Programming, a real life changer!

So, your studying a course that requires you to do some sort of programming, yet you don’t feel you understand it much. Does this sound like you?

I was in this very same situation just a few years ago when I first started studying at The University of Salford. It’s no secret that my first year there didn’t go all that well, and I was forced in to doing a repeat year in order to progress onto where i am today. Is it something that I’m ashamed of? Not at all. There are students out there that start university on the wrong foot, just like I did, however I feel that I want to share my experiences so far with you and hopefully help you find that motivation to keep going!

As the title suggests, I had real issues with my programming modules for my course. I started out studying Computer Networks, a course which was closely related to Computer Science. Now my first impressions was that I was going to be studying modules relating specifically towards computer networking, and I wouldn’t have to worry about any programming like the Software Engineering related courses. Of course I was wrong. The programmes that The University of Salford offer within the computing department are initially tailored towards teaching students a broad spectrum of topics, and then becoming more specialised in later years. I often found myself asking the same question week after week… “Why am I studying programming, when I want to be a Network Engineer?”. I maintained this attitude, and as a consequence ended up finishing the first year failing the two programming modules. I was then therefore forced into repeating the year, as I hadn’t gained enough credits in order to proceed onto second year.

My self esteem was at an all time low, and I very nearly made (what i see now) as a foolish decision as to drop out. But no. I stuck with it. Over that summer break between the end of first year and the start of what was to be my repeat year I started playing around with a programming language called PHP. I would look at various tutorials posted on various peoples blogs from all over the world, and try to make sense of them. I became immersed and found that I was actually enjoying this experience. At this stage I was merely pasting bits of code together to do various things, however this proved to be the start of something rather exciting for me.

I returned to The University of Salford with a much more focused attitude towards programming. I’d realised that this was something that i’d potentially enjoy. I can tell you right now, there is no better sense of satisfaction, than spending time writing bits of code and watching it work as intended. Granted at that stage it didn’t work very well in terms of standard ways of working, however it was a start. The first semester, I was repeating Introduction to Programming, a module that started students with the Java language. I’d found myself being able to related what I had “self studied” over the summer break to what we where studying in the lecture program. It started to make sense. A lot of sense. A few weeks into the module and I had moment that can only be described as a eureka! I was sitting in a lecture that was being given by Dr Newton, and we where looking at Objects and Classes, the foundation of Object Orientated Programming (OOP). Everything fell in to place. Everything that I had previously struggled with up until now just made so much sense. I saw code in a completely seperate way. Rather than it being what seemed random words and characters on the screen, I could see exactly how it all interlinked and therefore how it worked. It was a fantastic feeling and a fantastic confidence boost.

Each few weeks we had a small programming assignment set, in which we had to solve a particular problem. I became so immersed in what i was doing, i was able to complete each task and gain a very high mark for it. It’s right then that I realised I had developed a very good skill. This followed on in to the second semester, where we started looking at .NET programming, specifically C#. I was able to take everything that I learned and understood about programming over in to this module and similarly managed to also attain high marks. My first assignment was to create a Picture viewer, that allowed the user to load in an image and perform simple manipulations of rotating mirroring. This assignment was extremely enjoyable, and my sheer determination and focus meant that I attained a mark of 100%. I cannot begin to describe how proud I was of what I had done. And there it was. I found myself wanting to keep on programming, and keep on learning in this area.

Since I had so much more spare time throughout that year I kept a keen focus on programming outside of my studies, and I kept on with my self study of PHP/MySQL. So much so, that I made the decision to switch courses. I had a new sense of direction in life and I wanted peruse my newly found interest. And that is where I am currently at. I’m now in second year, studying Multimedia and Internet Technology. This was one of the best decisions I had ever made. I’d gone from not particularly enjoying my time at Salford, to now adoring it. So far this year having just completed semester 1, I have achieved marks that I wouldn’t have thought I could do. For once I now feel that I have a clear sense of direction, and I also have the determination to keep on learning. I couldn’t be happier with the way things are now going, and I owe it all to hard work. My new course, my new friends and the awe inspiring environment of Media City are a driving force behind my determination to do well, and I fully intend on doing just that!

My future blog posts will mainly revolve around programming solutions / tutorials, similar to those that I had previously read to bring me to where I am today. I wrote my story here because I wanted to share my experiences with you, and help to show you that programming does not have to be so daunting and mind boggling, it can be really fun, exciting and give you an enormous sense of self satisfaction alongside the additional confidence boosts!

I hope I’ve shown you how putting that little bit of extra effort in to your studies outside of University, really can lead to you having the same life changing experience, as I have had.