I was reading the news today, when I came across news that the results of the IBM ACM-ICPC World Finals had been announced. This is a very prestigious programming contest that begins at the regional level and then goes onto the international level, with exciting prizes and recognition for the winners and runners-ups.
I had the opportunity to participate in the 2000 ACM ICPC Asia regional contest at IIT Kanpur. Although, my team did not score an entry into the prestigious finals, I am proud to have represented Kanpur University at the Asia level. Those were the days! I can still remember the sequence of events that lead me to the regionals and get an honorable mention. There was this subtle desire to achieve something; the desire to be different. I will never forget my college days.
The best part about representing Kanpur University was the fact that I did not have any formal training in programming. My major wasn’t Computer Science, and yet my team was able to qualify to be the official entry from the University after acing the screening test in which about a dozen teams participated from within my college. I had a blast with my team members, Abhinav Bali (currently a graduate student in Australia) and Ruchi Makhani (haven’t communicated since 2001). We literally stayed at IITK’s guest house for about 3 days even though we had our own places to live in Kanpur. Our trio was a force to reckon with, and we went on to win a string of programming contests, including winning the 2nd position in a national level programming contest at IIT Kanpur.
There was so much enthusiasm. Participating at the regionals was a new feat for my college and we lacked the kind of coaching that is almost required to even qualify. We felt on top of the world, and of course the loads of freebies (books, CDs, licensed software, certificates, food), bragging rights, and celebratory social events pumped up our egos. I remember dining with the top faculty of both my college and IIT Kanpur, and being recognized by name by students of all the batches.
I gained a lot of confidence after that event, and still cherish my memories of the contest. I got to meet peers from all over India and neighboring Asian countries. I have to admit that I loved being in the limelight at my college for more than a year by virtue of representing it at various national technical competitions. I travelled significantly, and it was great to be paid to travel and have fun at other Universities!
College life is an amazing experience, and I am very glad to have made the most out of it in terms of learning, popularity, entrepreneurial spirit (I’ll write about this sometime soon), setting lifelong goals, and realizing my true potential.