September 23, 2015 - experience

Bridge Year Experience - University Ghent

Xavier Geerinck

@XavierGeerinck

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September last year was one of the most influential times of my life. Being a newly graduated student at the Karel De Grote College in Antwerp I had several choices. Start a company from the project that I had been building, continue my educations and go for the bridge year so that I could do the master year afterwards or start working. Seeing that I was 20 back then I chose for continuing my education and go for my master of science with a major in Computer Science at the University Of Ghent. I believed that this was key to evolving my theoretical thinking skills, and to be able to solve bigger problems than the ones we were taught in college. It would also provide me more opportunities with the ability to get promoted faster later on.

This all sounded like an easy task but there was just one more obstacle that I had to overcome, the bridge year. In Belgium we are able to upgrade our “professional bachelor” to an “academic bachelor” (professional being more practical oriented than the academic one). This program however has been known to be one of the most difficult years that we would encounter when studying (when looking back, I can say you that this is the truth). It was a year full of frustrations and studying without getting any satisfaction because the grades kept on sucking even with this much time being put into them.

The year started, and so did the first semester (we got 2 semester each being 12 weeks) with physics (2 semesters merged into 1), math A (also 2 semesters merged into 1), databases, C/C++ Programming, Discrete Math and Digital Electronics. The first 3 courses were a hell (to put it lightly), the speed was a killer and the amount of information to process was even worse. I remember the first test of math (which was an intro test to grade the initial knowledge) where I only scored 1 out of 20. Databases was one of the most underestimated courses, even while we saw this in College this course was a killer. We had to learn recursive queries and solve the most daunting tasks that you can think of. (Check my blog for more information, example: http://xaviergeerinck.com/recursion-with-sql/).

The semester ended and I finished my exams, here I passed Discrete math (I was amazed), C/C++ and Digital Electronics. Which was not all that great but it was well enough for where I came from.

Then we got the second semester with Math B, The Bachelor Project, Programming of hardware (mostly asm), Perl, Computer Networking, Computer Systems and Algorithms/Data Structures. The semester had no merged courses but was heavy of different courses. At the end I passed 3 exams again.

When august approached the daunting task came, passing my resit exams (I had 7 of them, Physics, Math A & B, Algorithms/Data Structures, Networking, Computer Systems and Databases). At the end I eventually passed 3 exams again so I was left with 4 courses.

We are now at the end of my year and I passed 9 courses of the 13 which is a wonder seeing that I came from a practical education and was going to a more theoretical oriented one. Especially algorithms surprised me, it was one of the hardest courses where I studied days and nights to pass it. Seeing that a lot of the students that we started with left through the year, or at the end because they passed almost no exams, I can say that I myself am happy with this result. The result also reflects how well I understood everything and I think that the teachers did their best to give an objective gradation on their courses.

Because of my good result I am now able to start my master's year. The plan is to get a decent to follow first semester (42 study points instead of 48) by moving 2 easier courses towards the next year (seeing that I still have to do my thesis anyway in that year) and start the initial fundamentals of my thesis in 2016’s second semester under the course “internship” where I am able to work for my thesis and let it count next year towards the hours worked. (I did this because the second semester is just 16 study points).

For other students reading this, if you plan to do a bridge year, then prepare yourself. You will not have an easy year and you will lose most of your social contacts through the year. However if you keep your head up and try to stay ahead of your courses then you will manage. (Always prepare before the lesson starts! that way you will be able to understand more and learn more from the lessons).

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