I’m still here, promise!

Millie has made an uneasy peace with her airline kennel after a traumatic 5-hour flight.
Millie has made an uneasy peace with her airline kennel after a traumatic 5-hour flight.

I have officially been in Vancouver for nearly a month – holy smokes! Class started on September 7 and I’ve now written one test, two long assignments, and 5+ quizzes/weekly math/stats short assignments. Time flies. UBC is much more challenging than Queen’s, and the work never seems to end!

I only wanted to check in now just to reassure you that Millie and I have survived the journey and settling into our new home. I’ve even made a couple new friends and have experienced (so far) one crisis in confidence (I expect that count to increase…).
I have a few ideas for future blogs here. Let me know if you’re interested in anything else:
  • review of all my courses this term
  • differences between studying discrete math vs calculus
  • how I make summary sheets
  • how not to fall asleep during *excruciatingly boring* texts …
  • differences between UBC, UVic and Queen’s
  • how to combat homesickness
  • a couple book reviews, too!

A summer update at long last, plus my experience with edX’s Systematic Programming Design

The last time I posted here, I had just accepted my offer to the University of British Columbia and was preparing to move to my parents’ house in the GTA for the summer. Well, here we are, almost two months later – and I’m getting ready to fly to Vancouver in just over a month!

I don’t have a great excuse for not posting regularly, except that I’m the kind of person who gets the most done when I already have a lot on my plate to schedule. When the days drift by without much structure, I procrastinate…a lot. And boy oh boy, do the days ever drift at my parents’ house. Half the time the internet doesn’t work here.

I have been keeping busy, though. Just yesterday I finally completed edX’s Systematic Program Design Parts 1-3 (SPD). Let me tell you, it was a real shock compared to everything I’ve learned at Queen’s University (where I have completed the first 3 computer science courses – 1.5 years’ worth of school).

SPD – normally just a 12-week course at UBC – covered more ground than all 3 Queen’s courses combined. It was wild. I’m a little nervous about what to expect at UBC now, and I am really glad to only be taking 4 courses per term next year (as recommended by the program advisors). I hope that not all UBC courses are this intense.

To be fair, I didn’t try my hardest at really learning the material. By Part 3 I was feeling burnt-out by the fast pace, since I did about a week’s worth of coursework per day. This meant I often skipped practice questions and relied on watching the videos and doing the quizzes. I feel like if someone put the final exam in front of me right now, I would probably fail it – or at least barely pass. But I feel like I understand the concepts; I’m just not comfortable with reading or programming in Racket quickly. (That may not actually be true – maybe I really just don’t understand the concepts too well – because Racket isn’t the trickiest language to learn. It just looks really weird. A lot of parentheses.)

I do, however, really recommend this course as an introduction to programming. I wish Queen’s had taught their courses in the same way. SPD was very well-structured, clearly taught, with a lot of bonus practice questions to try if things didn’t click the first time. It’s mind-boggling to me that in 12 weeks we reached tail recursion, accumulators and graphs. The only downside is that, being an online course, SPD did not provide very much additional support if the videos and examples weren’t enough.

My plan for the rest of August is to review Differential and Integral Calculus on Khan Academy to prepare for my Multivariable Calculus course in the fall. Speaking of courses, here is what I’m taking:

  • STAT 200: Elementary Statistics for Applications (3 credits)
  • CPSC 121: Models of Computation (4 credits)
  • MATH 200: Calculus III (3 credits)
  • COGS 200: Introduction to Cognitive Science (3 credits)

Yikes! Typically UBC students take 15 credits, or 5 classes, per term, but the Department of Computer Science recommends its students sign up for just 4. CPSC 121 has a lab component so it is worth 4 credits instead of the usual 3, so I’m only 2 credits short of a full courseload. In the winter term, I am taking two computer science courses with lab components, so I’m only 1 credit short of a full courseload then. Hopefully I’ll have settled into a routine by then so it won’t be too tough…

For those of you reading this who are interested in attending the BCS program someday, you might notice that I am not taking the typical BCS first-year courseload (which typically includes MATH 180, CPSC 110, ENGL 1** and something else). This is because the BCS program advisor exempted me from both communication requirements, the first two computer science courses, and the Calculus I requirement (and I actually took Calc I/II at Queen’s so I get to leapfrog into Calc III at UBC).

On the one hand, all these exemptions allow me to take the math and stats courses I need as prerequisites for some interesting upper-year computer science courses in my last year of the degree.

On the other hand, it also means that I may not be in any classes with fellow BCS students, at least not in my first year. I’ll have to make an extra effort to meet people in my program.

I won’t lie – I’m pretty nervous! Especially because I have a little dog relying on me for at least 2 hours of entertainment every day. But I’m also excited for a new challenge.