Carlos Pena Del Valle (Tandon '18)

Globetrotter

There’s no place like home, and Carlos Pena Del Valle would know; the senior has lived in seven different countries, and each experience has played a part in leading him to his current home at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in New York City. Born in Venezuela, Carlos moved to France at six years old when his father received a scholarship to complete his Master’s degree in Mineral Engineering at the Paris School of Mines. Carlos adapted quickly to the French lifestyle and language (he is trilingual, speaking Spanish, French, and English), but within a few years, he found himself bidding Paris adieu when his mother was accepted into a graduate program at the Stockholm School of Economics. His parents’ work next took the family to Spain for a year, then to Australia, where they lived for most of Carlos’s teenage years.

An Insatiable Appetite for Learning

Carlos clearly inherited his parents’ intelligence and zeal for education. He was awarded a scholarship to attend an American boarding school in Switzerland where he completed high school and got his first taste of the American education system. He was so successful in his studies there that he received an increase to his scholarship. Eager to learn and energized by academic environments, Carlos enrolled himself in summer school every year. This passion for learning is what led him to the United States, where he completed programs at Phillips Exeter Academy and Boston University during the summer following his junior year.

Though he was grateful for the range of academic experiences he had throughout his globe-hopping youth, Carlos felt that he thrived most under the American academic model, leading him to set his sights on the US for college. As for what he would study, Carlos had thought for some time that he would pursue an engineering degree. Along with a strong devotion to academics, a deep interest in engineering and altruism runs through Carlos’s family. His grandfather aided less wealthy populations in Venezuela by building good housing communities at affordable prices. Inspired by his actions, Carlos decided to study civil engineering in order to gain knowledge that could “help elevate [Venezuela] from a third world country to a first world one.”  He explains, “That seemed like a good thing to do. I wanted to do it to help others because I know I’ve gotten a lot.”

A Scholar Grows in Brooklyn

Once he decided to focus on Civil Engineering, Carlos knew with certainty that he wanted to study in New York, a “dream city” for many in his field, and home of NYU Tandon, his first choice for college. Carlos felt it was important to attend a university “in and of the city,” and Tandon offered not only a campus in the heart of Brooklyn, but also a strong reputation for its curriculum and a history of welcoming students with diverse educational and geographic backgrounds. Despite his outstanding work ethic and academic record, Carlos describes the “roller coaster” he experienced while waiting to receive news of his admission, as well as the thrill he felt upon learning that he would be joining the Tandon community.

Although Carlos was fortunate that his family was able to afford his tuition at NYU Tandon initially, he hit a speedbump on his academic journey when Venezuela’s inflation rate hit an all-time high, rendering the income generated by his parents’ business there essentially worthless. “[Funding my education] became more of a struggle,” he says. He recalls the sense of relief and excitement he felt at receiving the email informing him that he had been selected to receive the Weisstuch Scholarship, which is awarded annually to an international Civil Engineering student in good academic standing. Carlos was eager to express his gratitude to the scholarship’s donor, Polytechnic alumnus and former trustee Donald Weisstuch (Poly ‘57, ‘62), in person, as well as to share news of his studies and his work at the Polytechnic Tutoring Center.

Carlos first met Donald’s son, Robert, last spring, and had lunch with both Donald and Robert shortly thereafter. Carlos appreciates the personal connection he has formed with Donald, a fellow immigrant, and Civil Engineering major, and hopes to stay in touch with him after graduation. “They’ve been really helpful,” he says of the Weisstuchs. 

What the Future Holds

In terms of his post-graduation plans, Carlos is considering following in his parents’ footsteps and pursuing a graduate degree, but he hasn’t ruled out diving into the workforce to get a few years of real-world experience and obtain his professional engineering license before re-entering academia. Always eager to expand his knowledge, he’s even thinking of shifting gears and pursuing a math degree next.

Whether he finds himself in a classroom or conference room after he graduates, Carlos intends to remain in New York, among the buildings and structures that have inspired him and so many others in his field. Excited about the future, he feels that his experience at Tandon and as a Weisstuch Scholar has given him a big advantage as he prepares to tackle what comes next. “I think the degree and the title of being an NYU student means a lot,” he says. “That’s really valuable.”