A couple weeks ago (December 2015), I graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Computer Science degree. It didn't really hit me that I was done with school until today.
School is all I've known for the past 20 years. Climbing from preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school and finally college. Each school preparing you for the next adventure.
College however is a different beast. As anyone will tell you, the path you take in college is mostly dependent on you. There is no teacher guiding you from class to class or telling you when to go outside.
So let's walk through my college experience and warning - This is a long long read and gets a tad bit personal. I found myself without Internet for roughly 48 hours, so this blog is the culmination of that time.
Freshman - The awkward beginning
I sit packing stuff up in my guest room at my parents house. Being the first child to college we go overkill figuring out everything I will need. We have lists printed from Google and triple checking everything to bring. The only questions littered in my brain though were
- What type of Internet will my dorm have?
- My dorm has no air conditioning. WHAT?
- How will I fit my computers into a room the size of my current bathroom?
Fast forward. We show up in early August navigating the one way roads littered around town and arrive in front of my dorm building. We are swarmed by an army of kids. These kids ask us a single question: What room? With one piece of information, the army of kids each grab a piece of my luggage and carry it all into the unknown. So now I walk with my parents into a foreign building up to the 2nd floor. I see all my stuff outside my door.
Fast forward a couple of hours and I'm stepping out of my parents car after lunch. They are heading back home (3+ hours) and I'm walking up the hill to my dorm. Day 1 has started. I'm on my own.
My first thought. This August heat mixed with no air conditioning is insane. How will I sleep in this intense heat?
Day 1 of my new home and I'm sitting in a 95F room. The best way to keep cool was to keep both your door and windows open to create an insane airflow.
This meant that nearly every door in our dorm building was open. Meeting new friends was considerably easier than I had imagined. I met about 20 very good friends, most of which were women. Since our rooms were too hot, we always spent time together as friends in the study rooms (1 per floor) which had AC units.
This was a more social time than I was used too. Prior to this year I had my room and computers to take all my time. This was different as it was a tad bit difficult to really get any focus for development going as I was limited to this area shown below.
My laptop barely fit. I couldn't even place a monitor as that would leave no room for a keyboard and mouse. So my desktop became a bitcoin miner for my entire freshman year. I ended the year with roughly 2.1 btc. That was mining with dual Radeon 5770s 24x7 with a nice hashrate before the difficulty rose.
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday had dorm friends stumbling back into the building at odd hours of the night. Myself being a nerd, not part of any frat, usually was the one meeting them at the door to let them in as they forgot to bring their keys. This led to some interesting conversations as I got to hear how multiple places and parties were daily. Weeks became months and my freshman year was almost over.
The planning for sophomore year began. Living on campus wasn't an option nor was a frat. So I had to find an apartment. My roommate was moving into his frat house, so I was on my own to find a new roommate. Luckily, my next door dorm friend was also alone needing a roommate. We searched and found a nice apartment about 10 minutes from campus.
So I went home for my last summer in my home state spending time with my old high school friends. The summer consisted of working and telling stories with friends about our respective schools. 3 months passed and I was returning to Arkansas - this time with my car at an apartment complex.
Sophomore - Back to basics
My 2nd year of school was beginning. The butterflies about college were gone and it was just another year. Thankfully this year I started in some Computer Science classes vs doing general education courses. This was a relief to me as I couldn't stand taking Geography, Government, English and Chemistry.
Friends changed as we were no longer seconds apart living amongst each other. Thankfully I met some great friends that I still remained friends with this year. We communicated our schedules and hung out frequently on and off campus. Of course drinking this year was in an awkward position. Some of us were 21 and some weren't. This split our friend group between apartment/frat parties or bar hopping. At the same time, these sorority functions were popping up so often. These were basically an excuse to drink and party on a random night. I was lucky enough to be asked by some women to attend a few of these.
Aside from drinking and classes. My development area and work rate was back. I had a desk with my computer setup again.
I was back (online that is). I was supressed freshman year, but now I had my systems back up and running and it was great. I was back translating MIUI Roms coding crazy build systems using apktool and bash scripts. I was also diving into xbox 360 modding as I had hoped it would be like the blast that Halo 2 and original Xbox modding was. (Hint - It wasn't).
This year went faster than expected and winter was already upon us. This was an insane winter. Snow and ice was everywhere and we had classes cancelled a lot. My car was stuck in the parking lot and I was getting bored out of my mind. The snow removal service here in Fayetteville was non existent. I remember walking in the morning in 5 layers of clothes to my friends house about an hour away. It was a long cold walk, but worth it after being snowed in for so long.
It warmed up and classes were on again. Tests and schedules were out of whack, which led to some large exams that I didn't do well on. I tended to put more focus in hobbies than school, but everything ended alright. I just couldn't pass up programming some kick ass projects with some friends located at other schools. Months went by and I passed another year and summer was upon us.
This time with a rent to pay and a summer class. Going home wasn't an option. This is where the separation between high school friends and new college friends really set in. No longer was I going home to spend 3 months with all my old high school friends. I was staying in my college town with my new friends.
I did go back home for a week though. I couldn't stay away from what was happening back home :)
Summer was here and a new addiction had set in. Ingress, an augmented reality game, found me and I was hooked. Within months I was taking part in communities and driving to random parts of the state to play the game. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, maybe give the Wikipedia Article a read.
With only one class and part time work. I found myself with large amounts of free time. A couple of friends stayed in town as well, so I became closer friends with a group of people. We all had work and classes, so it was basically a relaxing summer of drinking, movie nights and soccer.
Junior year was starting and my roommate and myself decided to renew for another year.
Junior - dang, we are halfway done
So naturally with a new year, but same apartment I had to upgrade something. It was time to upgrade the desk area. A new glass desk and monitor left me with a sort of L shaped desk setup.
This time xbox 360 modding slid out of the picture. My main focus now was Android, Apktool and building sweet PHP powered websites utilizing popular video game APIs.
School this year was going to be tough. It was the year of CALC 2, Physics 2 and a bunch of Computer Science classes. CALC 2 and Physics 2 were going to take all my focus I could get.
Of course though, I had different ideas. After two years of hanging out with amazing people, I tried my luck with a girl I felt I had a connection with and had known since my first day in Fayetteville. It worked. I started my Junior year off no longer single.
This year was going to be crazy. I had a girlfriend, work, intense classes, soccer, Ingress and random things like hobby programming and gaming.
It was amazing. School wasn't great, but I wasn't an A student in High school so why would college be any different? Exam grades were never stellar and I relied on the various homework and quiz grades to hold a grade in a class.
Gaming took a small chunk of my time, because the Xbox One (The 3rd iteration of the Microsoft console) had just been released. After owning an original Xbox & Xbox 360. I felt I had to get an Xbox One on day one (release day). An Xbox became a key part of communication between my old friends. We all had xboxes across the states we were in and we could get online and chat while gaming to hear about our different lives and stories.
Dating was new to me, but great times were had. My girlfriend and I visited some cool Fayetteville areas from peaks to parks to ponds. We ate some fancy dinners at some sweet places and attended a great deal of parties. We even went to the Lake of the Ozarks with some friends to enjoy some drinking and tanning. Back in Fayetteville, our schedules were close enough that we spent time on campus and off every day.
Winter approached for the 3rd time and things were going good. I had a part time job, pretty amazing girlfriend and was still in school. My girlfriend introduced me to a ton more friends (since I wasn't exactly the most social person) and these guys were great friends as well. They also lived near my girlfriend close to campus, so I was really only going home to sleep. Most of my days were spent on campus and at their respective apartments.
So here is myself as I walk through campus to those apartments.
Winter was ending and my roommate had a huge announcement. He was getting married! It also meant that he was moving in with his girlfriend. This meant I was losing my roommate and thus the two person apartment we lived in. All my friends already had roommates so I decided to bite the bullet and live alone. I moved to the opposite side of town (still about 10 minutes from campus), but saved a good deal of money on rent.
Months passed and it was time to attend his wedding. Myself and the girlfriend traveled to my roommates home town and attended a wedding. It was odd seeing someone of my own age getting married, as it reinforced how old I was getting. However, that didn't detract from the awesome ceremony and reception that followed. It was pretty fun to dress up in a suit with the girlfriend in a fancy dress.
Here is my awkward stare into my phone as myself and the groomsmen were getting ready.
Though, things took a slide in an unfortunate direction in the upcoming months. I couldn't balance everything I was doing. I missed the hobby programming I did and programming took time away from the girlfriend. Hanging with the girlfriend took time away from school, work and my old gaming friends. I had simply too much on my plate to balance. There was a funny quote I heard before starting College.
You can pick 2 things in college. Enough Sleep, Social Life or Good Grades.
Except my list was a bit more complicated than that. I couldn't balance everything I had and unfortunately I put the time towards things that probably should have been abandoned. (cough Ingress).
Another wedding was approaching. This time it was my cousin in Chicago! Another trip was planned and my girlfriend was going to join me. I had already met her family and she met mine earlier, but this was a big step to meet my entire extended family. With my lack of focus in our relationship due to prioritizing other things, I found myself single again before my cousin's wedding.
This sucked and really sucked because I lived alone and had my first serious breakup. I had no one to talk with and basically left my mind to wander. I went through the motions at school, simply doing the bare minimum of work to pass. I would head straight home and play Ingress, program a variety of things and play video games. This kept my mind off things and allowed time to slowly heal myself.
This year came to an end and I learned I couldn't graduate in time. I would be a semester late due to falling CALC2 once and not taking the recommendation of 16-17 hours per semester. The life of a Computer Scientist in the Engineering department was going to consume another semester for me.
So I started my Senior year knowing I wouldn't graduate in time which frankly sucked as well.
Senior - don't worry, I'm not out of here yet.
Like every year. I did an upgrade to my system. Since I moved earlier in the year I found out I could position my desks better. I upgraded a tiny 17" monitor to a 23.5" one on the far left of my setup.
This year the rage was still Apktool & my custom PHP projects - Leafapp, ReachStuff, Trunkapp & more. I was programming so much that I hit 2000 commits across my projects in one year. These large amounts of online commits and community presence was more a side effect of spending time in my room post breakup. I was happy again, but still just a guy living alone.
There is a lot to be said for human to human interaction. I realized that a few days in the summer I never spoke a word outloud. The mornings would be a run outside before starting an 8 hour remote work shift programming. With the evening consisting of my online class, hobby programming or some movie. Never which I needed to speak.
I missed human interaction and I'm not talking about some mushy cuddling interaction. Just some flat out conversation. I had lost a lot of my socializing after the breakup with my girlfriend. I had my friends over the Xbox Live microphone, but that is digital much like a phone call. There is a big difference between a phone call and talking to someone face to face.
So I started socializing with friends again. We were in some of the same classes so it was easy to ask them what they were doing that night and I started hanging out. After going overkill in hobby programming, it was easy to stay away from the apartment and stay out grabbing dinner with friends and drinking.
My friends lived on Dixon St. (the bar street of Fayetteville). So we could pregame at his place playing some Nintendo 64 or casting stuff via Chromecast, hit the bars and walk home intoxicated. We'd then grab a short amount of sleep and go to class hungover as hell the next day.
Apparently kids had been doing this since Sophomore year. Boy I was missing out. It was really fun drinking, hitting bars, grabbing food at some insane hour at like 2/3am and going to class to debrief with friends on the night before. This continued for a few months and I looked forward to every night that we were going to hit the bars.
One drunk night I won't forget - I ran into the ex girlfriend at a bar. I'm not sure why we stopped talking, maybe because it's awkward to transition from dating to friends again, but alas we made eye contact and honed in on each other.
A few drinks in the body already made everything easier. We exchanged conversation and time flew up, basically catching up on the previous months. We were buying drinks for each other and the bars were already closing. The night had flown by and I lost track of the friends I went out with. She went home and I went home to debrief with my friends at their place.
My drunk brain was processing a multitude of things a second asking itself too many questions. This was the first time I had seen her or talked to her in months. Morning approached and the friends and I wandered to class.
I heard from the ex girlfriend over text later that day. Just checking how I was feeling. This wasn't good for me. I spun myself into a programming overkill trying to forget the great times we had since we broke up. I obviously had to move on, but then I had to run into her and hop bars which didn't aid that cause.
I was back to programming insane hours and declining invites to socialize. Ingress had some interesting things to develop and the cat and mouse game of Apktool was never ending. Bungie had launched Destiny, which came with a sweet and powerful API. There were tons of things to program and I was clocking too many commits a day spending far too much time in front of screens.
I needed an escape and programming was it. Ingress also helped fill that void. I started attending anomalies that occurred every few months. These took the place of my frequent computer upgrades. Since the hotel and gas money was enough for a college student to spend. I even got a sweatshirt with my online name. (cough nerd)
So here was a kid programming too much, doing okay in school, working part time and playing Ingress across the midwest. I was a pretty happy camper. The real life socializing in Ingress kept me from being a hermit and playing soccer almost 4 times a week paired with a run on the off days kept me from just sitting and gaining weight.
So here came the 4th winter in Fayetteville. However, this was different, because I wasn't spending it in Fayetteville. My family choose to celebrate Christmas with family in Florida. So once my exams ended, I was off to the warmth in Florida.
The bright vibrant colors of the pictures in Florida always surprise me. Maybe it's because my apartment is the definition of stale neutral colors. So another picture to brighten it up in here.
So back to the cold I went. Senior year ended with a bang because of a majority of my friends were graduating. Graduation parties were sweet and exams/homework was pretty light because all the classes were full of graduates.
Thankfully, Apktool was my Capstone Senior project. I got to patch bugs and work on that while in class vs working on some throwaway project that I wouldn't touch a day after class ended. Apktool didn't win any awards which made me sad. I figured it was just a tad bit too complicated to understand for the judges.
So this year ended and a partial summer began. Some graduates' jobs weren't starting for like 5-6 weeks so they had time to stick around. You can imagine with no school and a job starting later that the only thing to do is party and have fun.
I however, had 9 hours of summer classes to contend with so my chances to party was limited.
Senior part 2 - yes i'm late
Most of my friends have graduated, so only a few of us remain for this final semester. I don't know anyone in my classes with the exception of one. It feels like I'm a freshman again. Except I'm not. I just don't know anyone. I can already tell this last semester is going to be boring.
This year, due to graduating at winter, I didn't upgrade anything with my computer nor move. I stayed in the same apartment with the same computer setup. Apktool became my true focus, with work and random hobby PHP projects taking up spurts of time.
Class wise, I was taking classes to simply get my elective credits. Only 3 hours of my final semester (Combinatorics) was an actual class that I needed to pass. The others were simply whatever class I could find that was relatively easy and fit into my schedule.
This took a lot of my already small drive for school away. Seeing how only 3 out of 12 hours was a class I needed, 9 hours of free electives felt like a complete waste of time to do nothing more than meet some guidelines for my graduation.
I pushed on though, balancing a small amount of school, work, soccer, Ingress and socializing. Depending on how I felt, Thursday and Saturdays became the nights to hit the bars. Since I no longer had friends who lived on Dixon, our ways home resorted to either sober drivers or Uber. One of which cost a good deal of money.
A new indoor soccer building opened up, so I played in two leagues there. Thursdays and Sundays became soccer night, which put a damper on my Thursday night drinking. However, the occasional 3 day weekend allowed for a good bar hop with friends who visited, because they couldn't resist coming back to their college town.
I took Ingress to an even further level, organizing communities and people. Planning fields and attending events as far as 7 hours away. I just had enough time now that 9 hours of my classes were a complete joke.
I was back to having fun and enjoying everything. It wasn't as perfect as some of my college experiences, but I was living and enjoying it.
December snuck up on me and I realized I was graduating. Everything from the day to get my cap and gown and day to walk snuck up. I was myself during the ceremony and gave the camera a good ole double thumbs up. I got a good amount of laughs and applause which I will never forget.
So 4.5 years of my life are over and some told me it would be the best times of my life so far. I had fun and learned a ton, but I might have done things a bit differently if I had a 2nd chance.
Woo Pig Sooie! [/end]