Gabriela Arredondo, Barnard College, Third Year in College
Major: Computer Science
Career Goals: Oof, that’s kind of a big question! I’m currently getting pretty into the Data Science, AI/ML, NLP space in tech, so I’m still deciding if I want to pursue a more industry focused job or do research and get my PhD. Either way, both seem like pretty fun and interesting options to have.
Biggest surprise about the college experience: The vast amount of brilliant, caring, and wonderful people I’ve been able to meet. This ranges from professors who look out for you and truly care about how you’re doing, to the friends I’ve been able to make along the way that challenge me and amaze me every day!
Most challenging coursework in college: An Intro to Systems Programming class called Advanced Programming! For reference, this is definitely the weeder class of the CS major at Columbia (weeder class being the class that makes you drop the major i.e. ‘weeds people out’). Honestly, it was rough. I think I spent over 15+ hours per assignment per week, and I still didn’t do all that great – luckily, though, that’s over with and I’ve actually been doing pretty well in my CS classes since then! (Is this growth???) It was a really difficult class and the test were even harder (as I mentioned – did not have a good time in that class), but sometimes, things really clicked and totally made sense and the homework was super fun to do! That’s actually probably why I’ve been able to stick with the major despite it being difficult – I don’t mind the struggle because slowly, but surely, it’s all coming together and it’s so fun to be able to make something for your homework! I mean where else can I say I coded a web-server as a homework assignment and or built an agent that can play an optimal game of tic-tac-toe?
Accomplishment most proud of: In terms of awards and accomplishments, not much really happened my freshman fall, but since then – I joined Sabor: Columbia’s First Latinx Dance Troupe (check us out on Insta!) and I’ve had the pleasure of being President this past year! This group is where I’ve met a lot of my best friends in college, so I’d definitely say getting in and being a part of this team is a huge accomplishment! I’ve also helped lead the planning for a hackathon 2 years in a row and we were able to go from being a 12-hour event with 80 participants to a 36-hour event with over 400 participants (which is kind of insane) and I’m so proud of myself and my team for being able to pull it off. I’m also a 2-time Grace Hopper Scholarship recipient which is this scholarship that enables me to attend the largest women in tech conference in the world. I was also selected to attend “Future Ignited at CalTech” which is this PhD exploration program that the professor I worked for this past summer recommended me for. Additionally, I’m a fellow for Management Leadership for Tomorrow’s Career Prep program. As part of this program I get 1-on-1 career mentoring with a coach (who I think is this unbelievable engineer and I really look up to) and in general a lot of mentorship and accessibility to programs that as an FGLI (first gen/low-income) student I wouldn’t really know about. I’m also a Code2040 Fellows Finalist! I think that’s it for now, but hopefully more good things to come over the next few years.
Can you provide any advice to our current Knights? Don’t be scared to do that thing you really want to do but are kind of scared or intimidated by. There’s literally no reason for you to not do it. I’ve taken a loss over the past couple of years, but I’ve also been able to have a lot of wins and really good moments that more than make up for a moment of feeling bad. I think it’s really worth just trying things out and putting yourself out there because opportunities find you in unexpected moments – this can be anything from making a new friend to getting a job. Also, just remember to be kind to yourself. It’s totally normal to feel lonely and upset in college – it’s hard! But remember, it definitely does get better!
I paid for college with…: Mostly through school given grants, but also with a small federal loan and student and parental contribution.
Fondest memory from high school: I really miss showing up to Mr. Milian’s office to share tea about my life – especially senior year! Truly, simpler times!! I also really miss going to Ms. Llanes’ class and being comforted by the good vibes in that space and the forever welcoming hugs! Overall, many of the teachers at JMMA put in a lot of work and are really looking out for their students, so I also miss being in a space where all the teachers really knew you.
High School Graduation Date: May 30, 2018