Kevin Huang, ‘17, attends Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York. He is majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in computer science and possibly a second in economics.
Q: What classes are you taking?
A: Last semester I was taking Chemistry 1, Introduction to Engineering Analysis (IEA), Computer-aided Design (CAD) and Differential Equations.
This semester I’m taking Intro to Economics, Computer Science, Intro to Psychology, Materials Science, Engineering Dynamics and Engineering Processes.
Q: Which class was your favorite?
A: This semester, so far my favorite class is Engineering Processes. What we do in the class is we pick a project, (which is) a model of something, and I picked a model of a cannon. We are given a piece of metal, and we get to learn how to use all kinds of machines and hardware tools. And by the end of the semester, we need to turn this piece of metal into the model that we want to do.
I like this so much because I spent my senior year of Country Day in the Makerspace, and that’s pretty much what (director of technology Tom Wroten) and I had been doing – figuring out how to build stuff together.
Q: Least favorite?
A: My least favorite class was Differential Equations, not because I don’t like math but (because) I had not so good of a professor, who had a really heavy accent. He didn’t post any materials or past exams or even homework online, so it turned out to be a lecture-based class, and I had problems understanding his lectures – for the first month or two I had no idea what he was talking about.
Q: Are you in any extracurriculars or clubs?
A: Yes! A lot, actually. At the beginning of the school year, RPI has an activity fair. There’s almost 300 clubs. I was really excited – I went there and signed up for a lot of clubs, but later I realized I didn’t have enough time to do all those clubs.
Now I’m doing Judo club, Aikido club – both of them are martial arts because I’m a big fan of martial arts – and I’m also doing photography club, swimming club and badminton club.
It was really hard at the beginning of the year because I would get lots of emails from every club about all kinds of meetings, and I couldn’t keep track, so sometimes I missed going to meetings.
Pretty much every club meets an average of twice a week at night from 8-10 p.m. or even later. (So) during the daytime I go to school, and during the night I go to clubs.
Q: You took a lot of pictures for the Octagon. Are you doing anything photography related in college?
A: First of all, I’m in photography club, so there’s a whole group of people who talk about photography and take pictures all the time.
And my roommate is also a photographer, and he is quite good as well, so over Thanksgiving we went to New York City together. We brought our cameras with us, and we were taking pictures.
In upstate New York the weather is quite different and the view is quite different (from those of California), so I’ve been taking a lot of pictures around campus.
Q: What is the weather like?
A: This year, it was actually a little bit warmer than average. Thesummer when I came, it was quite warm – not as warm as California, but it was pretty nice.
When I first came to RPI, a lot of people told me, “You’ll need a heavy jacket because it’s going to be really cold there,” and I was pretty excited about it because I’d never seen it snowing in my life. I saw snow up in Tahoe and other places, but I’d never seen it snowing.
The day of the first snow was the best day of my life! It was so great because I was running along the football field, and I thought, “This is amazing,” and of course people looked at me like I (was) so weird. Because I was so excited I didn’t feel it was really cold, so I thought everything was going to be fine.
I went back to California for Christmas, and when I came back, the moment I walked out from the airport, I literally ran back in (because it was so cold); when I walked out, I had two heavy jackets, one sweatshirt and one shirt on – that’s four layers!
RPI is located on a hill, so it’s really windy. And when it’s really windy in the winter, it (gets) really cold.
I soon realized I didn’t have enough gear, and I wasn’t prepared at all for the winter, so Amazon became my best friend. I try to keep myself warm, but no matter how many layers I put on, I’m always shaking when I go out.
Q: How was your transition?
A: My transition has been (going) pretty well. I had an idea of what RPI was going to be like, and I really like the school because of the way that we can set up our own curriculum. I’m not taking any art classes because that’s something I’m really not good at – I’m taking pretty much all engineering and math classes, and I really love those.
And the people at RPI are really friendly – the first couple of weeks I already made a lot of friends.
And the professors all have their office hours, so it’s pretty easy to get access to them and go talk to them.
Since I was an international student at Country Day, I’m used to being away from my family, so it wasn’t a hard time for me at all.
Q: Are there any campus traditions?
A: Sadly, RPI doesn’t have much in campus traditions or school spirit. As a technical school and an engineering school, there’s not much school spirit around. It doesn’t feel like Country Day, (which) always got together for annual events.
Q: What is your housing like?
A: RPI requires students to live on campus for the first two years, and at the back of the campus there’s an area where all the freshmen live.
They’re all dorms – they’re doubles or triples, and I live in a double.
Q: Any advice for this year’s seniors?
A: Time management. (In) college you get to choose the amount of classes you want to take, so you get to manage your time freely – you get to do whatever you want. You can sign up for as many classes as you want or as little as you want.
(With) all these classes and activities and a social life, at the beginning it was hard for me because I tried to do everything. I wasn’t used to not having a fit schedule.
The second (piece of advice) is knowing the skill to learn and practice by yourself. Some of my classes don’t have homework or notes, and professors expect students to figure out on their own what they need to do to learn what they didn’t get in class.
My third advice is take AP credits seriously. When I came to RPI, I transferred all my AP credits, and that was 22 credits in total. The average student at RPI takes 16 credits per semester, so I already had over a semester (of credits)! So my time tends to be more flexible – I don’t have to take as many classes if don’t want to, or I can choose other classes that my classmates aren’t fighting me for.