Student Guest Post: “4 Years Later; A reflection on my time at University.”

Speaking about how much he enjoyed his time at the University of Lincoln, Computer Science graduate Andrew Smith authored a guest blog post!

Dodgy WiFi, Visas and Relief…

It was when standing in line at immigration to leave Vietnam and enter Singapore on a 3 week backpacking trip where I managed to connect to the airport WiFi and with a shaky hand frantically refresh my emails every second to find out that after 3 years of studying at University and 1 year completing a work placement in industry I will be graduating from the University of Lincoln with a First Class Honours Degree in Computer Science. Achieving 85% overall, including scoring 100% on my final year project/dissertation (which you can read about here: I have achieved 100% on my dissertation!)

After finishing University at the end of May, I’ve managed to spend time away from exam revision to reflect on the last 4 years of my life with a view to putting it into words and sharing. I’ll begin by running with the usual cliché: my overall time at University has been an incredible experience, both academically, socially and in terms of personal growth. I’ve grown a lot and come into myself, learnt so much (about both technology, and well… life) and I’m truly proud of the experiences that I’ve had. On top of the time at University, the year working in industry between my 2nd and 3rd year is still one of the best decisions I’ve made; ultimately rewarding me in a hundred different ways, from giving me an incredibly value technological skillset in industry-standard tools, to learning how to work and communicate efficiently and effectively in a professional multi-discipline team, to enhancing my work-ethic, ambition and drive. All of this on top of working 8 to 5 every day on real-life projects that would be used by real-life people all over the real-life country, everyday… Overall, an experience that I cannot speak highly enough of, and would absolutely encourage recommend other students to do. The list of benefits really is endless… (however, I attempted this with a reflective piece written at the halfway point of my placement year, which you can read here: What I’ve learned in the first six months of my first internship.)

So, what have I actually learnt?

As with any degree, the modules completed varied in difficulty, personal enjoyment and interest, and the overall set of skills gained. With final year modules such as mobile computing and cross-platform development allowing me to spend time designing and building portfolio piece applications ( in technologies that I would be using in industry, and modules such as software engineering and final year project allowing me to write large yet concise pieces of documentation whilst simultaneously allowing me to reflect and critically analyse tools, practices and principles within the software development industry, and modules such as autonomous mobile robotics and parallel computing presenting difficult and challenging problems that needed reliable and effective solutions, often resulting in hours of intense coffee-fuelled brain-racking and failed attempts; a process that ultimately lead to a streamlined solution and a multitude of learnt lessons (mistakes = growth).

The final year project/dissertation module really should get a special mention here. Initially, a module that seemed daunting and intimidating, final year project turned out to be the most fulfilling academic experience of my life, ultimately allowing me to explore subjects that I could get incredibly passionate about; diabetes, artificial intelligence and building software. From writing an initial proposal to my supervisor for a self-thought project, to building an extensive API and mobile application, to writing the final report on it and finally presenting to people in industry at the Computer Science Showcase was all incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, and I firmly believe that no academic experience has grown my abilities, experience and confidence more than completing my final year project. Upon reflection, this year-long module coupled with my placement year in industry were two experiences that have made the most difference to my career, passions/interests and skillset. With high success in both massively growing my confidence and providing ease and reassurance from any imposter syndrome.

I believe that University doesn’t just teach you the techy stuff. It also teaches you the popular 21st-Century recruiter buzzwords transferable skills. When it comes down to it, you have 8 modules a year to complete, with possibly 16 different assignments to work on and hand in at a certain deadlines; something that requires organisation and time-keeping skills, as well as drive, ambition and passion. Contrary to 21st-Century popular belief, Red Bull fuelled all-nighters are not the way to be successful in a degree. When friends asked me how I got such-and-such grade, I would always reply with a simple answer of 9 to 5 on the silent floor of the library”. A process that allowed me the freedom of my evenings and weekends, and thus a social life as well as the peace of mind that all my work was done for the day and to a good quality. It’s not impossible, you can have a social life at University and still have academic success. It’s all about maintaining your ambition and drive and keeping the balance (which don’t get me wrong, is actually very hard). These transferable skills that you learn are also so relevant to industry, and learning them at University really did ease the process of getting into the working routine for my placement year as well as for my next job.

What’s up next?

I’m happy to say that I’ll be beginning a new job as a Web Developer at Roller Agency in Nottingham. I’m looking forward to beginning this new step in my career and furthering my skills, experiences and personal development and working with a talented team on exciting new projects with modern technologies, all in a vibrant city with a budding tech scene. I’m also excited to get back to attending Tech Nottingham events and NottsJS events, something that’s always fun and rewarding.

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