As an international student, I've struggled with both my English skills and certain cultural differences. Having spent two years in the U.S., I still have never been fully comfortable with my English level. There were times where I barely understood what people were saying to each other and often had no idea how to respond, which made me feel excluded from many conversations. This affected my confidence and gave me the incorrect impression that those around me were better in subject areas that we were all new to, including coding. I passively accepted other people's approaches to problems as the best way forward, while questioning my own ability, believing that I didn't have the aptitude of my peers.
I also masked my personality so that it would be easier to be liked by others, allowing some people to walk over me, telling myself that someday, I would find people who understand me.
So at the beginning of the iXperience Lisbon program, it is needless to say that I didn't have any meaningful relationships. However, seeing the other iX students flourishing with new friends, fuelled by their creative, outgoing personalities made me want to change for the better. I expressed my discomfort and longing for something more to a few select people around me.
Soon afterwards, I made a new friend who empathized with my feelings. He slowly helped me overcome my confidence issues and made me feel more comfortable in my own skin by encouraging me to just be myself. I started speaking up in groups, and while I was initially quite nervous, I found that my iX community were very open to my story, and understanding when I asked them to pause and explain something.
The classroom setting further boosted my confidence. When I was curious about something we were learning in our Full Stack Coding class, instead of keeping quiet, I began to ask questions, and far from realizing the fear that I wasn't as smart as my peers, I began to recognize my current skills while appreciating my new efforts. Furthermore, instead of focusing on what I couldn't do, I started to appreciate how much I'd done and what more I can still do moving forward.
Thanks to the rigorous nature of the iX program and the work ethic of my iX peers, I learned to take on challenges and try my best, despite fear of failure, or feelings of public anxiety. In addition, I realized the significance of teaching myself. Our teachers stressed the importance of learning how to Google, and using failures as learning curves – lessons that will always stay with me.
iXperience was transformative for me, and a gratifying summer that I won't soon forget. Despite long nights and shed tears, the reward of discovering myself has made this journey worth it; and this is just the beginning. Even though it took time and effort, realizing that I can have a life that is one of constant learning and filled with exploration made it worthwhile in every way. This wouldn't have been possible without the support of those around me; from TAs to teachers to newly made friends.