Unexpected: A Journey of 3 Months, A Few Days and Some Hours

“Congratulations! We’re very happy to offer you a Bertelsmann Data Science Challenge Scholarship.”

These were the first words I read from an email I received back in May 2018.

I took a moment to read through it, committing each word to memory as if I would be quizzed on it later. “Share the good news!” Read the email. What good news? I still had no idea what it meant. Looking through the excel database of job applications I had so eagerly created before graduating, I realized I had indeed, applied for Udacity’s program, but had given up any hope of acquiring it.

For who would select me from thousands of applications?

“Tens of thousands of students applied to be part of the Bertelsmann Udacity Data Science Scholarship, and 15,000 were selected to join for Phase One,” said a video during enrollment.

15,000. I thought to myself. This had to be a prank. But indeed it was not. The email was real, and so was the opportunity.

At this moment in my life, I did not have a clue what I was doing- other than waiting. Plans of the future had been much more fruitful in my dreams upon graduation. A simple 9–5 job where I would use all the skills I learned in college, eagerly waking up on the first day of work, making friends with all my colleagues, (we had to go to lunch every day together right?), but all in all, a simple life.

Coming out of the college life hit me like a ton of bricks. I expected everyday to be eventful and last till 10 PM with hundreds of people to see. Instead, I ended up alone at home, waving adios to my parents as they carried on with their lives, waiting for them to come back and tell me what their day was like. I would turn to message my friends when a gentle reminder buzzer went off that no- they really did have the life I had dreamed about. So I would wait for them to message me instead. I would go back to my room, and scour online for job opportunities and wait some more.

When I left for vacation, unexpected circumstances landed me in the OR and bed rest for the next few months. A job was out of the question.

Seeing Udacity’s email gave me new hope. I could never function without opening a book, or learning something new everyday. This class would provide me the opportunity to zone in on something I had always wanted to learn- data science.

I eagerly waited for the first day of class- it was an online program, but we would be working with Slack channels to communicate with the community leaders and other students. I did not realize what I was in for- nor just how exciting my mundane life would become. The Slack channels were chaos incarnate, and I loved every single minute of it.

My inner neat freak was going insane. We had one main deadline, and a ton of videos to go through to learn the basics of data science, the majority of it being statistics. I made schedules, charts, and notes upon notes to stay organized and learn as much as I could. The experience was life changing.

Everyone in the slack and forums were as helpful as I was trying to be, and as confused as I actually was. I was having the time of my life again.

As every day was unexpected, I made weekly goals for myself on Outlook’s calendar, and scheduled study times so I could focus on the class. There were 2 main aspects- finishing the course before the given deadline, and participating within Udacity’s community made up of their Slack channel, Forums, and Facebook page.

The most overwhelming aspect was keeping track of everything. Since participation was worth as much as finishing the class, I made sure I posted something as often as possible- whether it was a question, answering someone else’s post, or liking someone’s comment. Insights I received from the other students made my experience that much more valuable and I can confidently say that I could have never gotten through the material without the motivation or support from Udacity’s community leaders or my student community.

The next daunting task was finishing the course in time. Since it was a challenge course, we were told that only 1,500 of the 15,000 students would be given a rare chance to get a free Nanodegree in a Data Science field. Both participation and course completion would be factors in selecting these students.

While I had started off strong- focusing all my energies into the class and forgetting that I should instead have been juggling both the class and a job, I began to deviate after 2 months. The last few lessons on SQL were very new, and I had trouble keeping up. Getting nervous seeing others finish was also weighing on me. I went back to my peers, who brought me back into study mode- telling me I could definitely finish the class strong. Which I did.

If it hadn’t been for their support- from these people I had never met- I would have never been able to finish. After being told I had successfully completed my program, I decided to look into other educational opportunities as I waited for the final results to come in.

Now we had to see who would be accepted into the final Phase 2 of the program.

Once more, I was back to waiting. This time with new goals and hopes.

Thank you Udacity, for giving me a chance to learn again.