What are soft skills exactly?
According to Oxford dictionaries, soft skills are “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people”. These attributes, essential for all people to live in our society, are especially important for higher education students, since they represent the minority that pushes the limits of current advancements through research. However, for many areas of education, the focus on theoretical concepts and the lack of group activities throughout the curriculum may leave the interpersonal ability of pupils underdeveloped. In this article, I advocate on the importance of soft skills for students of computer science through my experience.
Where I come from
In contrast, during the school years, I had gotten used to friends that stick together for over a decade, as well as teachers and the general staff, which new all about me. It was such a degree of familiarity (aligned with my methodic characteristic), that the cafeteria staff knew what to serve me every day, the coordinator knew how to approach in case she needed my help helping other students, and even the doorman would call me by my nickname when my parents arrived after school to fetch me.
Arriving at the university at the early age of 17 presented a new level of complexity in regards to the courses. I remember arriving home from my first day, after a class of Physics I, and realizing that I had arrived at a new phase in my life and I would need to study hard to pass every course. I had also been constantly reminded of the new college atmosphere, with the fast-paced lecture, new campus, new people and new challenges to be faced.
Starting a new education level as a new bachelor student presents many challenges. In my case, coming from a small school in which I had spent all my student life, it was especially tricky. As the university I got accepted was a federal institution, I would need to interact to people of various parts of my country and the world.
What I experienced
The connections I made during this period immensely helped me to overcome the challenges in the federal university in Brazil. Differently to the previous school, now there were many colleagues that had mutual interest in different topics, such as entertainment. Quickly, I would realize that I found a place filled with others that thought more similarly to me, and that would face the same demanding tasks.
During my stay in such university, I formed great friendships of different kinds and intensities. There are colleagues which appear on every social gathering (even when not invited), the ones that study together and focus on classes’ assignments; others to call when going to the movies, and the unique friends which are for every situation. In order to create all of the aforementioned relationships, being able to speak my mind was a must.
My journey to Hungary
Additionally, soft skills were an important part of the process that resulted in my transfer to ELTE. After being informed by my father of the possibility of applying through the Stipendium Hungaricum program, I consulted friends and family before beginning the process. Initially, the idea of changing not only my place of education, but also the country of residence seemed too hard and unachievable. I might not have thought of all the benefits and impact such experience would have in my life. Thankfully, I was enlightened by those close to me and decided to take on the adventure of living and studying abroad.
Upon arrival in Hungary with a mindset of adapting to the culture and learning the ways of a new life, I continued to try to nourish new connections with students and professors at ELTE. It resulted in important international friendships which led to many great experiences both in Budapest and outside Hungary. By speaking to people from all over the world, I could learn not only about Hungary during my stay in Budapest but also about every friends’ country. Their culture, realities and what made them who they are added plenty to the way I faced various concepts which were not part of my reality in Brazil. It greatly increased my perception of the world and continues to shape my character to a more reasonable, open-minded, diverse individual.
In my case, shortly after arriving in Hungary, I decided to speak to professors in search of an internship or research project. I was recommanded by one of the professors to Ericsson and I have been an intern there for more than 18 months. Additionally, other approaches to different researchers have led to my teaching assistance for the third semester in a row and my participation in a research project funded by the European Union. These various achievements would not be possible without the pursue of multiple lecturers and researchers for an opportunity. It is important to note that maintaining such positions also requires significant interpersonal skills. Being able to work in groups, present projects, convince investors or journal editors, and adapt to diverse relations in the work environment are essential to the student’s future.
In conclusion, based on the many experiences displayed in this article, it is essential to nurture interpersonal (soft) skills of computer science students. The interaction with others allows the creation and continuous renovation of friendships and professional connections. A student which masters these skills has increased chances not only during the course of the study, but also for the professional future.
About the author
Pedro Henrique Villar de Figueirêdo transferred during his BSc studies from Brasil and finished his Bachelor program in the Fall semester of 2019-2020. He then continued with his PhD in Texas, USA.