So it’s 2016 already! And as of now I’ve been studying Information Technology for more than 2 years. A lot of things have happened along the way, and now I’m going to share a bit of my experience and lessons that I have learned.

Choosing “The One”

Since I was in senior high, I’ve always been interested in Swiss German University (my current university). The idea of being able to work independently in Germany is really awesome for me. As for my major, I’ve always wanted to study IT since I was in the middle school.

However, there was also a point in my life where I decided that I would study design instead (how grateful I am that I didn’t do that) because I also have a keen interest in aesthetics and art .

This love of design comes from watching tons of movies. I really like to over-analyze the shots, the color palette, the angle of the cameras, and the dialogues. I like to think that there are a lot to movies than it meets the eye. Sometimes, the scenes or certain lines may even convey a subliminal message; an idea that’s cleverly put by the movie makers which may contain their testimony or their take on a topic that’s much bigger than the movie itself. I find it to be really interesting. For example, this scene from a TV show titled “Community” featuring the talented Joel McHale and Danny Pudi (and if you’ve never heard of this show before, you’ll be surprised if I’m telling you that this is a conversation from a sitcom):

So, why not study to make movies or design, you ask? The truth is, IT has been in my life longer than those stuff. I’ve seen how technology can bring good to humanity, and I’d very much like to take part in that.

Other than SGU, my parents also recommended for me to enter Binus International University. So I did the entrance test, and I think I did okay back then. After the written test, it turned out that there would also be an interview. So after the test, I waited in a classroom, waiting for my name to be called out. There were only 2 people in the room, a girl and myself. We chatted for a while and along the way, I just kept thinking why there were only 2 of us who’d be doing the interview; I started to think that there wouldn’t be many students in the IT class.

Let’s just jump to the interview. I entered the lecturers’ room and was asked to sit down. The interviewer had a pretty casual appearance, so I wasn’t feeling intimidated at the time. I felt normal until he uttered this magic sentence:

“Tell me about yourself.”

Wow, I honestly didn’t expect that. Although this is the question that is mostly asked in an interview, I was actually expecting that he would ask many questions about my background, not asking me to describe myself elaborately. I told him the regular lines (my name, age, high school, yada yada), how I liked web development and I wish to learn more from the classes. I was glad that I didn’t stutter, but that very sentence, “Tell me about yourself.” really took me aback. Who am I, and why do I pick IT as my major?

Let’s just skip a bit to the entrance test in SGU. I thought that the math problems were pretty hardcore. There were some problems that I hadn’t even seen before and I believed that it would take a miracle for me to pass. And that very miracle I did get (thank God); I was told by my friend that I got in. So back then I got 2 choices, Binus or SGU (Oh, at that time, I was already accepted by Binus International too. Yay). My parents seemed okay if I were to choose either one, so the final decision all came down to me.

I chose SGU and I’m grateful for it (this is not a sponsor message or anything, believe me). One of the things that I put into consideration is the fact that there is a mall literally across the Binus campus building, which means that I will be able to watch movies or go to the bookstore everyday. That’s good, right?

Well, I think it is nice if I would be able to go to the mall after class. However, this thought then popped up in my head, “Who am I, and why do I pick IT as my major? Should I pick Binus because of its close proximity to the mall? What’s my main goal, to actually study, or to entertain myself?”

I decided that I want to study, not chilling (weird, I know), so I picked SGU as the one. And I thank God for that very decision, for the 18-year-old me had no idea of what God has in store for him. The funny thing is that now there is a mall that has just opened right across SGU. Nice twist, eh?

The First Week

The first week of class was overwhelming. I felt really discouraged at that time since it seemed that I kept running into problems when I was doing the programming assignment. I saw my surroundings and it seemed that everyone had finished but me and a few people. I just kept typing like crazy and I felt really pressured at that time.

Then came this one day, the day when I got sick. I was walking to my dorm room and I felt like my body was freezing. I knew at that point, that very day was going to be a long one. Unfortunately, I was right. A few days later, it turned out that I had dengue fever. As a result, I had to stay at the hospital for a week.

I was quite stressed since it means that I’d be missing a lot of classes. However, the weird thing is that I didn’t feel that this sickness was putting a toll on me; conversely, I felt more like I was having a holiday. Funny, I know, but I was really happy that I could finally just lay on the bed, watching TV, and picking out the lunch menu for the day without a care about my study. So aside from the fever, it was quite alright. (And back at that time, I was still watching Grey’s Anatomy, so I felt like I was a live action character in there or something. You should just ignore this comment lol)

A week had passed by and I was finally home. Then came the day when I had to pay my dues. As I was informed that there were a stack of assignments waiting for me, I sent an email to my lecturer to ask for information about the homework that he handed out to the class when I was still at the hospital. He said that I could submit it on the first day of the week, which means I only got the weekend to do it. And I was behind with the materials at that time. So what I did was I spent the whole day solving the problems, and I thought I did it pretty well. It wasn’t easy though, I spent the whole weekend learning some parts of the Java programming language autodidactically, so… yeah, it wasn’t a really good weekend.

As I kept feeling that I was behind, I spent most nights in my room studying and doing assignments. Back then, everyday after the class ended, I would just go back to my room, pull out my lapto then start doing assignments while browsing Stack Overflow (it’s basically Quora for nerds who are stuck with their homework), which I’m sure many of my classmates can relate to.Back in the midd le school, I also struggled with some subjects and I pretty much kept studying even after I arrived home, so I wasn’t a stranger to this kind of routine. And you know, what? Although the 1st semester started out quite poorly with me getting sick, I feel really grateful that I could pass the semester with a satisfying GPA (at least for me, haha!). What a semester!

Days After

The journey to survive all 4 semesters was not a smooth voyage, I assure you (as of this writing, I’ve just finished my 5th semester). However, despite of the obstacles, I think that more good things had happened than the bad. One of them is back in the 3rd semester, my friends and I had a chance to do a small talk about Free Open Source Software (FOSS), specifically about Linux in St. Laurensia Senior High School (my high school) and in Stella Maris International School. It had been secretly a dream of mine to share my views on how people should be interacting with technology and it felt good to just be able to get this out of my chest. The main point that I shared was how FOSS is really underrated in Indonesia and that Linux is actually widely implemented all around us, therefore we need to give it the attention it deserves.

stella-marris-linux-foss-seminar

I also had a chance to have an internship as a web developer, which was like my dream job. However, in the end of the internship, I started to think there’s more to IT to web development. I’m not going explain it in detail, but this internship opportunity surely had got me thinking about what to do about life, my views on career, and my definition of success.

The internship was really awesome, by the way. I made a lot of friends that I still get in touch with and this opportunity gave me a clear glimpse of a future that might be. Is that a future that I want? Is that the future that I need? Now those questions are for another post.

internship-2015

Other than that, I also had the privilege to join a competitive programming event called ACM-ICPC which was held in Medan, North Sumatra. My friends and I didn’t win, but despite of that, it was still a really nice experience. I also got the chance to enjoy this macaroon that my friend talked so highly about (you should believe the hype).

acm-icpc

As a part of my study, my friends and I also developed an software and it was recently awarded as one if the best projects of the semester. I honestly had no idea that we would finish this project in time, and to even think that we won the award is unimaginable. I literally yelled “Whoa” when my lecturer declared that our team had won.

final-project-2015

So I’ve been babbling about how things have been really good, but I think that we shouldn’t disregard the bad experiences. And believe me, there are more of them. However, what I’m trying to say is that we have a choice to get back up whenever sickness or other hardships come up out of the blue.

We are weak, and sometimes we’d choose to to just lie down, admitting that we’re defeated. And that’s the reason why we need faith, why we need hope! And I thank God for teaching me this lesson. Come to think of it, the sickness in the start of the semester, in a way, is the best thing that could ever happen to me (and it’s not because I felt like I’m a character in Grey’s Anatomy or anything, haha!)

As the 18-year-old me had no idea that I would be in this point in life, you might have no idea of where your life will be headed to. Only when we discover what His plan is all along, all you can do is gasp, and say, “Whoa”.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

(Jeremiah 29:11)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

(Romans 8:28)

Now, let’s jump to the lessons that I have learned. I’ll be telling you some things that I pick up in my study. Don’t worry, these are not some technical nerdy stuff!


Essays

There’s a big chance that you’ll be writing tons of essay by the end of each semester. I have had some awesome English teachers who taught me a lot about writing. Here are some of their advice:

  • Don’t be afraid to write rubbish: you won’t get your writing right the first time, that’s the truth. What you should do is just get every idea that’s in your head on the paper and don’t concern yourself with the question whether they’ll be good enough or not; just write. Now when you’re finished, it’s time to do some polishing; add some new ideas, correct grammatical errors, remove redundant words, and read again. If you’re still thinking that it’s rubbish, repeat the polishing step.
  • You should always create an outline of your ideas before writing
  • Avoid repeating vocabularies and similar sentence structures
  • Consider the cohesiveness between each sentence and try using linking phrases like moreover, in addition, conversely, on the other hand, or other than that to connect your ideas.
  • The more you read, the better you write!
  • Use metaphors in your writing and suddenly you’ll feel like a poet from medieval times

Failures

You will fail at some point, it’s imminent. My father has always said that someone who doesn’t fail will fall hard when they do. We make mistakes and your friends make mistakes too. You can plan everything to the most detailed way possible, but there is a huge chance that your plan won’t go accordingly. What we can do is tolerate each other and understand that we can do nothing except keep going forward.

This really helps me in teamwork, since I used to blame others whenever they made a mistake, but I wouldn’t hear them when they criticize me after I made a boo-boo. What you should do instead of wasting your energy and time by dwelling on the past, thinking of what ifs, you should discuss this new problem with your mates instead and work your way through. And this is hard, guys. Hence, we need to practice and just keep doing it.

Projects!

A project can become either your lovely child or your death wish. Thus, you should make sure that you love working on it, not doing it because your teacher says so. I think it’s important to think about your motivation in doing your study and feeling comfortable with the subjects that you take.

If your teacher gives you an opportunity to choose your own topic for the project, make sure that it’s the very idea that keeps you up at night; the one thing that always bugs your mind. So now you’re now not doing it only for scores, you’re doing it passionately.

Here are some other thoughts about managing your project:

  • Think small, set your goals to a minimum, but you should know the direction your project will be heading to. This way, you’ll have an image of the series of milestones that you have to go through and you won’t be in over your head.
  • Your project is not your whole life. When it fails, create another one!
  • You should ask a lot of questions about the projects to yourself. What are the objectives? What’s the scope? Ask these kind of questions and you’ll get to know your project better. How can you finish a project well if you don’t know why you’re starting it in the first place?
  • Stop complaining and manage your time better. Believe me, you don’t want to waste your time arguing with your lecturer!
  • Be organized in planning and working on the project, it pays!
  • Slow down, don’t work on your project intensely everyday!
  • Always prepare for the worst! Sometimes, even worse things could happen (lol)
  • Communicate well with your team so that this kind of problem can be minimized:
the-dilemma
The dilemma (by: Alex Gorbatchev)

Respect

You should respect all of your classmates even though some might not respect you back. Don’t hate someone because they get lower scores than you, or because they’re a bit different. Because you know what, scores might help you to get through a semester, but they won’t help you to fix your character. I think that we should respect everyone despite of their academical performance. Pride and prejudice, those should be your enemies.

Respect the teachers regardless of what you think about them. Hating will only waste your breath and now the very people that you hate is in your head, haunting you. On the other hand, commenting on how you think the lecturer is incompetent won’t also benefit you in any way. In my experience, if you just listen to them, they might actually your mind. And remember, they’re just human, like you and me!

Opportunities

When you’re applying for an internship, try not to look at which company offers the most money. We should remember that the reason why we’re applying should be because we need to have the firsthand experience of working in the field. Making some money is surely nice, but it shouldn’t shift your focus from the main goal of the internship itself. So, in this kind of case, I think that it’d be wise to start planning to support ourselves for a certain period of time.


12963574_10209284203241417_3671782528965114515_n
My classmates (Yes, there are only 20-ish of us, and we’re all boys!)

That’s all from me! I hope that this post can be of any benefit for you guys. See ya in 2017!

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2 thoughts on “University: A Look Back

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