Growing up in Wisconsin, there wasn’t too much to do. So, I was obsessed with pushing the boundaries of my technologies (Wii, DS, iPod Touch) and video games such as Minecraft.
I was very sociable and thought I might enjoy the field of healthcare. After my junior year, I enrolled in a program called Medical Mentoring and shadowed family doctors and nurses. At the same time, the president of Microsoft came back to his alma mater (my high school) and talked to students that were interested in CS! One of my classmates even convinced the president of Microsoft to sponsor a hackathon! I was so excited but nervous at the same time because I didn’t trust myself to create a practical application within a limited time frame. However, my brother, who is a few years older than I am always had amazing times at hackathons. This prompted me to enroll in my first CS course (AP CSP). I was surprised that only 25 out of the 1600 students at my school were interested in CS. The class consisted of around 16 students, which made it feel like a small community. We talked about the Internet of Things, low-level CS concepts, and then programming in Python! I was amazed by the fact that I could use Python to automate essential tasks such as automating a drone to go from point A to point B while avoiding obstacles!
Before I realized that CS was my real passion, I applied to the pre-nursing program at UW-Madison. My goal was to become a family nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist and study a bit of CS along the way. Back to my journey throughout high school, I really enjoyed my first ever CS course. From learning about the internet of things, bits, and programming drones in Python, I developed a general understanding of the world of computers. Then, I participated in my first-ever hackathon! My team and I created an outfit builder contest in Python for Kohls and finished in second place! I ended up winning about $600, a StackOverflow sticker, and a tour of Microsoft’s technology at Lambeau Field. After the hackathon, I spent many days creating a GUI for the hackathon project as well as various Alexa projects. I enjoyed the entire process of creating applications! I learned so many new technologies, and then I presented my applications to my peers!
During my first semester of college at UW-Madison, I was doing everything I could to make sure I could get into the nursing school. I had three semesters to build up my resume and portfolio for a school that only accepts 38% of applicants. At the same time, I was taking an introductory CS course in Java. I thought it would be easy since I knew a little bit of Python, but I was wrong… I spent at around 15-30 hours each week on that class and learned to seek help from TAs. I remember waiting 1-2 hours to ask one question at times. After this class, I learned not to procrastinate anymore. I also learned that I didn’t want to do CS anymore because it was too time-consuming. I wanted to save lives, and so I dropped CS after my first semester. Another reason why I dropped CS was that I was intimidated by the number of technologies CS students have to learn and the work they have to do outside of class to be successful. I decided to join an on-campus organization called Coding for Good and was placed on the web development team. It turned out that my project leader was a two-time Microsoft intern as a sophomore who knew technologies like Angular, Ionic, and Git. I was taking the first CS course available at UW-Madison and could barely distinguish Git commands from Ionic commands. I didn’t even know basic HTML at that time. I tried to learn some of these technologies for a few weeks, but I eventually had to focus on my coursework. After this experience, I was felt terrified to enter the world of web and app development.
Even though I dropped CS, I eventually came back to it after winter break. I re-thought nursing after becoming a certified nursing assistant over winter break. I missed the feeling of getting my programs to finally work, and I told myself to stop comparing myself to others. I want to solve problems, create applications that will benefit communities, and have fun!
During the summer of 2019, my interest in CS solidified. I was no longer interested in nursing, but I was still interested in healthcare. I met many other fellow CS majors during this time. After going out to bubble tea with some of my new friends and hearing one of them talk about how he is going to create a mind-blowing website, I woke up the next day and began learning HTML! By the end of the summer, I felt comfortable with HTML and CSS. I also taught Scratch this summer at a youth camp and learned a little bit about bioinformatics. My goal was to expand my skills so I could eventually create a website for myself and earn an internship in software engineering for the summer of 2020.
This is the year where I am supposed to explore the wonders of my major and begin my professional career as an intern. In my first semester, I took four challenging CS courses, learned the MEN stack (MongoDB, Express.js, and Node.js), contributed to a project for Coding for Good called Explore Madison, and participated in my first college hackathon! At the beginning of the semester, I went to four career fairs hoping that I could land an internship for the summer of 2020. I was rejected or ignored by almost every place that I applied to. However, I really enjoyed learning new technologies like Node.js and applying course material to create side projects! It didn’t even feel like work because I was always coding with friends! Little by little, I built my portfolio while keeping up with classes.
After a stressful semester, I was excited to take a break from school and spend a few days in Madison with friends! Once I arrived home, I began learning more technologies like Angular, PHP, and Ionic. I continued to build upon existing projects and applied to many internships.
Fast-forward to the spring semester (present), and I am currently taking four CS courses again, tutoring at the Computer Science Learning Center (CSLC), and leading Explore Madison. One of my priorities this semester is learning the Unity Framework along with Android Studio since I convinced my group in CS 407 to work on a VR project! Leading Explore Madison has been a positive experience because I am mostly leading workshops on technologies like Node.js and Git, as well as mentoring others throughout tasks. Tutoring in the CSLC has also been extremely beneficial for me because it is teaching me to look at other people’s code, figure out what is going on, and help the student go down the right path. Algorithms is currently my toughest class, but it is teaching me to think carefully when designing algorithms. I have also started the entrepreneurship certificate because I want to be entrepreneurially-minded. One of the best parts of this semester was landing a web development internship! I just needed a company to take a chance on me, and I couldn’t be happier with the company that did. The company even aligns with my values since they are helping healthcare institutions implement value-based care! I also think everyone there loves Star Wars, which is a huge plus! Looking back, I am incredibly proud of the fact that I stuck with CS and found my true passion. In other words, be patient and continue to do what you see yourself doing 50 years from now.
Post-semester update: Despite the circumstances of this semester due to COVID-19, this was the most success semester of my college career. Managing to get a 4.0 GPA this semester and being able to continuously develop my passion for web/mobile development during my spare time was not easy by any means. Now that I have had more time to think about future semesters, I am planning to get a BS in both computer science and data science. Also, my plan is to study abroad in Singapore at the National University of Singapore next Spring! I hope to achieve goals that I never thought I could achieve in future semesters!