Things I Wish I Could Tell My Senior-Self

Happy February!

In this post, I wanted to do some reflecting and share some wisdom I have gained since coming to college… And I know, I know, what wisdom can a 20-year-old have? Well, going to college is like speed reading a “Discover Who You Really Are for Dummies” book where half the chapters are missing and even when you follow the book exactly, things still don’t always go as planned. After two years and three semesters, I feel like a pro. But watch, tomorrow I will accidentally go to the wrong room or pull a complete amateur move because let’s be real, even the wisest people aren’t that wise during an 8 am class.

Now, while I’m still getting the hang of this whole college thing, I can confidently give advice on things I wish I could tell my senior-self. This idea came when I was applying for internships – I know, scary – and needed my high school transcript. When I went to pull up my old high school’s website, I saw a new “alumni” tab. And that’s when it hit me… I’m an alum! Working in the Office of Development for Embry-Riddle, I always knew I wanted to give back when I became an alum of the university. It had never occurred to me I was already an alum, but of my high school! Long story short, I began to reflect on my high school days and realized I thought I knew it all but boy was I wrong!

To begin, I was a good high school student. It’s not like I ditched class and I’m reflecting on how that was a bad idea. I had a GPA above a 4.0, took college classes, was the president of the National Honor Society and DECA, volunteered, and played a sport. Meanwhile, I worked two jobs and flew at the local airport. Life was busy but very fun. I always knew I wanted to go to Embry-Riddle. It had been my dream school since the 7th grade and my school counselor didn’t even try convincing me otherwise. Sounds like a pretty good time, right? It was! But, there are still things I wish I would have done or known and here they are:

  1. Take as many AP and dual-enrollment classes as possible: When you are paying thousands of dollars to learn basic biology, you will understand what I mean. College, especially ours, has so many interesting courses so try to knock out as many of the basic ones in high school.
  2. Do an internship: My high school offered an internship program and I really wish I had done it! Once you begin applying for internships, you realize that companies want experience and high school is a great time to begin.
  3. Find a mentor: Mentors are super important and I wish I saw this in high school. Always be on the lookout for networking opportunities. My sister’s friend’s mom (convoluted I know, sorry!) went to Embry-Riddle and works for Frontier now! It was nice to have her introduce me to people, write letters of recommendations, invite me to the Women in Aviation Conference as a senior in high school, and then be a great name to drop as an “in” when I attend Frontier events.
  4. Apply for scholarships: You’ve heard it a million times and I’m sorry but… It’s so important to apply, even when you are in college. Since many scholarships have similar essay topics, keep a folder with your essays and use those to quickly write more for other scholarships. Free money is free money and definitely worth 30 minutes of your time. My advice to high schoolers – look local. Even in my tiny town of Castle Rock, Colorado we had many scholarships being handed out by the local library and community organizations.
  5. Tour your top three:  As I mentioned, I knew I wanted to attend Embry-Riddle since 7th grade, so anytime I toured another school, I fell more in love with our unique university. The line was always, “But Riddle has…” If you are unsure where to go, choose your top three schools to tour. Touring a university gives you a great understanding of what your life would be like there. Try to see if you can sit in on a class or if you are touring Embry-Riddle – a flight! Just like you would test drive a car before buying it, tour the campuses of the universities you are most interested in. I say three because if you need to travel it adds up! The investment is definitely worth it! Once you see a campus, you can also begin planning your transition, like what items you need to start buying!
  6. Choose friends wisely: Once you leave high school, your life moves on. While you will see your friends during breaks, and social media allows us to always be connected, make sure your focus is on you and your future. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most. I remember it was so easy to get caught up in drama but once you leave those high school doors for the last time, everything else shifts up in importance. Don’t waste your time and energy now on bad friendships. That being said, keep your closest friends close and if you end up on either side of the country (like me and my best friend), dedicate one day of the week for catching up over FaceTime!
  7. Begin dorm shopping ASAP: Packing for college is exciting and stressful. It can be hard to know exactly what you need but even harder to find certain items in the summer once everyone is shopping for their dorms too. Think ahead and get big ideas, like a mattress topper and steamer now and keep them in your closet. No matter where you go, whichever dorm you end up in, you will appreciate the early access but also the spread of costs since moving can add up.
  8. Join your college’s accepted student social media page: Embry-Riddle and many colleges offer social media connections. Think of it as a mini social media site just for your new incoming class. I know many people met their roommates using this app, made friend groups who met up during orientation, or were able to obtain answers to a lot of their questions this way. There is also an admissions adviser who helps answer questions quickly, so be sure to utilize this app and make friends now!
  9. Enjoy home: Once you are away at college and there are no more home cooked meals, you have to do your own laundry, and no one checks in on you, you quickly miss home. There are many times when I come back from a long day and miss my mom having a meal made for me and being able to do homework with my family in the living room with me. Cherish these moments because you will definitely miss them no matter how close you are to your family.
  10. Use your resources: I recommend talking to your high school counselor and college counselor often. Do not be shy when it comes to college. Finances and academics are confusing as you make your transition over, but remember tons of people do it and so can you. Your counselors have helped many others before you and are there to help now! Be smart and utilize your resources. If you are too nervous, try to find a current student to reach out to. For women coming to Embry-Riddle, you have a Women’s Ambassador. On top of that, my mom’s friend’s daughter also attended school here, so I was able to meet with her during summer and have my questions answered! It’s a small world, you never know who you may know that could be useful! (P.S. Do you FASFA earlier rather than later! It was the most stressful part of starting college for me.)

I hope these tips serve you well! The biggest takeaway: it all works out in the end! These are just tips to be a little extra wise!

– Maddie Dietrich

Working the D-Hangar

Today was my first day at work for Dynamic Aviation (DA). I ended up filling out loads of Human Resources paperwork, watching two movies on sexual harassment and safety, and taking a drug test. By the end of the work day, I was able to meet some of my co-workers and get started on cleaning de-icer boots. I left work today more confused about what the company “does” than when I started. The topics of “TOP SECRET CLEARANCE” and, “absolutely under no circumstances will you take photos” have a little something to do with my confusion. Because of that, you won’t be seeing photos of my workplace.

I am slowly learning names. At least the ones I remember to write down that is. I bring a note book to work every day. I write down employee names and maintenance notes. If they are a senior employee I also add something we talked about in our conversations together. I do this just in case I decide to write him an email later down the line. For two days now I have been shadowing an A&P mechanic named Ricky. He has been working for Dynamic Aviation for 3 months now in their Dash-8 modifications hangar. So far, all we have done is de-wax de-icer boots that go on the leading edges of the Bombardier Dash-8. We still have a couple days of stripping wax ahead of us. A great thing about this internship so far is the HUGE lunch break! Every day at noon the entire company practically sits outside for an hour to eat lunch. Two ladies from HR walk the parking lot for exercise. One mechanic I work with even walks the entire airport facility.

Three days and I am still cleaning de-icer boots. I am starting to learn more about how DA distributes its maintenance work. Who are the sheet metal guys, who are the avionics guys, etc. DA actually contracts a lot of things out which was surprising to me. I met some electricians who don’t even have their A&P because they fall under their contractor’s certificate to just do that one job. All day they make wire bundles that will be used on the new avionics packages that DA and its customers determined the planes need. DA has contracts with the government to recon and surveillance as well as contracts with the agricultural industry. After work I was so tired I practically went straight to bed. In the dorm room I am staying in, I have one roommate. He’s nice, respectful, and an aspiring pilot/mechanic like me. DA is paying me to work as well as covering the dorm room costs to live at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU). So I guess I really should not complain about cleaning the de-icer boots of an about to be modified military contracted aircraft.

Friday! Ricky and I finally finished working on the boots and started taking off an engine exhaust fingernail panel (think about a 2 foot wide by 5 foot long plane exhaust tip). I have learned this week that the Dash-8 planes we are working on have come from Africa. An airline in Africa sold the planes to DA for extremely cheap because they were in a seriously rough condition. As of now we are recording all problems with the planes we find and cleaning the corrosion off so that DA can determine which -8 out of the five that they bought will be the cheapest to restore. Finally! I know a little about this maintenance program!!!

After work I drove to Maryland to see my cousin and help renovate their house. Saturday and Sunday my cousin’s husband and I replaced ceiling, laid rock board which will eventually see tile, and installed a water outlet for a washing machine. Back home to EMU in Harrisonburg by 6pm. At 11pm our new roommate Gary arrived from California.
I don’t know if I was tired from this past weekend, or am just not use to having steel toed boots on, because I felt like I was dragging my feet all morning. After lunch I started to work a little faster. Ricky and I have been put on a job installing the baggage compartment flooring inside a -8/100. First we had to clean and paint some corroded spots and inspect the entire area for damage. Other interns, like my roommate, are working in the paint shop, hose/upholstery shop, or working for facilities. I consider myself pretty lucky to land a position in the modification department in the D-hangar with the big planes. I spoke to Matt, our HR rep who handles all the interns, and talked about possibly working for the flight department for two weeks just to meet people and get some face time. He said it was a possibility, but it will take a week or so to set up.

Today I started work in “fast mode.” As soon as I could, I jumped into the -8 and started installing floor panels. One of the older mechanics needed some help so I jumped in a scissor lift and helped him attach a de-icer boot to the vertical stabilizer. Thirty feet high strapped to a lift screwing in boots absolutely made my day. This goes to show you how well DA treats their interns, especially if you’re motivated. Some “higher ups” in the company stopped by the hangar today and asked a question to the other gentlemen beside him. I overheard the question and knew the answer so I immediately jumped in. They were really impressed and it led to more talking. I told them about my ambitions and schooling. The men remembered my name and even talked about me working for DA in the future. Great contact for later. I wrote down their names, titles and what we talked about in my notebook for future references. Man I wish I could have taken photos of what I did today.

The D-Hangar crew was out for the day completing training to become a Part 145 repair station. That’s good news because being a 145 will open more contract deals with the government. So while they studied, I was given the job of installing all the floor panels and composite flooring in the -8. Some pretty fun stuff especially since I was doing it solo. Gary, my roommate, is now working in the D hangar. Hopefully I will still be given some personal projects like I had today. After work I went to the gym with Gary and since he has arrived the three of us haven’t stopped talking about flight, maintenance, and future jobs we would like to have. Good times.