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#MyFirstYear in Queen’s Computing

Whether you’ve stumbled on this post from browsing all the #MyFirstYear blogs, or you’re interested in learning more about Queen’s and our Computing program, I hope to provide some insight about what to expect 😅!

To quickly introduce myself, my name’s Truman 👋, and I am currently in my third year at Queen’s, majoring in Computing and specializing in Software Design. Admittedly, Queen’s was not my first decision (I was originally aiming for another university that rhymes with “boogaloo” 😉), and because of not getting in, I began considering other universities. One of the only things I knew coming out of high school was that I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. Despite being socially anxious across high school, I thought what better idea to break out of my shell than to move 200+ kilometers away to Queen’s, where I knew absolutely no one 🤨. To date, this has probably been the best decision I’ve ever made, and it showed me how far a leap of faith can get you.

Here's a picture of my sister and I on my first day at Queen's, outside of Grant Hall.

I’ll move on from talking about myself to about the university and program, which I expect what most of you have come to read about, the university and program 😅. The Queen’s Computing program was not a very well-known program when I entered university, though the program has definitely increased in size over the past years. Nonetheless, the program is pretty small and a tight-knit community, where you’ll likely get to know plenty of people in the program (and hopefully some great friends)! During your time at Queen’s, you’ll get to know so many people of diverse backgrounds and interests. I highly recommend making the most of your time in university. Taking courses and joining extracurriculars you’re interested in builds a good foundation with other people with similar interests, helping build lifelong friendships 🧑‍🤝‍🧑.

📚 Courses

For academics, I’ll walk through what my first year looked like, though it is likely for others’ to look different. Despite the Queen’s Computing program having a pretty general first year, there are still some choices you get to make, and I hope to be able to explain some of them. Your choices in upper year courses may greatly depend on your major or specialization. My specialization, Software Design, is more focused around industry application of skills over theory.

🧩 CISC 102 – Discrete Mathematics for Computing I: In my year, this course was fairly easy, but the content and overall structure of the course has changed drastically to set students up better for upper year courses (Discrete Mathematics for Computing II and Logic for Computing Science). This class covers some important topics for future courses, one of which is proofs 😩, which I promise you will only get better at with practice.

💻 CISC 121 – Introduction to Computing Science I: This course is not actually the first programming course you can take; CISC 101 (Elements of Computing Science) can be taken before this course, though it is not necessary. If you are going into university with some knowledge of basic conditional statements and loops (Python 🐍 is a plus, as you will be using it in this course), you should be pretty much set for this course!

💾 CISC 124 – Introduction to Computing Science II: This course will be taken after CISC 121, either in winter of your first year, or in fall of your second year. In this course, you will be working with Java ☕ primarily learning concepts and principles of object-oriented programming. Knowing Java prior to this course seemed like a definite plus, though you can still do well if you do not have experience (like me).

♾️ MATH 111 – Linear Algebra: This course was a full year course, meaning it is taken across both semesters (fall and winter). This course can also be substituted with two different options: MATH 110 or MATH 112, which are both more difficult in their own respects. I found this course really enjoyable and interesting, and it actually fueled my love for linear algebra (despite hating it in high school). You’ll be learning a lot about matrices, so having prior knowledge is definitely useful but not necessary.

➕ MATH 121 – Differential & Integral Calculus: Like Linear Algebra, this course is also a full year course, and can also be substituted by other courses: MATH 120 or MATH 123 and MATH 124. In the first semester, you will be learning more about derivatives, which you hopefully learned about in high school calculus. I found this first semester to be much easier than the next, wherein you will learn about integration (think of them as reverse derivatives).

📈 STAT 263 – Introduction to Statistics: This course may or may not be required based on your specialization, though I had it required for Software Design. Indicated by the first digit of the course code, this statistics course is commonly taken in second year, though I decided to take it in my first year. While the first bit of it was apparently lots of review of high school Data Management (based on what I’ve heard, I never took Data Management myself), the last bit was lots of content piled on really quick 😕. I personally thought this course was difficult towards the end, so I highly recommend trying your best to do well in the first half, and then practicing a lot for later assessments like the final exam.

🧠 PSYC 100 – Principles of Psychology: This course was also a full year course and was actually my elective for first year (though if you make different choices for course selection, you may have more). I had taken and loved psychology in high school, and this course fueled my desire to learn more about psychology 😊. This course is filled with readings, though, so ensure that you do not fall behind on them (else you may end up cramming readings before an exam, which is not fun). I would highly recommend this course if you are interested in psychology, and don’t mind the work.

This is what my schedule looked like in my first year (Plan A is fall and Plan B is winter).

💡 Tips

There are so many things about university that I’ve learned over the past years, and that I am still learning, that I had wished I knew back when I entered university so why not tell them to you all 😁.

🐦 Avoid bird courses: While it is ultimately your decision if you want to take bird courses or not, I advise against taking bird courses if you are strictly taking it for the grade. While the point of bird courses are that they are easy, it is important to consider if you are truly interested in the subject. While you may think that sitting through some lectures for a semester for a high grade may be worth it, this is not always the case. It is possible that you may be disinterested in the content to the point that you may skip lectures, and possibly snowball yourself into a bad situation for the course. Take courses you are interested in or want to try! University is the time to be taking risks, while also having fun, so why not both at the same time?

📋 Try out study methods and find the one for you: Figure out how you study best as early as you can and continue with it. Studying for final exams may also be a new thing to many of you, and so I would highly recommend checking out some of the resources that are offered (for example, the Queen’s Exam Bank). Also, definitely try to make some sort of plan for busy seasons, so that you have an idea of when you will study for different upcoming assessments.

📅 Manage your time: Keep track of all your dates (for example, course times, due dates, and other commitments) to ensure that you are aware of anything coming up. It’s always great to be aware of an assignment due in a week (much better than finding out the day before) 😂.

🏆 Join extracurriculars: Join some clubs, and find some opportunities to do stuff that you’re interested in. Queen’s has tons of clubs, ranging from different fields and disciplines that you can find a position in, all the while learning more and meeting new people. This can also be a good stress reliever, as you get to take a break from school and focus on some other things you may be interested in.

💛 Have a support system: University may have its highs and lows; while I make everything seem bright and dandy, you, and many other people may experience some lows, and that’s okay and perfectly normal. It’s important to have a good support system to reach out to, whether it is friends, family, professionals, or others! Always keep your physical and mental health as your priority, as it is always more important than school 💜.

🤝 Make some friends, and meet new people: Don’t be afraid to reach out, make some friends, and have fun! I know one struggle of mine was pushing myself to make friends since I came from so far away, but I realized that majority of the people at Queen’s have come from afar and may be in a similar situation. Do some fun things in university, and make some lifelong friends 😊.

Be sure to check out some of LEAP’s other initiatives, which I think many people can benefit from, some of which include #TuesdayTalks, as well as Coffee Chats (feel free to book a meeting with me 🤩). Going into university is definitely going to be a new experience, and may take some adjusting for some, though I hope that everyone has a great time, and makes some amazing memories regardless of where you go and what you do. I wish everyone best of luck in their first year, and the years to come 💜 💛!

👨‍💼 Truman Be

  • Computing (Honours), specialization in Software Design @ Queen’s University

  • Coffee Chat Mentor, Post-Secondary Tea Guest, TuesdayTalks Panelist @ LEAP Canada

About The Author

My name’s Truman, and I’m a 3rd year Computing student at Queen’s University, specializing in Software Design. I love all things tech, and I love getting involved in a variety of extracurriculars! I’m hoping to share my experiences through LEAP to students wondering all about life after secondary school, and how to make the most of it.


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