Monday, November 30, 2015

Perspective from a New Team Member

Fresh in university and in a foreign country far from home:  stepping onto UF campus to begin my undergraduate degree was both exciting and frightening at the same time. Everything felt foreign, strange and unfamiliar. But in addition to the many peculiarities I had to learn and adapt, I found great friends sharing similar dreams and ideals. In the beginning of the fall semester, I joined the Nepal Team, a part of UF’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapter. Over the span of these months, I have gotten to know a passionate, hard-working and outgoing group of people from all over the world, pursuing a wide range of engineering degrees, with a diverse plethora of cultural backgrounds and different goals for their own future. Yet they all share a common trait: a strong passion for helping those who do not have the opportunities that we enjoy here at UF.

Becoming a member of the EWB Nepal team is one of the best decisions I have made at UF, and I felt included from day one. While many engineering clubs meet only in their labs, with members rarely seeing each other outside the club, the Nepal Team has a strong, compassionate atmosphere. We bond over car-washes and fundraising events, take care of each other and make friends for life. The enthusiasm for the project is great, and knowing that there is a purpose greater than oneself adds another dimension to our work.

I decided to join the UF’s EWB Nepal Team because the team’s values resonate so well with the perception I have of my major: I believe that engineering is the answer to many of today and tomorrow’s challenges, ranging from freshwater scarcity to land-mine victim prosthesis. Global engineering requires a global perspective, and this is what makes EWB so unique: it offers not only a peek into the challenges faced and the solutions engineered by peoples across the world, but also a unique insight into their very culture, thinking and way of life.

I believe that challenges faced by one people in one country rarely are unique for that country, and rarely have a cause confined to that area solely. Solutions are best formed through collaboration across cultural, ethnical and geographical backgrounds. The examples are numerous. Every day, in every part of the world, innovative engineering is pushing the world forward.

The Khanalthok community is no exception. Despite being faced with shortage of necessities such as clean, reliable drinking water, the villagers in Khanalthok get up every day and work hard to ensure food on the table, take care of the elderly, and to provide education for the young.  Nevertheless, there are many burdening difficulties, and the earthquake in May had a shattering impact on the fragile community. Many suffer from severe back problems because of heavy loads from carrying weighty baskets of drinking water from remote springs.

However, simple solutions can make a big difference. I work alongside incredible colleagues in the Nepal Team, and we are making rapid progress. The work is both inspirational and educative, and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to learn about the peoples in Khanalthok, their culture and their ways of life. I am a part of the UF EWB Nepal Team both to learn and to contribute, and I am incredibly excited for the up-coming year.

Andreas Noer (Norway)

Mechanical Engineering Sophomore 

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