What I learned from coding

Illustration of a student at a desk using multiple devices to complete a coding assignment.
Cynthia Shi/Staff

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Coming into Berkeley as a humanities major, I felt a bit out of place. With so many STEM majors around me, I started to wonder if, maybe, my true calling was with technology. 

Berkeley’s tech focus is one of the drawing factors for many students and, of course, getting into an environment that is so deeply dependent on Silicon Valley, many others fall into it, too. I was one of those people. 

Starting off my spring semester, I was confident that I wanted to switch my major to data science. Exploring computing, learning how to code, it all seemed like a legitimate goal that I was eager to start on. That is, until my first computer science class. 

I knew coming in that computer science is a difficult major with a bunch of weed-out courses. However, I simply assumed that I wouldn’t be one of those people and that “weeded-out people” were simply not meant to stay in the major or didn’t have the passion for it.  This thought has kept me going until the start of the semester when I suddenly realized what weed-out classes are really for. 

Going into my first CS 61A lecture, I was confident that all I had to do was pay attention to the content — and I should be fine. That, surprisingly, wasn’t the case. Working on the labs and homework assignments didn’t exactly reciprocate the lecture and called for drastic research and self-studying, which is all for someone who is generally interested and passionate about computer science. The first week of classes made me realize how much coding was not for me. All of the assignments required not just effort, but devotion to the topic, which explained why CS majors do tend to spend the majority of their time studying.  Unfortunately for me, I realized that the course was not for me, and perhaps the major wasn’t either. 

The charm of the tech world lures in many students at UC Berkeley, but they are never reminded that being in STEM isn’t necessary. What is most important is to keep up the good work in whatever department you truly feel involved in. This way you can put effort into your real passion and build a life for yourself that won’t necessarily be worse just because you chose a different path. 

Contact Irina Sakharova at [email protected].