Bijindo Beach Camping

This was the third beach camping weekend in a row for Nicole and I and they were only getting better. The previous weekends were only one night, but fortunately for us we had a long weekend so we camped for 2 nights and three days.

Getting out to Bijindo

Our friend Brendan bought a car recently, Walter Whitecar, that we used for our Namhae weekend. This weekend he drove all of us out to the ferry port for the weekend trip. The port was packed. We navigated maze-like alleys congested with other small Korean cars and finally managed to find a parking spot not too far from the ferry terminal and right in front of a little Kimbap shop. Bags in hand, we shlepped out way to the terminal to meet the rest of the crew. At this point, there was a pretty vibrant foreign community in the Jeolla province that we were familar with so many of the faces in the camping group were recognizeable.

Bijindo

From the ferry terminal we took a ferry out to Bijindo Island. It’s a small island, well two islands, sort of. It’s one island shaped like a bowtie with a strip of sandy beach in the middle connecting the two sides. There’s great fishing, a few restaurants, some hiking trails and beach camping. We set up our tents along the water and made camp. Nicole and I had recently bought one of those tents that springs open, like those collapsible laundry hampers everyone had in college.

Laying about the Beach and Having Bonfires

The first day was a lot of fun in the ocean and grilling up food. Our friend Emily lent us her propane grill so we were able to cook up a bunch of veggies and seafood with Conor and Naomi, friends from Gwangyang.

Hiking Waesan Mountain

The second day, a friend and I hiked up Waesan mountain. It’s the tallest point in the area and taller than a great many of the surrounding islands as well so it offers a heck of a view from the top. The hike isn’t too challenging. I did it in sperry’s, shorts, and a t-shirt. However, Koreans love gear, so many of them were treating this 3 hour hike like they were summiting Everest.

From the top you can see the full outline of Bijindo. It’s truly a sight to behold. We stayed at the top for a while, just drinking in the scenery before the trek back down. That night we had another bonfire and cooked up more veggies. People busted out guitars and sang. South Africans cooked sausages in beer. We had marshmallows with ingredients bought piece by piece from a variety of convenience stores around Jeolla province.

Sunrise
Sunrise

In the morning, I woke to see the sunrise and enjoy the calm morning air. Korea has some of the best sunrises of any place I’ve ever visited. They’re soft and red and very calming. I don’t really know a better way to describe them without just showing you.

Heading home
Heading home

Returning from Island Life

After an awesome weekend of hiking, bonfires, and beach camping, it was time to return to society and life in sleepy old Gwangyang. There are many more adventures to come, but I will not soon forget my weekend in Bijindo.

Web Development Bootcamp

Recently, I decided to leave Korea after my contract ends. I debated staying for a third year, but in the end, two years seems like enough. I’ve had a great time here. I’ve met tons of friends. I’ve traveled all over Southeast Asia, and gotten paid to do it, but after two years, I’m ready to return to the states and so my journey begins. What will I do when I return to the US?

Before I left for Korea, I was a video editor for a well known TV network. I enjoyed it, but stable jobs in video editing are hard to come by. Many employers only want freelancers or contract work. That means a life of hustling for a job every few months and keeping an up-to-date demo reel at all times, just in case. Before that I was a project manager. I enjoyed the actual work, but my particular job involved traveling almost every other week. It was too much, I knew the hotel staff better than my apartment neighbors. Before all of that, I worked for a small startup in Gainesville, Florida. I really enjoyed it, but I wanted to be more involved in the actual product, not just the marketing. I handled social media and while it was fun, I was always an optional piece in the product equation. I wanted to become a developer and work with the actual product.

After learning about web development bootcamps on NPR, I decided to explore my options. The gist of web dev bootcamps is this. They cost $10-20,000, last anywhere from 9 to 16 weeks, and teach you the basics to become a junior web developer (HMTL/CSS, Javascript, Ruby, SQL). I became intrigued once again with this dream of working as a web developer. I finally felt like there was a clear path for me into this world, a very difficult path, but a path nonetheless. I began applying to as many programs as I could. I applied to RefactorU, App Academy, Software Craftsmanship Guild, Hack Reactor, Dev Bootcamp, and Flatiron school. I made it to the second step in the admissions process for every single academy I applied to. From there, I made it to the third step at 4 academies and I ultimately chose to pursue interviews at three of those four. I ended up choosing Flatiron school because I feel it’s the best fit for me, but I’d like to explain how I reached this point first. If you have questions, I’ll answer them in the comments below.

RefactorU

RefactorU

RefactorU looked like a great program. It was less expensive than the NY-based programs. It was in Colorado. They emphasized not wanting to burn people out. One thing that concerned me were the many typos on their site. It made me question how professional their program really was if they couldn’t check their own work. I often make typos here on my blog, but I’m not charging tuition. Their coding challenge was incredibly easy as well, even for me with little background in any sort of coding. I watched their graduate showcase on youtube and while some of the projects were incredible, some of them were just alright. Ultimately, I think RefactorU probably has a great program and they probably take people starting at a lower level than where I was starting at, but it’s not the program for me.

App Academy

appacademy

If the porridge was too cold at RefactorU, it was too hot at App Academy. App Academy is a bootcamp with campuses in New York City and San Fransisco. It has regular assessments as part of its curriculum and students who fail the assessments are asked to leave. I read stories of 4 out of 20 people in a cohort being asked to leave. App Academy has a very high salary and job placement rate as a result of cutting the stragglers in it’s program loose. They also charge only $3,000 upfront. However, they take 18% of your first year salary.

The First Challenge

I made it through the first coding challenge then was invited to a second challenge before I declined. Before the first challenge they suggested I create a Nitrous.io account and complete some practice problems on my own. I worked through those challenges. They ranged from checking a string to see if it was a palindrome to finding primes or greatest common factors. The first challenge was fairly manageable. I had 45 minutes to write a few pieces of code. I finished in about 30 minutes. The questions were easier than the practice problems.

The Second Challenge

After I passed, I was given a second set of practice problems to work on. These problems were meant to be written on my own computer and tested against some test cases on my computer. I completed about half of these problems but they were really difficult. I was constantly going back and forth between the solutions and my code trying to discover why my program wasn’t working.

Based on this experience I felt like I wasn’t ready for App Academy. I think they’re looking for applicants above my skill level. The application process also felt a bit unprofessional. After my second challenge I was asked to add the App Academy email account to my Google Calendar and pick out a day on their schedule. Something about this just felt off to me. I wanted the scheduling process to showcase the schools web development prowess, not just piggy back on Google Calendar. Other schools had nicely polished professional looking scheduling apps for their applications. The regular assessments throughout the program also seemed daunting. I felt like I would constantly be worrying about my assessment grades and unable to focus on my projects in the bootcamp. In the end, I politely withdrew my candidacy from App Academy.

Software Craftsmanship Guild

softwarecraftsmanshipguild

I applied to this small school in Akron, Ohio. From everything I read on Quora and Reddit, it seemed like they had a great program. Their instructors had a lot of experience and the tuition was only $10,000 plus a very modest cost of living in OH. They taught .Net instead of Ruby because as they said, that’s where the jobs are. I filled out an application and an assessment. Within 3 days I received a reply that was personally written to me. It even mentioned aspects of my previous experiences that I mentioned in my application.

Hour-long Assessment

The next step was scheduling an hour long assessment. I was looking forward to scheduling my interview when I saw that the earliest available interview was a month away. At this point I was already starting to receive acceptance emails from some academies, a month from now would be long after I was already into an academy. I replied to them explaining my situation and asking for an earlier assessment. I called twice as well. However, I never heard back so that’s where my application with them ended.

UPDATE: They wrote back several weeks later and were very polite. I replied that I’d already accepted a program. Following that they wished me the best of luck and offered to help out in the future if I needed anything. If they’d written back sooner, I might very well have ended up in their program.

Hack Reactor

Hack-Reactor

Regarded as the Harvard of web development programs. It’s $17,000 and 12 weeks of 12 hour days and 6-day weeks. Their website was really cool. To apply you had to write a short program and once the program passed you could fill out the rest of the application. The program was fairly straightforward. It was just storing your name and email address in an object if I remember correctly. I scheduled an interview and began prepping. All of the other applications I’d submitted at this point had been for Ruby programs so that’s all I’d been studying. However, Hack Reactor is Javascript so I was starting a bit behind.

Technical Interview

During my technical interview, I was asked to pair program with a “hacker in residence”, one of their students turned instructors. He wasn’t very sociable and the interview consisted of almost no questions other than “write this code”. There were no questions about what I wanted to get out of this or how I found out about the program. I’m sure this is just the Hack Reactor style, as it’s a very intense program, but the whole process felt very cold and robotic.

The first few programs I was asked to write went smoothly. I had to make a function, pass some parameters to another function, but at a certain point I was just lost. I tried to work with the instructor, but I just didn’t have the knowledge required. It was due to my lack of preparation.

I think Hack Reactor is a great program, and many reviews online attest to that, but it was too advanced for my level. I received a polite email from them about a week later informing me that I was not accepted. If you are interested in Hack Reactor, really study up on Javascript and make sure you have a little bit of experience. As they say on their website, it’s a 20-120 program, not 0-60.

Dev Bootcamp

devbootcamp

Dev Bootcamp is the program that started it all. It’s the first development bootcamp, hence the name. It’s like the first restaurant just being named Restaurant. They began in San Fransisco, then opened a second location in Chicago, and a third in New York City. The cost is $13,000 I applied and was asked to complete a technical interview with one of their staff members. The coding challenge was incredibly easy. Several of the questions could be answered in one line such as “make a variable”. I was hesitant based on that. I felt like it was way too easy.

The program was also 9 weeks online and 9 weeks in-person instead of 12 weeks, but about the same price as many other programming bootcamps in NY. I read about their engineering empathy program and while I enjoyed the idea of it, I heard accounts from people about crying or weird team building exercises. I think this is a great program for many people and their Engineering Empathy program may be a benefit for some people, but it’s just not my cup of tea. I really just want to learn coding. I can focus on empathy on my own time. Another concern of mine was with the New York campus. On their blog there was plenty of information about Chicago students doing this or San Fransisco students doing that, but almost nothing about their New York campus. I had a hard time finding student blogs from NYC Dev Bootcamp as well. I ended up being accepted into the Dev Bootcamp program, but ultimately decided on another bootcamp.

Flatiron School

It’s based in New York City. It’s $15,000 with the first $3,000 paid upon acceptance. They offer a great program right in Manhattan, not in the flatiron building ironically. They also offer a free program for New Yorker residents without a formal college education. The mayor of New York has endorsed them, their students have won several awards, they received a sizable grant from the city, and they published a jobs report.

Most of these bootcamps has some kind of job guarantee/statistic along the lines of “90-95% of our graduates are employed as web developers within 3/6/9 months of completing our program”. Of all of these programs, Flatiron was the only one that published an independently verifiable job report done by an outside agency. For me this was really important. They explained every factor in the claim and what constituted a job and what counted as a job seeking individual. It was all very reassuring to read. A staff member at Dev Bootcamp said they were working on a similar report but she couldn’t tell me when it would be available or what exactly it would include.

Interview, Coding Challenge, Final Interview

The initial step was just an interview, after that there was a coding challenge where I needed to make a simple two-person game over the course of a week or so (I won’t give away more information). The instructions were pretty clear, try your best, don’t copy it from the internet, and it’s better to submit a broken program than a working one. I got really close to making my program work when I reached the Friday deadline. I submitted my code and an explanation of what worked and what didn’t work, as well as my guess as to what was wrong. My interview to discuss my code was Sunday night (KST) and I spent the weekend working on my code with the intention of getting it working by the time the interview came around. With maybe 24 hours to spare, I managed to get my code up and working. The interview was brief, we discussed why I wanted to attend Flatiron, how my program worked, and what I could change to make it do A or B or C.

After passing the application process, I was notified a few days later of my acceptance into the program. I decided based on all the information I’d gathered about each program that Flatiron was the best school for me and accepted their invitation to attend.

UPDATE: What Happened Next?

After accepting at Flatiron, I had a week to send a $3,000 deposit to Flatiron. Then I started working through the Flatiron Prework.  A month ago, I was given a link to join a Facebook group, fill out a survey, and access the Flatiron prework program called “Learn”. Last week, I finished all of the prework. Seeing as I have 2.5 months until I attend Flatiron September 28th, I intend to work through as much of the Odin Project as I can.

Namhae Weekend

What a wild two weeks. Last weekend, Nicole and I visited Sado Island and walked amongst the dinosaurs. This weekend we visited Namhae, South Korea, a more populous beach location about two hours from our home in Gwangyang. There were a ton of other people, foreigners and Koreans, at Namhae that weekend. We all visited as part of a birthday celebration for several teachers in the Yeosu, Gwangyang, Suncheon area. Our friend Nick, who recently moved to our old city of Gwangju, came out with my cousin Nate to stay at the beach as well. Our friend Brendan recently purchased a car by the name of “Walter White Car” so he drove us all out to Namhae for the weekend. It was nice to travel by car and not have to take a bus.

Namhae was a ton of fun, but prohibitively cold for some reason, perhaps the ominous fog lurking in the distance. We spent the better part of the day hanging out on the beach catching up with old friends and making new friends. For dinner a group of us went to a local seafood restaurant where we got to cook our food right at the table, a common style of dining in South Korea. That night there was singing, dancing, and smores on the beach. The next day, I said goodbye to my cousin Nate and everyone else at Namhae and hopped in Walter White Car and returned to Gwangyang.

Dinosaurs on Sado Island, South Korea

Last weekend Nicole and I visited Sado Island with a bunch of friends. It’s a small island a few hours by ferry from Yeosu. Saturday morning Nicole and I packed up our things and took a bus to a cab to a ferry and two hours later we showed up on scenic Sado Island. The island is tiny. It takes maybe 30 minutes to walk all the way around the island. There are perhaps 40 people there, most of them seemingly over the age of 70. When we arrived on the island we also arrived on the only road on the island. Sado road. It’s about 1000 feet and it doesn’t really go anywhere. There was one car on the island, why? I don’t know.

The island is famous for its dinosaur footprints, fossils, and beautiful scenery. Scattered all over the island there are giant fiberglass dinosaurs. Walking around the island was like walking through Jurassic Park on pause. A great experience. We stayed at a minbok, a small guesthouse room where you sleep on blankets on the ground. The last time Nicole and I did that was nearly two years ago on Oedaldo. The proprietor of the minbok, an old woman who looked like she actually lived amongst the dinosaurs, met us at the concrete wall where the ferry dropped us off. She had a two-wheeled cart from the middle ages and offered to carry all of our luggage on it. We politely declined but she ignored us and put our bags in anyways. Off we went slowly following a woman old enough that she might have followed Moses through the deserts of Egypt. She led us to her minbok and gestured us towards our rooms. We unpacked and explored the island a bit. Half of our group was staying at the minbok and the other half was camping on the beach.

That night we met up with the rest of our group on the beach and cooked up some food on their campfire. There was only one store on the island and it was only open when the guy who owned it felt like opening it, so we brought all our food and supplies for the weekend and stocked up on bottled water when the owner decided he felt like opening the store.

Our whole trip was only two days, Saturday and Sunday but it was a blast. We hiked, cooked out on the beach and got to climb along the rocky shore of the island. I definitely recommend this island. It’s one of the most beautiful islands I’ve visited in Korea and one of the quietest as well. I plan to return there at some point before leaving Korea in August.