Why I decided to study
In one of my previous posts I shared a story of how I learned to code at the age of 38. There was a continuation. For a several months I was torn between self-doubts and desire to look for a full time programmer job. Self-doubts, because I saw (and still see) myself as an amateur. There are so many mediocre programmers in the world, why need to have one more?
And then I got a plan: how about I study master’s in Computer Science, so that I can fill gaps in my programming knowledge?
How I chose a university
Some of my friends were recommending me distance education, but I prefer traditional ways: attending real classes, meeting classmates face to face, feeling the campus atmosphere. So I was choosing between part time programmes in local universities: Computer Science programme in NUS (National University of Singapore) and Information Systems programme in NTU (Nanyang Technological University).
To be honest, I liked the programme in NUS more as it’s pure computer science, plus the NUS campus is closer to my house. However (and here I’m being quite irrational) eventually I chose NTU, as the NTU staff I talked to via email was nicer. Plus NTU was ok with the translation of my Bachelor’s transcript certified by the Russian embassy in Singapore, whereas NUS required translated transcript to be sent by my Russian university (which I graduated from almost 20 years ago by the way).
So after some considerations I decided to apply for Master’s in Information Systems in Nanyang Technological University.
Required documents and fees
I won’t go too deep into details about admission procedure and requirements, if you interested you can read more about it on the university website. Will just mention that the following documents were required:
- Bachelor degree in CS or related discipline (e.g. Math).
- English test IELTS not less than 6.5.
- Essay explaining why I want to study, and a recommendation letter from my employer.
- Employment pass (or any other pass that allows me to stay in Singapore - mandatory for a part time programme).
That’s it I think. The fee is about 20k SGD per year for a part time, but I applied for the Government subsidy 50% (if I get the subsidy, I will need to work in Singapore for 3 years after graduation).
My first impressions of studying at NTU
So here I am, a student again, after XX years.
The first thing that impressed me about NTU was campus’ size - it’s huge compared to the university in Siberia I graduated from. I got lost there several times, and even until now, after one and a half month of being a student, I’m still using Google map to get directions inside the NTU campus.
Age does not matter
At the beginning I felt quite uncomfortable because of my age: most of my class mates are 10-15 years younger than me, and professors (so far I met three of them) look around/below my age. But then I decided to stop thinking about the age, as it does not actually matter as long as my brain still working.
Btw, talking about the age, I expected professors to be slightly older, maybe around 50ish. Linux was invented in 1991, Java (which universities still like to teach) was invented in 1995. If someone was about 20 years old in 1991, now he/she should be 47. But apparently my calculations were wrong :)
Surrounded by future leaders
Similar to my expectations from programming meetups, I thought I will meet a lot of young and passionate developers taking this programme. But surprisingly not… Many of the classmates I talked to are not developers and not very keen to be developers after graduation, but more interested in managerial roles. Haha, I guess I am blinded by my own stereotypes :)
The biggest thing that really turned my world upside down was group assignments. Russian education system is mostly individual (or at least it was individual 20 years ago). In NTU, the centrepiece of every course is a group assignment, when 4-6 people work together on the same task(s), and all the group members get the same mark. Group assignments contributing 50% to the final grade, and individual exam contributing another 50%. I won’t be surprised if one day the proportion will change from 50/50 to 70/30 or even 90/10.
When I got my first group assignment, I was not happy at all, as group communication takes a lot of time: need to make sure that all 5 people share the same understanding. What is the benefit for me, I thought. If I do it alone, I spend 8 hours. If I do it in a group, I spend 20 hours plus a bunch of nerve cells.
But when we started working, I got the idea behind it. Firstly, it’s really enjoyable when you come to some solution together with a group of people rather than alone. Secondly, it’s a good opportunity to learn how to communicate with people or convince them to think your way. I don’t even mention that it reduces amount of time professors need to spend for marking :)
I won’t be myself if I don’t mention about the food. My expectation of university food was: canteen that serves 3-4 dishes such as soup, pasta, meet balls and compote. In reality the variety of food in NTU canteen is bigger than around my workplace in CBD area: million types of noodles, briani, chicken rice, pratha, yong tau foo etc. Sad that I have no time to eat as I am rushing for evening classes after work, but on Saturdays I never miss the opportunity to try something.
So, it’s been a month and a half since I am a student. So far I love it, love attending lectures, love tons of home/mrt train reading (even including fat and boring books), love being a part of student groups, love sitting in NTU canteen every Saturday morning drinking Teh C… Will see how it goes, hope will keep enjoying!