South Africa-based student Arnold Smit shares his experience of studying through EIT and gives some great advice on juggling work and your studies.

For anyone interested in or working towards a degree in mechanical engineering, Arnold Smit’s academic trajectory in this area makes complete sense. Not only is he on his way to completing his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, but he already has his sights set on obtaining a Doctorate in this field.

In addition to working a full-time job and doing his degree online through the Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT), Arnold maintains a harmonious balance between his family commitments and social life.

Despite being in the middle of his final examination period for this semester and traveling between Europe and Africa, Arnold still found time to tell us how he manages to stay focused, find time to relax, and why he loves engineering.

Arnold Smit holding an ice heart. Source: supplied

When did you realize you had an interest in engineering?

It started from a very young age. Possibly, when I asked my mom and dad the first thing most little kids do, I asked “why” and have since never stopped asking. I was and still am obsessed with knowing how everything works. Most of my family specialized in some form of science, which exposed me to science from a young age. This exposure ranged from food science to aerospace, civil and electrical engineering, chemistry, biosciences, phycology, and medicine.

This exposure to different fields of science naturally sparked an interest in more things, such as cars, aircraft, boats, etc. I started taking everything apart that I could find to see how it worked and why it worked the way it did. After I figured it out. I started building model aircraft and flying simulators on my computer around eight. As I reached my early teenage years, I realized that engineering is what people call the job where you can design awesome stuff that goes fast and is loud, so I thought, “ah, okay, I‘ll do that.”

What are you currently studying through EIT?

I am enrolled in the online Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering course with EIT. I plan to continue at EIT to study for a Doctorate and other engineering fields. I love chemistry and electrical stuff, so I would also like to complete a BSc in engineering. It just takes a little time to study all those fields, but time is all we have in this concise life as humans. So, we should create awesomeness while we are at it.

Why did you choose this area of engineering?

Mechanical engineering teaches you many other fields of engineering, not only mechanical things. It would be an excellent place to start creating a solid knowledge core. I love cars, watching aircraft, trains, etc.; I can go on forever. These things require some form of mechanical design to make them what they are.

Are you happy with EIT, and why?

I am thrilled at EIT, and I would not swap EIT for any other engineering institution worldwide. If I am ever granted the opportunity to get more involved at EIT, so I can help out in any way, you know whom to call. Before I enrolled at EIT, I studied different science-related courses at various colleges and universities in my home country. Although some of them are pretty good, I never got the level of education I received from EIT. The team and the excellent learning support officers we get for each subject are outstanding.

The fact that they are from all over the world uplifts the quality of education to an international level. This means the students who finish their courses at EIT will be world-class professionals. I am eternally grateful to EIT, and I plan to use every bit of knowledge I gain from my courses to help make this little blue planet a better place for all

Are you currently working, and how do you balance your studies and personal life?

I had support from several different staff members.

What is your favorite part of being an engineer and the engineering field?

I am currently a CAD engineer for a Dutch company based in Belgium. I am part of the core engineering team who designs fully automated racking systems for warehouses and other storage facilities. I still live in South Africa, so I have to travel to Europe a lot, and this changes my working and studying schedules into an exact science that does not always seem perfect, but I try my best to manage it accordingly.

The key is to be flexible and focused on maximizing every opportunity you get. That’s how I plan every day. Discipline and self-control are also critical. Both my parents have spent over 30 years in the military in high-ranking positions, and my dad did sports science and coached SA national sports teams for many years on top of that, so, naturally, discipline was instilled in me early on. I also trained in various martial arts over 14 years, where discipline and self-control were taught. I am not perfect, but I do strive for perfection as much as possible.

Why do you think engineers play an essential role in the world?

Many engineers with a true passion for their field of study are like curious kids who love to innovate, experiment, and improve on things they experience around them. By doing this, they improve not only the world for themselves but also others. This world needs more curious people because we have not even touched the tip of the iceberg of what is possible. Engineers solve problems…in fact, if someone asks me what I do, I tell them I am a professional problem solver because that is the truth. Engineers are essential in many respects, but at the core, they solve problems are ensure that humans and the rest of nature can co-exist.

Do you have a favorite engineering joke you like to tell?

One joke that always makes me smile is: “you should never trust atoms because they make up everything.” It’s really silly but if you think about it and add some imagination it can get quite funny. The biggest joke is that we might be wrong about everything, ha-ha.

What’s your best advice to a first-year EIT student?

The advice I am about to give I cannot take any credit for as it comes from one of the greatest people that walked this earth before me. I look up to people like him and learn from them every day. I believe his advice would be of great value to anyone who reads it.

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing you will never get it done. Make at least one definite move daily toward your goal” — Bruce Lee

In terms of studies, work every day on your studies and use every second you get to read up on topics or watch videos about the topics in your studies.

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