A few months ago, we reached out to School of Computer Science first-year students as they finished their first semester at Carnegie Mellon University. With a full semester under their belts, these students shared how they started their CS journey, the challenges they faced when they arrived on campus, the memorable opportunities they took part in and experiences they shared, and their goals to make the most out of their time at CMU.
"After an amazing recruiting trip with the swim team last October, I decided to apply early decision to Carnegie Mellon. I shadowed a student-athlete, EJ Eppinger (CS 2021), who is on the swim team, and sat in on Mathematical Sciences Teaching Professor John Mackey's 15-151 lecture. Amazed by the energy in the class, I found a unique community with CMU. The professors and students were so passionate and welcoming to me as a prospective student. The swim team, Delta Gamma and the Donner communities have all been incredibly welcoming and supportive with the transition to college.
"While I'm certainly being challenged, my classes have been really interesting and stimulating. I'm thankful for the passionate and caring TAs who go above and beyond their jobs to make sure I understand the material. After struggling a bit at the beginning of 15-151, Mathematical Foundations for Computer Science, I began to extensively use resources like office hours and supplemental instruction, and my class improvement was noticeable almost immediately. My favorite experience this year, though, was my 15-112 term project, a chatbot using GroupMe that incorporated APIs and basic language processing. It's something I'm especially proud of because it was my first time working on a multiweek project. It was awesome getting to use my final product to answer questions like 'When does El Gallo open?'
"I hope to find my passion and to be able to delve into it by the time I graduate. I'd really like to take advantage of research opportunities before my senior year, because it's a great chance to be on the forefront of the field. I want to graduate feeling like I've challenged myself and learned as much as I could."
"My interest in computer science began around the beginning of high school, when my dad gave me a book about learning Java and I fell in love with the idea of how you could directly write out the steps to solve a problem. I knew that CS was what I wanted to do, and when I got here I jumped straight into my major. I was definitely nervous about the workload at CMU — just because I had been accepted didn't mean I was sure I could handle it — but on the other hand, I was very excited to come to a place full of people passionate about computer science like I was. And even when it's been difficult, I couldn't imagine doing anything else.
"The most interesting thing I've been involved with this semester was making the travel squad for varsity cross country and traveling with the team to conference meets, regionals and nationals. There are several other CS majors on the team, and they've been an amazing support system. It's been really special to be on a team where everyone is willing to put in the work we need to do well.
"Halfway through my first semester, I caught what I thought was a normal cold, and then over the next two weeks found out that it was bronchitis and then pneumonia. This was nearing the climax of our season, so I ended up having to juggle making up work with resting up for our important meets. I also needed an inhaler to run for the couple of weeks after recovering —sometimes those things just happen and you have to roll with the punches. My first semester taught me that I underestimated how hard I was capable of working. I didn't know how much I could actually do until I was forced to keep trying, even in the face of challenges."
"I had a lot of interaction with CMU during my time in high school. I'm from Wexford, about 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh. My high school played a huge role in developing my interest in CS. I remember doing a tour of the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) as a middle schooler. Then I did Leap@CMU, a summer enrichment program run by SCS for high school students, during the summer of my freshman year. To this day, that summer has been one of my favorite experiences.
"My academic experience has been great so far. And while I find my assignments interesting and stimulating, the biggest challenge I've faced is getting enough sleep. I've had some relatively early classes and I'm a night owl, so I've definitely found it a little hard to drag myself to lecture sometimes; but the quality of the lectures makes it worth it.
"I got to participate in the International Collegiate Programming Contest with the CMU team. I was talking with a professor one day, and it came up that he needed another person for the team, so I tagged along. We drove to Youngstown and stayed overnight, then spent the next day solving interesting programming puzzles. It was an incredible experience and one that I definitely learned a lot from. I also discovered that CMU offers a competition programming class, which I plan to take next semester.
"I've learned that there are so many brilliant minds at work here. I've been amazed at the genius solutions my peers come up with, and I feel privileged to work with them. The professors always amaze me with how knowledgeable they are, and because of this, I'd like to get to know as many professors and students as I can, so I can work with some of the best minds in the world."
"My first foray into exploring CMU was after reading 'The Last Lecture' by Randy Pausch. After reading the book and learning about some of the amazing programs and initiatives at CMU, I became fascinated with this school. But it was well before I even discovered CMU that I was fascinated by computer science. My father, who has always worked with computers and specializes in networking, introduced my brother and I to computers at a young age. In my freshman year of high school, I took a course in programming. There hasn't been a day since that I've stopped pushing myself to be the best I can in computer science.
"Through the Celebration of Diversity Weekend, I visited CMU both before I applied and after I was accepted. The opportunity to visit a school beyond my wildest dreams was something I can never thank CMU and the Department of Undergraduate Admissions for enough. I had the immense luck of staying with Spirit House, and meeting some of the most amazing students at CMU who were great hosts and made my experience all the more memorable. It really solidified why this school was one of my top choices.
"Last semester, I was one of three freshmen representatives for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). One of many chapters nationwide, the CMU chapter of SHPE looks to advance members of the Hispanic community pursuing degrees in STEM, as well as anyone else looking to advance in STEM fields. From job fairs to game nights, we do a lot for the STEM and Hispanic community here at CMU, and it has really been a great experience to be a part of.
"There are so many things I wish to accomplish during my time at CMU. Primarily, I hope to take on some research opportunities and be part of the revolutionary studies and discoveries going on here. I'm really excited to interact with all of the new professors I'll have during my time here. I'm also really excited to experience my first ever Spring Carnival and watch some buggy races!
"I want to make my hometown, my family and CMU proud. Regardless of what I'm doing, academically or extracurricularly, I want to be sure I'm putting more than my all into being the best student and person I can possibly be."