Austin Chan





Engineering Mechanics
Class of 2017

Hometown: Orange County, California

Research/Work Experience: N/A

Other campus activities: I'm very involved with my jobs on campus. I have a job as a sales associate at the Illini Union Tech Zone, and I'm also a photographer. Most of my "extracurricular activity" time is spent working on my photography - I work as a freelance photographer as well as for 50 Diamonds, Illini Union Marketing, and Shutter Vision.

Why did you join EA? I joined engineering ambassadors because I am really interested in helping others. Yes, that's very vague, but that's the reason. At the root of it all, I joined EA to help people learn about engineering and (hopefully) spark a passion for learning and STEM. I think it's one of the best things in the world to finally understand a concept after hours and hours of wrestling with it, and hope to help others feel the same way.

What’s your favorite part of being an engineering student? My favorite part of being an engineering student is the peculiar balance between constantly being stumped and frustrated and experiencing pure elation from solving whatever problem I'm working on. Being part of a community of engineers is great because everyone you meet is a genius. Literally. Everyone. At times it's a bit intimidating because I think, "How could I ever be as smart as these people," but I always make sure to reality check myself and say, "Well, they may be geniuses, but you got accepted into the engineering program that's got to mean something!"

What made you come to the University of Illinois? I chose Illinois for various reasons. First and foremost, I chose Illinois for its amazing engineering program. I was between Illinois and Penn State. The deciding factor actually boiled down to travel logistics and family. I have family in Chicago (it's where my parents grew up and went to school, UIC) and that nudged me toward Illinois. It's really great being able to visit the family I have in Chicago on breaks and long weekends, because before college, I didn't get to see them much at all. In terms of travel, it's really nice having a place to crash when flying home/back to school. I can't imagine what college would've been like without my family supporting me throughout the whole process.

What has been your best experience at Illinois? My best experience at Illinois has been the people. Coming from a very small high school (<200 kids per grade), I though it would be a crazy hard change to attend a university in which I would have lectures with 200 people. However, the exact opposite has been the case. 99.9999% of the people I have met have been genuine and helpful and all around amazing. The professors, also people, are awesome too. They're geniuses of all kinds and it's a crazy experience to converse with someone who's brain is literally 4x the size of my own.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a STEM degree? I think the biggest piece of advice I can give to someone looking to pursue STEM is "Don't be discouraged. Ever." There are so many smart people in the world, at the university, in every class, and it can make you feel not so smart. BUT. But, you have to remember that you're where you are, not by chance, but because you are smart too. Some people may understand things faster than you, some may be able to explain concepts better than you, but in the end, you're here for a reason and you're smart. So don't forget that!

What do you plan on doing after graduation? First and foremost, I plan on moving back home to California. I love California, and I can't wait to go home. In terms of career, I'm not too sure. I want to become an engineering consultant of some sort so I can deal with lots of people and talk a lot. We'll see how that pans out though.