I’m Of Letters: Studying Tech-Related Things When You’re Not a Math Person

I’m Of Letters: Soy de letras

People use this expression when talking about their end of high school studies. In Spain’s education system, you choose one of two pre-university tracks – Sciences or Humanities. Humanities is Letras and Sciences is Ciencias. As you can probably imagine, a lot of parents pressure their kids into choosing Ciencias because it’s what the “smart kids” do and there are supposedly more well-paid professional opportunities. It’s a stressful choice for teens to choose their life path before 16 years of age.

 

(tl;dr – I’m learning Multimedia Applications, growing, eating gluten-free waffles, and also attempting to drum.) 

As you can probably guess, I went for humanities (letras) when I went to college. I got fantastic grades in Spanish and Psychology in high school, so I went for that and never looked back. Science and math were pretty tough for me and I got the idea in my head that I just wouldn’t ever be good at those things and so I put less and less effort into them. Looking back now, I wish I’d known that subjects can be mastered and skills can be developed with time and effort. Oh well – I didn’t do so bad, I mean I live in Spain now after all, and I’ve had a lot of interesting work experience!

 

So why bring this up now, after more than 15 years out of high school? Well, I’m changing things up quite a bit in the skills department after coasting along in my career path. I’ve had a Master’s degree on my radar for a long time, but for different reasons I decided not to pursue it. Mostly because I didn’t quite know what to do and it was a big investment! Fast forward to 2016 when I started working with software engineers in tech companies, giving them English classes over Skype through a language learning company, Lingo Live. I eventually started working full-time for the company, and seeing how enormous the technology profession is got me thinking about how I could transition into that world. Not necessarily as an engineer, but as a UI or UX designer – which draw heavily from the field of psychology but a tech background helps. The UI Design course I took this spring was also a big catalyst for pushing me forward.

 

This summer I found an online Master’s program through the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and started the enrollment process. During the process I evaluated how it might work to stop working full-time and dedicate my time to studying. So at the end of July, I gave notice to leave the company, said goodbye to my lovely coworkers, and proceeded to spiral into a black hole of death initiate a series of intense personal changes on top of the professional ones. Long story short, in early September I moved from León back to Cantabria, the place I always go back to (that always awkwardly welcomes me back with a mixture of love, ambivalence, and rainy weather), picked up some private tutoring students, and started the Master’s program. Really, life, I just wanted to change ONE thing, not seventeen, but sometimes one small change starts the domino effect and you end up eating homemade waffles with a new roommate in a new apartment in a different city, not knowing quite what just happened.

cliffs of cantabria

Cantabria and I were getting along really well this day.

 

The Master’s program is called Multimedia Applications, and the idea is to give students a theoretical and technical skill base to be able to work in web development & design. These first few classes I’m taking exist for the purpose of catching us non-tech folks up with tech-related things. First of all, Introduction to Programming in PHP. Who would have thought this Letras girl would ever study algorithms? But the content and the pace are such that I am actually keeping up and managing to get B’s on my assignments, which is better than I could have hoped for. And PHP is pretty fun to learn. Second, I’m taking a class called Integración Digital de Contenidos… Digital Integration of Content? It’s HARD and it assumes we already know programming.

For example, this is wrong and I can’t figure out why:

int emptySquare (int rows) {
for (int y=rows-1; y>=0; y–)
if (rows==0)
return y;
return -1;
}

Seriously, does anyone know? I have to design the game Connect Four and make it actually work, and I’m stuck. But on a brighter note, I’m also taking an HTML & CSS class which is super cool, as well as a more theory-based class about analyzing the ROI of app development. I’ve got four subjects and a color-coded calendar full of due dates for assignments. I’m learning to think more analytically and logically, which might be useful for life.

These days I get up early and spend my mornings studying, and then teach some private lessons in the afternoon – however, that’s changing as I’ve accepted an offer to work in a school part time.  On top of that, I’m getting to know new (amazing) people, keeping up with old friends, and making time for hobbies – which are currently batucada with Batukale Samba (a drumming group – this is literally the group I just joined!), violin lessons, and helping out at a dog shelter. I think it’ll soon be time to pull the plug on social media again like I did last year!  I’m hoping to make the most of my time – not only for learning, but for growing and healing and loving. I think this is shaping up to be a really interesting year.

dog shelter volunteer

Being loved by crazy Charlie.

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