Horizons, Chapter One

We’re just getting done with Week 01 of the Horizons Summer Immersive. This is our first batch ever, so we had no idea what to expect.

All we knew is that we’d be surprised.

About what would happen when we’d put 44 incredibly smart, hard working and energetic students from all over the US and from as far as Paris and Amsterdam in one room, all day long, all summer long, with the sole purpose of helping them become amazing programmers & entrepreneurs.

Our students have already learned so much in 6 short days. So have we.

Time really is subjective.

None of us really feel like we’re in the classroom from 8:55am to midnight or sometimes even 2 or 3 am. As one student told us, there’s a certain state of flow that you reach, in which you’re deeply focused and stuck on a problem for a couple hours, and then you finally get it and it feels so incredible, and then you’re immediately onto the next.

A group of Horizonites working through what looks like a particularly challenging problem with junior instructor Ethan Lee (left).

You have so much more grit in you than you think, and the right environment makes it come out.

Grit. It’s really shown itself this week in all of our students and team members, and we think that’s because we’re surrounded by other people who are all exploding out of what they previously thought were their limits.

Some students have never programmed before! They’ve done the prepwork for the course (or so we hope!), but they’re still tackling really hard problems from the get-go.

Two Horizonites pair programming deep into the night.

This week they’ve already built poker, solved complex mazes using recursion, created a small video game with a hopping dinosaur, programmed a gain and loss algorithm for stock tickers and learned about how to traverse Binary Search Trees. All of that in 6 days! And of course it’s hard as hell. You’d think the beginners would get discouraged and tired in the evening.

Well, sometimes they do.

But almost always they find the energy to keep going until 2 am. I remember a particular time when it was already early in the morning — 1 or 2am — and one of our students was just reaching the part of the exercise that had taken others several hours to complete earlier that day. When someone suggested he call it a day and take a fresh look at it after sleep, he said:

“No, I’m going to do a little more.”

Tenacity is addictive. The longer of a crazy, inhuman stretch you go on, the further you want to keep going.

People rise to the challenge.

We made Saturdays optional. Highly recommended for those who want to become Software Engineers at the most competitive companies out there, not necessary for those on a more “entrepreneurial” track. We knew it had been a very long week and we didn’t expect a crazy turnout.

Well, we got a full house.

Optional doesn’t seem to be part of our vocabulary this summer.

In fact, Sundays are entirely off and yet when Darwish offered to have 1–1 recap sessions of the week’s material today, several students jumped at the opportunity!

Every Horizonite has chosen to be here and spend the most productive summer of their lives. The very first thing we told them to do on day one was to turn to their neighbor and say:

“You’re crazy.”

Because they are. They could be on the beach, taking it easy, resting up.

But they aren’t. They’ve chosen to be in our classroom and grind away to become great. And they enjoy it too.

And that’s what keeps us going.

I remember we thought poker would be too much for the first day so we pushed it back for later in the week. Well, some of our students breezed through the other exercises so quickly that we had to rush to add it back into the first day and then find even more problems for them!

As one of our teammates said:

It feels like we’re scrambling to add more coal to a fire that’s devouring it faster than we can feed it.

Some more photo highlights of the past week.

Setting up shop.

Team selfie before the storm.

From left to right: Edward Lando, Ethan Lee, Mustafa Paksoy, Darwish Gani, Joshua Chan, Abhi Ramesh & Lane Rettig

Sharing the story of how Horizons was born at the meet & greet at First Round Capital’s offices right here on Penn’s campus.

Students reacting to something really funny.

Students impatiently anticipating the Horizons Commencement Address.

Professor “Moose” marking a climactic point in lecture.

Short nights. Baggy eyes. But hungry souls and ample supply of coffee and vitamin C.

The Horizons Team enjoying its first meal of the day at 3:30pm this Saturday while solving a tough Binary Search Tree problem.

Students mindblown.

Time and time again.

Taking a break. By playing with Chinese drones.

Darwish doing great work uninterrupted.

Edward & Abhi at the team BBQ. With a third unidentified individual.

Spontaneous picnics.

And, lastly. Professor Moose happily clutching his well-earned lettuce.

See you next week :-)

Thank you for reading.

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Horizons is a technology school that finds the most promising young people around the world and gives them all the advantages they need to launch their successful careers in tech.

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