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Why I Love, Hate, Love Studying Computer Science

Hi, I'm Mette, a 3rd year Computer Science student at Copenhagen University. While I love my subject a lot, there is that one thing that I really hate and keeps me from going all Darcy on this.


However, there is a lot to love as well. So let's dive into this trinity of feelings.

I Love That People Help Each Other

When I talk to people who study things like law, economics or medicine, I'm so happy I'm not one of them. Universities in Denmark generally try to help everyone stay on the right track, but it seems like the competition in these subjects makes that a lot harder for those who may have had a rough start already. When I started studying Computer Science ("Datalogi") at Copenhagen University, my coding experience equalled two failed attempts at trying Code Academy. I was so scared of standing out among the many guys that had probably been coding since they got their first laptop. Surprisingly, it was those guys, as well as older students, who really helped me out when I had trouble with some of the first assignments. Contrary to my first coding professor, whose empathy for people with few coding skills pretty much resembled my coding skills.

I Hate That People Look Down On You

While many students, especially guys, did help me, something changed in the second year at uni. It seemed like some egos had developed over the course of the summer holidays, and sometimes when I would complain about a difficult subject or assignment, you would just get a snigger back that said "Are you really that stupid?". No one ever said this to me directly, but that short laugh was often enough to make me feel bad about myself. The same attitude comes from quite a few of the lecturers we've had over the years. Although my study program is supposed to be accessible to anyone regardless of past experience, there is an underlying assumption that everyone knows everything about programming. Or if they don't, they better learn quickly and without much help. Of course, some of the girls that started with me did have experience coding, and some of the guys didn't. But there's something about the stereotype of female programmers asking for help from nerdy guys that really makes it hard to ask for help. Especially if you know you might only get it with a side of sniggering.

I Love The Girls' Club

Being outsiders can make it easy to bond, and that was exactly what happened with the girls in my year. In fact, every time I meet a female programmer, I instantly feel some sort of sympathy for them. Be it someone with a lot of experience, a young girl considering to study IT or someone on the same level as me, we all have some of the same doubts and face the same difficulties. Many of my best friends are girls I started with at uni and we regularly meet to discuss classes, assignments and code. Some of us even went on a hiking trip in Norway last summer - something many of our male classmates thought we wouldn't survive. The girls are the best thing that happened to me at uni, and it would be hard for me to stay motivated without them. I know that I can always ask my friends for help, and they won't laugh at my silly questions.

Studying computer science can be hard, and it is different for every student and every year. I just learned that there have been issues about discrimination and insulting of female first year students and I was furious. Then I remembered how, in my first year, I used to tell people how nice it was to study in a place with few female students. That it was more calm and easy-going than I imagined studies with many women to be. So there you have it, I am guilty myself for talking before thinking, and thus enforcing gender stereotypes. However, I hope that we can solve these problems and make this a nice place for people of any gender, race and whatever else divides us. Taking a degree is difficult enough without all these added annoyances.

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