My freshman year I joined the Mobile App Development society and the Android skills learned during that time were pivotal in enhancing my confidence early on in my CS career. It was around this time that two major events gave me the continued motivation to pursue Computer Science. When things get tough, its much better to confront the root of the problem and focus on fixing it than to prolong or ignore the issue. Although taking a break is often shunned down upon in this hyper-competitive culture, it is often one of the best ways to channel your inner resources.
For me personally, doing something new, be it reading a new book or talking to new people helps me break the mold and recover. As mentioned above, I challenged myself during my first Hackathon MLS Southwest Regionals to work with people I just met and create something interesting.
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Seeing other people work around me is a big motivation for me to keep pushing on. We ended up creating a food detection Android app that could point you to closest grocery store that had said food item. The power hackathons hold in bringing tech people together is unmatched in my opinion but I digress. We ended up winning a couple prizes which was cool but the feeling of creating something that could be used in real-life was even cooler. The summer of my sophomore year I decided to learn more about machine learning, even though at the time, I had been advised that it was too tricky.
Is it on a step-by-step method? Are you a linear learner? Coding will shift your mindset — but it will not allow you to thrive if you think it will transform you into someone else entirely, instead you have to work with the gifts that you already have and bring them forth.
Look out for what makes your life easier, no point re-inventing the wheel. Your code quality, just like life, will teach you from your mistakes, and to course-correct it, takes time, money and energy. The code equivalent to that is called refactoring, and refactoring overly complex and extensive code is just as hard as learning from your mistakes.
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Good enough and ready to use is better than perfect and pending. There needs to be a reason for the problem to be solved — Find what it is first, only then you start strategising. There will be a multitude of people out there looking to help you out. There are just not enough hours in the day, accept that.
You have value, talent, and potential, so give yourself permission to know about most things and be happy to master a few of them. Be grateful it was a great undertaking to be where you are — be it with or without a job, right now. Try to get employment at any cost, if you have to wherever they are willing to take you, but at first, do not settle. YES, go for it.
Go for the low paying job that will get you to your next cool job, but start somewhere. There are all types of people, and personalities among us, you will come across mentors, inspiring, patient colleagues, and some fun people willing to help you just for the joy of seeing you learn, or having fun talking about code or better yet getting the work done. In this fast-paced world of web-development and start-ups, every minute counts.
My classmates had studied for about as long as I had, but mostly in Taiwan, which makes a huge difference. I was the only full-time language student in my class and spent perhaps five times as many hours as they did per week learning Chinese. I was far behind when I started, but felt that things had already become too easy when Christmas neared. Another problem was that our classes were held in the evening, which meant it was very difficult to find native speakers to socialise with; I had time during the day when everybody worked or went to class, I was busy when they had time off.
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I needed a bigger language centre with more options and other people who took learning as seriously as I did. While this provides a better learning environment in general, larger institutions also come with some problems. This was probably accurate in the sense that it was roughly on par with the course I had taken the previous semester. I realised quickly that I had to do something to avoid the same problem occurring again.
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I discussed the issue with the responsible teachers at the school and basically asked them what the most difficult class they had was, then asked to join it. They flatly refused and rightly so.
I then asked what the second most difficult class was and asked if I could join that one instead. They said no.
I pleaded a bit and asked to at least be allowed to try it. They said okay, but that I only would be allowed to stay if the teacher agreed. I spent hours preparing for each class and articles sometimes had more than a hundred new words. All my classmates were more or less fluent in Mandarin, whereas I still had to struggle both to understand and to express my own thoughts. However, I had both the time and the motivation necessary and stayed afloat throughout the semester.
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I was miles ahead of the people who stayed in the class where I was originally placed. Learning in a classroom is not enough, even if the classroom is located in a Chinese-speaking environment.
Most language schools are fairly traditional and stay close to the textbook, focusing a lot on reading and vocabulary. Even though I spoke a lot in class too small class size is a blessing , that was far from enough. I limited my use of English to about once per week when I played role-playing games with a group of other foreigners. The rest of the time I spent with native friends, language exchange partners and foreign classmates whose Chinese was a lot better than mine. I also practised some sports , such as diving, which meant I got to know native speakers who were far from campus, both literally and metaphorically speaking.
I think this approach was just right for me. I benefited a lot from the difficult class I was in, but the danger was of course that I had skipped a lot of more elementary language that I now had to cover on my own. Most of the time with native speakers was spent on simply talking about things, mostly unrelated to my textbooks. An interest in languages was also a great common denominator between me and the Taiwanese students, which meant it was fairly easy to make friends.
So, what did I learn during this first year that other students can benefit from? I came to Taiwan knowing a lot of words and some grammar, but without really being able to say more than the most basic things. Listening was almost impossible. After the first semester, my parents visited, which meant a few weeks of travelling across Taiwan and having to use everything I had learnt.