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Anita Popescu

Dear first year me,

Congratulations on making it to your first day of university! Remember when you used to wonder what it’d be like to live in a dorm and worried about sharing a bathroom with someone other than your brother? Now you’ll get to lead your own life and hang out on-campus whenever you want (just make sure to get enough sleep for your 8:30am classes; when you start feeling sick in the deep of winter, even that 10-minute walk from 90u to SITE will be a struggle). Also, your decision to participate in 101 Week? You don’t even know it yet, but it’ll lead you to some amazing friendships that will last throughout your whole degree, so don’t miss out on any events.

You’re still trying to decide between Computer Science and medicine, and you might be finding yourself still deciding even years later; that’s okay! Keep those options open. Find what you truly love. Figure out whether you’re into your data structures or your biochemistry class. Right now you’ve chosen an amazing time for a CS degree. Regardless of which path you choose, your technical toolbox that you build in your CS degree will be incredibly beneficial.

When it comes to studying, the biggest thing I can say is to NOT skip class and to be in the right mindset in class to focus on the material. Cramming sucks and you’ve gone this far without drinking coffee at 4 in the morning; I truly believe you can keep your streak going. Also, don’t study the same way for different courses! Your bio courses will need a lot of time since there’s so much material, but your CS courses will require a lot of time for either assignments or understanding some convoluted concepts (*cough cough* linear algebra *cough cough*). Develop different practices early on, and review your notes after class. Falling behind can be super easy, especially with all the other exciting things happening in your life, but find that motivator, whether it’s a good prof, good classmates, or interesting projects.

I know you haven’t thought about it much, but a lot of your friends will be talking about coop. Even though you’re not enrolled in coop, internship opportunities will play a big role in your undergraduate years, and might also help you decide between computer science and medicine. When it comes to interviewing, your greatest asset after first year will obviously not be your technical skills or experience, but rather your motivation to learn and passion for that interview role. Being in tech is maybe 15% knowing the tech, and 85% talking to others, whether about planning and designing solutions or asking questions to get your job done right. So don’t worry if you don’t get that dev role right off the bat; it might actually be a better thing if it teaches you the industry, soft skills, and how to interact with others early on! Just be open to any role, there are SO many things you can busy yourself with every summer.

I’m really proud of you for your decision between choosing uOttawa and choosing that other school. You were so worried about making the right decision, about going somewhere where you can maximize your learning and get the most opportunities possible. There are tons of mentors across campus; don’t be afraid to just drop by someone’s office or send them a cold email. Again, everyone will appreciate your motivation to reach out. At uOttawa, you chose to build your own degree through your major/minor, so in a way this is the first time you’re forging ahead with your own decisions, your own plans. You and others around you will change your plans probably about a hundred times, but if you do your research and keep good relationships with everyone around you, never worry about being on the wrong path, you’re gonna do great :) I guarantee that you’ll be happy by the end of this.

Anita's Biography

Hi there! I’m Anita Popescu, a fourth-year computer science student at the University of Ottawa. I’m also minoring in life sciences because I like figuring out how people work. I play piano and violin and love running, volleyball, books, and Grey’s Anatomy. Happy to start a conversation on social media!



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