Written by: Raghav Talwar, 4th Year UNB Engineering Student
Hey, my name is Raghav Talwar. I am currently 21 years old and I grew up as the younger sibling in a joint family in New Delhi, India. Growing up, I was motivated to get good grades and do well in school. However, I was more motivated by the prospect of spending the day in the school playground with my buddies playing football and cricket. So that is what we did! Every day, we would make our way down to the field and play in the summer and in the winter, in the rain and in the sun (mind you, Delhi never got any snow). When I got to high school, I decided to pursue engineering when I grew older. This was due to a combination of several factors. First, I was always good at math, science and problem solving. Second, I come from a family of doctors, and I was always encouraged by my dad to try something other than medical sciences, as our family already had plenty! Due to my interest in machines, moving objects (cars, planes, rockets) and energy generation, mechanical engineering seemed to be the obvious choice. The next and most crucial decision of my life so far was the university I was going to be going to. I gave the engineering entrance examinations in India, the SAT and had applied to universities in Canada and Germany (after years of learning the language). I had several different choices to pick from, and eventually chose to come to the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton. This meant that I would be moving to a totally different country (and continent) to start my engineering degree. Or not quite?
First year: The first semester of my first year in university (2021 Winter) was plagued by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Classes moved online and the world came to a standstill. During this time, I decided to stay at home (in Delhi) and attend classes virtually. My first semester went by smoothly without any hiccups. I could not engage with my fellow classmates (due to classes being online) and instead stayed close to my friends from school, who I would talk to for hours everyday. Life in the first half of 2021 was easy: attend classes, play video games, and stay at home and prepare for the exciting journey ahead of me.
And then came September 2021. The month in which I would officially come to Canada and explore the beauty of this country, and the Atlantic East. On my way here, me and my parents stopped at Maldives and had a little family vacation, after which I went on and landed in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
As the sun reluctantly peeked over the horizon, I stumbled out of bed with all the grace of a newborn giraffe on roller skates. My first day of university awaited, and I was about as prepared as a squirrel in a tornado. Armed with a backpack bursting at the seams and an iced capp in my hand (mind you, this was the first time I’d ever tried anything known as an iced capp and I absolutely LOVED it), I set off into the wild jungle of academia, ready to tackle whatever absurdity the day had in store. Navigating the labyrinthine maze of campus proved to be my first challenge. I eventually found my first lecture hall and slowly got used to the maze where I would have most of my university classes (The magnificent building known as the head hall).
First day on Campus
The first month or so went by in me exploring the city, experiencing the food and finally meeting people in person at the University. I lived on campus in the Neville Jones residence and made a group of friends who would stick with me throughout my years. This period also involved a lot of learning and working with others in group projects, something that I’ve always enjoyed. Towards the end of first year, I started private tutoring for undergraduate math and physics courses. This enabled me to keep basic concepts fresh in my head while helping others, something which helped me greatly throughout the years. I also applied to the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) conference in Ottawa and got selected as one of the few students attending the conference. This experience led me to explore the energy industry and network with industry leaders and executives. Final exams went well, and this ended year 1 of my undergraduate studies!
Exploring the UNB Campus
Second year: By the time second year came around, I had fully adapted to life in the province. Well, at least to everything other than the cold. This was my first-time experiencing temperatures as low as -40C.
I moved into a house with my friends, who I shared a lot of good memories together with. I had started working on my soft skills by picking up a part time job in retail. I would go on to understand that this experience helped me greatly and laid a good foundation for me for my upcoming years. In 2nd year, I worked on a few design projects and got more hands-on experience with solid modelling and prototyping. I designed and modelled an aluminium can punching machine for one of my design projects, and an aircraft landing gear using 4-bar linkages for another. Through these projects, I understood the engineering design process and working in a team where everyone has a different role. I also enrolled myself into the technological management and entrepreneurship diploma at UNB, as management and leadership had always been appealing to me. I also applied for several on campus roles and participated in a lot of events. I landed a role as a math instructor at the math learning centre, this would be the focus of my extra-curricular activities. I found that this role helped me develop leadership skills and the ability to convey my ideas in front of large groups of people, which is one of the reasons I still work at the math department at the university. Throughout second year, I learnt a lot of fundamental engineering concepts, such as my favourite course till date- Thermodynamics. I finished the year off by attending the CNA conference again, which helped me network a bit more and land my first engineering job.. (more on that to follow). I finished on the Dean’s list and was able to get some scholarships at the end of the academic year.
Measuring the strength of spaghetti
Third year: I started looking for jobs around the beginning of the winter term and soon realized the importance of networking and attending conferences, events. I reached out to employers I had met at the conference and that kick started the application process for a summer co-op : something that is often challenging to get. Given the shear number of applicants looking for a summer job, I found the job search stressful at first. I continued attending conferences and networking events, and eventually landed a job at SNC Lavalin (Candu Energy). Other than that, normal proceedings resumed in the university, and I did well in my courses. I made a lot of close friends who made this stressful year go by smoothly. Then came the summer, and I flew out to Ontario to work in Toronto. The job and the prospect of living in a big city again were way too exciting to turn down, and so I started. I joined the Darlington SMR (Small modular reactor) project and was thrilled to do so, as this had been my dream job on the newest and most exciting project in the clean energy sector. Throughout my internship, I took up a variety of different roles as an engineering summer student. I was part of the procurement engineering team and coordinated between different departments and lead engineers regarding procurement activities for the project. This enabled me to learn more about the technical aspects of a variety of different machines such as pumps, turbines, fans, HVAC systems, cranes, generators, heat exchangers and pressure vessels. I also worked directly with a key project engineer on the project and supported several project activities, such as leading and organizing weekly project meetings with all the technical & functional managers and the project directors. The final stretch of my internship focused on providing technical support to the process engineering (mechanical) and civil engineering group by compiling design specification documents. Throughout my internship, I made several friends and connections which will stay with me for life. I participated in a football league where teams from different engineering companies played and became close friends with a lot of wonderful people by spending time with them outside of work.
Demonstration of nuclear isotopes at CNA 2023
Once my internship ended, I returned to the university and took more crucial courses in the mechanical engineering curriculum: fluid dynamics, system dynamics, manufacturing, and machine design. I also took a project management course which I found interesting. In this course, I was able to apply everything I learnt during my internship. In Fall 2023, I received several academic scholarships and prizes for the previous academic year, including the prestigious AEE Canada East Founders Scholarship and the Dr. Rudolf Starkermann Prize in Mechanical Engineering for the highest cumulative GPA in mechanical engineering over 100 credit hours. The year was a huge success both academically and in my personal life. I started working as a youth worker who advocated for youth in care and worked on several challenging cases in the province. Throughout the stressful academic year, spending time with my friends and watching football was my go-to stress buster. I would typically disconnect from studies for most weekends and have a good time, before gearing my brain back up for the upcoming week.
One of many nights of good food and laughter
Fourth Year: I am currently in my 4th year and almost done with my degree (just another year to go). I am actively searching for another co-op position (preferably in the energy industry) and looking forward to my senior design project starting in Fall 2024. University so far has been amazing and I have achieved everything that I hoped to achieve (other than losing in the finals of an intramural soccer tournament..). I hope my last year passes by in a similar fashion before I move into working as a full-time engineer after graduating!
Sailing close to downtown Toronto
Thanks for taking out the time to read this blog and I hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn by searching for my name- Raghav Talwar. Thanks again!