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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Aggie uses engineering degree to help others


Emily Gillham, class of 2009, is living her dream of having a family and finding the perfect job, while traveling the world and trying to make it a better place.
Gillham graduated last December with a civil engineering degree and left three weeks later to serve in Costa Rica for six months with Engineering Ministries International. She also worked in Peru, Haiti, Mexico and Guatemala.
“Every day I wake up in a beautiful country with an incredible host family and the opportunity to serve,” she said. “I go to work where every project I’m working on is for the kingdom of God and my co-workers are my good friends.”
Engineering Ministries International leads students on projects such as orphanages, hospitals, churches, schools and water systems.
“I’ve been working on the designs for a variety of projects these last six months, but the majority of my time has been spent on a church in Peru, an orphanage in Haiti, an orphanage in Mexico and a boys’ home in Guatemala,” Gillham said. “[Engineering Ministries International] has offices around the world, but I’m currently in the Latin America office, which contains long-term licensed architects and engineers, and also interns who come for shorter periods.”
Gillham said when she arrived in Latin America, she spoke almost no Spanish, but she learned a lot from the host family.
“Every change comes with challenges,” she said. “I do miss my friends and family and being able to communicate easily with them. And in the beginning, I was living with people with whom I could barely communicate, nor did I know very much about their culture.”
There isn’t always running water, and the bugs and heat are endless, Gillham said.
“However, after witnessing the lack of food, adequate shelter and hope that so much of our world experiences every day, it gave me a new perspective on comforts that are nice but in the end, not necessary,” she said.
Gillham said her day-to-day life isn’t too much different from one in America, except for the culture around her.
“I wake up around 5:30 in the morning and some days go for a jog,” she said. “Then I have breakfast with the family, which usually either consists of bread and natilla — like sour cream — or gallo pinto — a traditional meal of rice and beans — and always incredible coffee. Then I’m at work from 8 to 5, just like any other job.”
Matt Sanders, a mechanical engineering graduate student and friend of Gillham’s, said she has always been a dedicated student with a caring heart.
“I think she has worked very hard to set herself up to be very successful in her career, but that wasn’t the number one thing for her,” Sanders said. “She has always believed in helping people, and she shows it by sacrificing the first year of her making money to use her talent to help others. I think what she is doing is showing other students that as educated people in this world we do not only have a responsibility for our own well-being but also for others that are less off. ”
Gillham plans to use her engineering career in the U.S. after she finishes in Latin America.
“I’ll be heading to San Antonio to work as a civil engineer,” Gillham said. “I will undoubtedly be leaving a piece of my heart in Central America and really wouldn’t be surprised if I’m back here one day.”
Rachel Sanders, Emily’s college roommate and class of 2009, said she admires the way Emily packed up and headed south to use her talents.
“I know that even when she is back in the U.S. and working in San Antonio, she will continue to serve those around her,” she said. “I know that the real world experiences she has gained while in Costa Rica will help her throughout her career.”

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