Unlocking Python’s Power with the DRI

Unlocking Python’s Power with the DRI

By Annapia Borraccino

DRI Participant, Winter 2024

“Coding can’t be that hard, you just need to practice it.” This was my mantra before I chose to move all the way from Italy to New York City to pursue a career in Computational Linguistics. However, my perspective shifted during the first semester as I grappled with overwhelming anxiety while delving into Python, finding myself paralyzed in front of a few lines of code.

Just as doubts about my suitability for a coding path began to creep in, a lifeline arrived in the form of an email from the CUNY Graduate Center Digital Research Institute (DRI). They extended an invitation for a free 5-day experience, immersing me in the realms of coding, Python, and other essential research tools. Just what I needed! I submitted my application, and fortunately, it was approved.

The workshop encompassed not just the refinement of basic Python skills but also provided insights into HTML/CSS, equipped me for data manipulation through Pandas, and introduced me to Text Analysis using the NLTK library. These are indispensable tools for a novice Computational Linguist like myself. The Digital Fellows established an ideal classroom atmosphere that was non-judgmental. They elucidated the material with clarity and facilitated collaboration. Regular discussions expanded the material’s relevance, prompting significant inquiries about technology’s role in both research and society at large.

In an early session, a Digital Fellow shared how he struggled to get the hang of coding, facing multiple failures. Yet, he persisted, highlighting that the more he revisited the learning process, the more proficient he became. Throughout the workshop, other Fellows acknowledged that though the journey isn’t always smooth, it is never impossible. This gave me the reassurance I had been looking for and I felt inspired to keep going!

I loved rediscovering the joy of coding, and I was reminded of both its fun and potency in the realm of research. Leaving this experience, I felt empowered and equipped with a significantly enhanced understanding of programming. Now, when I glance at a piece of code, I believe in my ability to handle it and confidently write my own, trusting that I’ll unravel any challenges along the way. Thank you to the Digital Fellows for proving me right: coding isn’t that hard; you just need to practice it!

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