Programming: The Search & My Experience as a Teen

3 minute read

Written by: Natalie Loh - Girls Who Code participant (2020)

For the record, I haven’t always loved coding. And it’s still not my favorite, but hear me out:

Towards my later elementary school and early middle school years, my mom has been trying to register me for summer coding classes. To put this in perspective, if I was enrolled in a total of 4 weeks of summer camp (meaning 4 different camps), 3 out of the 4 were my choice- whether it be cooking, art, or jump rope. However, the last one (you probably assumed), was the dreaded coding camp. At the time, I didn’t really acknowledge how much agency my mom was actually giving me. I was the first one to complain. I wanted another cooking camp, or art camp instead. I probably got out of it for maybe just one summer, but that was about it. Being the adamant and loving mother my mom is, she insisted that I take a coding class.

I don’t have much recollection of many coding camps that I participated in during those years, probably because I didn’t love any of them (haha!). However, during the summer going into 7th grade, I took a web development course at the Forest Ridge School. This was the first-time coding ever came to remotely enjoyable to me. I was having fun doing it. I’m not quite sure whether it was the wonderful teacher, or the fact that I was surrounded by a group of such like-minded girls, maybe both, but all together, we built a website all about the highlights of Seattle- including restaurants, attractions, and other activities.

Fast forward a couple years, I’ve started high school. High school has opened up so many opportunities for me to try new things and explore where my true passions and interests lie. I’ve always been inspired by tech. When given a list of class electives, you’ll likely find me choosing: “Computer Technology”, “Applied Engineering”, or “Design and Production”. However, along with all those opportunities, came social pressure. High school becomes the point in time where students start their grind, and you’re flooded with overwhelming amounts of unseen competition. Almost everyone is fighting towards the same goal, in which at the end of the tunnel, lies college. You’re constantly surrounded by students who are doing cool things, big things, that you’re always trying to “compete” with or make sure you’re “up to standard.”

You might wonder now, what does high school and social pressures have anything to do with my relationship with coding today? Well, within the past year those two things (high school and social pressures, the pandemic too) motivated me to look for opportunities and virtual extracurricular activities during the summer, which was how I discovered Girls Who Code. Why did I choose GWC? Because although I didn’t love coding all that much, I loved the idea of being able to work with other like-minded girls in tech, as I experienced in that summer web development course that I took in 7th grade. By the end of the 2 week GWC summer immersion program, not only did the concept of coding grow upon me, I had the opportunity to meet a whole new group of wonderful girls. I couldn’t believe it. After so many years of fighting my mom to get out of taking these coding classes, I 1) signed myself up for one and 2) enjoyed it. This later led me to eventually enroll into other coding classes, such as this one at Fred Hutch. Part of what actually interested me this time was that fact that we would be learning about the cross-sections between coding and biology.

Now, I want to leave you with one message: always try new things. This means trying it over and over again. More than once, more than twice, maybe even more than 3 times. And try it multiple times throughout different phases of life and age. Everyone’s interests change as they age and as they grow, and if you don’t give yourself the opportunity to try again, you’re seriously missing out! Additionally, although through my experience I began to enjoy coding a little more each time, my lesson could apply to any aspect of your life. Whether or not it’s the actual coding that intrigues you, another interest (such as biology in one of my experiences), or the opportunity to meet new people, always give yourself the chance to try new things, without worrying about anything that may be stopping you.

I believe in you!