It can be the little things that influence us
Reporter's BY BETH ANNE KATZ, 21, Freestyle Staff Writer
After spending the majority of my high school career convinced I was going to be a flute performance major, my junior year I had a sudden change of heart without a solid idea of what I was doing.
Consequently, two and half years ago I started studying engineering at a small school in Pittsburgh. Almost a year ago, in January, I decided to explore the possibilities of my major.
When I started college, one of the few leads I had as to what I wanted to do within engineering was that I was interested in the environmental applications of my field. Following that interest, I found and applied to a 10-day program during which I traveled abroad and studied environmental engineering.
Winter break of my sophomore year, January 2012, I took a flight to Central America, where I traveled Costa Rica touring different environmentally geared energy production plants, including a solar power plant, a biodiesel plant and a geothermal plant.
Near the end of the trip, my group and I went on a boat ride to watch the sun set over the water and celebrate the end of our time together. We sailed into the middle of a lake and watched the sun pass under the horizon. On our way back to shore, the sky shone with the stars and moon. During the trip back to shore, I stood next to one of the leaders of the group, talking and watching the stars. One particularly bright star became the topic of our conversation. The trip leader looked at me and said "I think it's the North Star. I'm pretty sure that's the brightest star in the sky."
I listened, and as he spoke something felt off.
"I don't know if that's right…" I said, though I could not quite place why.
My mind went back to elementary school. Every couple of weeks my class and I would take a field trip to the high school's planetarium. While most of my classmates took advantage of the dimly lit room to catch a mid-afternoon nap, I can't say I was much better; the indoor room modeling the entire night sky mesmerized me and was the perfect atmosphere to let my young mind wander. As much as I enjoyed daydreaming during class, a few things stuck with me.
Every time we went, I remember the teacher in the planetarium saying, "There's a common misconception. A lot of people out there think that the North Star is the brightest star in the sky. It isn't. The brightest star in the sky is Sirius, the dog star. The North Star is actually very dim. If you hear somebody say otherwise, please set them straight; let them know that the brightest star is Sirius. If you leave this classroom remembering nothing else, all I ask is that you remember that and don't let the misconception spread."
Suddenly I was back in Costa Rica. "No," I said. "It's not the North Star. It's Sirius; Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky."
"Are you sure?" asked my trip leader.
"Yes," I said. "I'm sure." I was struck by how a piece of information I learned when I was 10 came into a conversation that happened more than a decade later, thousands of miles away from home.
Throughout my life I have seen example after example of people influencing one another in ways no one predicted. Even though my world has been overtaken by variables and equations in my engineering studies, writing remains an outlet for me.
Writing for this newspaper has been a way for me to reach out to people. This newspaper has seen me mature from a lost high school freshman to a still confused, but less lost, college student.
As I end my time with Freestyle, I am searching for what my influence will be next. From where I am now I hope to be a successful engineer, and in that way my influence will be in the products I create and the problems I solve.
With my time writing for Lancaster Newspapers at its end, I wanted to say goodbye, Lancaster. It has been my pleasure.