After three years of studying computer science/engineering at university I think I can make a sort of post about this matter. There are some misconceptions about IT degrees. So many. In the following lines, I’ll try to put together the main ones I currently have faced. I’ve been asked to make a post like this some time ago, so here it is. I’m focusing on computer science/computer engineering since it’s what I am studying.
The summer before I started my first year of university I was freaking out. Not only did I go to study at university but also I was going to study computer science/engineering! I love computers and that, but little did I know about computers to be honest. So my first thought was what computer should I buy. And here we go with the classic macbook vs laptop battle. My dad bought me a laptop so I didn’t think about really about this (as a note, it’s not the best laptop, but it’s enough at least for now). If you are wondering what computer should you buy for computer science, but you whatever you like the most, but I suggest you to have in mind that it doesn’t matter if you choose a laptop or a macbook. If you have enough money and you want a macbook, go for it. If you don’t or you don’t like macbook, you have other options. Choose wisely.
I was told that I would be the only girl in the class. Well, so the first day of university came and I couldn’t see a single girl in the hall. It turned out that there were about 12 girls in my class and about 80 boys (depending on the class). In my last semester I’ve been in a class where I was the only girl and as a consequence of several classes being minority, I get used to be the only girl and I felt stronger someway.
One thing more I was told it was that people on this degrees were a bunch of nonsocial, unatracttive and weird genius. To be honest this was something that scared me too, because I didn’t want to be alone. But again, this was untrue; of course, there are a few weird people, but mostly of them are nice people. I haven’t still seen a genius, just hard-working people.
I realized since the very beginning of my academic journey that when I told people what I am studying, there are three reactions I can observe in people:
- The “pfff, that’s a difficult degree” reaction.
- The “pfff, that’s a difficult degree for a woman” reaction.
- The *open the mouth for a while and say nothing* reaction.
“But is computer science or computer engineering difficult?”, that’s another thought that made me head spin. All right, it is. I am not going to lie. It is difficult. Really difficult, but once you get the hang of studying, organizing and thinking, everything will be easier. Personally I wasted a year trying to learn how to think and study for the classes. I was stuck into the high school habits and I didn’t want to change them. If I have learnt something about university (or life) is that you have to be ready for switching and don’t be afraid of changes.
“I would like to work as a computer scientist/computer engineer/software engineer/… but I’m not good at mathematics/physics/…”. Okay, computer science/engineering is difficult but not that hard (I may slightly lie in the aforementioned question, except calculus, calculus is evil). I mean, professors start with the very basics of every class, and it isn’t usually very difficult. Plus most of them are willing to clear up your questions in office hours. I have some friends who are really bad at maths and they have passed all the algebra and calculus classes. Also I have friends that didn’t want to study an IT degree, though they’d love to, because of this reason. Don’t be the person who didn’t study something because of a few hard classes. You’ll regret later.
After a couple of month, studying computer science/engineering, some people start wondering why we are studying physics, electronics and math, “when are we going to start hacking?”. Oh, well. That’s a good question. Never. WE DON’T LEARN TO HACK in university. In my first year, many classmates drop out of computer science because of this single reason. They thought they’ll learn how to hack.
“At least, I will code a lot!”. Sorry again, but you are going to be programming less than you would expect. At my university, we take only 6-7 classes focused on just programming in the four years of the degree.
When you assume that most of the things you believe are not true, you’ll know more or less if you like this degree or you don’t. At the same time, people are going to ask for help. Yes, the “can you fix my [insert here ANY electronic device]?” and “can you tell me how to [any action] in [any program or website]?”. You can’t get away of these questions. Believe me or not, but if you get involved in an IT degree you are not going to study how to delete a Facebook account. You may or not may be surprised of this, but a great amount of people has asked me this question. Plus, we don’t learn how to fix smartwatches. Surprise!
At this point, people wonder what the hell computer science/engineering is about. Algebra, calculus, physics, electronics, robotics, algorithms, AI, data structures, computer security, networks, computational complexity,…
If you prefer to work solo, I have bad news for you, because you’ll need to work in teams. And this is really difficult to achieve. You will find both people who work and who don’t. You have to find a balance between your time and the others’, learn to organize the time and the work for the team project and don’t be afraid of reasonably arguing if the project is at risk. This is something to keep in mind as much as presentations skills. Yes, you need to talk in public about your work, if not in university, it will be in any job interview. I have actually been the worst talking in public since always, but when after all the presentations I have done, I have became better. You’ll become better. So come on.