For the last 5 years of my life, I am an undergraduate student at ECE NTUA. ECE stands for electrical and computer engineering. In this post, I will share my personal experience and thoughts about this journey.
To get into the public universities here in Greece you have to score high enough on Panhellenic exams. My school is considered to be one of the top schools in the country so the entrance score was pretty high. The summer before the exams I started summer coaching school to prepare for the Panhellenic exams. From September and for the rest of the year, I had 16 hours of coaching school on top of normal school each week. The major disadvantage I faced because I lived in an isolated village was that my school was 30mins drive and my coaching school was about an hour away. So, I and my family consumed a lot of time each day in transportation between schools. Long story short, after a strenuous year, in the summer of 2017 I passed my exams and got into the school of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the school I had as a goal since I was a kid.
Junior Year (1st and 2nd Semesters)
In my country for some reason I have yet to understand, it is considered that the hard part is to get into school and the easy part is to finish it. In my case, I learned the hard way, that this could not be further from the truth. In the first year of my studies, I went completely bonkers. As a kid who the last 6 years was living in a village of 10 people with no internet connection, being in Athens with a place of my own, all I wanted to do was go out, explore and have fun. I had already done the hard part which was getting into the school anyways. In our universities, it’s optional to take part in the classes. You just have to complete the labs and pass the final exams. For me, all I did the first year was working out, going out, meeting new people, trying new things and drinking absurd amounts of alcohol. As far as my studies were concerned I barely went into classes the first days and then I stopped. In my defense, I studied all day in the exam period but to almost no avail. After the full year and 3 exam periods(winter, summer, and repeat exams) were over, I had passed 3 out of 12 classes.
3rd 4th and 5th Semesters
After the results of my first year, I decided to study more. For the first 5 semesters, we have a wide variety of topics in our classes. We have classes covering anything from Math and physics that are essential for the understanding of the forthcoming classes. Also, we have a lot of classes on various topics around Electricity, Energy and Computer Science which are the basic aspects of our school. The first 5 semesters are for us the students to get the fundamental knowledge necessary to follow the next classes and also to get a taste of every subject so we can pick what we will specialize in.
For the whole second a third year, I started studying more and going to some classes. To be honest, I had a hard time understanding a lot of the classes. I believe that there is a gap between the level of school and the university which you have to bridge with your personal effort. So in those two years, with a lot of effort and studying, I started covering the ground and having success in the exams.
After Picking An Area Of Expertise
At 6th Semester is the time when we pick an area of expertise. I picked computer software, hardware, computer networks, and a few business classes. That semester was really exciting as it was the first semester in our school where we pick the kind of classes we are taking. They were challenging but they were also very interesting. The effort required was higher than the other semesters but now I was studying topics that really interested me. This continued for the 7th 8th and 9th semesters.
The classes I took covered the biggest spectrum of computer science.
As far as hardware goes, I learn about computer architecture, microprocessors and programming in Assembly, image and video processing neural networks, and machine learning.
As far as software goes I learned different programming languages, declarative and object-oriented programming, the workings of compilers, algorithms, data structures, and understood time and space complexity.
Also, I learned web development. Web development is the building and maintenance of websites; it’s the work that happens behind the scenes to make a website look great, work fast and perform well with a seamless user experience.
I worked in the full stack of technologies in various projects I took part in and learned a lot.
In the area of computer Networks and business, I learned a lot about IT, the web, how to get good business decisions, how to run an e-shop, and how to make a business plan.
10th is our final semester and the semester when we pick our thesis. Our thesis is a subject we decide to do research and analyze in depth with the guidance of one of our professors. My thesis is about building a complex web app. Also in the 8th and 10th semesters, you have the opportunity to do a 2-month internship if you are eligible and want to. I decided to do the internship. I made a CV and a portfolio with the projects I have worked on in my free time and in the classes I had passed. I got into 3 interviews and was accepted in all 3. I pick one of the offers and worked as a full stack engineer and mostly worked in the frontend of apps while I was still studying for the classes I haven’t passed the previous semesters. I learned a lot of new things and got to know how it is to work as a software developer outside of the university. After my internship was over I was offered a job position as a software engineer in the company I did my internship to work on two exciting projects with state-of-the-art technology. I am already one month in and I really enjoy it.
As far as the school goes, I have yet 3 classes to pass and my thesis to complete to graduate.
Thoughts AND ADVice
The last five years have been a rollercoaster. From barely going to classes in the first year, I am now finding myself immersed in the world of programming and the topics taught in my classes every day.
If I could turn the time back, I would have studied way more during the first 2 years because that would have made the other years way more enjoyable and easy. If anyone is thinking of joining my school I would highly encourage them to do so. But you have to know that it will not be easy and it will require a lot of effort and time to complete.
One of the most important, if not the most important advice I can give you is to make friends with your fellow students. This will make the whole process way easier and more enjoyable as you will be in this together. They will help you with your difficulties and you will help them with theirs. Don’t forget that to be in the same school you have common interests and the chances are that you will be a lot more alike than you think. The friendships you can make are invaluable.
In addition, to be really good at what you are doing and to make it easy for yourself to get a job after or even before your graduation you should do extra. The university will give a taste and a direction to various topics. You, by yourself, should pick whichever topic interests you and research it in depth in your free time. You will be given the resources (books, libraries, online material, google, youtube) and what you have to do is to study them and learn the skills that will make you valuable in the workplace. That means that you will have to learn more than what is asked of you in the classes. The good news is that it is absolutely worth it.
Also, do not get discouraged from the above thinking that all you will do is study, with good time management you will be able to enjoy all aspects of your life and have free time as well.
I will close the blog post with one of the greatest pieces of advice I ever got when I was wondering what I wanted to do with my studies.
“The first few years, it’s normal to be wandering around not exactly knowing what you want to do. Test different things and see what fits you, and when you find something that you are somewhat good at and you can think of yourself doing that in your free time, go all in that thing, learn everything you can, and practice it in your free time and everything else will follow.”
For any specific questions, you may have or any concerns feel free to comment below or message me.
See you at the next one!