What I Learned from My College CS Class

by Maresa

1. The computer science major is overwhelmingly dominated by men. And the courses at MSU are geared for men. Rightly so. There’s just not enough young women interested. But that doesn’t mean it’s their fault. Most high schools don’t offer programming classes or expose students to the possibilities the field presents. Programming is something most girls didn’t have a clue about until after the “The Social Network”.

2. Female non-computer science majors don’t take CS courses. Because of this people will look at you funny. Like you’re the abominable snowman or something. The couple of girls I did talk to had been programming since high school and came into the course with experience.  It was disheartening. Why weren’t there more girls wanting to pick up such an incredibly valuable tool? Being able to code means being able to rule the world. I couldn’t be the only girl seeing this.

3.  You learn to code by yourself. The idea of  “study buddies” in this course is absolutely asinine. You have to piece together the language which is a process that takes time. Eventually, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a feel for the nuances and intimacies of the language and there can be a couple fleeting magical moments where you feel like your brain and your computer are one of the same. Also, lecture is irrelevant. It’s like learning to ride a bike — someone can tell you how but you’re not going to really know how until you’ve done it yourself and crashed a couple times along the way.

4. It ain’t no cake walk. I learned how to program in python by sacrificing sleep. During those last 5 weeks as the projects got exponentially harder, I can’t tell you how many times where an adequate nights sleep was 45 minutes. I cried in class once. I broke out in hives the night before the final. I had black holes where my eyes should have been. There was a guy who prayed after every exam. As the class came to an end, I was a sleep deprived, caffeine fueled, robot. My mom was graced by my zombie like state when I came home for Winter Break. She immediately had  me checked for mono.

5. MSU will offer you zero help. I asked my prof. I asked the two adequate TA’s. I asked the MSU resource center. It was like there was no help to be had. My prof said there weren’t enough CS majors who had time to sit down with someone like me despite the fact that I said I’d pay them buckets of gold for their help. My TA’s were all too busy. The MSU resource center for CSE 231 tutoring website was poorly organized. When I finally could find a number to call about possible openings for tutoring, they said they weren’t offering it for the rest of the semester. The help I did receive was through patient friends and helpful strangers on twitter who saw my desperate tweets for help.

6. It was all  immensely rewarding. It was the first college course where I really felt like I was learning something. It was challenging, it disrupted me. It was a big change of pace that I desperately needed.

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