“Software development – my passion and the focal point of my academics at UF – has been a place of not only solace, but also empowerment, for me. At the end of my sophomore year in Spring 2020, I had finally ended a years-long abusive relationship and escaped a cycle of stalking, isolation, manipulation, and abuse. I was ready to become and feel better, and that’s when I found coding and online tutoring. I learned that with coding, I could always develop myself, no matter where I was, and the more developed I became, the more freedom and flexibility I would have.
I switched my major to computer science; I wanted that freedom, that sense of never losing hope. I started teaching coding online as well and felt so lucky that I had looked for and found those opportunities. If I had never felt that I was stuck, I might have never looked for a way to get out, and for this reason I felt a lot of peace with my past and gratefulness for a new bright future enabled by my academic pursuits.
Now in my senior year, I have spent the past semester enrolled in an experiential learning course with and interning for Florida Community Innovation (FCI), a nonprofit that supports young innovators to pursue public service and create technologies to improve the lives of everyday Floridians. Using my software development skills, I chose to work on a feature that would help Domestic Violence Survivors who do not speak English have better access to resources, something I could be truly passionate about.
Whenever I reflect on how this chain of events progressed and the opportunities I have come across, I feel that I am so lucky, and my sense that things will turn out well in the end strengthens. These experiences taught me that academics and development – investing in yourself through education – mean hope.”
Meryem is a senior at UF in computer science and an FCI intern.