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Carnegie Mellon is a really tough school for the first couple of years, but the atmosphere is really nice and it is very collaborative. What's great is that it's not competitive and the students all help each other to get by. Spring Carnival is the huge event on campus. You get 2 days off in the spring, we bring in a comedian (Mitch Hedberg, Dimitri Martin, Human Giants, etc.), a band (The Roots, The Shins, Spoon, Incubus), and then there are small acts either from around the campus or around the country. What's really cool is that lots of different organizations build "booths" that are all themed & have games, primarily geared towards kids. They are very elaborate and people put in a lot of time. There are, of course, carnival rides, too. Finally, we have an event called Buggy, or Sweepstakes. Organizations build vehicles called "buggies" that are similar to box cars, although they're very aerodynamic & expensive (we are an engineering school). We find the smallest girl we can on campus, stick her in the buggy, then push her down a hill that reaches speeds of up to 35-40 mph! She's then pushed up several more hills to the finish line. It's pretty intense. CMU is located just outside of Pittsburgh. The public transportation is amazing, so you can get anywhere you need. You can easily go to baseball games, hockey games, but not so much football games (good luck getting a ticket). Although Pittsburghers love their sports, so it's fun to just watch a game in a bar. There are also a lot of museums, gardens, & parks. However, it may take a while to be able to get out into the city given academic demands.
In a nutshell, CMU is a great place to go to school. It's located in Pittsburgh's Oakland region which is not-to-far but not-to-close to Downtown Pittsburgh. Oakland is also home to the University of Pittsburgh, among other colleges/universities, so it is in a pretty college-age friendly area. Oakland is also home to the Carnegie Musuem of Natural History, which is a fun place to visit from time-to-time since it is constantly changing -- and FREE for all CMU students. In addition to all the great aspects of Oakland, it is possible to explore the City of Pittsburgh (and its surroundings) with your CMU ID card since it grants you free and unlimited access to the region's public transportation system. So, you can head over to one of Pittsburgh's great sporting arenas/parks and see the local team play or to the Carnegie Science Center for a more casual outing. As for CMU itself, I cannot express how wonderful the atmosphere of the campus is. There are going-ons all the time -- all you have to do is find them. The size of the school is one of its best features. The smaller university setting gives you a chance to develop relationships with other students, as well as faculty and staff on campus. When people are told I'm a CMU student (at the risk of sounding egocentric and snobbish here) the reaction is usually along the lines of admiration. This is due to CMU's reputation of providing a quality education which helps to produce modivated students who are considered above average, in terms of quality. As for an unusual niche that CMU has, well it's just too hard to explain in words -- but at CMU we call it Carnival -- which comprises (mainly) of two things -- booth and buggy. Booth allows organizations/groups of students to literally construct massive carnival booths that are meant to inspire and impress (which they most certainly do). Buggy on the other hand is a racing competition that is truly one-of-a-kind, from what I can gather. Students build these "buggies" and race against one another in a soapbox-like, but oh-so-much-better manner. Young women are literally encapsulated in the buggy and pushed up and down hills; it sounds crazy, I know, but you'd have to see it to believe it and truly understand it.
Its a remarkable academic environment. You're getting a top education, but surrounded by the most down to earth, NON arrogant people. Pittsburgh is a great city for college kids. Sports are huge so the environment is always great in any season, theres plenty of other colleges (Pitt just a couple blocks away), enough bars, restaurants, shopping, and museums to keep you busy, but small enough to feel intimate and NOT AT ALL an expensive city to live in! There's not much CMU pride in terms of atheltics, thats for sure. People love to complain about the all nighters we always pull (its true), and spend their entire freshman year threatening to transfer. Almost no one ever does. What's cool about the school is that is has so many diverse strengths. Its known for its top engineering and computer science programs, yet have some of the most competitive Design and Theater programs in the country as well.
You walk in smart, you walk out smarter and you learn all you can.
CMU is eclectic. Our strongest points are the art (drama, design, architecture, music) and the technology (engineering, robotics, computer science etc.) Put that together and imagine it in your head. Yea, you've guessed it. On a nice spring day, the Cut (our name for the yard down the center of campus) is filled with girls in long skirts listening to guys playing guitar, a barbeque at the Fence, and kids with huge backpacks riding their bikes to class. you have the lone girls reading a book under a huge tree and guys throwing a frisbee around. Of course, Pittsburgh is pretty cold in the winter, so this view is limited. however, it does give a pretty good view of the people who make up this campus. No matter who you are, you can find somebody to relate to here. The people you choose to make your friends are going to change you because they'll pool from different friends, interests, and experiences. It's awesome.
I think that we're in a great part of the city. We have free museum passes, three professional sports teams, other universities, shopping streets, coffee shops and great bars. I do spend a lot of time at the library getting my work done, but once it's finished, there's a lot to do. There's a huge incentive for managing your social and academic life. A lot of students complain about the workload, and I've certainly done it, but while working at an internship this summer, I realized that CMU students are able to function and excel at such a high level and literally jump into the workforce and impress people from the beginning, all thanks to our ability to manage time and work. Being introduced as a Carnegie Mellon student elicits a lot of positive responses. At face value, people might not see CMU as having a lot of school pride. People attend football and basketball games, but it's not anywhere close to a state school. Our athletes are our peers, people that we sit next to in class and study with, so our school pride comes from supporting our friends, and other very unique CMU traditions. The annual Spring Carnival with BOOTH and BUGGY is one of the most memorable times for students. Greeks and other students build small carnival houses for the community and compete for the first prize, while Buggy participants spend the spring semester training for the spring relay race with the buggies, often waking up at 6am on Saturdays and Sundays to use the road. It's a different kind of pride, but it's totally unique to Carnegie Mellon. Sometimes I feel like it's something that you can't understand until you use your first powertool at Booth, or stand around trying to stay warm at Buggy practice, or sneak out to the Fence and paint it for the first time.
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