What did I do during the summers while being in college? Well, I found summer jobs three years in a row. During my sophomore year, I had a Computer Science class where the professor was so nice. His name was Dr. Liu and we just clicked. Actually, for tests, he would come to my dorm room and help me to take the tests. Since it was a lot of math, a regular person would have had a really hard time understanding how to write the answers.
Since Dr. Liu knew the steps to figure out the answer, he knew what questions to ask me to do the answers. I remember my very first computer programming final. The final at 8:00 in the morning and I gave up at 5:00. I didn’t have any food or drink during that time. The person who was writing for me had no idea what programming was so I was very frustrated. After that experience, I knew I had to be friends with the teacher assistants. That helped a lot.
U of I
Now getting back to Dr. Liu, he asked me if I had any plans for the summer. I said no. He told me that he had a project for me and another student. I was in shock by this awesome opportunity, but there was a huge problem to solve before accepting the job and that was the dorm that I stayed in was closed for the summer. A PCA and I would have to rent an apartment and get people to help me during the summer.
I asked an aide who was at the dorm since August. She was pretty good in helping me. She said yes she could be my room mate. I asked a few friends at church if they would help me during the summer. They said sure so we found an apartment.
That summer was just wonderful for me. I learned a lot about programming, and I also developed true friendships. I never had a real job before. Sometimes I helped out at Easter Seals with making address labels and other small jobs. All in all, the summer was really helpful in determining what I wanted to do for a career.
The following spring, there was a job fair at the student union. My friend helped me to create a resume. I thought that it would be a good exercise to do. I never thought I would get a summer job. So the following day my friend and I went to the student union. We walked around talking to people. We started to talk to Unisys. The guy was really interested in me and my friend and the recruiter exchanged phone numbers. We left the fair. I was excited but I did not want to put my hope too high.
Around six my friend called me that the guy wanted to see my computer set up in my dorm room. I said absolutely so all three of us met before he was heading to Michigan. Yes, I said Michigan. I would have to live there for ten weeks.
I think that he offered me the position on the spot. My mom had to find a place for me to stay and an aide who could help me. She was successful with both things and found transportation for me so I could get to work and back. She found two dorm rooms at a local small university. There was a local agency where we hired a guy who was going to help me during the summer.
Hiring a PCA
We moved in on a Saturday and the guy came in later that day. We just took him to dinner and tried to get to know him. He asked us how much money we were paying the agency. We told him and did not think about it.
Sunday morning came and my parents walked into the dorm and the guy was packed and was waiting for a taxi. He said he could not do the job. My mom was very good at changing people’s minds. She asked him why he could not help. Basically, he would be making $200 a month and could not send that amount home in Mexico. My mom didn’t try to convince him to stay.
What now? The only thing that we could do is to have my mom stay with me. The university said that she could stay. That was a huge blessing. Dad would visit every weekend and that was a big help for us.
Working for Unisys was unbelievable helpful for me in knowing what it is like working for a corporation. They had two components that I would be programming for a banking system for the United Kingdom. I fell in love with programming that summer. The department was really small and the people were really friendly. God makes everything possible for a reason no matter if the outcome is good or bad.
I graduated in four and a half years so I had another summer to do something. My friend found a project at Washington University in Saint Louis. I thought that would be a great experience so I applied. Looking back, I thought I would never get it because students from the top universities would get it. I got a letter that said I was accepted. They already knew that I was disabled and needed help. If I could bring an aide with me, they would have given the same opportunity to them as well.
I asked a friend at the dorm and he said he could go with me. Matt was going into law, not computers. So, what would he do for the summer since we were in a Computer Science Department? The amazing thing was there was a Computer Science professor who also had his law degree. Everything worked out wonderful.
The other students accepted me and we did things at night and on the weekends. The project that I was working on was interesting and challenging.
Looking back on the three summer jobs gave me the confidence that programming was the field for me. Without that experience, the classroom work did not really prepare me for a job after college.
If you are in college yourself and you figure out what field you are going into, I highly suggest that you should find a professor who can work with during the summer. Summer jobs will really help you. If you can not find a professor to work with, just go to the career center at your college and see if they could help you to find a summer job. That is the best way to know your field. Trust me.