Goodbye

Hey guys, I am in my last few weeks of uni, ready (or not ?) to take my final exams and very excited to begin a new chapter in my life and see how my life is going to evolve from now on. I hope that you enjoyed my blogs as I am very happy I had the chance to share with you some of my experiences and reflections while at The University of Manchester.

I will try to cover a few important topics in this post, but I will keep it brief and only provide a summary of my thoughts and results on them.

Third Year Project

So I finished my third year project in studying the neuron – astrocyte relationship within neural networks and overall it was real success! I gained a lot of interesting insights but I think there is much more to study about the subject in order to provide more accurate and close-to-reality simulation results.

In general, the project is an amazing and exciting experience and I really recommend choosing something that you are truly curious about and keen to work on as much as possible. However, if you enjoy the really challenging and complex subjects, like I do, it’s important to temper those challenges you set yourself from time to time and have realistic expectations for a what is only a 6 – month project. You should also really try to break down your goals and tasks and schedule them properly and ask people for advice when you get stuck, because there is plenty of support available.

Courses and Exams

One of the courses that I enjoyed this year was COMP34412 – Natural Language Systems because it was comprehensive and properly taught in my opinion. The coursework was also interesting (although I think it requires a little too much work for the few marks counting towards the final grade) and allowed us to explore subjects like part-of-speech tagging and sentiment extraction from text, with Python and NLTK.

Some pretty cool topics were also covered within the course unit COMP34120 – AI and Games and it actually gave me valuable experiences to talk about at job interviews, since we basically had 2 team projects more or less related to machine learning techniques.

This year I also took a full year course in Spanish, which was a delightful and cheerful part of my life through all of the hard work and bugs of the CS courses. And useful since I am now going to live in Barcelona for my MSc course next year. The exams (written, aural, oral) happen before all the others and it’s great because you get less stressed during the big exam period.

Now for the Computer Science exams – my one and only important piece of advice for high marks is to have a look at past papers. I am usually the type of person who likes to be sure that my revision covered everything there is to know and that I fully understand all the theoretical concepts before anything else. But the practical element of actually doing practice papers is actually more important, as it’s great preparation to know the type of questions that are probably going to be asked when you sit down in your exam.

Jobs and Interviews

I have had quite a few interviews by now and I can say that the more you do, the better you become. For an entry level job, they don’t expect too much, but they do expect something and it also matters to show passion and confidence in what you are doing.

One thing that I noticed and might be useful to know about technical interviews is that bigger companies usually ask typical HackerRank type questions with data structures and algorithms, but start-ups or smaller companies tend to ask more creative technical questions, something that is usually related to their work, like scraping the web, building a chatbot or pair-programming with unit tests.

After having 5 interviews with the same company (yes, that is frustrating because I thought it was over after the 3rd one, but somehow rewarding), I am about to start a summer internship before going to Barcelona in September.

Manchester and Me

Although I’m now leaving I’m sure I will get nostalgic from time to time about Manchester, when I think back in the future, as I have a lot of memories here and it helped me grow in so many ways.

Something that I particularly enjoyed especially this last year was introducing a little bit of ‘Latin fever’ into my life! By this I mean salsa, bachata and all the other latin dances that are really passionate and awesome to get involved in. There are many places in Manchester which host dance classes and Latin-themed socials, but I totally recommend Revolucion de Cuba – it’s the one places I will miss the most. Make sure you take a visit and bring your dancing shoes!

All in all, I believe that university is a great experience to develop yourself in as many ways as you can, to explore the academic areas that interest you and also your approaches towards learning new things and dealing with challenges. But above all, you can discover new cultures, make new friends and try out new activities, which all contribute to building the best version of yourself!

Love,
Ana

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