First-Years Weigh-In on First Semesters

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Trevor Arashiro

We're racing toward the end of the semester in the School of Computer Science, and now seemed like an opportune time to catch up with a few first-year students. We asked them what kinds of expectations they had coming into SCS, and how their experiences on campus this semester compared to those expectations. Here are their answers, in their own words.

Trevor Arashiro

"I decided to come to CMU because I wanted to experience four seasons. I'm from Hawaii and it's summer year-round there. On top of being able to experience something new, I got to be in one of the top CS programs in the nation, with an opportunity to golf around my level of play and experience being a part of a team. I wasn't too nervous about coming here, but I knew it was going to be a lot more challenging than high school, especially balancing golf and computer science at the same time. The nature of the program definitely pushed me to manage my time better. 

"My experience so far has been great. I'm getting to try new things and this semester has been a whole bunch of firsts for me. I really want to get more into research and continue it throughout my time here. There was a graph theory problem I was working on before I came here that I couldn't figure out, and I met Professor John Mackey (teaching professor of mathematics), who did his Ph.D. thesis on something similar. I definitely want to develop a close relationship with the SCS faculty and learn about their interests, and get a wide exposure to different areas of CS."

Chris Choi

Chris Choi

"It's been a dream of mine to be here at CMU to work with cutting-edge robotics technology. It still feels a bit unreal to me to be walking through Gates and Newell-Simon halls not just as an overly excited high school visitor, but as an actual student. I was super excited about moving to a new state with a completely different vibe from my hometown of Houston and actually experiencing seasons besides, 'humid, unbearably hot, burn-yourself-by-touching-your-car hot and fall.' I knew I was going to be surrounded by scarily brilliant peers, which was also pretty thrilling. But mostly, I was ecstatic about the prospect of working with the giants of the robotics field and even seeing them casually walk around campus."

"To be frank, my first semester has been tough. There have already been quite a few times that I've felt like I was at my limit, and I've had some moments when I've doubted if I'm even cut out to be at this school. But, now that I've learned to understand what I can do in a set amount of time and have become more forgiving of myself about turning in work that isn't completely perfect, I'm gaining more breathing room. I'm also lucky to have found a caring group of friends who have been supportive and can help me through stressful situations with a nice laugh. Coming from a small private school, being in a brand-new environment with giant lecture halls and hundreds of other peers took a bit of getting used to."

"Within the span of only a couple of months, I have learned a pretty incredible volume of information. At this pace, I expect to gain an incredible amount of knowledge to expand my skillset."

Lauren Morgenthaler

Lauren Morgenthaler

"I've been involved with computer science since high school, and I knew CMU had a great program. I was most concerned with being able to balance academics and having an outside life because of how rigorous the curriculum is here.

"When I got here, I was surprised and motivated by how passionate everyone was, especially with their specific concentrations in computer science. I'm noticing there is a lot of support here, as introductory courses have a lot of helpful TAs and office hours. This definitely helped me with my reservations about the curriculum being overbearing.

It's especially rewarding once you get to understand the material and show your progress. Even if I've struggled with a couple things here and there, it's been a steady incline upward, which makes me really happy."

Peter Wu

Peter Wu

"I could go on forever about the reasons I was excited about coming here. Since CMU is a university with a premier CS department and a hub of technological innovation, I'm very excited to be studying computer science at this school. It's a field that will only continue to become more widely used around the world, and it's related to other fields I'm interested in like math, physics and engineering. Since one of my goals in college is to learn as much as possible, academic rigor was actually one of the reasons why I chose CMU. So far, it's been working out pretty well for me and I'm glad to be able to study lots of areas I'm interested in as well as have time outside of class for clubs like TEDx and ScottyLabs."

"My first semester of college has been about what I expected in terms of workload. The instructors here are engaging and the TAs are lifesavers. Special shoutout to 15-131, Great Practical Ideas in Computer Science (GPI), because the class is basically a bucket list of CS concepts I've always wanted to learn about presented in a really creative, engaging and instructive manner. (We have themed coding labs about Star Wars, zombies, etc.). I've found adapting to college life pretty manageable since CMU has such a welcoming community, and it feels great to explore so many interesting fields and events."

Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 | bspice@cs.cmu.edu