A Civil beginning

Welcome to Auckland.

We’re going into lockdown.


That was the start of my first semester as a Civil engineering student. Two weeks of online learning. As the late-summer rains pattered against the windows of my new high-rise home, I plugged in my headphones, pulled up a single chair, and got stuck in.


Nonetheless, the first few weeks proved to be interesting, and hopefully a good introduction for the next few years to come. It opened my eyes to just how broad the civil discipline really is. Buildings, roads, waterways, geology. It shapes our physical environment and plays a large part in how we interact with ecosystems. 


We began the year with courses in fluid mechanics, surveying, mathematics, and structures. 

Almost everything we learnt in class was linked back to a practical aspect. Pictures of collapsed buildings and crashed cars were put up to remind us of the heavy consequences of mistakes in this field.


Two weeks in, we were finally back in person: finding classes, meeting new people, with all the excitement normally associated with the start of semester. The lecturers were happy to see us, though perhaps a little less so once they remembered that students can be a much rowdier audience than the patiently blinking eye of a camera.


One of my favourite things about civil engineering is definitely the labs. We’ve learnt how to use surveying equipment, done experiments on pipes and spillways, built structures out of wood, skewers and oodles of hot glue. Most lab activities involve teamwork, a great way to get to make friends in your cohort – so long as you don’t glue anyone’s sleeve to the table.


Civil is certainly a field of engineering where you can see the applications all around you. It wasn’t long before survey marks jumped out at me from every street, buildings took on new shapes, the patterns of traffic lights revealed new meaning. I began noticing how stormwater is controlled, how cycleways can be built, and how bridges hold themselves up.


We learnt about load tracing and safety factors, hydraulic modelling, and the reason why a powerful hose takes on a life of its own, seemingly with the intent of blasting one in the face. There were probably a few too many formula derivations in there for my liking, but all together the content was interesting, relatable, and challenging.


After just five weeks, it was already time for the mid-semester holiday – sorry, study break. I headed home to Whangarei at Easter for some family time, hot cross buns, and trips to the beach. The rest of the break quickly filled up with assignments, tramping, cycling and study.


Altogether, the first half of the semester was a great introduction to Civil engineering. We’ve learnt a lot, despite barely scratching the surface of what civil involves. 

To anyone who wants to be a part of creating the world around us, to anyone who wants to help improve the standard of living while minimising our impact on the environment, consider civil for your specialisation!