How I Came About Studying Computer Science

After my military service and before my BSc, I spent the better part of a year traveling Abroad (primarily in South America). As my trip was nearing its end, my return to Israel grew imminent – namely, to start my undergraduate degree. I had previously decided I would major in psychology, a field which I had always found interesting. Since psychology is (at least in Israel) studied as part of a double-major, I had to choose a second major. Being male, coming from a technical army unit (and social circles) and a vague sense of future financial responsibilities, I semi-arbitrarily decided on economics as a second major. (After realizing that in the long run I valued profound experiences much more than comfort, I had also decided to go study in Jerusalem instead of Tel-Aviv. But that’s a different tale.)

I had emailed my parents, back in Israel, to help me take care of the logistics and paperwork. (This was 2008, even Internet connection was spotty in South America.) Something along the lines of Hi, I’m OK, could you please enroll me to the Hebrew University for Psychology and Economics? My parents – both Academics – had a better idea. No problem, they wrote back, we’ve enrolled you under Psychology and Computer Science.

I was not one of those people who it was obvious would go on to study computer science. I hadn’t programmed prior to University, and despite a semi-technical job in the military (technical hands-on product manager and/or BI specialist, more or less) I certainly wasn’t on a track in that direction. I was, however, in the final throes of a perspective-&-personality changing trip far away from home. And though I hadn’t touched any drugs on the trip (not for any moral conviction against as much as it just didn’t happen), I was in a mental state of fatalistic uber-complacency, something along the lines of ‘God works in mysterious ways’ and ‘It’s all good’. Accordingly, I acquiesced and gave my consent. Jah will provide.

Now, I wasn’t one of those people who you just knew would end up studying computer science. I majored in “computers” in high-school, which basically entailed studying some Pascal and understanding the concept of an ‘algorithm’ and had a semi-technical role in the army (a hands-on product manager and/or BI specialist), but I viewed myself more as a humanist than a realist. Decisions made on the road always seem to reflect a different light, though, and so I found myself letting God and the universe (and my parents’ aspirations and ideals about their children) carry me to a different course.

Uber-complacency flies well when backpacking; less so in a science major. Some epsilons and vector spaces and binomial coefficients later, I was regretting my easy-going acceptance of a course which I felt I had accidentally stumbled into. (Un)fortunately, I have always been good at working very hard on things I absolutely hated, and so despite coming a heart-beat away of switching majors after a treacherous (cold-)sweaty first semester, I eventually finished my CS BSc. (Psychology, too, which was not so hate-inducing and was quite interesting.)

So, God indeed works in mysterious ways. Today, I naturally think it has all been for the best and that CS, in the end, is indeed for me – effectively deciding my career path, no less. I am even one of those snooty science majors who looks down on everything else (dreadful, I know). On the other hand, I’ve noticed a commonplace psychological bias, where the vast majority of people tend to justify most of the major life decisions they’ve made (especially when the metrics are hazy or unattainable). So who knows? Perhaps avoiding CS in the first-place who have set me on a course of (even) further health, wealth, and joy.

No point in wondering about that, I suppose. Everything is from Jah.

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