My Outreachy Application

Last year my initial application at Outreachy was rejected because I had submitted it on the last day.
I had invested quite some time in my initial application and felt a bit dejected that the folks at Outreachy hadn’t even reviewed my application.

That year, reported Outreachy, there was an “overwhelmingly large” number of applications and Outreachy decided not to review those submitted on the day of the deadline.

This year, I decided I was going to be vigilant and proactive.

I downloaded my university academic calendars, noted down the semester start and end dates for all the remaining semesters of my degree course, wrote the essay answers, and sat waiting for the clock to strike 4 pm.
In Greenwich, that is. In India, the clock struck 9:30 pm.

The initial application site was live and within 20 minutes or so, I filled in all the information that was asked, typed in the semester dates, added the essay answers, checked and rechecked them for typos, uploaded the calendars, and phew! My initial application was submitted. ON THE VERY FIRST DAY.

Surely they couldn’t reject me now!

The days between the day I submitted my initial application and the day the results for the initial application came were spent in agony.
Well not agony. That would be exaggeration. Lets say… anxiousness.

During this wait, I rechecked my initial application several times. Paranoid that I might have made some mistakes that’d keep me from passing this round again.

Before the initial application results are announced, some participating organizations begin adding their finalized projects on the Outreachy website.
I kept an eye on that too. I was eager to decide a project as soon as possible and begin contributing from day one of the contribution period.

As days passed, several organizations added their projects.
Of course the complete details of the projects are not disclosed until the initial application is selected.
I had it in mind from start that I’d look for a documentation project.

Soon ‘conda-forge’ added it’s project-‘documenting the conda-forge ecosystem’. And I decided to visit it’s repository on GitHub.

I skimmed through the conda-forge documentation and blogs.
The project details were not yet disclosed, so I didn’t know what the task was to be.
The initial applications results were announced and I had made it. The contribution period had begun.
I introduced myself to the community on the public Gitter channel. They welcomed me with warmth and good will.
Soon I was solving beginner issues, regularly going through the conda-forge documentation and raising issues myself.

At the beginning of the contribution period, the community Gitter channel of conda-forge was flooding with Outreachy applicants introducing themselves. Just like me. It was quite overwhelming, to be honest!
There were so many people who wanted the same thing as I did.
And in their introductions, they also talked about their skills, past projects and achievements. That made me very nervous and dampened my confidence.
They all seemed so much better than me. With such strong candidates, I didn’t think I stood a chance.
I was inclined to give up. In fact, I did give up. I stopped checking the Gitter Channel and stopped logging into GitHub.
For about a week or so, I was completely inactive.
I called up a senior, who had been my mentor and friend throughout college, and told him how I felt.
I told him how intimidated I was by all the other participants and how I had decided to not pursue the Outreachy program afterall.
My senior insisted that I should continue contributing till the end of the contribution period.
“But what’s the point? Everybody else is so good. They know so much more than me! I don’t stand a chance here”, I told him.
Very patiently and calmy he said to me, “it’s not about getting selected, it’s not about winning. It is about running the course and finishing the race.”
That, somehow, hit home.
I had always been that person who would quit after the smallest difficulty.
The very first hurdle would shake my belief in me and hurt my confidence.
After that call with my senior, I decided I would change the self-image of a ‘quitter’ that I had built for myself.
Even if I wasn’t going to get selected for the internship, I’ll still run the course and finish the race.
Another good friend of mine also encouraged me to keep going.
And so I did.
Till the very end of the contribution period, I kept raising relevant issues and opening PRs. I also engaged in active conversations with the members of the conda-forge community.

When only 5 days were left before the final application deadline, nervousness and self-doubt hit me again. I was supposed to propose a timeline for the internship, explaining what I proposed to work on and how I proposed to achieve it.
I had no idea where to begin or what to write. I had no prior experience in writing project proposals/timelines.
So I just took a paper and a pen and started making bullet points of all the things I could think of working on at conda-forge.
A friend of mine who had previously been a GSoC intern shared his selected proposal with me. Although my friend’s proposal was on a completely different project and for a different open source community, it atleast helped me understand how project proposals are written.

After much brain storming and hard work I produced a draft proposal. And sent it for review to all my friends and seniors. These intelligent and kind people made sincere comments and suggestions.
After several edits my proposal was ready.

Despite all my previous nervousness and lack of confidence, I felt quiet proud of the hard work I had put in and the proposal I had prepared. :)

I had completed my Outreachy application, I had run the entire course without giving up.

Now I wait for the results that are due May 17, 2021.
Whatever the results are, I am no longer a quitter. I am proud of myself.

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