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Everyone in college has at least one home. There’s the home filled with the really good toilet paper and those people who raised you. And then there’s the other home. For some, this second home is their apartment or dorm, where they can lose the pants and unwind with friends. For others, this home is where they seem to find themselves studying at all hours of the day (and night). It could be that favorite bar in Oakland. It could even be Market Central, depending on your year. For most of us though, this home is Benedum.

BioEs at Pitt are what I like to call a “special breed”, college to the nine. You’re either crazy enough to join us, or you become crazy like us. We can be found griping over classes and exams, with coffee and energy drinks glued in our hands, lying on the floor or on a bench somewhere on the third floor, admiring the “sunrise” on the computers at 3 AM (shout out to my late-nighters!), snickering at our GroupMe, or trying to break into one of the study rooms that always seem to be locked. More often than not though, we are found flocked together. Why is this? Well, BioEs aren’t sheep, that’s for sure. Each one of us is an innovator and/or a leader, in some shape or form. A more likely explanation would be that we are the most tight-knit major in Swanson, which even the other departments can’t deny. (Look at us, we even have our own holiday now: St. Patzer’s Day!)

Growing up, my mother always ensured my friends and I knew about the dreaded “buddy system”. Even now I can hear her, yelling at me from the car to “be safe and use the buddy system,” and I cringe. It was (and sadly is still) her most embarrassing catch phrase. Some of you may be asking, what is this horrible buddy system and how does this apply to me?

For those of you who never had over-protective mothers, here are a couple definitions that are spot-on:

“A cooperative arrangement whereby individuals are paired or teamed up and assume responsibility for one another’s instruction, productivity, welfare, or safety.” - Oxford Dictionaries

“An arrangement in which two individuals are paired (as for mutual safety in a hazardous situation).” –Merriam Webster

The buddy system actually isn’t so horrible, when used in the right context. My mother would be proud to know that I use the buddy system every day in college. And it’s not just when walking through Oakland late at night that I have a buddy. Oh no, Mom. You would be proud to know I live and breathe the buddy system now, and I have my major to thank for this. The BioE curriculum pushes us to our limits, both mentally and sometimes even emotionally, but we’ve each learned that the only way to make it out is to lean on each other for support. Quite simply, you can’t get this degree on your own; you need to learn to use the buddy system. Any time you need a hug or help with homework, we’re here for you.

Call me crazy, but I don’t ever want to leave this place. After making it this far as a BioE, I now know I can make it on my own. This department has provided me with more than I could ever imagine: skills to build my future, undying passion for my discipline, wisdom to make the right decisions, the best friends I’ve ever had, and enough engineering and bio knowledge to conquer the world... but even that can’t be done on my own. So who’s with me?

Katrina Zougari

Undergraduate Bioengineer, University of Pittsburgh

Undergraduate Researcher, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Student Employee, University Store on Fifth

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