Why I'm applying to the Recurse Center (RC)


As a new idea in my mind, this is by no means a solid source. I'm happy to hear your thoughts and learn better.

In October 2020, I came across Homebase through the JAMstack radio podcast. One of its founders, Chris Smothers, had a link to the Recurse Center (RC) in their Twitter bio - after learning about it, it was love at first sight.

As I understand it, RC is dedicated to bring together a diverse set of people interested in programming to learn together in a sort of "programming sabbatical". I'll add more color to this definition as I explore why I want to join RC. The TL;DR is that I'm in love with the idea of this program to the point of quitting my job to attend it (it wasn't the entire reason, but it was significant).


Today, August 9th 2022, I'm reapplying to RC after 8 months since I first tried. I've reviewed this writing to make sure it still reflects my thoughts on this amazing opportunity :)

Nerding out on programming? Sign me up!

In early 2021 I was really burnt out on web development. I wanted to write, to teach, nerd out on personal knowledge management, draw, juggle, run, and whatever else was outside of the realm of computers.

It got so bad I was getting mildly depressed at work and my productivity was at an all-time low. I had to do something about it.

One of the best friendly advice I got was from Corey Ward, who talked about how treating his programming work as a craft, as an art, kept him motivated to work part time at a company and do freelance work on the side; to live and breathe webdev.

It took me a few months to truly get into this spirit, but now I can't shake it off, I'm smitten by computing and want to take it further, to hone my craft. So it's really a no-brainer that a 3-month sabbatical for programming with, learning from, and teaching others is what I'm looking for.

I can't wait to have the first sessions of pair programming of my life, building on the thought process of each other to build something spectacular. And from what I see in RC's Joy of Computing and blog, alumni's interests are super broad and jaw-dropping. I'll have the courage and structure to go beyond my comfort zone and learn hard topics I currently am afraid of, and help others do the same.

These in itself are reasons enough to apply... except there is more!

But then, I discovered the Recurse Center is different

Listening to an interview with Nick Bergson-Shilcock, one of the founders of RC, I discovered it goes way beyond nice people nerding out on code. It's actually an extremely ethical and positive organization, which inspires me to do better for diversity in the tech industry.

RC strives for diversity & inclusion

They're very vocal about diversity & inclusion. Being a free program that offers grants for those in need, it's one of the few places in the tech industry where I know I can be around & learn from people from all walks of life.

Being "concerned" and "mindful" about the opportunity and access gap in computing isn't enough. As I see it, I can't say I care enough about diversity until living, relating, and working daily with all sorts of people.

I'm currently restricting myself from consuming talks, books and podcasts made by white men to broaden my perspective (Octavia Butler is amazing, by the way!), but that can only go so far in reducing my unconscious biases. Coexistence in diverse settings has been, is and will continue to be my key to truly becoming a better human, and RC provides for that in tech, a space where I haven't been able to find & foster much diversity yet.

Spot-on social rules

I love RC's ethics & social rules - no feigning surprise, no well-actually's, no back-seat driving, no subtle -isms. They speak to a common challenge I faced in my now-deceased agency, where ego battles with my co-founder would often be fought through all of these micro-aggressions.

I wish I had read these rules and given a name to these patterns back then, it'd have unlocked a lot of personal growth for us. I've come a long way, but still struggle with these. Being in an environment where these are explicit and people are open to talk about them will be a great way to further this process.

Update Aug. 2022: RC's new self-directives are also incredibly inspiring and crystalize a lot of my preexisting inclinations. Learning generously, especially, has been one of the biggest sources of light and joy in my life this year.

It comes at the right moment

At 25 26, I'm not feeling in my heart that I got the path forward figured out. I'm in the middle of a small middle-decade crisis, and currently lack the clarity and perspective to find what I want to work on for the next few years.

I could come up with a top-down objective I've set out of rational thought - such as helping make sustainability & energy efficiency a top-of-mind concern for web developers -, but these, although sound and valid, don't hold my motivation for long.

Instead, I want to focus on my current passion for programming, honing my craft, in the hopes of accidentally stumbling upon seedlings of what brings me lasting joy. RC being self-led and project-based will enable me to test all sorts of paths that I currently romanticize, and reveal what is just a project and what is truly right for me.

What happens if I don't get in

There's a huge chance I won't get a spot in the batch I'm aiming for (Spring 2, starting March 28th). If that's the case, I intend on trying again for the Fall or Summer batches and, in the meantime, try to recreate some of the RC vibe on my own.

I'll do more community mentoring on Sanity.io, learn in public and pursue what I'm brewing as my gap year for learning. Either way, RC has been super helpful in showing me what's possible, what I could do in 2022 to become a better, more connected and community-led human being.


I didn't get into RC. 8 months later, I've lived through A LOT of learning, connection, and emotions. My programming practice didn't evolve as much as I had hoped in January, but the self-led sabbatical was enriching in many other ways.

I'm now more in tune with life and ready to be a better companion to my future RC colleagues :)

And if I don't get in now, I'm still going to keep trying!

Thank you for putting this together, RC team!