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I’m a Computer Science Major???

Matthew tells the story of how he went from never wanting to take a Math class again to being a Computer Science major.

Matthew tells the story of how he went from never wanting to take a Math class again to being a Computer Science major.

When I came to Carleton, I had no interest in taking a math class ever again. Some how, though, I’ve ended up as a computer science major. How did I get here? Honestly, I’m still not sure but I’ll try my best to explain.

For my whole life, the humanities have come naturally to me.

I’m a people person! I love to interact with new people and I like to understand that academically as well. I wasn’t bad at the STEM fields, they just took more work. It also was a matter of gratification. 

In English, I could write a paper and really tell my perspective. I could see myself changing ideas into words that come alive on the paper. Whereas, in math, I would struggle to feel accomplished from working with an equation for 30 minutes and finally getting the answer. That answer was also just another number. For me, the humanities felt more grounded than hypothetical numbers.

That feels a little ironic.

The humanities are known for usually not having one right answer. The humanities also allow you to tackle topics that maybe don’t have a place in day-to-day life. 

My outlook on STEM started to change when I took Physics in high school.

I started to put it together that the work I do with math can help explain real-life events. As someone who played sports, learning about energy transfer was really neat. I could calculate how much force was used every play of a football game. My newfound interest was stunted, however, by my point fear of math. 

Math was starting to turn into something I dreaded doing. Not because of anything in particular, honestly; I had an awesome teacher, but math was no longer was clicking for me.

I can imagine this is pretty relatable. 

Fast forward to the Fall of my freshman year at Carleton. I sat down with my first-year advisor — she was in the music department — and we talked about what I wanted to study. Up front, I told her that I just knew that I didn’t want to take a “real” math class while at Carleton. Looking back at that, not my proudest moment, but my story doesn’t end there. 

Going into spring term of my freshman year, I had only a couple distribution requirements left to complete, including both the Formal/Statistical Reasoning requirement and the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Essentially, requirements that are often met with traditional math classes. My advisor informed me that there were a couple of classes that could fulfill these without being strictly math. My options were Intro to Linguistics or Intro to Computer Science

The former of the two looked interesting.

I’ve been a singer my whole life and I have always found fun in trying to figure out fantasy languages. If you haven’t tried to make a language that only you and your best friend can understand, I would recommend it. Yet, when I talked to one of my teammates who was a junior, he strongly urged me to try the latter of the two options — computer science. 

I mean he was definitely biased. He was a computer science major after all. So I reflected on it.

I realized that even if I didn’t love the class it would be a good challenge and I could leave with some useful skills in whatever career area I end up pursuing. For some context I had never touched computer science previously. I mean, I kinda knew how to use a computer but coding was foreign to me. 

After a lot of contemplating and eventually realizing I knew a ton of people taking Intro to Computer Science that term, I thought I’d take a risk.

And boy, I am I happy I did!

Early on in that class, I realized that CS was just fun! I think a lot of it is because of how hands-on it can be. We had a ton of projects that focused on learning by doing. I also was reacquainted with the sense of instant gratification — I could type a command into the terminal, and the computer would just do it! 

That doesn’t mean it was smooth sailing. Coding was learning a new way of thinking and a new language! Yet, the challenge was thrilling. Unlike math in high school, I didn’t dread a big project, I looked forward to it. Each project was a chance to put what I learned in class into action. The same way I could transfer my opinions into words for paper, I could take this idea for a program and bring it to life on the computer. A whole new world of possibilities was opened to me. 

I guess there probably should be a “moral of the story” and there definitely is.

Don’t be afraid to try new things. Or, at least be willing to push past your fear because you’ll never know what’s on the other side. It might be a new passion that might turn into a career. It might also be awful and then there are probably some things you can learn from that too.

Matthew is a junior Computer Science major from Oberlin, Ohio, but who also takes up residence in Walla Walla, WA. Most of his time is spent singing in the Carleton Choir or playing football for the Knights. When he has free time he loves to hang out with friends by either grabbing a meal, playing D&D, or lounging on the Bald Spot. He is currently trying to find a way to both eat amazing food and stay active, the eternal struggle. Meet the other bloggers!