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Persistence is the Key

Navigating through my first year of college has been a struggle, for sure.

There’s a recurring joke that our university stands at the #1 spot for the highest stress levels. My friends and peers are exceptionally intelligent and diligent, and it’s been difficult to even just stay at the same pace let alone perform at the same level. At this point, I’ve overheard countless worries about how we’ll end up having to dropout or change majors.

As a result, I’ve recently begun to doubt whether CS is actually for me. I can’t remember how many times I have called friends and mentors from home to strengthen my wavering desire to pursue CS. As I am surrounded by friends who absorb concepts almost immediately and score multiple deviations above the mean on exams, I have had hesitations about whether CS is a field worth pursuing.

However, in the past few months, my friends and family have helped me realize that it is of utmost importance that we persist through our struggles. Entire fields shouldn’t come naturally– in fact, if they did, perhaps we would be missing out on the elements of surprise and pride that often accompany persistence.

It is not a straight-A average or a perfect score on a midterm that will help me gain the soft skills and technical experience necessary to obtain a job that suits me. It is not the concept of a binary search tree or a function that scrambles a string that I will be working with in my future occupation. Instead, I’m looking forward to creating extensive projects with teammates or learning how to use outside resources and tools to complete my work.

That being said, education provides us with the foundation to learn concepts. While it’s important to ensure that we don’t let the pressure overwhelm us, we must also keep in mind that we shouldn’t immediately give up on CS when the going gets tough. This is where persistence becomes the fundamental core of technical education.

One of the primary misconceptions about CS is that it has to come easy to us in order for us to be fit for the field– I’m here to spread a message that it doesn’t have to be that way. Perhaps it’s time that we really absorb and comprehend this advice. For too long, students have let the pressure of performing well academically in relation to their peers cloud their judgement about their major and occupations.

I can’t promise that CS will be easy for everyone and that persistence and determination always works out in the end, but I have an inkling that CS is worth the struggle. Every great venture is.

Isabella Lau, 2019 RTC Fellow

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