Every fall, Goergen 101 welcomes 100 or so bright first-years who all wear their lanyards around their necks and proudly tell everyone they meet that they’re majoring in Biomedical Engineering (BME). These students are about to take their first steps to completing a very interesting, very strenuous curriculum. They’ve gone on Better CDCS over a million times. They’ve heard Prof. Brown reassuring them that UR has this great “open-curriculum” system.

Then they hear him chuckle and say, mostly to himself, that this doesn’t apply to BME.

Yet, they confidently march toward their own misery. They have very solid reasons for their major choice. As a former BME survivor, I can share a few:

  • It’s everything their parents have dreamt of (aka medicine and engineering) in one major.
  • It’s the only major that can cure cancer.
  • It sounds cool.
  • You get the very exclusive right to complain for four years because “everyone else is doing nothing.”
  • $$$, no matter how hard STEM students try to deny it.
  • True passion, maybe. (Why else leave the warmth of the tunnel system for the Engineering Quad?)

And then, halfway through the semester, a midterm happens. It just happens. BMEs are people who plan their senior year spring semester schedules in the fall of their first year, and even they can’t prepare for this midterm. It doesn’t matter how hard you worked crafting the most comprehensive cheat sheet ever — chances are, you didn’t use it for anything besides wiping your tears on the way out. That midterm was the turning point for many ex-BMEs, they just didn’t know it yet.

Doubt starts to spread among the BMEs. Desperate for reassurance, they start seeking inspiration by asking other desperate students, which only makes things worse:

 A Sample Exchange Between Two Desparate BME Majors:
“Are you staying in BME?”
“What are you switching to?”
“I don’t know…  anything… Computer Science!”

 So they switch to another “cool” STEM major. Most of these lost students, including yours truly, decide on CS using the process of elimination. It’s true. We have very solid reasons behind this decision:

  • All other majors suck.
  • “True passion” dating back to those two lines of code we wrote in high school, though we all know that this reason is one big lie.
  • Even the “passionate” CS students were already doing fine skipping their CSC 171 lectures.
  • $$$, no matter how hard CS students try to deny it.

When it starts to smell like home

Yet, in random moments, when a smell catches me off guard with the memories it brings, I like to believe the things I feel then are things people feel when they are home.

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