Experience as a first year student
Note: This is just my experience, others may have different experiences. The courses could also change so make sure to check the website to find out about the current courses!
I’ll start with a little bit about myself! I took both Computer Science GCSE and A-Level, so I was familiar with the subject – but don’t worry if you’re completely new to the subject as you’ll soon find out, we pretty much start off in the same boat. Although, be prepared for a lot more pressure compared to school and ensure you truly do want to study the subject because it does require a lot of dedication.
This year for semester one I took Introduction to Computation and Introduction to Linear Algebra. Introduction to Computation had two strands: Functional Programming and Computation and Logic. We had online lectures, weekly Q&A sessions with the lecturers and also smaller online tutorials for both strands with our tutors. Nearly everything in this course was entirely new to me. We learnt Haskell, a functional programming language, which was completely different to what I was used to (Python, some Java). The Logic side was also all very new, looking at topics such as propositional logic, predicates, finite state machines etc. We were assessed through short quizzes and weekly assignments. So overall quite a big jump from school and very challenging at times but nonetheless, extremely rewarding :))
We also all had to take Introduction to Linear Algebra, something else which was completely new. This is a course from the School of Mathematics however all first-year Computer Science students also had to take it. Here we looked at fundamental ideas of linear algebra and were assessed through weekly tests and also one final larger test at the end of the semester. We actually had in-person tutorials in small groups for this course! If you took something similar to Further Maths A-Level, you might find this course easier at the start however, I had only taken Maths A-Level and personally found this probably the trickiest course. Although, there are still many places to get help even with the maths content, such as asking your tutor and MathsBase (a drop in to ask questions about assignments, content etc.).
In semester two, I took Object-Oriented Programming and Calculus and its Applications. I really enjoyed Object-Oriented Programming and it’s probably been one of my favourite courses so far! We learnt object-oriented concepts using Java and were assessed through three large pieces of coursework and small weekly tests. The assignments were actually quite creative and fun to do and allowed us to apply the concepts we’d learnt through the lectures. We had online lectures, lab assignments, online tutorials in small groups and weekly pair programming sessions. Calculus was again another compulsory maths course all Computer Science students had to take. Calculus consisted of online lectures, online tutorials and also weekly live sessions led by a lecturer. We were assigned homework assignments, weekly quizzes and one final exam. (Having done some calculus before at school, I found this course a lot better than linear algebra >.<!)
For both semesters, we used piazza extensively which I also really found useful – especially as we had the option to ask anonymously too! Piazza is an online forum where you can ask questions, discuss topics, host polls etc. and lecturers, instructors and other students can answer. From my experience, I’ve found the replies to be fairly fast and always pretty helpful! There were also weekly live Q&A’s which were also really great if we wanted more clarification from the lecturers themselves. There are also other places such as InfBase and InfPals to get more help if needed :))!
All the courses I’ve talked about above were all compulsory courses and we had 40 credits free to take any other courses we liked (including from other schools!). I chose to take German 1A for the entire year and it was very refreshing to do something different to the Informatics and Maths content!
You can look at more information regarding your specific degree programme here with DRPS
Outside of class
Aside from just doing the degree, at Edinburgh, there are many activities and events you can get involved in. Due to COVID, all the events were online but still very fun!
The events I took part in this year include:
- HackTheBurgh, one of the largest student-run hackathons in the UK
- DataFest, a data analysis competition run by the School of Maths
- PwnEd, a CTF organised by SigInt, a cybersecurity special interest group within CompSoc (Edinburgh’s tech society)
So looking back, my top tips would be to get involved in lots of events, societies, try to stay organised and on top of your work and also to not be afraid to get help when you need it – honestly, even if you’re struggling with something like the set-up, please do ask for help! If you have any further questions, feel free to reach out and message me >.<!
Blog post originally written by Ojaswee in 2020, Informatics Student