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RIALDA SPAHIC - LEARNING BEYOND STUDYING

My name is Rialda Spahic and I was a bachelor and master student of Computer science and engineering at the International University of Sarajevo. Right now, I live and work in Norway at one of the world’s greatest energy companies as an IT Analyst. I have recently started a Ph.D in Engineering Cybernetics related to the industry. My working experience has brought me knowledge in many exciting technologies from flying drones, cloud technology to researching underwater robotics. But my story does not begin there.

My interest in computer science began in high school as I was working in a Gaming cafe. I wondered how the games are made and how the code behind them does seem like magic. A lot of different faculties were visiting high schools at that time and it was IUS that made me interested the most. I visited IUS on their Career day and looked into the Faculty of Computer science and engineering. I immediately knew it was the right place - international surroundings and a great program offer!

The first year was challenging. Mathematics was not my main subject before university. At this stage, many students decide that their choice of studies was wrong and they switch to something else. IUS was advertising to take internships as the faculty of computer science has a program with many IT companies in Sarajevo. I wanted to test myself outside of classes and started applying for internships. I will never forget the evening I was coming back from a class and just sat at the bench and cried my heart out. It was the 36th email I have sent out to companies asking for an internship and got either rejected or ignored. I guess I was just the first year and did not have enough experience. Looking back at it, I would love to go back in time to hug and thank my crying self for not giving up because my adventure has just started. Soon after some more attempts, I got my first internship. Only three days later, I got another one. And of course, I accepted both! At this point, I felt encouraged to start going to conferences and workshops organized all around Sarajevo. Many times, I would be the only girl in the audience of many experienced IT men. From there, I moved on my path and became Microsoft Student Partner. This opened a lot of new doors for me. I was soon after asked to volunteer for IT Girls funded by the United Nations. Traveling around Bosnia and Herzegovina and teaching young girls that engineering is for women and encouraging them to follow their dreams in the world full of prejudice and judgment. You wonder how I got time for all of the activities? I sacrificed a lot of my free time and made learning and growing my priority. When one wants something, there is no obstacle on the way. Classes at IUS allowed me to have a flexible schedule and to fit everything that mattered. During these times I was writing my bachelor thesis with my supervisor and she inspired me to pursue my studies further. I applied for a Master program in Computer science and even got a scholarship and work opportunities with IUS! Master study was my favorite year since all subjects were so interesting and research-oriented. There is something special about having your own research topic. Professors introduced me to a whole new world of research and yet again inspired me to continue that kind of work. Living abroad now and speaking a foreign language every day does not feel strange after studying in an international setting. 

I recommend IUS to anyone who wants to experience learning beyond studying! And to all the girls and boys fearing this might not be something for them, ask yourselves ‘why not’ because that is what I asked myself when answering to any new opportunity. And take opportunities because they open new doors and take you on adventures. It is important to know your path and what is it that you want to achieve - but if you don’t, every new opportunity will help you figure it out. My main advice is to stay curious and never stop learning more!

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