My classes, and probably yours too, are probably getting pretty tough right now. You may have just started in CS, and are wondering if there is any way you will ever get through the rest of the major, especially considering the rumors that float around about taking operating systems. Or maybe you’re in high school, reading over the course list that you’ll have to take if you decide to come here for college, and don’t recognize half of the words it contains. I don’t want to define a ton of ways to be uncertain, but do want to bring up the fact that nearly everyone is anxious about something right now.
One thing to recognize in the middle of all this, though, is that an educational environment is a place where people want you to succeed. Nobody becomes a professor just to fail students, and for that matter, nobody decides to come to a university just to see others’ lives fall apart. In some way or another, you are safe here because we all want the best for each other.
It’s not always obvious in the face of competition, of course. Despite our best wishes for each other, we still do see the average on many tests and compare it to our own score. We find out where others are interning over the summer, and wonder why that company was less interested in us. We spend hours and hours and hours on personal coding projects, and find out that somebody else was able to do whatever took you months in just one hackathon.
But deciding to look at just the competition, and where you are in some real or imagined hierarchy, is a recipe for misery. Not only will this always leave you feeling unfulfilled, but will also lead you to missing out on cultivating a base of supporters.
These people are so important. I can’t tell you how many times I look back at a time when one of my professors reassured me that I belonged here even when I was sure I wasn’t smart enough to be taking her class. Hearing that from one of the people I have the most respect and admiration for meant a lot to me, and still does. But you don't have to have an incredible amount of ethos to be a source of encouragement for someone either. I actually sat down at a bus stop near campus a few months ago and a homeless woman told me that she was blown away by how smart and hardworking kids at this school are and how proud she is of us. If despite everything she must be going through, she can lift other people up, there is no excuse for someone with boundless opportunities not to.
So there should be two takeaways from this: First is to recognize your supporters and realize that they’re everywhere; second is to be a supporter yourself, no matter who you are or how stressed out you are personally.
Anyways, it’s my turn to do this so whether you're a UTCS student, member of our staff, prospective student or just someone who is interested in what student life is like here, I'm sending good wishes your way. I know you will come out stronger from the challenges you're facing, and whether it's a hard class or something more serious, I’m proud of you for hanging in there, and I know that sometimes doing only that takes a lot.