Everyone has his/her own story of life, and I’d like to share mine here.
I was born as the first child of a very poor family, living in Eastern Hungary. My mother is a seamstress, my father is a metal worker. I inherited my father’s skills at problem solving; he had been always good in schools but he didn’t have the chance to get any higher education.
Agnes as a child in Hungary.
Being the “smart kid” of my family was definitely funny, but at the same time it was hard, too. Especially in school where being the smartest and poorest child in the class was a very bad combination. Since I didn’t have too many friends, I turned to what I was good at: learning.
I was extremely good in math. I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and I saw that doctors had a good living. In the 5th grade, we got a new math teacher who also taught programming. However, the school had a rule: programming was for the kids in the 8th grade (last year in elementary school) only.
My math teacher recognized my math skills and managed to let me into the programming classes. I loved sitting next to the Commodore +4s! Controlling what they should do was one of the most powerful experiences I’d ever had by that time.
The next year, my math teacher let me in the class again – with the children who were in the 8th grade that year. But the curriculum was a repeat for me, therefore I got different, more advanced tasks to solve. The same happened the next years – by the time I left my elementary school, I was in never-ending love with programming (still on Commodores) and wanted to be a programmer of intelligent robots.
I had similar experiences in high school, too. I had the best ever math teacher, who was one of the most energetic persons I have ever met. She taught me not only strong math skills but also how to be more self-confident and how to stay strong and optimistic even if you feel the world is against you.
I had almost free and unlimited entry to the school’s computer room with two boys who were one year older than me. I spent my afternoons there, exploring the new PCs (after the Commodores in the elementary schools, PCs were a sky rocket experience!), new programming languages (Turbo Pascal!) and after a while new opportunities with the school’s Novel network. With the boys, we wrote our own chat program which we could use to talk even if there was a class for other students in the room. I wrote a German-Hungarian translator program. And we did many other, small and funny programs, which I cannot even recall. I received 3rd place at a Hungarian programming competition two consecutive years, which was a great honor. It was a really amazing thing since we still didn’t have Internet in the school at that time! Can you imagine now how to self-learn programming without the Internet? – Yes, THAT was fun!
It was not a question that I wanted to learn programming after high school.
I applied to the Budapest University of Technology and Economics and got accepted immediately. I was the very first person in my whole extended family who had university studies. I thought my life was on track – but after a few months of my studies, I realized that university was too much of a burden. The costs of my studies and living in the capital were way too much for my family to afford. I got to a huge decision point. Everything suggested I had to stop my studies and look for some work. Nobody believed there was any way to avoid this and stay at the university, continuing my studies.
But I didn’t give up. I was sure there must be some way. As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” I didn’t want to recognize it was impossible. Actually, I didn’t know it was impossible. And in the end, I made the decision: I would look for a job AND continue my studies.
Due to the programming awards I received during my high school years, I found a programming job at one of Hungary’s biggest and most famous IT companies. (I’ll write about it later.) Five months after starting my studies, I found myself working there. I was rescued. I earned more than enough money to cover my studies and living expenses, and I didn’t have to interrupt my studies.
Was it hard? Definitely. Those years were the hardest period of my life. I studied hard. I worked hard. I slept only a few hours every day. My parents got divorced. But while supporting my father and fighting with my mother, I was free. For the first time in my life, I did what I loved, and I could do this because I made it possible for myself.
In the end, I finished studies and got my diploma after seven years. And I already had 6.5 years working experience which proved to be a HUGE benefit.
One more thing. If you know me, you know I travel a lot. I love traveling because it is one of the best experiences and one of the best teachers. It was not always so. I was 20 years old when I left Hungary for the very first time. (I attended a student exchange program in Vienna.)
I was 23 when I started to learn English.
I was over 25 when I sat on a plane for the first time! – Can you imagine? ;-) Now, ten years later, I have traveled to about 30 countries, met countless amazing people and I have friends around the world.
Agnes traveling the world.
This is my story in a nutshell. I wanted to share it to inspire everyone: never give up. Even if you feel it’s impossible – it’s not! There’s always a way to move forward! Be curious. Be passionate. As Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”