The Thing About Rice’s Courses

Walking out of Herzstein Hall Amphitheater with a cinnamon donut on my hand, I breathed in the cold air and let out a long sigh–the COMP midterm’s finally over.

COMP 182 is the most daunting computer science major requirement course for Rice freshmen as it has been regarded as one of the most time-consuming and difficult CS core course. Over the past years, creative students had made interesting comments about it: “It’s a good thing this course is offered in the Spring only. If it were offered in the Fall, some freshmen students might still be under 18, and then this course would be considered child abuse. (A COMP 182 student, Spring 2015).” With that being said, I had just had my COMP 182 midterm exam yesterday. Sitting in front of my desk last night, I couldn’t help letting my mind flashback to see how far I’d gone through this notoriously difficult class: I had been staying up late debugging my homework for three days without having a single clue what I did wrong, I had gone through multiple TA sessions in a week but still couldn’t think of the correct proof (yes COMP 182 covers not only programming, but also discrete mathematics), and I had to sacrifice all my leisure time studying at Fondren library for the midterm. It seems a little bit discouraging, isn’t it?

However, now that I had gone through the test, I realized how much I’d learned from this class. Not just Python or coding in general, but also how to write a rigorous mathematical proof and reasoning the correctness of the algorithms. Moreover, the coding projects that we did every two weeks are related to solving real problems in the world, like computing an epidemic outbreak in the hospital. They gave a great insight as to what computer scientists do and how they approach problems that seem unrelated to computer science but can be solved using computational thinking skills. It made me realize that computer science is not only about coding. More importantly, it is about the way we approach to problem solving–decomposing a major problem and coming up with solutions to sub-problems.

In fact, this is the beauty of most Rice classes. They are not designed to make you pass them easily. Instead, they are there to challenge you, to question you, to make you learn, and eventually to better you. Of course there can be some discouraging moment when you think you can’t keep up, but there are always people who are willing to help you: besides your friends and classmates, there are TAs (32 TAs in COMP 182) and professors who are there to answer your questions. In other words, the instructors don’t just assign extremely difficult questions and let you struggle alone. On the contrary, they want to help you learn the difficult concepts that will benefit you in the future.

With that being said, although I’m struggling at COMP 182, I’ll still keep on learning. It’s the spirit of Rice academics and the main reason why I love Rice.