A brief summary of my time spent at the university thus far

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Introductory post. A brief summary of my time spent at the university thus far

As a fourth year student only just now starting to blog for ECS, I shall take this opportunity to reflect on my time spent at the university thus far.

I joined ECS in October ’07 having finished college with A-levels in Maths, Computing, Graphic Design and Photography. I originally came to study for a BSc in Computer Science with Image and Multimedia, though before the end of my second year I changed to do an MEng in pure Computer Science. Fortunately the first two years of all Computer Science degrees are the same, so the school are generally happy to allow changes such as this.

During my first year I remember attending several of the Space Cadets sessions (extra curricular advanced programming classes) and quickly realising that there were others in my year who had far greater programming knowledge than myself. In truth, I couldn’t really keep up with them but at the same time I gained little new knowledge from the Ground Controllers sessions (extra curricular introductory programming classes), so I resolved to simply follow the default difficulty level of the course.

With regard to the other modules of the first year, I remember finding the lectures on logic and search algorithms quite tricky, but the stuff on engineering mathematics was relatively simple and a great way to pick up some high marks.

Looking back, I now wish I’d spent more time making friends in the undergraduate labs. As it was, I had a purely work-oriented outlook on university life and didn’t even stay in halls (I rent a private property not far from the uni) and thus didn’t make many social connections beyond my tutor group. With that said, I consider those within my tutor group among my best friends and keep in contact with them on a daily basis.

By the time I entered my second year I’d realised my mistake and actively spent more time in the UG lab, increasing my social circle considerably, though arguably my presence in the lab would have increased anyway as the second year contains quite a lot more coursework than the first. However, I found all the subjects interesting and the large group project was especially good fun, not to mention great for the CV.

I think the most valuable piece of knowledge I gained from my second year is how beneficial it can be to collaborate with friends, both on coursework and in revising for exams. It really does help, especially on those exams that seem to cover an immeasurable amount of content. I remember entire days spent in Zepler working through past papers whist ordering in pizza and chatting with friends and honestly it never felt as difficult as revising alone.

To me the third year felt much the same as the second, despite having a very different format (fewer modules, greater choice and the Third Year Project), simply because there was always plenty of work to do. In truth I probably neglected my TYP too much during the first semester (as I took some other coursework-heavy modules) and paid for it in the second, when I would put in 30-40 hours a week. I wouldn’t recommend any student follow my example. The best advice I can give is to choose your modules wisely. Definitely read the opinions of past students that are on the wiki and don’t forget that you can change your module choices up to 2 weeks into the semester. With that knowledge I used to just go along to every module class for the first week or so and then let my first impressions finalise my choices.

And that more or less brings us up to now. At the moment, while I wait to begin my fourth year, I’m completing a 12 week paid internship within the Learning Societies Lab (one of the school’s many research groups) and am researching and developing tools for emerging social networking technologies, but more on that in my next post…

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