Feeling I don’t belong during my first weeks studying computer science

When I started to study computer science, my first feeling was clear: I don’t belong here! You might wonder what could make me feel that. I will develop.

This feeling is not new for me, growing up in France being from an Arab ascendance and Muslim makes you often feel like you don’t belong in this country. However, I didn’t care about that. I didn’t want to focus on this feeling. Instead, I focused on the chance I had to grew up in France, to be able to have a quality free education, eat very tasty food, never worry about health care, etc. So as you can see, I am the kind of person that sees the glass as half full, and not half empty. 

So here I was, my younger self, 18 years old, starting college. I was fascinated by this new atmosphere of freedom, feeling like a young adult studying to build my future. I chose to study Mathematics and Computer Science with an international option, which meant half my classes were in English, and we were a small class of 12 people. 

I made a friend pretty fast, her name was Elise. We instantly connected because we had the same feeling, we couldn’t feel like we belong in this class. The guys were always talking tech and video games. They were having conversations about projects they were developing. I was alarmed because I didn’t know how to write a single line of code yet, and I was feeling that these guys were already ready to start a job. 

Once, we were waiting for our English class teacher to arrive, and the guys were messing around and one of them called the other one “Hard disk”, they all laughed. Except for me and Elise. We looked at each other, horrified. We didn’t get the joke, we thought it was weird and lame. Looking back, I regret having thought that, but it was indeed the feeling I had at the time.

However, after a few months, we started to fit in. Don’t get me wrong, the gap was too deep between us and the guys, but we started to understand a lot of the jokes, the topics… One time, we were studying together in the library for our exams, and my best friend joined me. She was a law student. She just sat there and watched us talk and laugh at our geeky jokes. When we left together, she told me I was becoming such a geek. Hearing that made me feel very proud, because I started to feel that I could belong, and I was actually having fun turning into a geek.

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