Vincentian woman’s fascination with planes fuels desire to pursue degree in Aerospace Engineering
May 27, 2022
Vincentian woman’s fascination with planes fuels desire to pursue degree in Aerospace Engineering

AS A LITTLE GIRL, Vincentian Rhaine Williams developed a fascination for aeroplanes and their ability to not fall out of the sky.

It is that same curiosity that has fuelled the 23-year-old to complete her first degree in Aerospace Engineering.

Williams is one of two Vincentians who graduated this month from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida with a BSc in Aerospace Engineering. She also completed a minor in Computational Math.

“Growing up, I always had an interest in pursuing a degree in engineering because I thought it would be ‘really cool’ at the time to be a female engineer as there was not much representation in the field,” she told SEARCHLIGHT in a recent interview.

In fact, Williams recalls being the only female among 30 students in one of her very first engineering classes during her second semester at university.

The young engineer said she found it to be uncomfortable and shocking at first but that it prepared her for what was essentially the norm in most of her future classes.

The road to graduating from her programme (cum laude) was not an easy feat either as she was faced with several challenges throughout her studies.

In March 2020, Williams had to move out of her dorm and return to her home in Layou, St Vincent due to the uncertainty presented by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The following nine months at home were spent completing online classes in what Williams describes as, “a trying and uncertain period in my academic journey and that of many other students”.

“In January 2021, I returned to Daytona to complete the last semester of my junior year. It was very difficult juggling six in- person, hybrid and online classes that semester. The workload was intense and it was by far the most challenging semester for me both mentally and emotionally,” she told SEARCHLIGHT.

“It was also the same semester that the volcano erupted. Unfortunately, that semester kept getting worse and my grades did not reflect all the hours of work that I had put in. At the time, it was very difficult for me to accept what had happened as I was very disappointed in myself. The support from my family and friends, however, was exactly what I needed to help me move on from that chapter of my life.”

Looking back, Williams said she was grateful that it was that semester that “broke me” because it prepared her for the last two semesters of her senior year.

Her difficult experiences also taught her the lesson that “nothing can break me because I’ve already been through the worst”.

She also expressed gratitude for the relationships that she was able to build throughout her journey, particularly with Vincentians, Kaela Barrett and Alron Harry, both of whom also pursued Aerospace engineering degrees at Embry-Riddle.

Barrett completed a BSc in Aerospace Engineering in 2020 and is set to graduate this year with her Masters degree in the same field.

Harry also graduated this month with a BSc in Aerospace Engineering.

Williams, who attended the Girls High School and St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College before pursuing her studies abroad, hopes to use her degree in Aerospace Engineering “as a stepping stone for the next chapter of my academic career. The skills and experiences I have gained are definitely transferable to other aspects of my life and future career”.

She also has plans to pursue her Masters degree at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

And the 23-year-old said she would encourage persons to obtain a degree in aerospace engineering once they are truly passionate about aviation, in that obtaining such a degree means that “you will have to eat, sleep and breathe air planes”.

“I would like to encourage young Vincentians to pursue degrees not only in aerospace engineering but in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), especially young ladies who may have any interest at all. Regardless of your background, you have a place once you are determined,” Williams said.