6 weeks at the Recurse Center

I just finished attending a 6 week half-batch of the Recurse Center (RC), and partaking in a reflective RC tradition, this is my Return Statement.

What’s RC? It’s self described as a writers retreat, but for programmers. It’s this big room in downtown Manhattan where roughly 60 people show up every day and sit around and program and talk about programming.

Looking back a few weeks later: I’m glad I did RC. If you’ve found this post because you’re thinking of applying, then please do!

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Looking back a year after my batch, I have nothing but nice things to say about RC. It’s a great community.

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What I did for six weeks

I spent six weeks honing my Haskell skills. I fixed a tiny bug in GHC, I implemented some functional data structures, I gave a presentation on Quickcheck, I looked a little into language extensions. I also collaborated with a lot of people on a lot of very different things- from Elm, to C, to OCaml, to Rust, one hour curiosities to multi-day adventures.

I spent the first couple weeks looking at functional (persistent) data structures with Sean Martin. We implemented functional queues, priority queues implemented with skew heaps, and finger trees.

I also paired with Adrien Lamarque on a fabulously silly project we called La Hasquelle which is a find-and-replace haskell keyword translator. Why would you want this? So you can live code in other languages! Bonjour monde!

I briefly looked into Elm by pairing with Jérémie Jost on an Elm-timate tic-tac-toe game he was working on. I also participated in weekly “code dojos” where we would take an hour to pair program something like a hackerrank problem, mostly working with Marielle Foster. That was awesome to practice algorithms, see lots of other different ways to solve the same problem- and see some really cool visualizations! I spent one morning learning enough OCaml to do a problem.

My big “what I did with my summer break essay” project I did at RC was I contributed to GHC.

I spent the last couple days of my batch making a website… after watching a few long videos on css and php.

After spending six weeks coming in every day and programming whatever I thought was interesting, I came to to comfortable conclusion, that yes, I really did in fact like programming. I didn’t end up here by accident, I ended up here by choice.


One really unexpected and wonderful thing about RC is that after your batch you can stay connected on a big internal forum- and this forum is completely full of: interesting very technical conversations, people who can help you out if you’re stuck with a bug or need a recommendation for some tools, and links to interesting articles, written by recursers and beyond. I can pretty frequently say that the most interesting thing that I learned in a given day was from a link I found through RC.

Post-batch, I’m excited to be participating as a mentor in RCStart.

And lastly, because I can’t help myself, here are a few of the things I loved the most about New York this summer:

When in NYC

  • The Roerich museum is superb, and also free!
  • Cafe Mogador has unsurpassed Moroccan food!
  • Washington Square park and Central Park both are delightful
  • The Union Square Greenmarket was wild. What a market!
  • Dumbo boulders is an outdoor bouldering gym directly under the Manhattan bridge. Cheap, too!
  • Manhattan community boathouse has free kayak rentals! That was great on a bluebird hundred degree day.
  • The highline is always delightful.