What’s it like to study engineering?

We speak to a current UOW student.

Are you still trying to decide whether a STEM degree is the right fit for you?

Meet Luella Rodin: she's in her third year of a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics) at UOW. Like many Year 12 students, she was unsure what or where to study after high school. She loved maths and science, but also had a passion for English and visual arts. She also lived in Sydney, but a local university wasn't the right choice either.  

We sat down with Luella to pick her brains on how she chose a Bachelor of Engineering and why she fell in love with UOW. We also learnt more about those first years of uni and got the inside scoop on how to make the most of them.  


What did you study in Year 12?  

I did physics, advanced maths, extension maths, advanced English, and religion. I also did visual arts. Engineering is very creative, so that helps. I was a diverse student, but maths and physics were my favourite subjects. I would come in for early maths classes most days and always had so much fun doing experiments in physics. I just loved everything. 


Did those subjects inform your interest in studying engineering?  

Engineering was a very natural choice for me. Maths and science were my favourite parts of high school, but I still had to consider my degree because I could have done science. Ultimately, I loved the problem-solving. Engineering was technical but still within the realm of creativity. I could explore very diverse careers and liked the security of going into a degree where I knew I could get a job. 


How did you pick your major?   

I didn't know what to choose at first! I was nervous, so I did the flexible first year to keep my options broad. I came into the degree hoping to discover it over the first year and see what subjects interested me the most. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a bit indecisive, but the more I thought about it, it came to be the clear, obvious option in the end. 


How did you decide on UOW as your university? 

I'm from Sydney, so it was a strange choice. Everyone was like, 'Why not just go to a uni down the road?'. UOW had such a beautiful campus, and it felt relaxing. There are trees and mountains, and then just down the road, there is the beach.  

UOW also had a good balance of academics – it wasn't just all rigorous study. I found it exciting that I could explore all other facets of university life. Plus, I knew the engineering department was quite renowned. I knew it was a practical uni, not just theory-based, so I liked the hands-on experiences. 

It was also just a genuinely friendly university. Plus, it was an adventure. I got to move out of home and do something new.


Did you receive any early admission or scholarships?  

I didn't initially apply for early admission or any scholarships, but I regretted it. Apply for scholarships early on, as you'll have many more options. Everybody thinks they are not good enough, which is silly because that's not true!   

Can you tell me about your experience studying at UOW?   

It's just a great environment. The people are friendly, and the teachers are approachable. I feel comfortable emailing whoever I need whenever I need them. The facilities are excellent, and we always have access to them for independent projects. There are many opportunities to get involved on campus. Doing student mentoring has been a great experience, so I always recommend people get involved in at least something.   


Did anything surprise you about your degree?  

I thought maths and science would be the most interesting part, but I don't think I exactly understood what engineering was. I wasn't one of those people who had a background in engineering. Nobody in my life was involved in it, but I was pleasantly surprised by the new challenges. My favourite part is project work, and I suppose group work. When you get a good group, and you're all passionate about something, that's been fun working together and bouncing ideas off each other. Seeing something come to life that you've designed is rewarding. You apply all your knowledge, and seeing the final product come together is rewarding.  


Can you tell me about the work experience you've had?  

I did the Engineering and Information Sciences Summer Research Scholarship, where you worked on a project with an academic for ten weeks. I was paid, and it counted towards my 12 weeks of compulsory work placement. We developed hardware in the loop test platform for electromagnetic suspension.   

I got to work on more independent research, but I was able to bounce ideas off other students in the program. It was interesting to collaborate with other people doing more advanced research, and again, I took all the knowledge I learnt in my first few years and applied it. 

It was a challenge. I had to watch a lot of YouTube and read a lot of academic research papers, which are very different to standard textbooks.    


What are your plans after graduation?  

I'd like to see what industry work might be like. I'm leaning towards getting a job in the mechatronics field. Industry experience is appealing, but future education is on the table.   


Any advice for students considering studying engineering at UOW?  

UOW is a friendly environment, and I've found it easy to fit in. That's an underrated aspect of university. You could walk into other unis that would feel less comfortable. You can quickly get involved with programs to meet people. Many support services are available to get you through your first years. I don't feel like a tiny fish in a big ocean. There is plenty of support available, so you just need to reach out.