A New Start

18 Nov 2016

After two and a half months in university, I have come to an important realization that I was not aware of before.

In high school, I was one of the ‘smart’ kids. I never had to study for a test, skipped a few classes and usually ended up with around 90 to 95 percent in every course (except French). I was already learning c++ while most were still trying to get the hang of VisualBasic, and I already took a course on Data Structures before anyone else in my school. I knew what a linked list and a tree was, and for some reason I felt that was enough. As soon as I was outcompeting others, I stopped trying to go above and beyond. That attitude carried me quite successfully through high school, but university hit me harder than a rock.

I skipped most introductory courses in my first year (which I am still in). I thought it would be a breeze just like in high school, but I was already scrambling in my first week. I remember feeling so lost in calculus trying to understand what a proof is and how it worked. It had been so long since I felt such a challenge, but for some reason it felt good inside to not be succeeding for once. A part of me broke down when I saw that I failed my first problem set, but deep inside I was all fired up. I was ready to finally face a good challenge.

On the other hand, my first computer science class was really easy for me. Being mostly about abstract data types, I had gone through a lot of it before and thought I was ahead of the class. After a few lectures, it was starting to become clear that this was not the case. Although I already understood most of the material, so did most of my fellow classmates. In fact, their knowledge seemed to surpass mine.

I now realize how dangerous being satisfied with myself could be. While I was happy with my level of skill and knowledge, others were constantly surpassing me. While I was living up to what was expected of me, others were going beyond what was expected of them.

As the old saying goes, it is never too late. I have now promised myself 3 things:

  1. Never be satisfied with where I am now
  2. Never compare myself with others
  3. Never stop learning

In the past, I was happy with myself because I was better than other people at my school. As a result, I stopped reaching higher, I stopped asking more from myself.

After some research, I have now formulated a plan for the near future. Instead of just going through the coursework assigned to me, I will also have my own study bible to follow. From Googles Guide and this amazing repository, as well as some help from reddit, I have formulated a general study guideline. I won’t go through the plan in this post but the text file has 400 lines of links and articles for around 30 topics, from data structures to sorting to testing and machine learning. The goal is to study at least 2 hours each day, and be interview ready by the end of my first year.

On top of my study plan, I will also be working on some side projects. With side projects, I can gain some good experience with hands on coding and have something to put on my resumé and portfolio as well.

In the end, the goal is to keep learning. I am not doing this to be better than everyone around me, I am not doing this to please my parents, I am not doing this to brag to my friends about how ‘smart’ I am. I am doing this for the sake of learning and growing, to never dwell at the same level of skill, to constantly improve myself. This is the end of my old self, it is my new start.