This year I started studying at University of the People, and the experience has been amazing to say the least. I’d like to share a bit of my story leading up to my enrollment.
The story is ridden with many holes and it skips massive details about my life, but it gives a brief summary to express how UoPeople has changed my career direction, and given me a second chance at a higher education.
I was 11 years old when I purchased Interplay’s Learn to Program Basic: Junior High Edition. Like most other 11 year old’s in North America, the thought of learning to program my own games was very inspiring to me. Unfortunately the kid friendly software didn’t really help me understand how games were made, or how to do anything else useful with programs. I instead ended up being very confused and discouraged, while at the same time not knowing were to find information that could help me.
I occasionally would revisit programming throughout high school and even took a business class that taught us how to make simple web pages. However I would not fully realize my passion for computers until I later became a father and husband, working as a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) operator in a factory.
I would spend most of my free time at home and even take advantage of opportunities at work to teach myself how to program and understand how computers work. I started partaking in free open course ware through Stanford, MIT, and Harvard, as well as many tutorials on YouTube and the rest of the Internet.
My major struggle in self directed learning, aside form trying to do it while working 60 hour weeks, was understanding what to learn and when. Teaching myself proved to be a directionless quest with no map or compass. I felt like Link from The Legend of Zelda traversing The Lost Woods in Kokiri Forest for the first time. Every path I followed seem to bring me back to were I started or brought me to a crossroads were every path before me was new.
I was constantly improving, and was getting better at understanding what was most important to spend my time on. Even so, it was very clear that going back to school would be my best opportunity to learn, if it were possible.
After being laid off at the end of 2013, I began researching some options, and almost fell victim to an absurdly over priced, accelerated video game development course. This course at the time seemed to be the only option I had that I could even come close to affording, but after a lot of research I discovered that I would be wasting my money. It also wasn’t worth putting my family through the risk and hardships. I knew that if money was not a matter, I would be studying computer science anyways. However attending university was financially not possible.
I ended up getting a job as a labourer for an electrical company early 2014. The work was hard, the hours were long, and the job sites were far from home. But the money was good and I had the opportunity to prove myself and get an apprenticeship. I really enjoyed the work and saw how becoming an electrician could easily send me down a path that lead to working with electronics, or other computer related fields.
Due to company restructuring I was laid off from that job early 2015. So I started looking into school again, just to see what options there were and if anything had changed since the year prior. To my surprise there had been an option for me this whole time, but I hadn’t found it in my previous search queries. For the heck of it, I thought I’d try searching for a free education, and that’s how I found University of the People.
Although UoPeople is “tuition-free” and not entirely free, it is still much cheaper than any traditional brick and mortar university, and it’s accredited. Even more advantageous to me, is that since it is entirely online, I don’t have to uproot my family and move to another (probably more expensive) city.
The school has given me a second chance at higher education and without an opportunity like this, I may not have ever pursued a degree in CS. Now I get to! I can’t describe how grateful I am for what founder Shai Reshef has started and for all of his supporters, and volunteers that make UoPeople possible.
I can remember having talks with friends about how anyone with the ambition to learn should be given the opportunity for a higher education, no matter their financial circumstances or geographical location. When we talked like that, I don’t think any of us ever thought that it would actually happen. And now, UoPeople is helping to make this come true for everyone on the planet!
I can’t wait to live in a world were education is accessible to all, and I feel excited and privileged to be a part of it’s beginnings.
Thanks for reading my story.