GA Semester Abroad: Q&A With Matthew Thees


Meet Matt, a Georgetown undergrad who decided to take a semester off to go through our Web Development Immersive course in Sydney. We caught up with Matt to hear about his experience.

1. Tell us about your decision to take WDI. What made you want to switch things up?

One of the reasons I decided to take a break from school was that I was unsure I wanted to stick with my major. I was a Government major at Georgetown University, but knew I had other interests, so I took the opportunity to go and explore them. Heading back to Georgetown in the fall (for Junior year) I am going to keep the Government major and add a Computer Science minor.

2. How did you hear about GA?

My dad, actually. He had just moved into a job where he had to work with a dev team, and was looking to find a class like General Assembly’s Programming for Non-Programmers. A friend of his recommended the class and my Dad brought me along for the workshop because he thought I’d enjoy it, and I did.

3. What made you choose to travel to the GA Sydney campus?

Taking a semester off from school to take a course close to home didn’t sound like an idea that my parents would accept, I thought it would need to be a bit more adventurous than that. I had always wanted to travel to Sydney, so when I saw that GA had a Sydney campus I jumped at the idea of taking the course there. Adding in an abroad experience made the idea more marketable to my parents, and added some excitement for me. It was a win, win.

4. What was it like taking WDI?

[It] is a lot like having a job for 3 months. It’s a course where you get out what you put in; there are no grades, or tests, or quizzes, so you can get away with doing the bare-minimum, but you end up not wanting to. For me, I was so interested in what we were learning to do, that it didn’t seem like coursework, but more like something I was doing for leisure. When a class feels like that, you know you are in the right place.

5. What was the most exciting part of the course?

This may sound cliche, but it’s hard to pick just one thing. If I had to, I’d say it was most exciting being able to truly demonstrate the progress I made. With this course you basically go from not knowing anything in week one, to building a fully functional web app in week four. Being able to build something that does something after just a few weeks of experience was extremely exciting. Being able to show it off to friends and family was an added bonus.

6. What was the biggest challenge you faced?

For me, especially in the beginning, it was being in a strange city. It was my first time truly being on my own in another country. After I got over that, I think it had to be “JavaScript Week”. I think it was either week 5 or week 6 of the course, but it was when we first went over JavaScript and how to use it. For some reason it didn’t click for me like some of the other material had. There was very little sleep that week, but it paid off in the end. Now, JavaScript is one of my strong suits.

7. What’s next?

That’s a good question.. I’m still exploring, really. Though I now have a much better sense of what I want to do after I graduate. Obviously I’m still in school, so internships for the two upcoming summers/ school years are pretty important on the “what’s next?” list for me. Lately, I have been working on designing a mobile app, so building that app is somewhere on the “what’s next?” list as well.

8. Any advice you’d like to share with other college students?

Just that they should consider General Assembly courses. I have heard too many times from my peers that courses like this are only for people in the working world who want to change their careers. While that is the case for many people, the courses are applicable in many more ways. For me, it was exploring an interest I have had for years, but never had the chance to cultivate. For you, it could be that you want a job in the dev world after you graduate, or you want to learn how to build that idea that’s been sitting in your head forever. I truly believe I learned more applicable skills for my future field in those 12 weeks than I did in the previous year of school, which is awesome.

Are you ready to learn a new skill in a new city?

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