42 Students On Student Motivation
We already sat down with Chief Academic Officer Gaetan Juvin to get his take on student motivation, which you can read here. Wanting to get the perspective of 42 students, we chatted with six students to learn more about what motivates them and what advice they may have to stay motivated.
How do you define motivation?
Inessa Prokofyeva: Motivation is the ability and will to do something and do something not just because you have to but because you want to.
Isamar Hodge: Motivation is about wanting to do something.
Stephen Gardner: Probably by the dictionary version (laughs). Motivation is the driving force behind every decision you make.
Lamine Kaba: I think motivation is something you love. If you love something you have the motivation to go for it, to take it, to fight for it.
Maurice Sharpe: Knowing that at some point you will be able to do things that you thought were difficult or impossible.
Ziyan Feng: You have a specific goal in mind and you have a plan to lead you to that goal. You have daily concrete actions that bring you closer to your goal and you are taking actions step by step. Motivation can be vague until you can really see a plan that works. For example, if I have a daily routine, I can see that I am getting better at this specific thing.
What motivated you to attend 42?
People, and because I like to code, 42 showed me that I can love coding. I worked as a quality test engineer before 42 and I came and decided to try 42. Sometimes I lose motivation, but I stay here because I know people, and people help me and I help them. Every time I come to the lab and see people in this environment it helps to motivate me.
I wanted to learn but it was hard for me to learn on my own, so I was looking for ways to learn either through schools or bootcamps or any way to give myself an easier way to learn how to code. That is how I found 42, I was trying to be a self-taught developer using free online resources but I would get stuck, and was starting to lose motivation, but I really wanted to learn.
I’ve always wanted to get into the industry but the area that I was from (Central Florida) a lot of companies on the space coast who hire require a master’s degree. When you get stuck in the unskilled labor force it’s hard to get out. I heard about 42 when it opened in France and thought it would be cool if one opened up here, I had forgotten all about it when 42 opened a campus in the U.S., and someone pointed me to it. The learning style here definitely suites me.
I was trying to do something that would be useful to myself and to other people, like my country in Africa, other people in technology, improving how you do stuff. People back home don’t understand how to use technology, I would like to help them to understand it.
What motivated you during Basic Training/the piscine?
I wanted to be successful, I had never done this before. I knew there were a lot of smart people in the Bay Area. I didn’t want to fail, so I pushed myself every day to convince myself I could do it. The thing is, I needed to prove something to myself, I could fail every day but I would definitely be here until the end of the pisicine.
The piscine was the toughest thing I have done in my life; motivation wasn’t enough in the piscine, it was more about dedication. There were so many times I wanted to quit, but I had to force myself to be here. The hardest part was trying to learn certain concepts. What motivated me during the piscine: you just have to be a mentally strong person with people around you who encourage you to keep going. If I didn’t have friends during the piscine (we all went through emotional pain, we all had each other) I wouldn’t have been able to get through without that support.
Essentially it was sheer willpower; I didn’t make it through the first time, it took me a year to get back here. The second time through I kept track on what was going on in the community and how it evolved (through Slack). It made me want to come back and contribute to that. During the second piscine I was with a group of people that made it easier to get through.
I felt frustrated during the piscine because I know some fundamental programming principles, and some basic knowledge, but I didn’t know how to use C. For a long time, I wasn’t making progress, I wasn’t used to the structure. You don’t feel like you are making progress, but you are and you are learning. I was motivated to get through it because I wanted to learn computer science, the program is free, and at 42, you can get into what interests you most. 42 was an ideal option for me.
What motivates you as a student?
I really want to start my career here in the Bay Area and I know without hard work it is impossible. Being a student is about getting experience and networking. My life is about reaching a goal: sometimes I think of it as impossible, but I push myself even a small step forward. As a student, I’m motivated to make new connections and meet new people and I have new opportunities and it makes me closer to my goal.
I want to have a successful start here because the Bay is a super-competitive environment. I am from a different country, and I just remember this stuff and remember my goal. There are days where you don’t do anything, but just do a tiny step every day and come here to the lab. Just don’t forget what it is for, if you want to get a job in the future, or learn new tech, just don’t forget about your goals and move forward.
If you are living in the 42 dorms, you need to attain a certain level in a certain amount of time. What motivates me is keeping up with that requirement and keeping up with my friends: I want to be where they are. I think the gamification, having people at a level above you is motivating, and all the cool projects you get to do at a higher level. Right now I am making a game with other people; whenever I work on it people are excited about it and I explain what we are doing and what we need to do that goes into it.
I’m motivated to do a lot of different things, but my end goal is to increase my ability to affect change in the world. I think that is what most humans want to do…if you ever want to be somebody, you want to change the world. My short term goal is passing projects, doing well, making sure other students do well, I come up with a lot of small goals. Motivation among the other student was poor so I tried to do stuff to improve that. The coffee urn that we have, a group of us put together money to do that, we took donations for that. Small things like that help with morale, it’s good to do things that are reachable, it’s good to have ambitious goals but a lot of that can be broken down in smaller goals.
What is motivating me to achieve my dream, my goal, because I know that I want to understand things deeply, to understand stuff and try to improve that stuff, to break the barrier. I want to be very useful to other people and to learn as much as I can because 42 is a blessing for people who don’t have the money to go to expensive colleges, but to have that knowledge is a great dream for me. So I spend more time to learn all I can.
How do experience points and levels affect student motivation?
I think it is a really important part of the program, and it affects a lot of people more than they would care to admit. It is kind of hard to say how big of an effect it has on a given person. If someone is doing too poorly they stop caring, if they are doing too well they don’t care but when you are neck and neck, it is good to have a crowd you can compare yourself to. When you see other people doing better than you is really motivating, you think “I can beat this guy.”
Not really, because I don’t compare myself to others, I compare myself to myself. If I am better than I was yesterday, I think I am improving.
In life, it isn’t obvious when you’ve “leveled up” a skill, especially when you’re learning it. So the system here helps to build your confidence in terms of what you can do, in a way that you can have some control over. I don’t think I would have done ft_printf or ft_ls on my own, however, thanks to working on those projects, I feel significantly more confident working on larger projects and I gained a budding interest in computer systems and algorithms.
It motivates me: it feels really good after you finish a project and get levels up, but try to not let that be the only thing that matters. There may be some time where you don’t level up, but you still need to work on projects and still move on.
How does the fact that log times are available to the community affect your motivation?
Isamar: I wouldn’t say that really affects my motivation; if I am spending 15 hours a day in the lab, I’m not doing it to show people I am there, I am doing it to work on a project. Sometimes I may log in less until I start on the next one.
Stephen: If you are doing what you are supposed to be doing it is trivial, but the ability to see other peoples hours is good. I think it is a cool idea because it is the levels of other people who are doing more work than you, or someone is getting better progress and putting in a lot of time, you think you can work harder and do better too. The hour logs prove that you put in a lot of work to get where you are.
Maurice: I honestly am indifferent to it…I know people who started at the same time as me and are at level 13; they put in their hours and I was going to be here anyway. It does let me know if I am not putting in as much time as I should be.
Ziyan: It doesn’t really affect me because sometimes I get a glitch on the computer I am working on, so my hours aren’t being recorded. While I am here I want to take advantage of this community, so I will be in the lab for most of the day. That is why I try to keep up with a daily routine. Come in every day around 9 am, and I don’t leave until 11 pm.
Do you have any advice about how to stay motivated?
Stephen: It helps to have many different levels of goals, for me at least, whenever I am doing something, and I am in a bad position and don’t know what to do next, I need to think if my next decision aligns with my goals. As long as what I work on goes towards my next goal, then it is getting me somewhere.
Lamine: For 42, it is a challenge. Before starting 42 you have to have strong goals and you have to never give up. I am here to give the best of myself, so that is one of the most important things. It is hard to stay focused because the curriculum is stressful….at the beginning don’t follow the wrong path, take the right path at the beginning to achieve your goal.
Maurice: Find a goal early, because as long as you have that goal in mind while you are going through the program, difficult times seem easier. Plus you will work on things that you know that you want to do in the future, and you will pay attention to projects that are of that nature.
Ziyan: I feel like, it is kind of vague and abstract to say you are motivated, instead of looking from the top down I look from the bottom up. As long as you keep to a daily routine, first you have to have a really good physical condition (good enough sleep, water, and food) you keep your daily routine on how to allocate your time and stay on task, once you have that routine you will be inspired and motivated to work. Studies show that having a routine helps to reduce stress and pressure.
What, if taken away, would make studying here more of an effort?
People, that is the most important thing here, that is what we are trying to teach current pisciners now. The pisciners feel stressed, but we remind them they are not alone. Go and ask someone for help, and if they cant help you, they will cheer you up. And if you are stuck, you need to ask for help, it is wise to ask because you can’t do everything yourself. 42 is a problem-solving community, and asking for help will solve your problem more quickly. That is something I try to tell everyone, there is nothing wrong with asking for help, don’t ask people to do your job, you should see the difference.
To be literal, the computers (laughs). These computers are so easy to code on, watch videos and learn. Just the open workspace, being able to see what people are working on, or ask people for help. If the workspace was not open it would be harder to collaborate or work on things together. Now we can freely go up to someone and talk to them about it.
The housing, if I didn’t have the housing I am 100% sure I would have left 3 months ago. The people who are here are what makes studying a lot easier; this last week I have been working on ft_ls and have been asking a bunch of people to help me during a complicated process, I couldn’t figure it out and asked someone who I knew in my first piscine, and spotted the problem. After that, it got easier and gave me a chance to take a breather. None of us are competing with each other.
The people I have met here, the whole community, there are no instructors but everyone around you can be instructors, they can keep you informed, and be resourceful, and tell you something you don’t know. And you can help other people by sharing things you know. There are some really smart people I have met here which also keeps me inspired. You meet all different kinds of people, and I became interested in why they are here and what they are hoping to get from this experience. And you can see everyone facing the same problem, and different people will have different approaches.