Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be selected out of nearly 80,000 other applicants for an EU Google Android Scholarship. The scholarship is in partnership with Udacity, a modern online learning platform which primarily focuses on teaching people how to code. Udacity have worked with companies such as Google, Amazon, IBM and Facebook to provide courses made by industry experts.
Before I get to why this opportunity has changed my life, I’ll first tell you a little about me. Once you know more about me, you’ll better understand why this opportunity has been life changing. I come from a small town, it’s in no way behind the times but I don’t think technology ranks very highly amongst the locals. The occasions where I’ve used my phone to pay for items, I’ve received the type of look that implies I have just performed some kind of witchcraft or wizardry! I’ve passed my teenage years and my twenties, and am of a generation where learning computing at school was not greatly encouraged. I’m amazed by all the interesting opportunities many children have in schools nowadays, like experimenting with the Raspberry Pi and Sphero products.
Throughout my school years I displayed a continual passion for computing but was encouraged down an art and design route, so that’s the direction I went in. Now somewhat older living in a small town and being female, I’ve found opportunities to persue my passion for computing and to learn how to code have been rare. By dedicating a lot of hours, I managed to teach myself basic HTML and CSS skills by reading tutorials and articles online. For some time now though, I’ve really wanted to learn how to program and make mobile apps.
I became incredibly excited when I saw Google advertising their Scholarship opportunity towards the end of last year. It was just the kind of opportunity I had been hoping and longing for, so I applied right then and there. I was even more amazed that it was available to residents of the EU. Many of the scholarship opportunites I had previously looked into in my attempts of learning how to code were for residents of the US.
The Scholarship began in January and is three months long. It provides resources to learn the basics of Android development. It also provides all participants with mentorship and support through a forum and dedicated Slack channel overseen by Udacity leaders. I’m now a month into the Scholarship and I’m not exaggerating when I say it has changed my life!
I’d been living in isolation whilst I’d previously tried to learn to code where no other friends shared my interest. Since starting the Scholarship I’ve met thousands of likeminded individuals who all share the same passion as me, and I’ve already made a couple of friends too. I’ve also learnt so much more than I ever would have if I’d tried to study the same material independently. Being surrounded by other people learning the same things and creating the same projects at the same time as me is incredible. Everybody has their own unique way of approaching projects and learning, and when they share their knowledge and tips they have discovered in the forum for others to benefit from, the effect is powerful.
Although it is early days I’ve already created a couple of basic Android apps. From the help of fellow Scholarship participants and the forum mentors I’ve managed to learn a number of things in addition to what can be gained from the Scholarship resources. Just a few of the things I’ve learnt include:
· How to make apps responsive to different screen sizes.
· How to provide a different view for portrait or landscape orientation.
· How to link to websites, telephone numbers and addresses from text.
· How to incorporate accessibility features into an app.
· How to make elements have opacity.
I’ve also recently started to work through Scholarship resources that introduce Java, so I’m sure the additional things I can learn about Java once I understand the basics will be endless!
The forum mentors have been very helpful and are a big asset to this Scholarship. Each time I have shared projects in the forum the mentors have given feedback (which they do really quickly). They have offered suggestions too which have encouraged me to learn even more and to challenge myself. It’s also nice to have somewhere to ask questions too. Stackoverflow is a wonderful resource for asking questions relating to coding. However, there’s nothing like being able to ask a question, then get a response back really quickly by a forum mentor who specialises in Android development. Curiosity has been greatly encouraged.
The Udacity leaders have demonstrated remarkable organisational skills, and have been keeping on top of all of the requests and questions from Scholarship participants. I imagine this is hard work as there are 9000 of us. Similarly to the forum mentors they too have offered support and encouagement. They have made me feel welcomed and like I am part of a big Android family.
This has been an amazing experience so far and I honestly can’t wait to see what I learn and achieve throughout the next two months. I am so grateful, and so thrilled that I am finally learning mobile development. I’ve enjoyed gaining skills in Android and experimenting so much that I definitely want to pursue a career path as an Android developer upon completion of the Scholarship. Thank you so much Udacity and Google.