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Voices of ACES Blog

Learning in the Fast Lane

close up of Hanna Hawkinson standing outside

When you graduate high school, you are on top of the world. You think to yourself, “College will be a breeze. I’ve studied common core for four years so I can go on to study things I am good at!” Maybe you can relate to this. If you can’t that’s okay too, you might be more of a realist than I was two short years ago.

Hi! My name is Hannah Hawkinson and I am a sophomore in ABE from Galesburg, Illinois. In high school you learn that there will be things you have to do that you don’t necessarily love. For me, chemistry, biology and 4,000-yard swim sets were dreadful but required. They undoubtedly built character. When you get to college you start to understand that there are many people in this world who may be stronger, better at things, and/or smarter than you. In spite of this, it is important but challenging to remember that you may be one of those things to someone else as well.

Learning means asking for help.

Success is building a network. 

These are two key things that people seldom like to hear. They take effort, time, and lots of smiles to build successfully. It’s hard to understand the impact of these statements in specific contexts sometimes.

This summer I interned for John Deere as a quality engineer intern in Waterloo, Iowa. It taught me a lot about these two things, and it gave me a fresh and enlightening perspective. Going into the summer after my first year of college, I had taken general education courses to fulfill requirements. I had no idea what quality engineering even meant, to be honest with you. I got there and decided I just had to take it all in and be a sponge for three months and hope I could offer enough to return the following summer.

Soon after my week of intern orientation, I began to realize the full time employees started out just like me. Although college academics are important, the end goal is to gain experience in learning – taking initiative, going to office hours to ask for help, or looking up other resources. Nobody expects you to use the information you learn in college and apply it by yourself. Everything is a team effort in the end.

I was given a task at the start of the summer to improve the statistical process controls on all the smart tools used to manufacture the largest machines John Deere builds, from the driveshafts to the wheels and tracks. A terrifying task really. I had no clue how to even begin. So I started with simple questions. Other employees were excited and eager to help me learn the ins and outs if I was willing to be vulnerable and ask. At the end of the summer, I was able to help transition a new intern and new hire as well as report on my completed task. And it all derived from making connections and calling on those connections when I had questions.

That is an encouraging thought. Asking questions is so easy if you overcome the sense of fear that is sometimes part of being vulnerable and willing to ask. Being personable and making connections often makes it easier and more natural and builds your network of resources. In the midst of being an active learner, don’t forget to help those around you in the same way. When tasked with things that are tough it’s easy to be upset and lose perspective. Instead, just take a deep breath and consider the questions you could ask or the people you can reach out to, and the task suddenly seems more conquerable.