Dyanna Rivera is a Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence student who is currently in her first year. Due to the recent global situation, she is based in the United States of America and has been taking her classes online.
Rather than being a barrier to her learning, she says the classes are great fun and she’s enjoying them immensely. She especially credits IE University’s enriching culture with ensuring students in different time zones are able to make the most of the classes. Even so, it takes a lot of creativity to make an international routine work for you—something Dyanna shares with us in this interview.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Dyanna Rivera and I am from Seattle in the United States! I am currently living about 30 miles south of the city and am beginning my first year at IE University’s Bachelor in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence.
What made you decide to come to IE University?
There were a few different factors that played into that decision. IE University’s international culture and entrepreneurial mindset is what initially drew me in. That dynamic is something that is rarely seen here in the US. Most schools here put you through a program, get you an internship, and just put you in the workforce. Even when I was just researching IE University, I could tell that the focus here was different. The programs are designed to not only prepare you for an international workforce, but also to inspire you to begin your own initiative or company and push the boundaries within whatever industry you choose. In that sense, IE University exceeded all of my expectations.
On a more personal note, I knew that the financial side would be one of the largest factors—and a potential barrier—to my post-secondary education. Fortunately, I was awarded the Women in STEM scholarship which covered enough for me to afford an education here. If I had gone with a school in the States, I would have wound up with an unrealistic debt to pay off, even with scholarship aid.
The final major factor was the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and take the risk of moving halfway across the world. At what other time in my life would it be so easy to just pack my bags and explore? Growing up, I didn’t have the opportunity to travel much, so finally being able to see what’s beyond just my home country is incredible to say the least.
We’re only a couple weeks into classes but I already love it. I’ve noticed that Spanish culture is so much better about emphasizing a work-life balance than in the American system. The work is challenging for sure, but the way that my workload is distributed doesn’t feel as overwhelming as even my high school courses did. In the US, you are expected to have a social life, but work seems to take precedence over everything else. It’s a mentality that only becomes more prevalent as you get older, which is evident in the lifestyle many working-class families have in order to stay afloat. Even though it doesn’t sound like much, it makes all the difference when you’re used to having to be in work mode 24/7.
Why did you decide to study this bachelor in particular?
Much like my decision to choose IE University, there were a few factors at play. I had always been fascinated by science—throughout high school it was one of my favorite subjects. More specifically, I was becoming increasingly interested in computer science. I don’t really know anyone who works in the industry, so just reading up on it felt like this insanely cool world I wanted to explore.
I remember that the main thing that inspired me to choose computer science was an article I read about Robert Downey Jr. using robotics to help with the climate change crisis. I feel silly admitting that, but I can trace my decision to apply to a computer science major to that news article. I just remember thinking “Of course, it’s robotics! That’s the future! Why is no one else talking about this in sustainability?!” I figured that if no one was talking about it, then I would at least try to make that topic a larger conversation.
As I delved into it, my fascination with the systems behind how technology works only grew. When I read about IE University’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence program, I was sold by its innovative approach. It was the only computer science degree I had seen anywhere that wasn’t just focused on coding or software development. It was a program that was centered on moving technology forward as a catalyst for change, which is exactly why I wanted to major in computer science in the first place.
The program also stood out because it included Artificial Intelligence. When you mention AI, most people imagine a horrifying, dystopian future where robots have overtaken society. In reality, AI is much more diverse and grounded than that. There are a few cases of creepy humanoid robots, but AI is something that is infiltrating every industry at an exponential rate. Someone needs to help drive this forward, and I am ecstatic to be one of those people.
What’s your impression of Liquid Learning at IE University?
In my experience it’s going pretty well! Due to COVID-19, I’ve experienced significant delays in my visa process, so I started the year at home. Despite not being able to attend classes in person, I can tell the professors and faculty are doing their best to make things go smoothly. Occasionally, someone runs into technical issues, but we are always able to recover quickly and improvise where needed. The mix between synchronous and asynchronous classes is effective in keeping things moving, so it doesn’t just feel like I’m attending a series of lectures and tests. You can tell that IE University has really put a lot of effort to make a quality education accessible, regardless of specific situations.
The main downside for me is the time difference. I joke all the time about it, but my sleep schedule is practically nonexistent right now. Madrid is nine hours ahead, so most of my weekdays have to start somewhere between 4–6am. While I’m home, I still have a life, which means I have become creative in how I organize my routine. Typically I get up for class, do some work for other classes, then take a nap around noon before attending to the rest of the day. That being said, I won’t take a regular sleep schedule for granted once I do arrive in Spain!
How do you balance your online classes and your free time?
I’m someone who really likes to plan things ahead of time, so I usually make a quick to-do list in the morning. I have a nice, simple planner that gives me space to brainstorm everything I need to get done, and then a separate area to put my top five daily tasks. It’s been extremely helpful to keep myself organized, and I’m usually done with my classwork by the afternoon.
I am hoping to get to Spain in the next couple of weeks, so a lot of my free time has been spent trying to safely hang out with close friends before leaving. If I’m not doing that, I’m probably reading, writing or just wasting time sending my friends memes on social media. I do try to take a walk for at least 30 minutes every day or just do some yoga at home. It’s nothing super fancy, but it works when the gyms are closed and definitely feels good after being stuck in front of a computer screen half the day. It also gives me an opportunity to practice mindfulness for a little while, which is super helpful mentally.
Are you excited about coming to Spain soon?
Oh, of course! I will be spending my first year in Segovia and cannot wait to step foot in my flat and be able to explore the city. I’ve never been to Spain before, so I’m excited to see what it’s like! My dad is a chef, so it was practically inevitable I’d grow up to become a foodie. I’m super excited to try out the different cuisines in the area and learn how to make them. Right now I actually have a few friends who have already arrived in Segovia, so of course I’m also looking forward to meeting them in person. As someone who has never been to Spain before, thinking about how much there is to see and experience makes me feel all giddy about getting there. Despite the delay, I know I’ll arrive eventually and, in my book, that’s ultimately what matters.
The current situation has undoubtedly been challenging for students like Dyanna. Yet her positivity and willingness to adapt does her—and others in her position—serious credit. Although a little later than we’d originally hoped, we can’t wait to welcome Dyanna and her classmates to the campus in Segovia, Spain. We’re sure she will have plenty of time to explore the city, forge friendships and develop professionally as she moves seamlessly from online to in-person learning.