For the past year and a half, I have been solely consumed by the world of papers, research and readings. I heard people mention “p-sets,” but I would always laugh to myself or fend off triggering memories of some of my least favorite parts of my high school math and science classes. I felt far removed from all of it, and I was purposefully dodging those “p-set” classes that my peers seemed to find so incredibly invigorating. Until now.
For the first time in my Stanford career, I am taking predominantly STEM classes this quarter — and the icing on top of the cake? Two of my classes include programming — something that I had never even given thought to before coming here. Clearly the Stanford bubble has started to rub off on me. We’re just now creeping up on week three, but already, the difference between this quarter and every quarter previous has been astounding. I mean, excluding a campus tour, I had never even crossed the threshold into the engineering quad before.
Most troubling is that I can no longer accurately gauge how long my assignments are going to take me to complete. It’s scary. Sure, I’ve dealt with bouts of writer’s’ block, research dead-ends and the annoyance that comes with having to re-read a few pages because I somehow managed to absorb none of the information. Even so, all of those problems fall, for the most part, within my own power. I know how to wait out writer’s block until the creative juices start flowing. I can always broaden or narrow down my research question if I so choose. And the reading problem is quickly taken care of by actually paying attention to what I’m reading. Besides, even when I may not like the subject matter that I’m reading or writing about, at the end of the day, I still find enjoyment in the activities themselves, and depending on the length of the assignment, I can at least ballpark the length of time it’ll take me to complete it.
This week, while working on my very first CS assignment, I continued to find myself falling into holes of coding frustration that had no clear or definitive end because I honestly had no idea how long it would take for me to find my way out of those holes. It could take another half an hour, or it could take another three hours, or I could end up having to just give up for the night, deciding to try again the next day. One of my friends even said that she believes that no assignment in CS106A should take more than an hour. Ha. Funny. If only that were the case for me.
However, this is not to say that I’m not enjoying this quarter. It’s just different. I’m tapping into some parts of my brain that have sort of been collecting dust since high school. I don’t love the frustration I’ve been feeling, but I do love what comes after it, when I’ve finally figured out what I’ve been stuck on. And I’m lucky enough to have many of my fellow humanities-loving friends taking on this new challenge with me.
I used to be annoyed by the fact that Stanford’s WAYS requirement would force me to take classes that I have no interest in, but I’ve grown to have an appreciation for being pushed outside of my comfort zone for a class or two. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I will have been convinced to change my major to CS by the end of this quarter, but it’s nice to spend some time exploring a new territory. Yes, this quarter has already been quite challenging, but, nonetheless, something tells me that eventually I’ll look back on it fondly.