I am an adult student with a strong ambition to gain my Civil Engineering Master’s degree. Although I have had to overcome many obstacles to study in the United Kingdom, I am very happy here. At times being a student so far away from my wife and children is difficult, but I know we will have a better life if I meet my goal. Learning to think creatively about Civil Engineering has been very exciting. I have learned ways to strengthen my resolve to reach my goals. I have also learned how to change some of my behaviours so I can work better in a team. I like to think I have an Innovative Attitude about how to problem solve. The lessons I have learned fit well with my ideas about sustainability and green buildings.
I like to meet the career goals I set for myself therefore gaining a degree in Civil Engineering at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) is very important to me. This semester is the first time in my academic studies that I learned about the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). As I reflect on the past semester I realize how much I appreciate the perspective of ICE. I have shared my thoughts and reflections in the following essay. I will introduce myself and describe in detail my thoughts about learning how to better meet my goals. I have also written more about ICE, ethical behaviour and building a future based on sustainability.
1.2 A Professional and a Student
I am an adult student, 37 years old, who already has a career as a naval officer. I have come to England from Kuwait especially to gain a degree in civil engineering from NTU. Unfortunately, I have had to leave my wife and children in Kuwait while I finish my degree. On the other hand, the opportunity for me is really an opportunity for all of us, so we can enjoy a better life. The SWOT exercise was important to me because I had to think of my character in terms of my strengths and weaknesses. I realized that I am capable of organizing important paperwork to meet deadlines, I can work well under stress, and I handle high pressure situations well because of the challenges I have experienced in my life. I always insist on meeting my goals even though it can be very difficult. My determination carries me through many difficult times, so that no matter what happens, I will always reach my goals.
1.3 Personal Concerns
My strong personality has helped me find ways to pursue career opportunities. That is why I am happy to have a chance to gain a master’s degree in CE from NTU. One advantage is that I will be able to work in the UK once I have my degree. On the other hand, my weaknesses lead to some risks. I worry about my family and sometimes have to take a break from my studies to return home to deal with personal issues. English is not my native language so I don’t understand some English accents well and become confused when people speak to me. Also I do not write English quickly, so I take a long time finishing my assignments because I need to check my spelling and grammar. This is a problem when I take exams because reading the questions and answering them takes me a long time. I do not work efficiently with the English language, so I am taking a risk by coming to university in England. Although, for people who want to learn English well, there is no better place in the world to do that than England so taking a risk is the best way to meet my goal. I am a stranger here and that makes me feel shy about exposing my ideas to others.
1.4 Academic Goals & Sustainability
I want to learn how to
- incorporate sustainable materials in civil engineering projects,
- recycle plastics and use them in roads applications,
- learn new technologies in civil engineering, and
- work with others building a complex inside the military base.
Pursuing sustainable strategies is something that must happen to lessen the problems with climate change. Civil engineers are in a great place to make big changes. Figure 1 is from a planning guide for the European Union that includes the concepts that are important for sustainability in transportation construction. The guidelines offered are to help civil engineers and other professions think creatively about highways, railways and air travel so that we can work towards a shared vision. Planning for the long-term is important, so the vision is for what transportation will look like in the year 2040. I like the way the concept is presented because it includes creating eco-friendly and reliable transport infrastructure that will last for a long time.
Figure 1 Sustainable strategies in highway construction (EU, 2008)
1.4 Learning from the Ted Talks
Listening to the Ted Talks helped me learn how to deal with some of the problems I have been having. The Ted Talks are a good resource and I will continue to listen to other talks. Below are some of the thoughts I had after reflecting upon what I heard in some of the talks.
1.5 ICE & Ethics
I am happy to know about ICE. Firstly, the purpose of ICE to “foster and promote the art and science of civil engineering,” gives me a sense of pride for being a part of a large institution that has a noble purpose. Secondly, I like the perspective of problem-solving for local challenges by keeping in mind global influences as well as local. ICE is a good organization because the members think about the impact of the solutions that are chosen to solve long-term, global problems. A foundation of the organisation is to behave professionally and ethically.
Figure 2 is a diagram of a good strategy for a person to act ethically and remember to consider the good of other people and the environment. For example, the decision making process should include serious consideration of what the consequences will be. And just as importantly, actions need to be taken while accepting that I have personal responsibility for what I do and the impacts my actions make. As a professional I need to make sure that my personal
Figure 2 Ethical thinking (google images)
values and opinions do not interfere with doing my job well. A talk that made a strong impression on me was about the disaster in Haiti from the large earthquake. The ethical way to carry out a project is to make sure the project does not negatively affect the safety of people. The disaster in Haiti is a good lesson on that point.
1.6 The Future
I plan to build my own house one day and I am very excited about learning to use new technology and sustainable strategies. The Gulf Organization for Research and Development (GORD) in July, 2012 initiated an Eco-Villa based on sustainability. Figure 3 shows how passive solar can be used in homes in countries like Kuwait. The plans for the Eco-Villa includes outdoor patio sitting with and without shade so the space can be used under the sun or in the evening. Those are the types of features I would like in the home I build for my family. Figure 4 demonstrates how the air inside the house can be controlled to stay at a comfortable level with natural ventilation and modern wind catchers.
I am excited that civil engineering is a profession that allows me to learn environmentally friendly and sustainable ways to build and problem solve. Learning about the organization ICE is important to me because I have a way to stay connected to other engineers who have similar values. Although I have many responsibilities at this time in my life, I think that I have made a good choice to pursue my degree in the UK.
Figure 3 Qatari Eco-Villa (LSI Architects)
Figure 4 Home for living in desert regions (LSI Architects)
Allhoff, F. (2011). What are applied ethics? Science & Engineering Ethics, 17(1-19), doi: 10.1007/s11948-010-9200-z
GORD (Gulf Organisation for Research & Development). (2013). Eco Villa. GORD, http://www.gord.qa/index.php?page=eco-villa
LSI Architects. (n.d.) Gord Eco Villas, Qatar. http://www.lsiarchitects.co.uk/project.php?p=2220&img=0http://www.lsiarchitects.co.uk/)
E.U. (2008). NR2C: New road construction concepts. http://www.fehrl.org/nr2c