Still Standing!

Note: Originally, I wrote this post and it was crazy long. Since I’m not currently employed by the NYT, I’m splitting it out. You’ll get this intro post, then posts on: CSE 344, CSE 332, TAing, and the new quarter. Hopefully it’ll all flow properly!

Howdy folks! I’ve done a few AMAs recently, but I haven’t done a decompression for Winter quarter yet, and I’m already a week into Spring quarter!

So, despite adding on a TA position, my Winter GPA went up 0.2 in comparison to Autumn quarter. Interestingly, this increase is inversely proportional to how much I care. XD

I’m happy with it–I’m not going to roll out of here with a 4.0, but I don’t want to go to grad school. I do, however, want to write elegant code (and innovate, at some point). In the service of that goal, I’ve focused my energy toward gaining an in-depth understanding of the computer science concepts that catch my interest–drilling down deeper into material rather than just trying to tick the boxes and get the points. I built a parallelized quicksort, for instance, in addition to the assigned mergesort, and ended up feeling so much more comfortable with Fork/Join.

From an instructional perspective, I feel like my courses so far have been a mixed bag. I’ve learned a lot in every course, but I leaned pretty heavily on supplemental material from other professors/programs in a couple of them). It’s the same story as any research university, really: I’ve had professors that were very engaged in teaching, and a couple who are clearly here to do research, and wouldn’t teach if they weren’t compelled.

So, that’s something to keep in mind when you’re trying to decide between UW and a smaller institution. The TAs are mostly undergrads or 5th year Masters students (with a PhD student or two). They’ve all seemed like bright people, but their effectiveness has varied. (Gah, I wonder what the students I TA’d for would say about me? LOL) Unsurprisingly, the courses I’ve found the most challenging have been challenging for most people, so getting into the professor’s office hours felt nearly impossible. Seriously, I rarely even got into the office itself–jammed full.

Still… would I go anywhere else? No way. 🙂 I’m really happy here, challenges aside. Plus, I wanted to succeed in a rigorous program, and here I am. I have a few acquaintances in other local programs and they aren’t putting in the same number of weekly work hours that we are.

I have absolutely no idea if that will translate to making me a better programmer. I know people who have already graduated from other local programs, and they’re killing it in industry.

I can say for certain, though, that I’m capable of a lot more than I imagined. (You’ve unlocked the “working with a chronic sleep deficit” badge!) Seriously, though, I am becoming a computer scientist. Just this evening, I was working through a C language refresher (prepping for CSE 484, my security class) and I quickly translated something into boolean algebra in order to understand a complex idea that was unclear in code form. That’s a small example, but it speaks to a shift in the way I approach problem solving. (Seriously, you’re going to need CSE 311. Don’t try to cram–study that business with retention in mind.)

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