In college, there’s an important distinction between the classes you want to take and the classes you have to take. And even for a nerdy person like myself who tends to like all subjects, it can be a tad annoying having to deviate from classes in your major to fulfill your divisional requirements. So when it came time to pick a math class, I tried to be a little more creative.
At Boston University, math and computer science are considered to be in the same category and will count towards my divisional requirements. I love math, but calculus isn’t the most useful thing for a future psychologist. Instead, I chose a computer science (CS) class in databases and data-analysis to be able to do better research. I would like to think of myself as a dedicated and conscientious student, and while that may mean that I’ll do my best in any class, it doesn’t guarantee that I’ll love each class.
CS classes seemed to make me inherently nervous. Sure I have a Facebook page and know what a blog is, but I wasn’t sure how that would related to my CS class. My professor is as sweet as pie, a brilliant man who genuinely wants everyone in the class to do their best, which put me at ease right away. It’s a toss up whether it was his kind of teaching or the subject, but I easily became deeply engrossed in the class.
We began writing inquires to databases on a program called SQL, where if you have a database of all the students at your school, you can find answers to queries like, ‘how many students are 18 years old and live in a certain dorm and are in Psych 101 this semester?’ It is not only an amazing tool, but was so exciting to know how to use it.
But it got even better than that. We started writing actual (albeit small and short) computer programs on a program called Python (FYI: not named after the snake but rather Monty Python). I have found writing programs so much fun and really enjoyable; I would bug my little sister to go on iChat and screen-share to show her the programs – and even she was impressed. I wrote programs that calculated babysitter rates and modifying a data, reading from a file and creating a new file. To paraphrase a quote my professor used in class, people think that in order to really know something, you must be able to teach it to a person, but really, if you really want to know something, you must be able to teach it to a computer.
All of a sudden a whole new computer world that I was perhaps a little timid of has opened up to me. It has become my favorite class and so much so that I have signed up for a programming class for next semester.
So what’s the point? The point is that you can do more than you think, and trying something new may lead to the huge surprise of loving it. I would have never thought I’d be talking (or writing) this much about CS, but sometimes when you go into classes with an open mind and a willing attitude, a requirement class just might become a class you love.
Jennie David is a 20 year old junior at Boston University majoring in Psychology and minoring in English. She is a member of NSCS and Psi Chi and is a dual citizen of both Canada and the US. She has Crohn’s Disease and is the chair of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada’s Youth Advisory Council. Her career goal is to be a pediatric psychologist for chronically ill children. Visit her blog about the upcoming Peru trip here.