It’s been two years since I took part in the Apprentice in Science and Engineering (ASE) program, but I remember it in vivid detail. It imparted many positive memories and helped me discover a lot about myself. In my opinion, the work I did, computer programming, reflects the new youth, as it no longer uncommon to see people coding.
When I first applied as an intern, I didn’t have any expectations in getting accepted. It seemed incredibly competitive to make the cut, especially since I was a freshman. I thought it was only for the top students — those who had exemplary grades and were fluent in numerous programming languages. For me, I just didn’t think I had enough focus and diligence required to be an intern. In fact, out of my top three choices, I was rejected from my first two.
From the surface, my internship may not have seemed the most impressive: Bike and Pedestrian Research Data. And in truth, the work itself wasn’t the most inspiring, which was manually reformatting countless pieces of traffic data. This meant going through extensive excel documents and formatting rows or omitting pieces of data to make it readable for a website. However, I did the majority of my work with programming. At the time, I wasn’t the best of coders — in fact, I was only experienced with about half of the Python language itself. However, this half proved to be the most important. Since I was dealing with data in excel documents, I had to be experienced with recognizing words, letters, rows, and cells, so that I could be able to reformat data pieces like “3/4/15” to “4-March-2015,” which can quite tedious if you have to manually edit thirty thousand rows.
One of the most memorable aspects was that I didn’t think I had the capacity do it. I had one partner, who was similarly experienced in a different aspect of Python. But interestingly, his knowledge of the language directly complimented mine; his half was essential in creating the scripts that could ultimately reformat thousands of rows of bike and pedestrian data. Eight hours a day is a lot of time, but it takes diligence in using it, and one of the lessons of programming is that it can be incredibly frustrating. After all, it really is, in its essence, logic. Therefore, it can be quite humbling when you find your script repeatedly failing to do as you instructed, since your logic doesn’t quite grasp the actual situation. Or maybe there was a tiny grammatical error lingering in the script that shortcuts everything. And thus, we experienced numerous accounts of struggle and frustration as we developed our scripts, oftentimes having to look up and learn for ourselves how to use certain aspects of Python.
However, from sitting down for eight hours day, five days a week, for three months, I discovered quite a lot about myself. I learned that I could achieve things with intense focus and hard work. Multiple times I would go whole days without being able to solve problems, but I would eventually figure out a method. But I think I carried on this hard-work ethic when school arrived the following month. Doing math homework, especially the difficult content, is very similar to reaching an impasse at coding. Overall, I can definitely say it was a positive experience and there is no doubt that these memories will stay with me forever.