Learning Code at Warp 7 with Full Immersion

Three months ago, I was hunched over my computer at a cafe in Ecuador, pair programming with a musician in California. Our text editors updated in unison, as packets flew back and forth across fiberoptic cables under the Pacific Ocean. Our assignment was DOM modification with JavaScript. It read, “Append Lorem Ipsum to the end of your page. Let the user select between three font colors, Red, Blue and Green.”

This was my first encounter with jQuery. I sat up, eager to solve this challenge. “Estas bien?” my girlfriend asked, starting on her second glass of red wine. “Si todo bien. Es dificil, pero entiendo!” I replied. She smiled and went back to her graphic design.

.wine {
color: red
height: 80%
.bus {
color: red
width: 13824px
taxi {
color: yellow
width: 46080px

The circumstances that brought me to the cafe that day were quite third-worldy.

The power was out at my house, and across my entire quadrant of the city. Despite living two blocks from the electric company this was not uncommon. No power, no internet. So it goes.

Everyone explains these blackouts in their own way. My host mother thought it was related to installing Christmas decorations for the holidays. A lawyer told me a drought had left the city reservoir dangerously low. I’ll never know the cause, but it motivated us to travel into town.

We rode the bus to city center: $0.25

Then, we hailed a taxi to the cafe: $1

Teaching and living in Ecuador was one of the most influential experiences of my life. There’s no comparing my four years of formal Spanish education with this year of emersion. Fully immersed in the culture, I picked up the language quickly.

At the end of my journey abroad, I contested my visa expiration (en español). My case went to the highest immigration lawyer in Ecuador, and he complimented my ezpañol skillz.

Of course, work visas aren’t awarded because of language fluency, but rather by arcane systems of legal precedence. They denied my application.

But that’s another story. This post is about immersion learning.

During this entire process, my friends stood by me. I’ll forever be grateful to my host family, for their amazing warmth and generosity. Choosing your “tribe” is paramount.

Back in the U.S.A.

Despite picking up my first programming manual six months ago, today I’m confident that I can learn enough programming knowledge to contribute to a development team. Here at The Iron Yard, we program all day. We spend eight solid hours with Chris, a developer with decades of experience. The four other students in my cohort have exceeded all expectations. This is a solid group.

Fully immersed in this environment, we are sure to succeed.

The first couple of weeks included: Ruby versions, data types, methods, Enumerable methods like map and reduce, Classes, local variables, instance variables, Class variables, global variables and why you shouldn’t use them but other people do so you should know about them, inheritance, class methods, CSV parsing, OOP, MiniTest, TDD, how to ask a question, gems, modules, duck typing, monkey patching, blocks, procs and lamdas!

Mix all that together with Friday’s Iron Pints, and there’s no doubt. In 12 weeks, we’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

This course is accelerating to warp speed 7. Scotty, we’ll need everything you have.

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