Hi, I’m Carly! The Pilot (AE) Intro Post

Hello, world!

Hello there! I’m Carly McDonald from Berea, Kentucky. As you might notice above, I’m a freshman aerospace engineering major. However, I didn’t start that way- I actually switched my major less than one month into school. Before I was an aerospace engineering major, I was an aeronautical science major.

By now you might be thinking, “She did what?” or “She did not.” Yes, I did. This was me after my first flight here at Riddle:

First Riddle flight with N437ER on August 27, 2020.

So, what made me change, and how’d I get here?

When I was eight years old, I went as a pilot for Halloween. I had just brought my little sister home from China (she and I are both adopted), so I chose to ‘work’ for Cathay Pacific. I decided to be a Boeing 747 pilot since the Boeing 747 was the airplane that brought both of us into the United States. My parents helped me make my uniform, including a little crew member badge, and I went trick-or-treating in ‘uniform’ that year.

Me as a pilot for Halloween.

Fast forward eight years later. I was a sixteen-year-old junior in high school knowing that I wanted to major in something STEM-related. Several college magazines had arrived in the mail and my dad was looking through them while I ate lunch. He stopped at one page and pushed the magazine towards me and said, “Take a look at this one.”

I finished my lunch and looked over the college page, which was Embry-Riddle’s. The more I read about it, the more I liked it and wanted to apply. A few months later, in June, my family planned a college tour trip. We had just flown into DAB when I got my first glimpse of Embry-Riddle through the plane’s window. It was almost midnight when we landed, but I was able to recognize the student union as we landed on runway 25R.

The next day, I took the engineering tour. I was still undecided about what I wanted to do, but by that time, I had narrowed it down to aerospace engineering (AE) or aeronautical science (AS). My mom had registered me for the AE tour, and I loved it. I saw lots of different things that looked interesting: the rocket lab used by ERPL and ERFSEDS, the EcoCAR trophies, and so much more.

From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to attend to Embry-Riddle.

June 2019, post-tour.

Over the summer, I did a lot of thinking. I decided to apply as an AS major and pursue my eight-year-old self’s dream, but I still liked the idea of being an engineer. I eagerly submitted my application to ERAU in August of 2019, and on October 18, the decision came. I was actually away in Northampton, MA touring another college when my parents texted me a photo of the envelope. I told them to open it, and then they sent back a photo of my acceptance packet.

As my senior year progressed, I grew more eager to get to campus in the fall. I was invited to apply to the Honors Program, and in February, received my acceptance email. I planned to attend preview day before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and was extremely disappointed when I couldn’t attend, but I looked forward to my move-in day.

So… yeah, I have a lot of stuff.

My family decided to drive down so I could bring all of my stuff since I had a lot of it. (Pro tip: if the upperclassmen say “it won’t fit,” don’t listen to them, you can still make it fit!) I had a basic idea of what to expect my dorm to look like since there is plenty of information on the Internet. I’d visited the ERAU website so much over the past month in preparation for college that I practically had all of the links memorized.

Move-in day was kind of hectic, but I was able to successfully move in. ERAU gave us large blue bins to help cart our stuff in.

Move-in day!

As I settled into life at ERAU- and came to terms with the fact that I was finally at Riddle- I also thought about my major and what I wanted to do with it. I had continued to think about it all summer, and I had set my schedule up with mostly general education classes that would count to either the AS or AE requirements.

The decision didn’t really hit me until after a few flights. I was one of the lucky students; ERAU has a lot of AS majors, so not everyone is assigned a flight block. However, the one they gave me was from 5:30-10:50 AM, and I am not a morning person. I loved my instructor pilot (IP), but after a few flights, I realized that I didn’t really want to be a pilot as a career, which is the purpose of the AS degree.

After I made my decision, I told my advisor, and she pointed me in the right direction. I switched majors with relative ease and dropped my flight block. However, the add date for courses had already passed, so I was stuck in AS121, the private pilot ground school course, so I could maintain my full-time student status. That’s okay; it just counts as an elective class, so I’m still making progress towards the AE degree.

A little while ago- October 2020.

Currently, I’m taking fifteen credits, and I’m happy with my schedule. I’m part of several different activities on campus: the Honors Program, the ERFSEDS Pathfinder project, the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge Controls Development and Testing team, and I’m the Introduce a Girl to Engineering Workshop Committee Ambassador for the Society of Women Engineers. I think that I’ve made the right major decision for me (haha… a major pun… get it?), but obviously, that could change. We’ll see!

I’m super excited to join the blogging team and I can’t wait to start writing about all of the crazy educational stuff that I do here at Riddle. I’m still learning how college works, but if there’s anything at Riddle you want me to write about around here, let me know.

Bye for now!