Written by Gardner Fiveash, iXperience '14 (Coding), University of Virginia

“Five, four, three, two, one, BUNGEE!” yelled the two men on either side of me.

I extended my arms forward and flung myself off Bloukrans Bridge, plummeting through the sky towards the valley floor 700 feet below. Rocketing down, down, down, until the bungee cord tightened and I was slingshotted upwards just to fall all over again.

I had put my life in the hands of a few strangers and a massive rubber band.

Nothing could have prepared me for that level of exhilaration. Fear, joy, helplessness, and euphoria all compressed into a few precious seconds. And then it was over. I was pulled back up to safety with a shell-shocked smile on my face and my heart still racing uncontrollably. All I could think of was that I had to jump again.

The possibility of bungee jumping had never crossed my mind until coming to Cape Town. I’ve always loved roller coasters but never realized how much I take for granted the track they run on. Bungee jumping is throwing yourself into the abyss without a track to guide your fall. It’s trusting that something will catch you despite overwhelming uncertainty.

In many ways that jump exemplifies my iXperience as a whole. I left my comfort zone to go halfway around the world and take a risk that has paid off in every way imaginable. Before arriving in Cape Town I had never taken a computer science class or written a line of code. I just saw coding as a highly practical skill that simply being familiar with would go a long way in the business world.

Never could I have foreseen being surrounded by such brilliant instructors and fellow students in such a vibrant city. As a startup, iXperience does an unbelievable job of mixing intensity in the classroom with flawless planning and organization of outside activities. This program has made it possible for me to learn the fundamentals of a coding language, build a Rails application, explore the Western Cape for a week, and now work for a tech company all within two months. I have no doubt left in my mind that it’s always worth it to take the risk and make the leap.

After I got back up to the bridge I asked one of the bungee crew if I could go again. He grinned and responded, “Only if you jump backwards.” Just the thought brought back a taste of that exhilaration and there was no going back. I strapped back into my harness and let my heels creep out over the edge, my back to the coming free fall.

And I jumped again.

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