Tidying up the mess of a desk that I left during the last exam period, I found, behind several other ‘post-it notes’ one that had “BLOG!” written on it. It then came to me, it surfaced on my brain, the meaning of that simple word, blog. It meant, tell people what has been going on, let future second-year students know what this is about, describe where is that constant adrenaline rush coming from, talk about the almost complete isolation from the real world that you have suffered in the past few weeks. Let people know about it.
So, here it goes.
As you have probably heard already, ‘second year is the hardest one’. I must admit though, I strongly believe I haven’t got enough evidence to claim that. I’ve only experienced years one and two so far. If I had to describe second year of Computer Science/ Software Engineering @ soton, it would be something like: ‘I don’t know what just happened’. Fact is that, in my particular experience, second year will be remembered as the time when the degree got serious. I think that I’ve already shared a few thoughts about the first half of this year, I owe you now some details and tales about the second one.
I must admit it started slowly. It did not look too bad. At that point, the key was to, as clever people that we are, notice the many warnings we were explicitly given for free. Truth is that our first handin was before we reached Easter vacation, and at that point we already had all the coursework briefs and deadlines for every other coursework in the whole semester. Also, many lecturers seemed to agree when they said ‘Get going with those courseworks, things get busy after Easter’. While giving us the details for the group project (Software Engineering Group Project), they even told us exactly and by means of a very clear hand-made chart, which were the weeks of the term where we would be the busiest. Given all the warnings and precious knowledge of the situation, one would safely believe that with proper planning everything should be under control and fairly easy to do. Well, probably, but in my case, the answer is no.
My first coursework (Artificial Intelligence) was in before Easter. It was a challenge, one of those pieces of work where you literally do not know anything about the subject, so, getting my head around it took a while. Now that it’s past me, I must admit that it was a very interesting piece of knowledge that we acquired by working on that ‘Neural Network’. Once that was in and forgotten, I was living in Easter holidays, and my plans for getting at least two out of four courseworks done obviously failed, and I got only one and a quarter done. The whys would take another blog of its own. When we got back from the vacation is when things got exponentially interesting every week. It turned out that we had something like one hand-in per week, which sounds fair enough, but we are talking about things like building a compiler or a distributed system. Throw in some databases and several reports and presentations for the group project and by the time you finished you are a week and a half before the first exam, really tired and owing several sleep hours and good meals to your body. To this few weeks that I am describing I must add the excitement of adding several job interviews (summer internships) and part-time paid work hours into the mix. Beginning revising for the exams is hard when you feel so tired, in fact, the first few days of doing so are not very productive. My strategy was to begin with the one I enjoyed the most, which also happened to be one of the last exams in the schedule (Networks). Exams seem to happen all in the same day!, which is obviously not how they really happen. In fact this time it was more like Thursday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday. Not much time to eat, sleep, or shave. As my wife shows in this eloquent picture. But eventually exams were over, pints were shared and my body got its deserved eighteen hours of sleep and a big burger in the local pub, and I believe this leads to a brief conclusion..
It was tough, I got older, I was grumpy. Work interviews in this area can be stressful, they all want to test your problem-solving skills, they all want to pick at the inner workings of your brain, specially if you aim high. Courseworks and exams are definitely designed to make you cry and show you your limits. But in the end, that is how you become a good engineer, a good professional. In the end, if you really go for it, you reach your goals, you get what you were looking for, you discover that you are capable of much more that what you thought before, you clearly see the benefit behind the HUGE effort you make, and you unequivocally conclude that it was definitely worth it. I had good marks for all of my courseworks, I finished all of my exams (hopefully without re-sits) and I got an internship in Ericsson Television. I got involved with a start up company created by students and I got assigned one of my main options for my third year project supervisor and I am really looking forward to it. Many great things happened, I am very pleased. See you around!