Thank you, Josh Hug

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“I don’t want to go to a public school.”

Those were the most important words for me when it came time to apply to colleges. Second to that was “I don’t want to go to Berkeley.” I fought my parents and cried because I didn’t even want to apply. Warnings of more-than-1,000-person lecture halls, lack of professor interaction and the sense of the school not caring whether or not you fail were very real concerns.

Yet, here I am.

Up until this spring — my sophomore year — I still had these same issues with UC Berkeley. I constantly felt like the school didn’t want me to succeed and I was frustrated by the lack of personal attention present in public school systems. I had more bad professors than mediocre ones and an unfortunate number of intimidating, arrogant graduate student instructors. Whenever I thought of school, I constantly wondered why I chose to come here.

Why would I put myself through this when I could have gone to Boston College, a nice liberal arts school on the East Coast? I could’ve benefitted from the grade inflation, easily majored in computer science and not driven myself crazy every time I was still on the waitlist of a class a month into the semester.

But after this past semester, I have an answer. I came to UC Berkeley because somewhere deep down in my heart and in the back of my mind I knew there had to be professors like Josh Hug at such a universally prominent school.

My mindset going into CS 61B was definitely not a positive one. I struggled with 61A and felt discouraged, making me really come to dislike computer science. I was scared for this class and had only taken it because I felt like I just had to give the subject another chance.

As the semester progressed, my initial dislike toward it seemed to fade while my love grew, thanks to its professor. There is a reason why there is not a single bad review of him on Rate My Professors, Ninja Courses or any site really.

That reputation held up when I went to Hug’s office hours with a friend — I was more intimidated by the other students there than by him. And we invited him to our sorority professor dinner, expecting him to decline. He responded saying how much he loved these types of things. After one and a half years of subpar professors, I had finally found one that I admired enough to want to converse with outside of class. The dinner did not disappoint.

He teaches with a spirit that I had never experienced in high school or my last two years at UC Berkeley. You could tell that he wanted to be at lecture and wasn’t thinking about being somewhere else. His projects, homeworks and labs were entertaining and engaging, displaying the time and thought that went into each of them. He constantly emphasized the importance of being an honest person in addition to being an honest programmer. He was somehow able to make a 1,400-person class feel a little smaller. And I don’t think there is anything more you can ask of a professor, especially at a school as large as UC Berkeley.

CS 61B certainly kicked my butt at times and there were definitely late nights/early mornings where I was cursing Hug’s name, but the end result was always gratifying. I don’t know any other professor who could make me not hate him after having to debug a project for 15 hours straight.

And aside from all this, he made me think about what I wanted to do with my future after college. I have had a change of heart and I now place value upon bettering society rather than just thinking about myself.

Coming to a public school, I never expected a professor to have such a large effect on the way I viewed a subject. At a school with 1,400-person classes, it makes sense why I thought this way. But a good professor changed that.

From this class, I take away much more than figuring out the runtimes of LLRBBucketHashSets and how to implement a MaxPQ using only a MinPQ. And when a professor is able to make that happen, it’s an incredible feat and should not go unrecognized.

So to Josh Hug, thank you for making me fall in love with computer science. Thank you for giving me the experience of having a truly passionate, great professor. Thank you for giving me faith in the public school system. And most of all, thank you for making me aspire to be a better person.

Contact Taylor Choe at [email protected].

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