I was asked some questions about my studies of computer science & fears about the study beginning - especially now shortly before the beginning of the new semester. In this post I try to find a few answers to questions I was asked by a lovely follower - one or the other topic I will revive in a more detailed post! If there's also something on YOUR mind, then don't hesitate to leave me a comment here or message me on Instagram ! ;)
"Topic 'Woman in Computer Science': What were your expectations when you started? Did that affect you at all?"
I came from a girls' school, in which the computer science upper school course had almost nobody who wanted to attend & I knew by my pupil-study at the TU in Munich that the percentage of women attending the computer science courses is very small. But to be honest, that came to me just in time after eight years at that girls' school. When a professor came to our lecture in the first week he said that we had a damn high quota of women this semester (~10%) - the expectations & previous experiences had been confirmed.
On an information day at the university, the dean had asked me how to get more girls interested in computer science after giving a lecture on the computer science course. Unfortunately, I still don't know a simple answer to this question, but I would like more women to discover their passion for computer science / technology. I'm not saying that it's the right subject for everyone, but many don't even consider this path, or discard their plans too early. In my studies I have seen girls in whose eyes a fire burned when they told me about programming & whose ambition is deeply admirable. It would be a pity if such a potential remained untapped! Women can do more than they are believed to do & more than they trust themselves to do!
Advantage of a minority: You automatically feel connected to each other. & another advantage of being one of the few girls in the course: You wouldn't believe how fast (male) help comes when afemale student is in need :D
"How did you study for math/programming? Do you have any tips on how to get through this, especially the first few semesters?"
Math has always been one of my favourite subjects & also in computer science I always had very good grades. This gave me a pretty good basis for starting my studies. Nevertheless: You don't learn both math and programming by pure cramming of theory, but above all by doing it! It has helped me a lot to look at exercises from old exams & to do them (without solutions & self-deception!) & to understand the theory on the basis of YouTube videos (above all the German youtubers Daniel Jung & The Simple Club saved me!). & in fact, the weekly practical exercises/ homework with submission & evaluation at the university have made me to practice programming regularly. There are also countless videos online, which can accompany you from an absolute beginner to a confident programmer in any programming language (e.g. for Python freecodecamp or sentdex). In general, the third semester was by far the hardest for us, until then we had to persevere & above all maintain the motivation. But in the higher semesters there were larger projects, elective courses & internships in the company, which made learning more relaxed/pleasant. In addition, it was also a great success to set up small (!) learning groups where you could simply ask questions & work out solutions together. Learning groups that are too large are more likely to distract & you end up getting lost in discussions or unproductive chatter.
"When did you realize which specific field you wanted to specialize in?"
That's a loooooooong story that will probably never end. At school I always wanted to get into computer games programming, because I liked to play computer games myself in my spare time. But I quickly discarded that idea when I started my studies. After that, I was without a plan for a long time, but I didn't bother to find anything after the bachelor's anyway would have lasted a long time & theoretically I would have had a secure job after my studies anyway because of the dual study system in Germany - regardless of my interests. The elective subjects offered by the university brought me into contact with Machine Learning & Data Science & I found my new favourite programming language in Python. Right now the plan is to specialize in Data Science at the Master's because I really enjoy it, but computer science is an incredibly fast-paced field in which you have to adapt again and again. I don't think I'll be doing the same thing in 30 years that I'm going to do in my Master's. Don't worry about that & try a lot. You can only know what there is & what is fun about it, if you have actually tried it (:
"Tips for group work and also scientific work?"
Group work is always such a double-edged sword. There are always people (especially if you can't choose the group yourself) who think team stands for Toll Ein Anderer Machts (German acronym means "Nice, somebody else does the job"). In general, I have had good experiences with creating a plan that is visible for all team members, where the tasks are assigned to the individual members (with names!). The best case is, that everyone chooses himself what he wants to work on, others have to be (slightly) forced. Which also helps with people who just don't do anything: Frequent meetings, instead of just once shortly before the delivery & just in case: seek the conversation with the professor early - before you really do everything yourself.
& regarding scientific work: Always start early! The flow state of writing is often delayed & the research effort is often underestimated. Find 1-2 people from your study course who can read about it again at the end & make meaningful comments. & last but not least, this is just practice. I find my scientific work from the early semesters meanwhile somewhat embarrassingly honestly said...
"Did you do internships during your studies? Were they voluntary or mandatory?
In our case ( Hochschule Augsburg ) there were 20 weeks of internship in the fifth semester mandatory. According to my employment contract, I had to do this mandatory internship at the company where I completed my dual studies. However, the company also offered me the opportunity to work for a subsidiary abroad if I wanted to, which leads to the next question...
"Did you spend a semester abroad? If so, where and how did you think of it?"
.. For this practical semester I then went to the subsidiary in Switzerland. Unfortunately, the alternative - Ireland - did not work out, because there was no internship position available for colleagues from Germany at the time. In Switzerland I was also paid the rent for the apartment by the company & the higher costs for health insurance were refunded. It's seldom that easy to go abroad as with a dual course of study at a company that operates internationally! For the Bachelor's thesis I returned to Switzerland because I liked it there very much & was again heartily welcomed by my colleagues 🙂
"Networking at university. How did you do this? Did you join a group outside the university?"
The Augsburg University of Applied Sciences offers the first-year students the so-called Startklar where you can get to know the new people from the study course very well and get the first basics for studying (especially maths) as well as team building activities. Networking is quite easy with such things & we have also set up a WhatsApp group for the course of studies so that everyone is in contact with each other. Beyond the lectures one could have joined some other groups, e.g. sports (Augsburg has its own Quidditch team!), but I didn't feel like it (introverted person) & had enough contacts during my studies. But it doesn't hurt at all to approach your fellow students with a "Hey I am XY, who are you? You are all in the same boat - usually nobody knows each other & everybody is looking for companion. So why not take the first step - also applies to girls!
Last but not least: remember to stay yourself & welcome the changes in life with open arms. Other people have already done such a study before you, then YOU will be able to do it! Of course fears & doubts are completely normal in the beginning, but "Paths are made by walking".