Off to a great fall 2021 semester after the CMU-Africa’s 5 Weeks’ ‘boot-camp’

Patrick Tumusiime
5 min readAug 28, 2021
Image Credit: pixabay

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a statement that made rounds in most of the boot-camp sessions that we had in the last 3 weeks. our consolation was that since we had survived the second week, then surely, we would survive the next two weeks. Indeed, this would later turn out to be an accurate prophecy leading up to this 28th Day of August 2021, one day away from the official start of the fall semester at CMU-Africa.

For proper context, please consider reading my 2 posts prior to this one( My Journey to Carnegie Mellon University Africa and When the Imposter Syndrome Hits hard ). Although the 5 weeks of boot-camp were grueling, they presented a whole new approach to education, one that had eluded many of us. Since learning and unlearning, I might add is a life-long journey, below is a summary of my 5 most important lessons from the boot-camp sessions.

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Academic Integrity is gold. Back home in Uganda, we have a beverage company that is notorious for producing products that seem to mimic those produced by another well-known beverage company, Coca-Cola. It does not matter how well the marketing is done or even how much better the counterfeited product may taste, the fact remains that for starters, it is not original and secondly Coca-Cola didn’t and will probably never consent to their products being counterfeited.

The CMU community like Coca-Cola prides itself in the originality and uniqueness of the students and instructors which sets the bar very high for anyone that joins this distinguished community. Your work must truly be yours and if it is not yours then at least be honest enough to attribute it to the original source. To get a clear understanding of how serious Academic Integrity is at CMU, look at the policy Here

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Embrace a deeper approach to learning. We have all been in a classroom setting where the typical structure is one where the instructors are the authorities in their various areas of instruction. In such a setup, asking questions and challenging the instructors is a taboo and you are considered smart of you can, in the exams reproduce the material that has been taught in class. Come to CMU and this whole approach is overturned. As a student, you are expected to be curious enough to question what you are taught and investing time in researching whatever you are taught beyond the classroom. Instructors are viewed as simply facilitators of the learning experience.

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Effective time management will save your neck. For some people, working under pressure gets their blood flowing while for others like myself, pressure badly affects performance. knowing my weakness, I like to plan everything and know ahead of time what to expect. We were given assignments and workload that was way above the time that was given so one had to be smart in the way time slots were allocated to the tasks given.

We had to prioritize tasks based on urgency, due dates, and complexity. This is where the ‘smart calendar’ comes in handy and through the whole period helped keep me in line. I would also recommend reading The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing book by Dan Pink if you want to master the art of perfect timing

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Programming is more than just typing lines of code. We can all agree that computers are stupid so part of the definition of programming being ,making computers less stupid through, yes typing lines of instructions, it is not enough to just learn how to type these instructions, we need to be able to think like problem solvers which was emphasized quite a lot especially in the African context where we need to create a community of technologists that are not just knowledgeable in the theory of how computers work, but can also translate that same theory into practical solutions to the problems that grapple our continent

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Active Participation is not optional. Personality tests can be very deceptive especially when we decide to own whatever the test results tell us rather than use that as an opportunity to improve on our overall perception of our personalities. I am (as per the personality test results) a full-blown introvert which should be a good reason for me to embrace passive participation away from the attention of people. Part of this is indeed true but that is no excuse at CMU, as a student you are required to actively engage the instructors, students, and staff. In addition, active participate is further considered when grading most of the assignments so you cannot afford to sit back and watch passively.

Disclaimer: I have substituted the word ‘Orientation’ with ‘Boot-camp’ because anyone that has gone through these 5 weeks would agree that calling it orientation is an understatement as hinted on by Olga, the Academic Advisor during one of the info sessions this week.

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