Jamie Balfour

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The day after...

The day after...

Yesterday, Friday the 6th of May 2016 I attended university for the last time and saw a lot of my university friends and lecturers for the last time.

It's an odd feeling, two days ago I imagined I'd be so happy, yesterday I had such excitement about finishing up and today I have a great empty feeling. Literally the minute that our poster session was over the excitement died down and the sad feeling came in - the last piece of work that I had to do for Heriot-Watt University was now done.

I now actually have enough of my final mark to get an honours (at the moment it's a third class honours and I've still got an available 43% more that I can get which can push me up to a first class honours).

I'm now a graduate, or at least I will be in a few weeks. I would say it went quickly, but the truth is, it's actually been a long yet brilliant time and in some ways I'm glad but also sad it's over.

I met some amazing people whilst at Heriot-Watt and to name just a few:

  • Jonathan Craig
  • Julian Merlin Ertel aka Merlin
  • Mark Young
  • Mohammed Sherif
  • Sharang Shandil
  • Ben Stevenson
  • Brodie Hamilton
  • Conner McCabe
  • Calum McLennan
  • Callum Guthrie
  • Jack Pryde
  • Andrew Saunders
  • Graeme Reid
  • Alex Sharpe
  • Yibo Liang
  • Alex Harriss
  • Inna Vassileva

Now as I say that's not everyone, I just cannot name everyone off the top of my head. You can get in touch with me if you want to have your name on this list though folks!

Years 1 to 4

First year (HNC)

I remember on the induction day I made my very first friend at university; Brodie Hamilton. Soon after came Jack Pryde and Jonathan Craig. I also became good friends with Calum McLennan, Ben Stevenson, Andrew Saunders and many more.

First year was an amazing year since you didn't need to work incredibly hard in order to pass and I was in a good place since most of the stuff was stuff I knew already (I didn't know Java but knowing any object-oriented language pretty much makes learning another as easy as learning to ride a different bike). It was also then that I met web development again for the first time since my third year at high school (2005).

I had some amazing lecturers that year, the first two were lecturers I knew prior to entering university in 2012:

  • Rob Pooley, who mentioned on day one remembering me from before (since I started in 2010, but got unwell and had to take two years out)
  • Greg Michaelson, who was one of the most caring lecturers in my first year at university
  • Helen Hastie, who became my dissertation supervisor and whose course also inspired me to redesign my own website
  • Verena Reiser
  • Roger Rist
  • Gudmund Grov
  • Patricia Vargas
  • Albert Burger
  • Peter King

I mustn't forget, Judy Robertson, who became my mentor at the end of the year and was the most incredible peoples person. We also had a lot in common (academically) and I was originally hoping to do my dissertation/project with her, although I can't complain since my supervisor was also one of my favourite lecturers anyway and also had a lot in common (academically) with me. Every single lecturer in my first year was incredibly friendly and even knew me by name and would even chat with me - that's rare in lecturers at other universities from what I hear.

Second year (HND)

Second year was a disaster for me. Stress got to me, and I remember a lot of people telling me that this was the hardest year since like first year, everything you are taught in fairly broad, whereas third and four year you get to specialise a bit more. Second year ended up as my worst year for results as well. I put that down to the fact that a month before I sat my exams in the second semester I lost the amazing little Petro, something that still puts me in tears from time to time. I also put it down to the fact that at the end of the first semester / start of the second semester I went through a period of depression. 

During the first semester I'd even thought about throwing in the towel and leaving with just my HNC from the first year at university. Depression got me down. People convinced me to stay. 

However, during the second year at university, I became friends with some amazing people like Conner McCabe, Mohammed Sherif, Sharang Shandil and a couple of new lecturers;

  • Santiago Chumbe, I cannot tell you how nice a person Santi was, he and I got on so well, I guess since by that time I considered myself pretty good at web development and was also doing it as a job on the side of university
  • Jamie Gabbay - at first Jamie scared me because he was so smart, and pretty cocky about it, but as I got to know Jamie in the second semester I felt differently. Jamie was one of the lecturers I got to know best. 
  • Sandy Louchart
  • Hamish Taylor
  • Monica Farrow
  • Alisdair Gray

Third year (BSc)

Things really became amazing for me in my third year. This was when I met two of my best friends at university, Mark Young and Merlin. I also feel that I was most motivated for this year since I could take my BSc at the end of the year and still go on and do what I wanted to do (teacher training) so I could see this year as being a possible last year if all gets too tough (or I couldn't be bothered).

As it was a new year again, as always I get a new mentor, and the timing was right since Judy had moved to Edinburgh University over the summer. I got Sandy Louchart, who taught us Interaction Design in second year. Sandy was a great mentor and a wonderful person, so I was lucky to have him.

I was voted class representative this year, by a narrow margin. This was something I really wanted to do and something I really enjoyed doing.

The first semester was pretty challenging because of Foundations 1, but in the end I did okay with it and got myself a B. My first big role as class representative was to try and sort out a level ground between the students and the lecturer, Fairouz, for the Foundations 1 exam since it was pretty tough. With my work and Fairouz's cooperation, we sorted something out and the class were pretty happy with the result.

The second semester was a bit of a laugh for me (as in I had a great time with friends), albeit a tough couple of months. The courses were not quite as challenging as the previous set of courses, and we also had one of my favourite courses of my time at university this semester too, Language Processors. I spent a lot of time messing about with Jonathan, Mark and Merlin in this semester since I found the courseworks were pretty good fun and were manageable so there was plenty of time to mess about.

New lecturers we got this year included:

  • Fairouz Kamereddine
  • Hans-Wolfgang Loidl
  • Sven-Bodo Scholz
  • Joe Wells

I also managed to get myself back on track grade-wise and, even though the first semester was not as good as I'd have liked (perhaps down to depression), the second semester was all As and Bs. My third year average was 67%, which is not as good as I'd have liked, but it set me up for fourth year okay.

Fourth year (BSc [Honours])

My final year was by far the roughest year of the lot. The first semester, I broke down half way through and in the second semester, due to health concerns, missed about three-quarters of the courses I was sitting then. First semester week 7 I filled in the form to leave university and take my BSc without honours. I'm so glad that Rob Pooley, Helen Hastie and Tessa Berg along with Merlin and Jonathan, convinced me to stay.

Although it was a hard time for me, my courses would never have proved that since I got my third highest mark (83%) for any course with Industrial Programming (it was C#.NET, which as you'll know, I've been using C#.NET since 2008), 70% for Data Visualisation and Analytics which was using JavaScript and although I was good with JavaScript beforehand, I learned a lot from this course, these courses were another two favourites of mine. However, I have missed out one course, since in the first semester I also did my all time favourite course, Computing in the Classroom, which saw me go out to my original school and get to teach. I ran three classes on web development to a Higher group and remained with the school from October until April 2016. I loved this course, and it made me want to be a teacher even more. My semester average was 75%, my highest since first year.

I had just one new lecturer this year, Mike Chantler, who taught Data Visualisation and Analytics.

The second semester was an absolute mess, but thanks to the support of my lecturers was turned around and may end up okay. My two courses this semester were Network Applications and eCommerce technologies. I attended a few lectures for both of these courses before I had to take a couple of weeks off for health reasons. This time I took off had a detrimental impact on my studies and I missed most of those courses. I managed to work on the course work for one of the courses, and we got full marks for that, but the other course, as great as the coursework for that was coming along, end up being impossible for me to work on whilst I was out of action. The university has supported me all throughout my time and nothing changed here. I remember saying I should not take the time off and finish university first, but my doctor advised I should think of my health first. At that point I broke down in tears thinking I'll never finish university.

In the final weeks, I submitted my dissertation on Monday the 25th of April, although I managed to finish mine about a week before that anyway and the last thing for me to do was my poster session. My poster session went well and I got 1 mark off top marks for it. It also reminded me that I'm actually good at public demonstrations! 

The courses I did

The following a list of my modules I had whilst at university in order of preference, and I think it shows the diversity of this degree. I put this here really for my own reference, so I can look back in the future and remember this moment:

  1. Computing in the Classroom
  2. Language Processors
  3. Web Programming
  4. Data Visualisation and Analytics
  5. Industrial Programming
  6. Data Structures and Algorithms
  7. Praxis
  8. Network Applications
  9. Software Development 2
  10. Database Management Systems
  11. Introduction to Computer Systems
  12. Programming Languages
  13. Interactive Systems
  14. Software Design
  15. Operating Systems and Concurrency
  16. Software Development 3
  17. Software Development 1
  18. eCommerce Technologies
  19. Foundations 1
  20. Foundations 2
  21. Web Design and Databases
  22. Logic and Proof
  23. Computer Network Security
  24. Artificial Intelligence and Agents
  25. Professional Development
  26. Formal Specification
  27. Interaction Design
  28. Discrete Mathematics
  29. Software Engineering

The last remaining three modules that bring it up to 32 are all dissertation modules.

To anyone reading this

To anyone who reads this, I want you to know that Heriot-Watt University, particularly the MACS team, is an amazing place to study computer science, and that if you ever need support, the support is always there and they are always prepared to help you in anyway they can.

I've had a great four years at Heriot-Watt University, and although I'm excited to be leaving, I'm also sad. I've met some amazing people, and I really want to keep in touch with all you folks, so please don't lose touch with me!

All that is left for me now is to graduate, which will take place soon! I cannot wait!

Posted by jamiebalfour04 in Life
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