I’m struggling to focus on this week’s post because I can’t drag myself away from Google. To keep making progress with my plan, I met with my academic adviser on Thursday and, after looking at the credits I have left, realized that after this coming spring, it’s possible for me to finish my program entirely during fall 2014 and spring 2015, leaving next summer open for taking an internship anywhere my little heart desires. I’ll have five classes in fall 2014, which will be insane, but it comes out to only 15 credits, which is not unheard of for a single semester. Worth it? I hope so.
So I got a list of all the companies that recruited mechanical engineering majors at my university’s job fair last fall and have been Googling like mad. I can’t stop. Local companies, national companies. Big companies, small companies. Manufacturing companies, consulting companies. American companies, foreign companies. Companies with excellent websites, companies with horrible websites (ten years as a graphic designer and I don’t think I will ever stop evaluating companies based on their website’s awesomeness or lack of awesome – design matters folks!*).
I’ve known since I started down this path that an engineering degree would open a lot of doors. I could probably work just about anywhere I want. I could go to Seattle or Portland, both excellent cities so I’ve heard. I could go to California. I could go to the Southwest. I could head to New England or the east coast. I could end up in Europe or Australia or even China. Or, I could stay where I’m at. In the trusty Midwest. We have lots of fresh water here. We have no earthquakes and very few tornadoes. We don’t struggle with drought or forest fires. We have no hurricanes. What we do have? Beer.
I’ve lived in the Midwest my entire life. I’ve complained about it plenty, but I’ve also loved it. It doesn’t have the excitement of New York or LA. It doesn’t have oceans. But it does have gorgeous freshwater beaches, beautiful “up north” terrain, relatively little traffic and one of the best craft beer scenes in the country – in the world, really. I didn’t leave the Midwest after graduating from college the first time. I turned 21 here and I stayed here. My tastes grew up here, and while they were growing up, an excellent craft beer industry was growing along with them.
I’ve had the luxury of having myriad excellent breweries within an hour’s drive of where I live since it was legal for me to drink. In the last five years, even townie bars have started keeping a couple of great local brews on tap. Grand Rapids, MI, a short drive from where I live, was named Beer City, USA this year. There are so many breweries there, I can’t even name them all off the top of my head (I used to be able to, but it’s growing so fast I’ve lost track).
There are a few places in the country that can rival the Midwest in the craft beer arena. Colorado has an excellent craft beer scene. The Pacific Northwest does as well. This interactive craft beer map gives a pretty good overview of the state of craft beer in America. So, sure, there are other places I could go and still trip over a great brewery every few blocks. But I’ve spent a lot of time cultivating my knowledge of Midwest, particularly Michigan, craft beers. By definition, many craft brewers are very small. They often don’t ship nationwide. Some don’t bottle at all. Craft beer snobbery is, by definition, very local.
Would I stay in the Midwest for something as seemingly insignificant as beer? I don’t know. I’m sure in a couple short years I could become as well-versed in Colorado or Oregon beer as I am in Midwest beer. That could be cool. But Colorado has its mountains and the pacific northwest has the ocean. The Midwest has its rust belt and its economic decline. The Midwest is the underdog, and it’s pretty cool when the underdog is really kicking butt at something. I kind of like being part of that.
The Midwest is also where my parents live and where my brother and sister-in-law live. It’s where quite a lot of my extended family lives. I get to see them pretty often now and living a plane ride away would be tough. I’m really excited about my new career, but I’m more excited about spending my free time with people I love.
Taking an internship on the other side of the country doesn’t mean I can’t take a full-time job closer to home. I’m keeping my options open. I won’t pass up an amazing opportunity based on geography, but I’ll admit at the moment my Googling is focused on the Midwest. Chicago is an excellent Midwest city with the bonus of being home to my brother and sister-in-law. There are some great craft breweries in the city…and just 30 short miles away in Munster, Indiana, is Three Floyds Brewing, a little gem I’ve been dying to try…and you can’t get it in Michigan!
*I will admit to thinking, while browsing company websites, “Huh…I wonder, if this company hired me, if they’d let me re-design their logo on the side. It’s awful. I could fix it in a few hours. What!? NO! You’re an engineer now! To hell with their crappy logo! C’mon Steph.”