Social Sciences Major vs. STEM: Take 1
The beauty about college life is being able to choose a majorː settling, if you will, on a subject that steals your heart.
And so it goes. Usually. Most of the time.
But the other beauty of college life, especially at Dartmouth, is called the liberal arts. And the liberal arts are, quite literally, very liberal, especially hereː we have enormous latitude in choosing the classes we want to take, both for our majors, our minors, and simply the ones that we need to take to fulfill our graduation requirements. Dartmouth is like the parent that really wants you to find your passion, and so they enroll you in karate classes. Or ballet. Or make you try out for the soccer team. Or put you in a coding class because even social sciences or humanities majors need at least fundamental tech experience in the technological age.
My name is Gabe, and I am not a STEM major. But for Fall 2020, I am a STEM studentː I am taking a coding class.
In my first blog post of the term, I talked a lot about how excited I was about this class, and in many ways that excitement has yet to fade. Nothing can quite match the sheer sense of satisfaction and adrenaline after successfully completing a program. For that serotonin rush alone, I love the class. But I want to speak to the concerns of any prospective students that share my love for the non-scientific that fear the numbers and symbols that make up the STEM world. Firstly, your fear is justifiedː numbers are scary. But secondly, it's important to note just how many resources I've used so quickly as a computer science student that have made comp sci both possible and passable (so far, fingers crossed, knocking on the wood of my desk right now).
For one thing, this fall most all of Dartmouth's classes are online, and that includes all three of my courses. As it stands, I attend an hour-long Zoom lecture with my classmates three times a week — Monday, Wednesday, Friday — and attend another, much shorter session with a Teaching Assistant (TA) once a week.
During the lectures, we go over big picture concepts and get introduced to new elements and arms of Python in order to tackle our weekly assignments and/or lab projects (which I currently just did, look at my recreation of the OG computer game 'Pong')! During the shorter session, called recitation, myself and a handful of other students practice important concepts with our TA in order to drive the most important aspects of the week's curriculum home.
Outside of class, I've Facetimed friends to discuss coding strategies just to get the ideas flowing (we're allowed to talk about our assignments in any language but Python, which is kind of nice for building translation muscles) and I've talked with my more STEM-y friends who help me figure out the logic and math involved in some of my programs. Dartmouth is a really collaborative space, and this class more than my humanities ones is truly going to show that for me on an individual level. While my humanities classes are based on discussion and the sharing of ideas, the solutions in my computer science class are figured out within the brainstorms of the collective.
It's honestly been a really satisfying experience thus far (I truly hope I'm singing the same song by the end of the term). For non-STEM prospies, not only will you have the opportunity to choose how you want to take on STEM while at Dartmouth, but should you decide something as quintessentially STEM as computer science, just know: the Dartmouth community got you.