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."