Having lived abroad during my teenage years, I always envisioned American college life to be like what I saw in the movies. Red solo cups, parties, fraternities, all-nighters, exams, dorms, hookups and lots of drinking. I’m sure students who went to high schools in the United States expected about the same.
I soon came to learn this is (mostly) true, but with caveats. Everyone is doing their own thing. Some students are all about tailgates and football games. Others like to hang out at the library or play Super Smash Bros on a Friday night. There are different personalities within schools and between schools.
But the one thing that is common among all is Python.
Yes, Python. Not the tropical snake, but the more than 30-year-old programming language. Python is what unites people. STEM and humanities. Athletes and debate team captains. English majors and math majors.
Most of us take a Python class or two. Sometimes it’s a tool in a peripheral elective. Other times it’s the end itself and a core part of your program.
Python is ubiquitous on college campuses across the world. It’s the English of programming languages. In fact, us Comp Sci geeks joke that it’s closer to English than a programming language. That’s because it is.
You see, not only is Python relatively readable, but — like English — it is relatively easy to pick up because it abstracts a lot of difficult functionality. Both follow the Pareto Principle: 80% of the outcome is derived from 20% of the effort. Have you ever compared conjugation in English versus a highly inflected language like Spanish?
I ran, you ran, they ran. The boy, the girl.
Yo corrí, tú corriste, ellos corrieron. El niño, la niña.
The Anglo people were like, “Pfft, to heck with gender, tense is the more useful piece of information!”
Same idea with Python. Sure, you can do “more” with C or Java — just like a novel might be slightly more descriptive in French. But if French is not your native language, then it’s probably not worth the time to pick it up for a single book. Similarly, the average person doesn’t want to deal with type declaration and direct memory access. They just want to automate some dang emails.
Easy to pick up doesn’t mean there’s a low skill-ceiling though. There’s a broad spectrum within the Python world. Some people are beginners in English, other people are quite literally William Shakespeare or George Orwell.
People new to Python get by fine with some basic scripting. But with hard work, you can become a Pythonista capable of composing the most beautiful of programs. The potential is limitless.
I’ve done homework with Python. I’ve set up fantasy leagues for my friends and sorted cluttered digital photo albums. I’ve created apps and automated processes. I’ve had fun through and through.
I import the libraries that exist for my convenience. I make my class, I loop around. I multiply, print and debug. I love running and rerunning code. I love Python.
Python is accessible. It is inclusive, easy to learn and powerful. It has created more jobs than it has automated. It has a strong place in the modern economy, on campus and in my heart.
Thank you, Python.