Coding. That’s the word that can strike fear into the heart of most of us. We’re told from a young age to face our fears to overcome them. I had always laughed at that statement, thinking how absurd it sounds. Well I am so happy to admit…that I was wrong.

Before beginning the course, many of us had very limited experience with R. Perhaps some of us had the odd dabble with creating a table or multiplying two numbers together, but nothing of great use. Our expectations for the course were that it would be a great learning experience and, hopefully, start the foundations of a life-long journey of coding, as we move into a technology-driven age. From the moment we entered the room, our minds were put at ease. We were introduced to Alex, who would be our mentor for the week. We discussed what we all wanted to gain from the course and where we could see R being relevant in our PhD’s and future careers – it turns out that we all plan on using it a lot! We all sat together at large round tables, developing a strong community and cohort feeling, as Belfast and Aberdeen prepared, as one, to tackle the problems set before us.

The days were broken up effectively so that no one was ever stuck on anything for too long or lost focus. Small workshops were presented to cover small nuances or sections of code that people were struggling with, exercises to test your understanding and a booklet that helped you understand the code that you were writing, rather than copying it out. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, with peer-to-peer help alongside mentor to cohort help depending on the issue that you faced. At our breaks we would all head to a local independent coffee shop for one of the greatest coffee/traybake combos I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. On our first day, our Aberdeen friends even baked us scones, cookies and brought in cream and jam to motivate us through the day! Refueled, we’d then be more motivated than ever to tackle the next sections of code.

We learnt more than we ever thought possible in one week of R. From extracting and manipulating data to importing and exploring packages within R, we gained more than the basal understand we wanted from the week. Since the course, we have continued improving our R skills, with workshops we run over Microsoft teams between Aberdeen and Belfast. One thing we realised rather quickly, is that you are never quite finished with R. No matter how much you know, there is always more you can learn. I can safely say, that after this course, the continual learning of R no longer phases me. I’m excited to code. But more importantly, I have gained the skills to allow me to tackle anything or learn anything within R.

(Photo from the end of the week – I’m not small, the rest of the cohort are just on a hill)