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Electrical engineering junior Brittney Nelson
Brittney Nelson | Image: Hannah Conrad

Carpe diem — seize the day.

If there was a motto for electrical engineering undergraduate Brittney Nelson’s time at Texas A&M University and in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, it would be that. From her freshman year experience studying abroad in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, to her ongoing involvement with the Zachry Leadership Program, she has seized every opportunity that has made itself available to her.

As she looks forward to her final year at Texas A&M, Nelson took a moment to reflect on how she proved that where there’s a whim, there’s a way.

Framed Mexican flag
Nelson embarked on a study abroad to San Miguel de Allende in spring of her freshman year | Image: Brittney Nelson

Q: What inspired you to participate in a study abroad program?

A: Honestly, it was kind of on a whim. When I was a freshman, I was in the Living Learning community in Mosher Hall and the program leaders were talking about how to work with people around the globe. When they offered this new opportunity to go to San Miguel de Allende, I decided ‘why not?’

It was really eye-opening to learn about the different aspects of engineering in Mexico and was a good overall experience that allowed me to grow as an individual while furthering my professional development.

Q: Is there something that really stood out to you from your time in Mexico?

A: I would say the culture. We stayed in a hacienda instead of a hotel and got to meet with a lot of locals and university students. It was nice because it wasn’t something typical or something I’ve ever done before. That made me realize there's a lot more that I need to explore about the world and there's a lot of different people that I still need to meet. So that inspired me to just keep going.

Q: What is your main takeaway from studying abroad?

A: That the possibilities are endless. Even though I didn’t know that much about study abroad at that time, just going changed my outlook on a lot of different things and made me realize that there’s a lot of great opportunities that Texas A&M can offer.

Ruins in Mexico
Nelson was motivated to join the Zachry Leadership Program by the people she met while studying abroad | Image: Brittney Nelson

Q: How did that experience lead you to get involved in the Zachry Leadership Program?

A: While on my study abroad trip I met a lot of people in the Zachry Leadership Program, and they inspired me to apply to the program because they were great, bubbly people that were really charismatic. I wanted to be like them.

It’s a great program that allows you to explore and do a lot of things that you most likely wouldn’t learn in engineering, like empathy and self-awareness, or curiosity and creativity. Topics that aren’t readily explained in engineering. So I was really excited about that.

Q: How has the program helped you develop as a person and an engineer?

A: I get to delve into different things, such as creativity, and learn how to implement them into my daily lifestyle, see how it helps me with academics and to just be an overall better person. It has allowed me to learn about myself and figure out what my strengths and weaknesses are and how to cope with stress and work with people who are different than me while using empathy and self-awareness.

Brittney Nelson study abroad group at ruins
Nelson and her fellow students on the steps of ruins in Mexico | Image: Brittney Nelson

And, as an engineer, it’s helped me be more creative and think outside of the box to find new solutions that most people wouldn’t think of. It overall made me into a really good leader.

Q: Do you have any plans or goals for after graduation?

A: Since I'm an electrical engineering major I plan to go into the tech industry before getting my MBA and possibly doing a start-up. Ultimately, I want to get to a point in my life where I can give back to my community by starting a program to help inner-city and minority kids get acclimated and introduced to STEM-related opportunities.