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Student Perspective Academic & Career - Spring Semester 2024

“Think outside the box”

 

 

            Recently I have been editing my LinkedIn profile. When it comes to this, the real challenge starts at the final steps: finding the right cover photo. I realize that it sounds silly, but a cover photo can be more important than it seems. It is the first glimpse into you/your personality before the person knows nothing about you but your name. Tough decision, right?

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In this search process, I finally found “the one”. A sentence/mantra written on a blue background: “Think outside the box”.  That is a sentence that I heard on emphasis almost all of my life. For most of middle school, I had been fundamentally involved with this school club/organization called “Destination Imagination”. Its logo is a box and a ball that intersect at a certain point, simple yet substantial. While the box represents those that are keen on structure when exploring new spheres, ball represents those who find structure limiting, those who do not conform to existing expectations and patterns, those who go outside of the box.

 

These two together truly make innovation possible. Such mantra stuck with since that time, since I was ten. However, it is something that has to be relearnt every once in a while. To truly think outside the box is an art. It requires dare; it requires encounter*, and more importantly it requires authenticity*. Starting from the spring semester of my sophomore year into my summer along with the training for my current job as an orientation leader, I have been re-exploring thinking outside the box, taking steps outside of my box in new lengths that I had not imagined before.

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When I first got into computer science, the reason I chose my field was that I wanted to explore how computer science can be utilized to raise more empathy and collaboration among people regardless of our differences.

 

At the time I had no idea how to do this, but all I knew was that I wanted to do it. However, before diving right into this I wanted to gain more experience in my field, take my core classes and build my skills up.

 

At the beginning of the spring semester, after my volunteering experience with Young Guru Academy, I reflected back on this intention, and read new research papers published in this area. Soon after, all I knew was that I was down the rabbit hole passionately talking in my professor’s office about the research that I found, and in the meanwhile, I was complaining about not having an idea on how to get more involved in this specific area.

Following this, my professor asked me whether I realized this is what people do in higher education or not. While I always knew I wanted to pursue higher education in some way, I never thought of higher education in computer science as a path. Just like that, through that conversation, my professor removed a glass ceiling for me.

Through this interaction, I stepped more outside of my comfort zone and started to dream of other possible paths for myself. As a result, I started working with two different professors at the university.

 

Furthermore, this semester I became a head teaching assistant for CSE 116: Introduction to Computer Science II, and a teaching assistant for CSE220: Systems Programming. I continue my involvement in the executive board of UB Hacking, our student run hackathon, but this year I am a Co-Director for the event.

 

In the upcoming semester, I will also be a Community Assistant, which is an experience I am looking forward to. This definitely sounds a lot. However, I am a firm believer in the fact that burnout is not caused by doing too much, it is caused by doing the things you love too little.

 

Even though I get nervous about it at times, these are the things that I love doing. These are new beginnings, and new steps. Through my community at UB, I have been able to tap into the potentials that I was not aware that existed. I really am looking forward to these new steps in my life, discovering new paths and potentials, and cherishing the existing ones.

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*: words with this symbol are used in the meaning they are used in “The Courage to Create” by Rollo May

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