Madelin Tomelty

Upskill in paradise.


Beginning your journey at the Institute of Code feels a little like looking up at a gargantuan mountain and knowing that somehow, by some miracle, you are going to climb it and – so help me God – reach the top.

The 11 students on this retreat aren’t so sure, but the four mentors standing at the front of the room are unwavering in their confidence in us. That’s got to mean something, right?


What am I doing here?

On my first morning at this 10-day coding retreat, I wake up in heaven, which looks like a ridiculously luxurious pool villa in Canggu in the tropical mecca of Bali, Indonesia. From my balcony overlooking the pool, I see most students (all female, it turns out) are up and at ’em, rising into their Warrior One pose along with the sun.

My peers have travelled from Vienna to California, Berlin to Hong Kong, and there are a few fellow Aussies thrown in for good measure. We quickly find that our respective geographies are the only differences between us. Lucky for us, we’re a like-minded group of people (phew!), and a lovely bunch at that.

Each day, we begin at 6:15am with an hour of yoga (optional, of course), followed by breakfast at 7:15am, and then class, which starts at an eager 8:15am. Over 10 days, we will learn HTML, CSS, and JQuery. The first? The backbone and structure of a website. The second and third is the styling and design elements that makes it look… not ugly (in the early stages of the retreat, this is my one hope).


Let’s hear it for mentors

Our mentors are in charge of lessons, answering any questions (there are hundreds) and, in a way, offering emotional support. In the beginning, they drill into us over and again how dramatic the highs and lows will be, but we don’t believe them. Until we do.

My first meltdown happens on Day 2 (yep, Day 2) and it isn’t because of the heat. We had already begun building our first website and it was an overwhelming task after two days of intensive learning. Enter: self-doubt and the first of what would be many times when my brain would reach learning saturation point, and a page of code resembled nothing more than alphabet spaghetti.

Thank goodness for the massive pool at our disposal, which meant I could take a moment to cool down and refocus.

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