in Madison, Wisconsin I was greeted with a drive across a frozen lake with dozens of people ice fishing and the Wisconsin Capital Building towering in the distance. As I looked across the frozen lake, I smiled, knowing that my time in Madison was going to be a completely new adventure filled with many new learning opportunities.
At Cummins, my initial position was working with the Current Products team where we fixed issues with previously released designs. On my first project, I was assigned to make changes to a coupler design. The changes would eventually save the company future manufacturing costs. Over the first three months, I continued to work on fixing designs that caused failures in the field. This past month, I switched positions and I am currently working within a team that is designing one of the 2024 emission systems. Since I have been an outdoor enthusiast my entire life, the most satisfying part of my job is knowing that my work in the Emission Solutions department is helping reduce our carbon footprint. I go to work each day knowing that I am making a small difference in our pursuit to build a more sustainable world.
For those of you, like me, who have never been to Wisconsin before, I have to say Wisconsin is very different from North Carolina in many ways, but the most significant difference is the weather. Remember, I left North Carolina at a slightly above average January temperature in the 60’s and I arrived to a frozen lake with people ice fishing. This winter was “mild” and the lowest temperature was “only” -9 degrees so I guess I got lucky. I will say despite the cold, it was awesome to experience a real winter where the ground was covered with snow for weeks on end, being able to walk on frozen lakes, and getting excited when it snowed more than a few inches.
Another reason why I have enjoyed my experience so much is my decision to room with six University of Wisconsin students. It has allowed me to still be in a college environment while I work a full-time job. Through playing pickup basketball, attending hockey games, and ice fishing, we have created some great memories. I am going to miss them once I am gone, but I will visit again soon. They insist that I must come back for a Badger’s football game for a full Madison experience.
While a Co-op may not fit into everyone’s experience as a Levine Scholar, I will say it has been a very formative experience for me, and one that I will complete with more skills and expertise in my future field of Engineering, and a lifetime full of memories