MyStory#01 – How I ended up studying Computer Science
When I was a little kid
When I was a little kid, I used to get average results in exams. I always struggled somewhere in the middle of the rankings. Heck, in class five (or was it class 6?) I even failed once! Scored 48% only. Luckily my school did not make failed students repeat the year so I managed to move on. I mainly struggled with subjects that required memorizing a lot, e.g, geography, history, English language (I didn’t remember spellings/grammars :v). I guess my memory was never my strong point.
Apart from studying, I didn’t really have anything else to do. I spent my free time watching cartoons and playing video games. This really annoyed my father. He would always complain about how he never saw me studying. In my defense, I used to point out that he never saw me studying because he came home late (he was a doctor and very workaholic) and obviously I was done with my studies by the time he came home. He never bought my logic though. He would say, “Son, if you don’t study till midnight, can you even call that studying?”
My results started to improve once I reached class eight. We started to prepare for O Levels exams and it was our decisions what subjects we will give exam for. So when I replaced memorization heavy subjects like Geography and History with Physics, Chemistry and Biology (this also had memorization in it, but at least there was some logic with it! Can you show me any logic in Geography or History?), my results improved automatically. I was finally a good student!
I completed my O Levels in 2009. My result was pretty decent. I got 9 A’s and 1 C. The C was from the English Language. Later I finished my A Levels in 2011 Jan with 4 A* and 1 A; managed to reach everyone’s expectations.
Once I finished college, it was time to focus on higher studies. At first, I thought I would go abroad for higher studies. I had to change my mind when I realized I wouldn’t get a full scholarship unless I sat for SAT exam. I didn’t want to bother with another exam or burden my family with inhuman tuition fees like 20000$ per year.
I decided I would study in Bangladesh. But what will I study? I didn’t really have an answer. With no dream of my own, I just fell back on my family to decide for me. My father was very delighted to enroll me in “Retina”, a medical coaching center that prepares you for Medical Entrance Exams. And Just like that, it was decided that I will pursue a bachelors in Medicine.
On my way to becoming a doctor
Life was tough in “Retina”. The process of teaching was very simple. An instructor would give a lecture on a topic and provide detailed notes on it after class. Our task would be to review the notes very carefully at home. At every class, there would be a quiz on the topics from last class. The quiz consisted of 50 multiple choice questions with negative marking for wrong answers.
With such a setup, I struggled hard to keep up with kids from the same batch. In every quiz, I would score less than 25, whereas most of the kids would score more than 40! The gap between our knowledge was huge and I knew exactly why I performed so badly. Memorization!
The medical entrance exam is full of ridiculous questions that required an insane amount of memorization to do well. I will give you an example, even though I don’t remember the specifics of the event. One day I was reading about mosquitos from notes provided by “Retina”. Mosquitoes are creatures that get a very high amount of attention in the medical field due to being a carrier of a disease called “Malaria”. The scientific name of “Malaria” was xyz (a made-up name; as if I am gonna remember the actual name after so many years!). Even though the scientific name of the disease has nothing to do with the disease, I still memorized it for the sake of doing well in the quiz. Then I came to know about the person who discovered the parasite. I memorized his name. Then came his birth date; I memorized that too. As you can understand, I put in lots of effort in learning so that I can do well in the quiz.
In the next class, I was feeling very confident about the quiz. I memorized the scientific name of “Malaria”, name of the scientist who discovered malaria; heck, I even memorized his birthday! There was no way I could miss a question from that topic. But behold, in the quiz they asked me the date on which the scientist received Nobel prize for discovering Malaria. Didn’t memorize that.
How is learning the date on which the scientist got Nobel prize is going to help me become a better doctor? I didn’t know. But what I did realize was, I am not cut out for becoming a doctor. There was no point in trying to pursue something which was just going to make me suffer. I needed to find an alternative.
Looking for something with less memorization
After talking with my friends about my struggle, I finally shortlisted my career options as follows: architecture, electrical engineering, and computer engineering. Considering my lack of art/drawing skills and creative imagination, I didn’t see any hope in myself excelling in architecture. And between electrical and computer engineering, I felt I had more chance in computer engineering. Why? Because I played video games a lot!
Back then, there was a craze for a first-person shooting game called “Counter Strike 1.6”. I was addicted to the game for a period of 1.5 years. It was during this obsession that I got the idea of becoming a Game Developer. “If I can become a game developer”, I thought, “then I can make games all day and then play games all night! It would be so fun!” If only life was that simple…
With the hope of playing games all day, I decided I should explore this option very seriously. The only problem was, I had no knowledge about programming. It wouldn’t be very appropriate to jump into an unknown subject; what if programming was harder than studying in a medical! I had to first see how difficult was programming before deciding jump boats.
In school, we had a “Computer” subject. We learned how to work with Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint there. Obviously, that was of no use. But I vaguely remembered once seeing a book of C++ on my teacher’s table. So I decided to google with that. Soon I stumbled upon cprogramming.com and a short tutorial on it. There were two different tutorials: one for C++ and one for C. I decided to learn C first since C++ is an extension of C. Honestly, I just thought C would be easier than C++. I didn’t really think too deeply about it.
The tutorial explained how to download Codeblocks and run a “Hello World” program on it. When I completed that exercise, it felt really awesome! It was so easy! Programming was so easy! Therefore, my dream of making (playing) games will be easy too! In one day I completed all tutorials up to one-dimensional array; two-dimensional array felt too tough to understand, so I gave up. Hey, if I learn all programming on my own then what will I learn in University?
With that, my objective was decided. Next, I just needed to convince my parents. First I told mom about how I was struggling in the medical coaching and she was very understanding about it. She told me to tell my dad about it. I thought my dad would not be very understanding about it, only to find that he kind of half expected this. He didn’t have much hope in me becoming a doctor anyways.
So yeah, studying computer science wasn’t a childhood dream of mine. I actually didn’t even have a dream. I simply wanted to avoid studying medicine and play games all day if possible.
And it seems like I made the right decision. I am pretty sure that if I had studied medicine, I would have been a terrible doctor. Today, I won’t say I am an amazing software engineer but I think I am doing better than the doctor version of myself. I have slightly deviated from my original vision though. I didn’t end up becoming a game developer nor do I play games all day now 🙁