Being an underdog, intentionally.

School is officially starting tomorrow. I’ve went through my previous posts (once more) and figured how far I’ve come, and how long I’ve waited for this moment. But now that school is really starting, there is an overwhelming sense of loss. 

It’s time to be a student again. 

After a short get together with Hume in the lounge tonight, and a really subjective (haha) conversation about which science is the best, I realise that I used to embrace studying in the past. I wasn’t anything like that when I was younger, but somehow, getting into JJC changed some of that. 

Here’s what I have to convince myself in order to perform at such a peak once more:

I’m not at the top, and probably never will. 

Sure, getting into NUS and Tembusu has proven that hard work pays off. I’m in an environment where people are really smart and hardworking. Almost everyone I meet are either from one of the top JCs or scholars. I’m an underdog. Not underestimating my own abilities here, but we have to admit that the education we received and the environment we grew up in is very different. 

This underdog feeling is somewhat motivation for me to work hard. The constant need to prove to others what you’re made of, instead of thriving in an environment where everything was built for your success. I think I’ve written quite a bit about being an underdog previously, and hopefully all that I’ve reflected on will remain in my head. 

Be an underdog, intentionally.

Other than that, there’s the Ponya orientation that’s taking place next week after lessons. I might just skip some of it, considering that I have basketball trials. Not to say that I’m worried, but I’m really concerned about partying and drinking. Two activities which I’m not strongly[1] against. 

Yeah that’s about it. Let’s have a first taste of what University life will be like tomorrow! 

[1] I don’t like excessive drinking and partying, or random drinking and partying. If it’s for a certain cause, and is justifiable, I wouldn’t mind it. So long as nobody gets hurt.

New room, new beginning.

I've moved in to Tembusu College, finally.

Photo 3-8-14 13 01 10

Room number!

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How the room looks like when it just started off.

I’m staying really, really high up on the 19th floor. Pros and cons of staying so high up. Well but the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Sadly most of my friends are staying in the lower levels. :(

We’re still neighbours though, living in the same block!

So what have I been up to so far?

Bill splitter.

I’m busting my head over this project. It was all going really well until I had to figure out how to split the bill among people. Not that I do not understand the math, but I couldn’t figure out a design pattern to link all of it together. This is taking up way too much of my time. But I have to finish this project before school officially starts. Right now what I have is just a pretty interface that adds items to a person’s item list. 

That’s it.

Really, really pathetic. :(

At least I learnt the importance of design patterns (the hard way), and I’m diving into that right away. I haven’t really been working on my Head First Design Pattern that I bought online, and Eloquent JavaScript which I’ve been delaying since I first read the introduction chapter. 

I think a more important skill worth having is to read multiple books at the same time. 

I couldn’t ‘multi-read’. Currently I’m at Game of Thrones and every time I fire up Kobo on my iPad, I’m just lost inside the world of Westoros. Perhaps I should read more simultaneously! 

Lessons are officially starting in a week’s time, so I got a few more days to sort myself out mentally. It feels kind of like the calm before the storm. :/

Hope everyone is ready for school! :D

Technical Interviews and debates.

Yesterday marked the last day of Tembusu Orientation Week, and it was a totally different experience of freshmen camp. In my opinion, camaraderie and friendship forged during the camp was more important than the camp itself. I’m really proud to be part of this amazing OG, Hume!

#NoPlaceLikeHUME

Yep, that's us!

Yep, that’s us!

Other than the amazing friends made, I’ve attended two events which I’ve never experienced before in my life.

Technical Interview

I did not attend this in the camp, but I was told to attend an interview for CS1101S. It’s an introductory programming module which is harder and has much more workload than CS1010. In this module we learn much more through functional programming instead of doing the same old module in C. Which I’ve already more or less learned.

Yes, I should’ve said all of those in the interview, but no. Instead I said that I’ve learnt Javascript and wanted to hone my Javascript skills. Massive facepalm. Nobody who understands Computer Science would tell you that CS is about programming. It’s about the concept. That’s just the first part of the interview that I screwed up.

Afterwards, I was told to explain mathematical function, and subsequently explain some fundamental concepts that I should’ve been able to explain. I blew it. I couldn’t do it without the help of the professor, and made some really, really, fundamentally wrong mistakes. I think it went so bad that before I even finished explaining, the professor told me straight up

Ok I think I have an idea of how good your mathematical abilities are.

Man.

Perhaps I’m really not good enough for this module? I refuse to believe that is the case. I could’ve easily used the excuse that army has led to my rusty mathematical abilities. But like I said, that’s just an excuse. 

The point is I screwed it up, and there’s no way I could make up for it. The only option that I have would be to not screw up CS1010 if I get rejected. Nothing short of an A. 

MAJOR EDIT:

I got the module! I have no idea how, but I won’t throw away this chance given to me. :)

Moving on…

Debates

If you’re not aware, the last day of Tembusu Orientation Week was a Model United Nations. We discussed on ideologies, and how does it represent human rights. Yeah, if you know me well, I know nuts about these things. Plus, it was held as a formal debate, so that’s another thing I’ve never done before. Placing these two together led to me stammering in front of the mic, not knowing what the hell am I talking about.

This is probably an area that I’m lacking in. Not only public speaking, but having an opinion about something. I rarely have strong felt opinions, and Tembusu encourages us to have an opinion. 

There’s a first for everything, and everyone has to start somewhere. Just like I mentioned previously about coding and basketball. I’m giving myself the permission to suck, in order to get sorta good at something. Tembusu college is probably the best decision I’ve ever made in my life to expose me to such events.

Oh, the least important part, I suited up for the second time in my life.

The HUME-MUN (get it) team with our OGL, Alif!

The HUME-MUN (get it) team with our OGL, Alif!

After experiencing these two things which pointed out (yet again) my weak areas, it’s time to start working on them! Not going to make any resolutions this time, because I have not formulated any yet. But the idea is to keep talking, keep thinking, and keep writing.

Can’t wait for school to start and move in to my Tembusu room! :D

Keep up the learning.

I am hitting a plateau.

It could mean a lot of things when I’ve reached a plateau. 

Firstly, it could mean that I am getting good at what I do. Which leads to what I like to call a pro comfort zone. It’s the nirvana of what you’ve been working for. The highest level of your skill.

Obviously, I’m not reaching, nor am I anywhere near that stage.

It simply means that I need to switch up my methods. Plainly reading has bored me, well sort of. Coding for the sake of coding everyday is desensitising my thirst for learning new things. It’s another comfort zone, but a fake pro comfort zone. Where I think I’m getting too good for myself, and instead fall into a vicious cycle of procrastination. We all know these excuses.

Oh I’ll do it tomorrow. It’s gonna go down tomorrow, I promise.

For a change, here’s what I have in mind for the upcoming month:

  1. Start on a new project, making use of what you’ve learnt from your previous project.
    I learnt quite a bit of Angular and new Javascript tools from my previous project, but I can’t seem to understand how it comes together. I ought to piece them together by myself to see clearly how each of them are connected. Take a look at my previous project here! It’s not perfect yet, and I plan to leave it that way. There are certain bugs which I cannot find (mostly due to typo), and solving them is too great an opportunity cost. I rather re-write an app that works, and learn something more out of it.

  2. Read more, but this time, more on coding.
    I’ve read lots of other stuff, but not programming specific articles. I always thought those stuff were too advanced for me. Oh design patterns, machine learning, etc. Everyone has to start somewhere. Perhaps reading about technical topics would encourage me to understand on a deeper level what is going on. 

    That being said, I’m still going to continue reading fiction and self-help books and articles. (Yes I’m looking at you A Song of Ice and Fire) Tembusu college has a great reading room, where reading is encouraged in it. No homework allowed! A great resolution would be to spend a minimum of 15 minutes in the reading room before bed everyday, just to read whatever. :)

  3. Edit one Wikipedia article everyday.
    What?! What has this got to do with anything at all?!

    I signed up for a Wikipedia account recently, and I found that there are lots of mini-tasks on Wikipedia to be done. Such as citing sources, grammatical errors, etc. All these work on my reading, writing, and most of all, research abilities. 

    What’s more, you get to learn something new everyday when you research Wikipedia topics! Isn’t that a win-win?

    I know, this sounds as ridiculous to me as it is to you. I’m not sure if this would work out fine, but you never know if you never try!  :D

  4. Keep coding.
    I don’t think I have to elaborate on this any further…

That’s what I have in mind so far. It’s three weeks before school starts, and I have two more school camps to attend. Which leaves me with just one week to achieve these small little goals. 

Until I hit another plateau, I’ll stick with these little habits! Code on, live on! :P

Where do we go from here?

I was lazing in bed this morning, when the long awaited acceptance email from Tembusu College came. 

I made it. 

They had accepted me. I do believe that after all the reflections and lessons learnt, this is the fruit of my labour. But what’s more important is to view this not as a destination, but just the start of my journey. 

So where do we go from here?

A good friend of mine recommended a well-written article recently. It talks about internal motives and instrumental motives. The main point is that people with instrumental and internal motives, such as going to University to get a decent pay (instrumental), and to learn (internal), usually end up unsuccessful in achieving their motives. Whereas those with a lack of instrumental motives end up being successful in what they want to achieve. 

This sort of reminds me of So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. He mentioned that if you focus more on being a craftsmen of your own skill, passion and joy would come as a side product of the hard work. The true purpose of learning is so that you will emerge as a better person than you were yesterday. Be it in my craft, or the maturity of thought. All of the glamor comes as a side product of learning. 

What I’m trying to convince myself is that I’m in university to learn. To better myself, to educate myself. 

It’s only the beginning, and I have secured yet another opportunity for me to better myself. I’m excited about what the road ahead has in store, and I’ll be sure to cherish every moment of it. 

Suck less.

I’ve went for my first IFG basketball “get together” yesterday, and it was surely disappointing. Not in a sense that it wasn’t fun, but it’s hard to admit, I still suck at this sport. 

Despite all the effort put in to make sure I can shoot a lay-up properly, or make the easy open shots, I still lack the experience and IQ to run plays. Coupled with the fact that I just recovered from a bad flu, it adds up to a disaster on court. The others who joined IFG are really experienced and good players, I feel really out of place. 

I read somewhere though, that when you suck at something, there are basically just two options you can choose from. 

  1. Continue sucking, or
  2. Suck less

All my life I’ve been choosing the easy way out, which is the first option. Going down easy without a decent fight. I am pretty determined to make a difference this time. Even though there’s a high possibility that I wouldn’t make the team, at least I tried. There’s still next year, and the next, basically all of my NUS life I could be involved in the team. 

So here’s my plan for basketball this year:

  1. Build on my stamina
    I have a swimming pool at my disposal, I think it’s better than running. Consider that basketball trainings will consist of lots of running, frequent scheduled swims will probably loosen and relax my muscles, while at the same time work on my really, really bad stamina. 
  2. Watch, and learn from film
    Probably start by watching how teams run the basic plays which I ought to understand. Where I should stand on the court etc. I figured that even if I cannot run such plays, at least I could understand what’s going on and not be a burden on court. 
  3. Improve as much as possible during training
    There is limited number of trainings, so I have to improve tremendously during each session. I believe the trainings will not be catered to me, but to the team as a whole. So I have to put in some work during my own free time as well. Think I’ll figure this out by myself when training does begin. 
  4. Play during my free time
    My ‘basketball buddy’ has finally came back from HK, and it’s going to be awesome to play for fun again. Since trainings are essentially on Thursdays and Saturdays, maybe I could squeeze in a game every Monday/Tuesday as well. 

This should be the plan for now. Like I mentioned, it doesn’t matter if I don’t make it for the team. So long as I know I gave in my best this time, I wouldn’t have any regrets. For now, an important goal would be to gain some mass again. Being sick for the past week, I’ve lost 4kg. Those who know me well know how precious weight is to me, and losing 4kg in a week is a huge blow to me. 

I reckon it won’t be easy, but then again. What is?

Post Camp Syndrome

I just came back from Freshmen Social Camp a few days ago, and boy it was helluva camp. (Despite the fact that I got down with fever and sore throat the second day I came home)

Back to reality though, I realise that I’m pit against some of the best in NUS, and it’s not going to be easy to rise to the top. That being said, I should really get my shit together fast before I start to slip. There are many freshmen with programming experience far more advanced and in-depth than mine. It’s no surprise, considering that I’m self-taught and all the code I’ve written are for my silly little projects. It’s time to step my game up, and code more, and code efficiently. :)

The camp also brought back some of my social skills which I’ve lost. Apparently, spending two years in the army communicating in simple (really simple) talks have taken a toll on my social abilities. Alas, this camp is called Freshmen Social Camp. It did serve it’s purpose well :P

Tembusu finally sent me an email asking me to schedule an interview. I can’t be more thankful for this opportunity given. Having written so much about interviews previously, I hope this time things will go differently.