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Sunday, October 21, 2012

My CMU Sleeping Bag Weekend Experience

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You haven’t seen the full CMU experience unless you’ve
 been there at night.  This bridge leading to the Gates Hillman
Centers changes between an array of colors.  Many other
buildings illuminate during the night, casting a
spectacular scene throughout the campus.

I had the honor of spending last weekend at Carnegie Mellon University for their first Sleeping Bag Weekend of the year.  Sleeping Bag Weekend is an event that gives prospective CMU students the chance to stay overnight at the campus and experience what it is really like to call it home.  It starts Sunday morning and carries on into Monday, when prospective students may stay as long as they please, shadowing classes and attending sessions.

Sunday morning, I set out early for Pittsburgh, a truly beautiful city to house a college campus.  Previously ranked as the best city in America to live in, it is no wonder that it houses more college students than every American city besides Philadelphia and Boston.  The architecture of Carnegie Mellon’s campus fits in perfectly with the scenery.  As one first steps foot on campus, the first thing that catches the eye is the sloped pole with statuettes climbing it; it is one of only three in the world.  Every building on campus holds architecture that is equally as amazing, with even the smallest details distinguished in these structures.

When we first walked into the University Center, staff members greeted us and offered breakfast and a free t-shirt.  Interestingly, there was a map that we could label our hometown on.  While most of the people were from the East Coast, there were several people from California and western states that had flown into Pittsburgh just to attend this event.

During Sleeping Bag Weekend, the staff members and students truly made us feel as if we were part of the campus.  Before we even started the information session, every person in the auditorium introduced himself or herself.  Surrounding me were people from every background going into everything from acting to computer science.  The thing that the admissions staff stressed during their information sessions was the fact that unlike most campuses, CMU is an open campus where the students are free to take any classes they wish, even if they have nothing to do with their major.  I really liked the idea of this myself because I hope to major in electrical and computer engineering but would also like to gain a background in business, design, and music.

Throughout the day, we could choose from information sessions, speak with current students, and explore the campus.  Around dinnertime, we met in a conference room, where we played games that brought us together and met our hosts.  Hosts were directed with students that wished to gain a degree in the same major.  I was placed with a student majoring in electrical and computer engineering.  I was given the opportunity to see what CMU housing was like and was surprised by the size and quality of the suite style living dormitories.  The student that I was paired with did an excellent job of making me feel welcome, showing me all of the hidden gems on campus and explaining to me what it was really like to be a CMU student.

One of the many hilarious hidden gems on the
campus.  The Carnegie Nature Reserve includes
a diverse range of animals, such as squirrels,
chipmunks, and cats.

That evening, I got the chance to experience what CMU was really like.  Most students had work to do, but unlike other schools, they were not confined to dorms while doing it.  These students had incorporated work into their outgoing lives and socialized around the campus while getting things done.  As one of the most vigorous programs in the country, CMU truly follows the message of Andrew Carnegie, with students having their hearts in their work.  However, they still managed to go out and have fun.

That night, I experienced what activities CMU students engaged in for fun; I was taking part in the first humans vs. zombies event of the year.  Everywhere around me, students yielded Nerf guns and Nerf swords and were ready for battle.  Their goal was to fend off the oncoming zombies and prevent themselves from being touched and turned into one of these creatures.

Wielding my headband in preparation for humans
vs. zombies.  Unfortunately, I was unarmed and later
attacked by a zombie that evening.

The thing that impressed me with this event was not only the fun in it but also the work placed into it.  The students had actually created an online website form that tracked the scores and rankings of each student.  This brings me on to one of the things that I truly admired about this campus: the students love computers and are not afraid to show it.  In most schools, computer engineering and science departments are tucked away and unheard of under the praise of football teams and larger programs.  However, at this school, computers are one of the larger programs.  Signs advertising apps created by students filled the campus.  Students there work on amazing projects, such as sending a robot to the moon and building an animatronic car.  The students at CMU are already creating revolutionary technology before they even graduate.

If you are considering Carnegie Mellon University, Sleeping Bag Weekend is an event that you must attend.  It shows a completely different side of the school, unseen in the rushed tour that aims to show you everything in little time.  The little things that are not shown in the tour are what make this university so unique.  The hidden gems and places on the campus, the engaged student body, and the atmosphere for success are what makes this college one of the most successful in the world.  Sleeping Bag Weekend helped me to seal Carnegie Mellon University as my number one choice of colleges to attend.
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