I really enjoy the creative ways my lecturers use to make the learning process enjoyable.
There are plenty of variables when choosing a University: location, safety, accommodation, costs, job offers. The game-changers for me were the Academic Achievement Award (offered by the Department of Computer Science to prospective students with very high marks) and that the city is very affordable.
I also had the great chance to come to the UK and visit the cities I was considering studying in. By far, the most vibrant was Sheffield. Adding to the fact that some of the most important research into Robotics is being done here, choosing to come here felt like the best step forward.
Programmers are often stereotyped as hermits - horribly sleep deprived, running on sandwiches and energy drinks, pale and unsociable. While I'm sure that can be true, I’ve also seen the complete opposite: my friends are all high-energy creatives, extroverts, entrepreneurs, dreamers of impossible things, dedicated to their field as I have never believed possible. The University’s way of teaching programming languages is very much about play and discovering awesome ways to use the languages in real life contexts and my generation is the living proof of that. Additionally, I believe Sheffield offered me an amazing opportunity in expanding my global network. I now write postcards to my Doctor Who-loving friend in Pakistan, exchange gifts with my Chinese friend, dance tango with people from Mexico and still have time to practice my French and German with native speakers.
All the projects I worked on were indispensable to my learning. By having me do my own research and figure things out, I learned considerably in a very short span of time about project management, software architecture and product design. Additionally, I really enjoyed the creative ways some of my lecturers used to make the learning process much more enjoyable.
The teaching is very hands-on and practical. A lot of it is unsupervised learning and you do gain most while you’re on your own, smashing your head against a keyboard, because Principal Component Analysis seems to make no sense. But breakthroughs do happen all the time and, especially in my field, which is notorious for its complexity, it is particularly satisfying to see your program work flawlessly after hours of work and frustration.
The balance between self-discovery and brutal competition is always tricky, but I think the University is right on the edge. It gives you enough time to develop your own projects, study what you like, give you guidance where you need it, and then it keeps you on your toes with competitive projects, team-work methodologies and high-complexity software development cycles.
It’s an amazing community. One of the best friends I’ve made here has become my hero of sorts, making me much more environmentally aware, more conscious of the waste and the clutter gathering in my apartment, much braver and willing to take risks. I’ve flown alone to Oslo for my 20th birthday and it was the most thrilling gift I could have ever given myself. Sheffield has seen me grow from anxious foreigner to confident woman, from passionate mathematician to passionate programmer. It’s all been thanks to the people it’s attracting like a magnet.