If you're a first year CSE student, chances are you're going to be doing COMP1511 in your first term (and if you aren't you should be)! This course is called Programming Fundamentals and teaches you the programming language C. It's designed for people who have never written a line of code in their life, but it's also easy to find people in the course who've been coding since they were 11.

Clarissa Tatang (3rd year Software Engineering student) was one of those students who had no prior experience coding, and found it daunting to sit in a tutorial filled with people who had been coding seemingly from birth. Having come out the other side intact however, she found that she loved programming and the art of solving problems with code! Hear about her experiences in the article below...


COMP1511 as seen by a not coding prodigy

Clarissa Tatang

What were your preconceptions about programming and the subject in general? Were many of them accurate?

Just like every other programming noob I had that image of the hacker meme “I’m in”, but honestly I had no preconceptions about the subject. I wasn’t sure what was happening and what I should expect to happen. This is because I never took coding classes outside that one time in Year 7 when I made a maze game with Microsoft Powerpoint. Year 7 Media and COMP1511 are very different beasts.

Real image of a real programmer.

Had you had any sort of exposure to programming before?

Not really. Like I said, Year 7 Media was majority Microsoft Powerpoint maze game and learning how to use Microsoft Access and Excel. We did work with Scratch though!

What did you like most about COMP1511?

I like how the course is designed for students who have no programming experience. Sometimes in university, I feel so overwhelmed because everyone around me is working on five projects, balancing an internship and somehow attending every CSESoc event. COMP1511 is a reminder that there are a lot of people that aren’t like that and are still finding their way through the huge coding world.

"I like how COMP1511 is designed for students who have no programming experience ... COMP1511 is a reminder that there are a lot of people ... still finding their way through the huge coding world."

Did you enjoy 1511? How does 1511 prepare you for future COMP courses?

Yes I enjoyed 1511. It was very fun and very hands-on which is important because the deeper you get into your degree, you get more and more theory thrown on you. 1511 prepares you for future COMP courses because of the skills you pick up when working on assignments and labs. From time management to problem solving to code style, all of these things are super important when you move forward. If you have poor code style, I will personally hunt you down because your group members are all going to hate you for it.

Anything else you can think of that would be helpful for first years (especially those who are quite nervous/have no coding experience)

Relax. Coding isn’t a super scary beast in my opinion. It’s a skill and you have to put in practice. The staff at COMP1511 are great and I think if you take advantage of all the opportunities the course gives you and put in your own effort, you will do great.

How was COMP1511 different to any other subjects that you’d studied before?

I did COMP1511 in my very first term of university and I must say it wasn’t that much different from studying Maths. I redid the exercises and tests just like I would’ve done a bunch of past papers and problems for any Maths subject or course. Remember coding is a skill so practice, practice, practice!

Was there anything that you did prior to uni that might have helped prepare you for COMP1511?

I don’t think so. I feel like everything I learnt in COMP1511 came from COMP1511, so I definitely know there isn’t a need for anything prior to COMP1511. Honestly, if you decided to master Python the weeks coming up to university, you might be shooting yourself in the foot for COMP1511. In COMP1511, they don’t expect you to know anything and if you know something, it might shift your perspectives and only make the course harder. Also, you might want to spend that holiday for fun because you want to be working on five projects, balancing an internship and attending every CSESoc event in every other holiday, right?

What was the most valuable thing you learned in COMP1511?

For me, the most valuable thing I learned in COMP1511 is that I love coding. COMP1511 is a constant reminder of why I am in this degree in the first place and why I keep persevering. It’s because I love the feeling that comes with successfully solving a problem and pulling it off. Sometimes I forget that because things get hard and things don’t work, but I will find many ways to solve it because this is what I love doing.

"It’s because I love the feeling that comes with successfully solving a problem and pulling it off. Sometimes I forget that because things get hard and things don’t work, but I will find many ways to solve it because this is what I love doing."

Choose your own adventure!

Now that you're ready to take on COMP1511, find out how to make the most of the course if you're studying online!

Or if this gave you the confidence to try out a CSE degree, hear about what it's like to transfer into CSE.

Don't like these options? Check out the full roadmap below!