Written by Zack Chauvin – iX Coding '14, Harvard
On my way home, a customs official asked me, “What were you doing in Cape Town?” For a moment, I didn’t really know how to answer. A study abroad program or an internship would both have been typical responses, but even if I had said some mix between the two, it still wouldn’t have been an accurate portrayal of my summer. I did so much more than what I expected from your normal summer abroad, and while it would be impossible to detail everything I did, perhaps I could explain what I learned.
I learned how to be a creator.
While a college education in computer science gives you insight into programming theory, very little time is spent on practical skills. I came into the course with virtually no experience in web development, but after iX, I can feel confident in my ability to see applications through from start to finish. Already, I’ve had plenty of people invite me to develop their projects and I’ve started building apps that I’m passionate about.
I learned how to be part of a team.
When I first considered becoming a TA at iX, I was worried that the long working days would prevent me from really seeing Cape Town. After being part of the iX team for a while, this thought seemed absurd. I realized that I never saw the staff putting their personal desires above those of the other staff and students, and this selfless work ethic became contagious. Whether it was Mariella waking up early each morning to ensure that the activities ran smoothly or Aaron constantly asking if he could take us surfing or out for coffee, every single person working for iX did all they could to ensure that the entire program was happy.
I learned how to run with ideas.
iX is a great example of a company that succeeded because the minds behind it took their idea and didn’t quit until they had perfected it. This showed me that it’s less about the idea itself than about surrounding yourself with people you respect and letting the team’s energy push you to success.
When people ask me what I did this summer, whether it be friends, family, or a customs official, the easiest way to explain my experience is through what I learned. Sure, I picked up the valuable skill of web development and some street sense like respecting the undertow or not giving an answer to "Howzit?", but the most valuable things I learned are those that can’t be taught at school. I learned how to be a creator, part of a team, and someone who runs with ideas, all while having a summer I’ll never forget.