Carnegie Mellon University
BackgroundInterview Date:April 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Graduation Year: 2021
Sexual Orientation: Straight
High School Experience: Public school in Los Angeles, CA with a graduating class of about 250 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: International Business and Marketing double major
Minor: Human-Computer Interaction
Extracurricular Activities: I [had a leadership position] in Asian Students Association, I was a model in the Lunar Gala, I’ve been dancing in a dance showcase called Dancer’s Symposium, and I work at a bar.
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
A lot of students come here and are strictly focused on academics, the Lunar Gala and Dancer’s Symposium really helped me destress and not think that academics are the whole world. I really liked having things that were in my life that were not focused on school.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your majors?
I’m in mainly business classes, and a lot of the general education classes I’ve been in so far have case studies that talk about a situation that happened where a company had to make a decision and we’ll talk about whether we think the company made a good decision after we’ve read all the information pertaining to the case.
Is there anything that you feel your majors’ departments do especially well or especially poorly?
The business program does a really good job with career counseling really well for specific aspects of my major. For me, it’s not very helpful because I want to go into the fashion industry and they don’t focus a lot on the marketing side of things. But, a lot of students come here for investment banking, accounting, and finance which they’re really good at providing opportunities and alumni to reach out to.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s pretty competitive, especially for classes that are graded on a curve. [It’s evident when you look at] the study habits of other students. Knowing that everyone is working as hard as they do challenges you to work harder because you know that if you do worse than them your grade will suffer.
How accessible are your professors?
They’re pretty accessible. They have their own office hours for a few hours a week and a lot of them have an open-door policy so you can go in and talk to them.
What has been your favorite class so far?
I took a Design class called Design Communication Fundamentals. You worked on your own project that was completely your own from start to finish. A lot of other classes I’ve taken for Human-Computer Interaction emphasize a lot of group work while the business classes are just knowledge-based and are not as fun.
Why did you choose your combination of majors? And are you happy with your choice?
I wanted to do design and go to a school for fashion design, but my parents didn’t let me do that. I want to work in the fashion industry and the other channels to do that is through business. Originally, I came in doing Marketing and Operations Management, but then I realized that I didn’t want to do Operations Management. I really want to travel and take classes that help me build up skills to be able to work internationally and between countries, so I’m doing International Business so I can learn that and have skills necessary to work in a big company. I then am doing Marketing because it’s the aspect of business that I think is most necessary when it comes to the fashion industry.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on and around campus?
Freshman year: Morewood Gardens with one roommate
Sophomore year: I live in an off-campus apartment with two other people.
How was transitioning from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh, PA?
People actually ask me why I moved from L.A. to Pittsburgh all the time. The weather is bad, that’s the biggest thing because it’s always so cold every day and it never stops. There’s also not a lot around Carnegie Mellon in terms of food and activities and in L.A. there is always something to do or somewhere to go. The other thing is at Carnegie Mellon you’re too busy to actually do anything or go anywhere, but if you have time and want to there are only one or two places.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel like it’s pretty safe. I’m often walking home alone at 3 or 4AM and nothing has ever happened to me or anyone that I know that would make me feel unsafe in that community. One of the few things that have happened is the Tree of Life shooting that was a block away from where I live now, so that was pretty scary. Other than that, there has been nothing that I have personally experienced that make me feel unsafe.
Pros and cons of being located in Pittsburgh, PA?
People are pretty much only here to go to school here. There’s not much around that is nice or attractive. Because of that, people typically stay around campus. If you want to go get food there is food further into Squirrel Hill or near the University of Pittsburgh.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I don’t go out that much. Last year I went to some frat parties. They’re really easy to get into, you basically just have to know someone who knows someone who knows someone in the frat. Everyone is super friendly here. The school’s so small that a lot of the people who go out all know each there so it’s nice that every time I want to go somewhere I usually know the people there or know who’s hosting it.
What nights of the week are there usually parties?
Friday and Saturday. There is also a bar called Shady Grove that people like to go to for Wine Wednesdays. Freshmen usually try to go out as much as they can, but then after that, the people I know usually just hang out with friends and do a kickback sort of thing.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
Our Greek life is super different in that being in Greek life is a small aspect of who you are here. CMU prioritizes academics so much that your major is your first defining factor of who you are. Greek life is a side thing that you do. We don’t really have tiers of frats because everyone is super individualistic and the frat boys here are really sweet. CMU isn’t a super party heavy school so even when frats have things, they aren’t the ragers that you might expect from a regular frat party.
What is an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
People don’t really do much here. There are plays and stuff every once in a while and Scotch’n’Soda is a drama organization that will have plays and the School of Music will have recitals and stuff like that. I’ve never been to any of them, I don’t think they’re very well publicized.
How happy were you with the nightlife at Carnegie Mellon? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’d like it if the bars and clubs were better or there were more of them it’d be nice. Otherwise, I don’t go out too much so it doesn’t affect me too much. For someone who doesn’t prioritize that stuff, I’m fine with it. But, I know there are people who have chosen not to come to CMU because they heard it’s a really lame school. If you’re trying to find things to do, you can find them. I think it’s perfect for someone who will go out but doesn’t try to go out all the time.
How did you meet your closest friends?
The people I live with now I met at Orientation Week. Everybody says that you’re not going to keep your friends from O-Week, and that’s mostly true. Somehow, we all stuck together last year and we’re living together this year. Other friends, I’ve met through classes.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
Like 60% of students you’ll probably never meet because they don’t show their face outside of class. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I feel like there’s a hidden community of students that just work all the time and have their own little group of friends. I’ve never met them because they’re busy all the time. With the people who do try to go out, if you are one of them then you probably know all the other ones because it’ll be the same people. That’s mostly people in Greek life and a few people who are not in Greek life.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientation mix socially?
A good amount. I don’t think any of those are factors in social circles here. It’s mostly the people in your major because then you’ll have a lot more classes with them, more reason to interact with them, and you’ll probably be friends. Like, I’m friends with a lot of business people only because I have classes with them. Your major is the main divider of social circles instead of all that other stuff.
How do you like the size of Carnegie Mellon in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that influenced your experience? [There are about 6,400 undergraduates.]
I think it’s perfect. It’s similar to my high school in that it’s small but not too small. I’ll always be meeting new people but I feel like I know a lot of people here. If somebody asked me if I knew somebody in the business school, I’d probably know who they were talking about. I like knowing a good amount of people on the campus and like saying hi to people when I pass by them.
How would you describe the student body?
Pretty much most of them who are here are here for academics. They’re all very intelligent and they value that a lot. If people look down on you, it’s because they’re in a better major. We have a social hierarchy of majors, so Computer Science is the top and then all the engineering and all the STEM stuff, then passed that is business and then the humanities. While other schools have social hierarchies based on Greek life or something, here it’s just about your major because people think that determines how intelligent you are.
How would you describe the East Asian Community on campus? How strong is it?
It’s really strong. I [had a leadership position] in the Asian Students Association, which is one of the biggest organizations on campus, and it’s very easy to be close with them. When I was doing that, they were some of my closest friends. I know pretty much all of the people in the organization and people are really, really willing to help each other out. We have a bunch of group chats.
Has the alumni network helps you find internships or jobs?
Not me personally. I’ve never tried to pursue that so I don’t really know.
To what extent have you used the career office? How helpful have they been?
I haven’t ever used the career office. I talk to my academic counselor but that is more for school related things.
What computer programs have you learned through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
I’ve learned the things you need for business, so I’ve used Excel a ton. I’ve taken like three classes just on Excel. Then I took the easiest Computer Science class and I learned a bit of Python.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating has the office been to your needs?
In my experience, they haven’t been super helpful. I had special circumstances that I was trying to work through and get them to understand so they could help me out a little more. Because it’s federally regulated and based on taxes, they just said that they can’t do anything about it.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Carnegie Mellon before entering as a freshman?
Within the business school, there are majors that they excel in and majors they are not so strong in. I may have not chosen to go here because the majors they are very strong in I’m not that interested in. I was hoping that even if I did a business major I would be able to do fashion and design on the side, but here the design is very technical and focused on product design and service design.
What is something that a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
If you’re visiting during Carnival season, which is right now, you should check out the Booth because people work really hard on that.
Reasons to attend Carnegie Mellon:
1) The people are the best. They’re different from what I expected because there aren’t a lot of social groupings and anyone can be friends with anyone even if they are seemingly very different. I have a lot of friends with different personalities that I didn’t expect to get along with. The individual personalities here are really, really cool.
2) The name recognition is really important. It’s a really good school and employers do care about stuff like that.
Reasons to not attend Carnegie Mellon:
1) If having a good social scene is really, really important to you, then maybe don’t come here. I think it takes a particular type of person to enjoy it here. It’s definitely not a super social school and I know people who have transferred out because of that.
2) There’s no good food around here, especially for vegans.