Settling In


As of 2019, UNSW has shifted from semesters to trimesters in an attempt to improve flexibility for students. The academic calendar at UNSW doesn’t really line up with other universities, and can be confusing to remember. The link to the calendar can be found here.

We at CSESoc Media have covered trimesters very thoroughly - we have a three-part retrospective on trimesters, the first part of which can be found here. We've published CSESoc's Pre-Enrolment Guide which also touches on the ways you can distribute your subject load throughout the year!

Choosing Classes

Your choice of subjects will be one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your time at uni, so it’s very important that you know what you’re doing. Luckily, our Pre-Enrolment Guide lays everything out and helps you through the process of choosing the best classes for your first year at CSE!

Once you choose and enrol in your classes, you'll be issued a calendar. If you have any questions about your timetable, the UNSW Timetables landing page will help. In particular, it's a really good idea to sync up your UNSW timetable to your personal calendar so you have all your events in one place! (If you don't have a personal calendar, please get one, it makes things so much easier through uni)

First Year Courses

Michael Gribben

Ah, so you made it! Time to party… and study :( Seriously, congrats on making it into Computer Science/Computer Engineering/Software Engineering/Whatever Engineering. You’ve already climbed the first hurdle to becoming filthy rich and pretty damn cool :) Now, I’m gonna refer to all of these courses by their course codes, not their actual names. It seems a bit weird but people actually do this and I promise you get pretty good at deciphering all of these course codes in due time.

If you are reading this, chances are you are enrolled in COMP1511 in term 1 (if you aren’t, you really should be). This is that course that will transform you from an ordinary individual to a mad hacker able to find tribonacci numbers of arbitrary length. It’s taught in C, not one of those hip new languages used by the plebs at other universities. C is oldschool and cool. If other programming languages have parents, C is their daddy.

For those of you without any programming experience, don’t worry - you’re in safe hands. Everything will be explained in crystal clear, high definition live streams (yes, really) from if-statements to memory allocation, pointers to abstract data types. If you happen to be a pro programmer already making bank as a Senior Developer at Google, you also have nothing to worry about - the challenge exercises will still... challenge you.

The course next up is COMP2521. For some reason, it begins with ‘2’ even though literally everyone will *force* you to take it in first year. Why? Well, I know two reasons. The first is that it’s a prerequisite for pretty much every other course - if you haven’t done COMP2521, you can’t do anything else :( The other is because the tech industry is a bit funny. In order to test your skillz as a programmer, companies will put you through rounds of technical interviews. For some reason, these interviews are always on data structures and algorithms. So why is this course so important? Because it is literally called ‘Data Structures and Algorithms’ In other words, it’s about how to ace your interviews and get a job in tech...

Anyways, COMP2521 explores linked lists, trees and graphs and the algorithms which can do neat stuff with each data structure. This course also generally tries to beef up your skillz in C. I won’t lie, it does have some pretty hard assignments but your tutors will be on standby to help you :) Once you have your HD in hand, you will finally know how to spell ‘Dijkstra’ and why Google Search is so much better than Bing.

That was a nice diversion into the ‘2’ courses but it’s time to get back to the courses that start with ‘1’. On to COMP1521 (woohoo!!!). This is where you get to dive deep into the ugly innards of computers, surf the tumbling waves of MIPS assembly and gently tiptoe through the internal organs of unix operating systems. You’ll have a fun time doing everything from playing around with bits to running your own computer server. Through this course, you will make a new bff known only as ‘man’.

So now we turn to COMP1531. Yes, it has a group project. Don’t worry though - if you are a god coder that doesn’t want some pleb to drag you down, the course gives you plenty of opportunity to snitch on your teammates that don’t pull their weight… soz to those plebs you don’t pull their weight :(

Unlike the courses above, it is taught in Python (named after Monty Python so be prepared for some ancient humour). It’s basically a collection of software engineering principles, like DRY, KISS and YAGNI (don’t worry you’ll learn what all this means, I promise) mixed in with a bunch of tools that help you put those principles in practice. It’s probably the closest course that replicates what a job in tech actually involves… working in a team.

There is also a legendary course known only as COMP2041 that you *have* to do. As in you literally have to do it if you’re studying Software Engineering but you really should anyway if you’re Computer Science cool kid. To feed you some precious insight on why this course is so hyped, it *used to* have an assignment to clone instagram. I say *used to* because they realised the nerds doing compsci use reddit instead so they made the switch too. I would ramble on more about this course but undergraduate enrolment is already full :( There is always the waitlist though...

Finding Your Way Around

Campus is a big place, and it might be a bit overwhelming coming from a school of a few thousand, to a uni with over 60,000 students. Some tips to help you navigate all your classes:

During O-Week, you can do a Class Timetable tour, where a volunteer will look at your individual timetable and show you where all your classes are located. This can help reduce the stress of finding all your classes on the first day of term!

Otherwise, if you prefer to navigate solo, make sure to download the Lost On Campus app, which can help direct you to anywhere on campus. Google Maps can also show you the major buildings on campus but it can be hard to find shortcuts to your destination.

Study Pathways

For anyone studying Software Engineering, Computer Engineering or Bioinformatics Engineering you don’t get as much flexibility in the subjects you choose. However, with Computer Science you have the option of choosing between eight different majors.

The graphic below outlines some of the courses you want to do if you want to pursue a specific field: (You'll have to zoom in on mobile)

Contributors: Natalie Eleftheriades, Clarence Feng


Shrey Somaiya

0000: Atomic Press

Location: Middle Campus, Lower Quad, next to UNSW Bookstore

Baseline: $4.30 for Large Latte

Beans: Atomic Coffee

Coffee Lovers comment:

Atomic Press is by far THE BEST cafe on campus. Not only does the coffee taste exquisite, every order is made perfectly. The staff are lovely, friendly and always conversational - and make an effort to remember the names of their customers. The indoor seating is very very cute, with cushions, good seats and booths. Whilst the inside seating is small, I always love studying inside, and it’s quite a popular among the staff as well.

Additionally, it’s a 3 second walk to the business building, quad, lower quad and for more study spots. They’re a cashless cafe which can be a pain for some - but they more than make up for it by being one of the only cafes with an openly advertised rewards program (which is actually good btw - free coffee, no size restriction, on every 8th coffee).

Anon non-coffee drinker:

I really cant say anything that hasnt been said already, but they do great chocolate milkshakes, and the food is actually really good pricing and value for a cafe - $11 waffles with ice cream yes pLEASe

0001: Penny Lane

Location: Upper Campus, Top of Basser Steps

Baseline: $4:00 - Large Latte

Beans: Adore Coffee - Jackson Blend

Coffee Lovers comment:

I LOVE this blend, its nice, not too bitter, and the barista’s always make the right temperature. The location is very central, right near the library, CLB and due to its position at the top of Basser steps, its a quick walk down to quad for classes.

Barista’s Brag:

At penny lane, we put in maximum effort to keep an eye on our extraction times ensuring they’re always perfectly set for the blend that we buy!

0010: Maze

Location: Lower Campus, corner behind IGA

Baseline: $4.00 - Large Latte

Beans: Will & Co

Coffee Lovers comment

The coffee here is very good - $4.00 for a large latte is on the cheaper side, yet it tastes just as good if not better than most other coffee places.
Great decor! Such a cute corner-cafe, located near to several great eateries (Guzman, Mamak) - and several more study spots, such as the Science and Engineering Building (SEB) underground area.
Quick walk to roundhouse, and right next to IGA and busses to Central

Anon non-coffee drinker

Look there’s a guzman next door what more can you ask for? Also BIG YES to the Science and Engineering Underground Area!

0011: Coffee on Campus

Location: Middle Campus, Ainsworth J17

Baseline: $4.80 - Large Latte

Beans: Toby’s Estate

Coffee Lovers Comment:

The coffee here is quite nice - however, its quite a bitter blend. The location is extremely amazing, walking distance from many outstanding study spots such as the newly renovated Electrical Engineering building, the J17 study spaces, and the cafe itself! Furthermore, it’s quite a common place to sit and do work right underneath the labs!
However, do make sure to not bring your own food here, as they’re quite strict ;(
Conclusion: A bit pricey, but worth it.

Anon non-coffee drinker

Nice ~ v i b e ~ and the hot chocolates are pretty good too. #bringbackmilkshakes though
From another angle though, they sell SO MUCH FOOD HERE like wow.
Saw my maths lecturer here once

0100: Stellini pasta bar

Location: Lower Campus, near IGA

Baseline: $4.20 - Large Latte

Beans: Campos

Coffee Lovers Comment:

Look, I love Campos, and the coffee here is GREAT but that’s about one of the only good things going for the cafe. There’s not much cafe specific seating, the decor is limited to the internals of the pasta bar.
It’s in quite a similar location to Maze, so similarly its a close walk to SEB, roundhouse and busses.

0101: Bar Navitas

Location: Lower Campus, Tyree

Baseline: 4:30 - Large Latte

Beans - ??

Coffee Lovers comment:

Pretty good coffee, but personally its a pretty miserable location. Unless you have classes in the square house, or want to study at law library, there are much better options around middle campus.
However, the atmosphere is really really awesome, and it’s a great place to study with lots of booths, lots of tables (both outside and inside) and is quite close to light rail (when it opens lmao), law library, and the roundhouse for some hangs after.

Anon non-coffee drinker

Can we talk about the Acai bowls though?? They’re SO GOOD.

0110: Biblio

Location: Upper Campus, Outside Matthews Food court

Baseline: $4.30 - Large Latte

Beans: Bristol

Coffee Lovers comment:

Quite a decent place for coffee. Located right out front of the Matthews Theatre, you’re close to a majority of major upper campus locations
Additionally, it’s a two second walk to spots inside the library, or the great outside seating on the luscious library lawn! Great place for long study sessions, due to the sheer volume of human traffic.

Anon non-coffee drinker:

Wow that’s a nice hot chocolate

0111: Library Coffee Cart

Location: Upper Campus, walkway near Main Library

Baseline: $4.30 - Large Latte

Beans: ???

Coffee Lovers comment:

Look, every single time I have had coffee from here, the coffee is decent. Whilst the taste isn’t amazing, its consistent. However, I have never received the right amount of froth for my order whenever I have ordered from here. What kind of latte has 4cm of foam :(.
Yes, I’m salty.
However, I can’t help and appreciate the coffee cart aesthetics, location and the cookies.

Anon non-coffee drinker:

Okay but the chais are good? So are the ice lattes <3

Introduction: Welcome to CSESoc’s 2020 First Year Guide

Essential Tips: Covering the basics you need to get started at UNSW

Settling In: Helping you navigate uni inside and outside the classroom

About CSESoc: Get to know the CSESoc Team and what we do

What's Next?: Things to look forward to in 2020 and beyond