I’m currently working on the next big part to my MSc trilogy as we speak, but just a quick interim post before that goes live to talk about an idea that a friend proposed to me in order to help me finance my studies, and I figured it would be a good idea to at least share it here.
I’m currently in a fair amount of debt accrued through the last few years of my undergraduate and any help paying them off would go an awful long way to supporting me whilst I’m doing my MSc. There’s a lot more information on the website itself:
I’ve received this question a few times now so I figured it might be time to write a proper answer down, with my thought process and reasoning fully documented.
Let’s turn back the clocks to January of this year, which was when I initially applied for the University of Essex to study their MSc Psychology conversion course. It was before receiving my results for the first semester of my final academic year and I was feeling very under-confident in my abilities as a software engineer, and whether my ambitions to attain a First in my degree were even remotely achievable; it felt as though all of my peers had pulled substantially ahead of me and despite my best efforts, I felt that I was becoming disheartened with the discipline and this was especially the case with my Ruby on Rails web development module that I was having a hard time in, when web development is typically my forte. You can imagine what kind of number this was doing on my Imposter Syndrome, which is something I have a hard enough time with anyway.
I’m the kind of person who likes to put safety nets in place, or to have some kind of redundancy plan. Perversely, it goes against my natural inclinations towards spontaneity, but like a dog who learns to slow down after running into a glass door one time too many, I’ve become more methodical in my decision making. My best friend is also very strategic, so it rubs off somewhat on me. To cut a long story short, I had planned to use my expertise and enthusiasm for mental health, Active Listening, and student welfare to springboard myself into a psychology-oriented career path should everything turn sour. Several years of volunteering for a student helpline is nothing to scoff at, along with various volunteer undertakings in the name of student welfare and mental health, and I wanted to use these potentially to my advantage.
The cherry on the sundae was my running the Students’ Union student elections for the position of Welfare Officer around March. Sure, it would mean deferring the Master’s by a year, but it would put me in good stead for such a career and be a year of concrete, paid experience. I came third place, which is still really good, but I’ll admit, I was really disappointed. I’ll update this blogpost with a link to an article I’m writing about my experiences running in that, what I learned, and what I took away from my brief stint in student politics.
Eventually, I got my semester results. I did tremendously, despite all of my doubts, and what this really did was restored a lot of my faith in myself. But of course, there was still one more semester to go, and it would involve the largest software project I ever embarked on – a PHP based tool for extracting data from FGM-3 magnetometers, rendering the data using Chart.js, and also making datasets available via POST request, kind of like a diluted RESTful service. It was a great success, netting 77% for it, with my department planning on using it as the basis for another undergraduate project next year.
If that was just a big whirlwind of jargon, let me break it down for you. After struggling for a semester and having my confidence really stunted, it made a rapid recovery following my results and then my success with my dissertation. Not to mention my degree overall! It rekindled my desire to learn more, and despite the sleepless nights and the hard work I put into my program (and its mountains of documentation), I look back fondly. It was a lot of fun.
Ultimately, I decided that mental health activism, Active Listening, and Nightline helpline volunteering would remain as hobbies, and that it would be more fruitful for me to continue pursuing what I set out to pursue in the first place. It was no fluke I achieved what I did, despite the Imposter Syndrome in me trying to persuade me otherwise. I really hope that this year will continue to build my confidence, along with a badass portfolio. More on that tomorrow.
Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in more posts, including ones that don’t focus on me (I promise!), follow me on Twitter! I always tweet whenever I’ve written anything new, and you won’t want to miss my retweets – they’re great.
He abandons his blog and then comes back with a three-parter?! Like poetry, I once again neglected my online presence as I went about bringing my Bachelor’s degree to a close, thankfully netting first class honours – something that meant a great deal to me, and then moving back home and taking an extended break to finally enjoy some video games and to sleep (a lot of sleep), in preparation for the next big challenge.1
What’s next then? Well that challenge of course would be my Master’s degree. I was sadly unsuccessful in my attempts to secure scholarship funding for the Advanced Software Engineering and Game Development graduate courses I was eyeing up, that I would otherwise be unable to afford with just the Postgraduate Loan alone, so ultimately I opted to return to my alma mater, Aberystwyth, to do a Computer Science Master’s degree. Admittedly, I’m a lot more excited about this than I was originally – the thought of spending another year on the pleasant Welsh coast, this time fully dedicating myself to software engineering, and not being shredded by the difficulties of a joint-honours degree. No more hours spent slaving over German grammar drills. Nevertheless, the heightened difficulty and intensity of assessed coursework and strong emphasis on structured, independent learning will pose challenging, all whilst attempting to survive on my part-time job earnings – a prospect familiar to the majority of postgraduates in the UK.
I mentioned at the start of the year that I wanted to write more – well, I certainly did, twenty thousand words in fact, if you’re counting my dissertation. I have set concrete aims for this academic year, and what it is that I want to set my mind to and I want to achieve. I have broken this down into three long-term aims that I’ll be exploring over this blogpost trilogy. My first aim that is the primary focus of this post is as follows:
By the end of the academic year, have prepared an impressive portfolio of projects ready to impress employers in the web and/or game development industries.
If you think this sounds a bit vague, or a bit overambitious you’re right. It’s just a high-level aim intended to be broken down into smaller objectives. But first let’s think about what I mean by this.
First, it’s no secret that I’m enticed by video game development as a career path, and that I continue to be fulfilled by web development also. My programming background from a young age came from web-based technologies and languages, so it makes sense to continue learning and developing as such. Game development is more of a new attraction, having previously vowed not to ever investigate out of fear of spoiling the enjoyment of video games for myself, but after playing with Unity and Unreal Engine 4, I had a change of heart because they are just so much fun.
Aside from university coursework, my repositories and overall portfolio are looking malnourished. My aim is to expand them with personal projects worked on over the duration of the upcoming academic year, and to revitalise and refactor existing projects (and coursework) to an acceptable standard. Overall, it should look something like this by the time I approach graduation:
My MSc work and dissertation to the best possible standard. Obviously.
A substantial project written in Laravel and Vue.js to demonstrate a substantial understanding of those frameworks. It should also include thorough testing and documentation. I am already working hard to learn them.
A 2D platforming game built in Unity. I have ideas in mind for these already, but ultimately the game should demonstrate working knowledge of the SDK, the C# programming language, and some practical use of sprite artwork and image editing. I’m still yet to figure this all out.
A more basic game written in SFML and C++. This is to show that I can produce something more low-level without the use of an advanced high-level SDK.
A substantial refactoring of my undergraduate dissertation project, written in PHP. This program has academic usage, so touching it up would be beneficial to all.
Optional: Any other refactored coursework, projects, and video games.
Phew! That’s it for this part! I’m mildly surprised with how therapeutic and helpful it is just to jot your plans down on ‘paper’. I’m really looking forward to learning as much as I can in the course of this year and developing a Swiss army knife of skills and expertise that should hopefully land me in a comfortable career.
The second part will most probably be a lot more emotional and will discuss aspects of my past and present before proposing what my plans are for the future. Think of it as your typical New Years’ Resolution except I’m aiming to commence it, little-by-little, until I see results, throughout the academic year. You might’ve guessed what it is already. Regardless, I’m sure it will be an interesting insight into my life and I hope you come back to give it your perusal.
For now, I gotta get back to Laracasts. I’ll catch you again later in the week, and as always, I’d love to read any of your comments below!
(1) Well, this doesn’t mean I do literally nothing. Whilst home, I continue my volunteer work for the Nightline Association, and for Florida Friends of Hostelling. Something like an internship would’ve been nice, but you know what? I appreciated the downtime.
Yeah I know I know – my whole New Year’s resolution basically went to crap – I promised that I would do a weekly blog post but I’ve simply been so crazy busy that I just haven’t had the opportunity to do so.
So what’s new? I’ve been busy with my campaign to become Wellbeing Officer in my Students’ Union annual elections. Unfortunately I was unsuccessful, and came in third place. Nevertheless, I am very happy with where I came. I’ll be writing about that hopefully soon both on LinkedIn as well as the student paper if I can.
I got my results for last semester! 74% in Agile Methodologies, 72% in Internet Services Administration, and 64% in Developing Internet-Based Applications. I also got a wonderful 79% in my Year Abroad, although this is worth only 0.25 on the degree cascade.
Other than that, I’ve just been busy with my major project and German work. There’s been a lot of disruption to my teaching due to the recent university strikes, which I totally empathise with, so I am for the most part playing a lot of catch-up and dealing with a near endless barrage of work.
This week, I need to ensure my major project is demonstration ready by Wednesday, to prepare numerous German translations for Thursday, as well as sit an assessed listening exam on Thursday, and finally present a topic on a random German politics topic for Friday.
Thankfully, I can go home this weekend for the three week Easter break.