Friday, February 22, 2013

The best of Carnegie Mellon

It is now more than three and a half years since I moved to Pittsburgh. I do not believe I have senioritis quite yet, but graduation is approaching at an ever-increasing rate, and I have already been considering my future for a couple of months. And while it certainly is the time to think about the future and the many great opportunities it holds, it is also the time to evaluate the past and appreciate the best of Pittsburgh and CMU while I am still here. So, here is my attempt to compile my best memories from four years at CMU.

As an incoming freshman, you are required to attend one week of orientation before classes start. This week is packed with exciting activities, all aimed at getting to know each other better. I got a lot of great friends in that first week, and we had tremendous fun. We went bowling, went on a boat trip with big speakers and dance music, and we played "I gotta feeling" by The Black Eyed Peas over and over again. We even had a giant "rock, paper, scissors" tournament among all the (over 1500!) incoming freshmen at Playfair.

The atmosphere was simply amazing, and everybody felt comfortable randomly talking to everybody else. All without a single drop of alcohol.

The housing communities
From my first year in Henderson House, through my sophomore year at the Neville Co-op, junior year in West Wing and senior year in Morewood Gardens, an excellent community and great friends have always surrounded me. I have had some truly excellent roommates, which I hope to keep in touch with as I leave Carnegie Mellon and leap into the future. Who would have thought I'd be a best friend with one from the Bronx?

Yuva India Restaurant
This restaurant simply serves the best meal that a man could ever wish for. Located at Craig Street, this is where I end up whenever it is too cold or too wet to walk to Oakland. Frankly, I might end up here even it is warm and bright as well, because the Lamb Karahi is just amazingly good; at least when they get it right, which they do most of the time. At least 50% of the time. Oh, and the woman in charge who wears sunglasses indoors? Priceless!

The academic community
I have no other word than outstanding to describe the academic community I have found here at Carnegie Mellon. It was the rumour of great work ethics and friendly geeks that attracted med to this school in the first place, and the CMU community has exceeded my every expectation. This is a school were everybody takes deep pride in their work, and I have always been encouraged by my peers and teachers to give my very best in everything I do.

While we certainly had a superb community in my TAF class at Knarvik Vidaregåande Skule (high school), our focus on quality and work ethics was not quite at the level of CMU. The support that this community has given me in pursuing excellence is something for which I will be ever grateful. I now have an appreciation for hard work that I did not have before. It has grown on me this that Andrew Carnegie once said: "My heart is in the work."

The weather
Growing up in the Bergen Area on the west coast of Norway, I am acquainted to rain; thus, the rumour I found on the Internet about terrible Pittsburgh weather did not at all scare me. And when I got here, it turned out that the weather is excellent! Maybe a little too hot the first two weeks of fall, and a little too cold the first two months of spring, but generally: the weather is excellent. The sun shines regularly, the temperature is great and the rain comes in sudden thunderstorms rather than being spread thin across several days. It is great! It was particularly funny my freshman year, when 30 cm of snow fell on one night. The streets were closed for three days! It gave me time to make this video about Pjeff.

Volunteering at an old monastery.
We restored the building so it could
be used for after-school programs
The clubs and organisations
The variety of organisations on campus is tremendous, and I have been blessed to participate in several of them. My freshman year I went to the Dominican Republic with Alternative Break, and started my very own Floorball Club with a friend from Singapore. The university supported us by providing us with a place to play, and helped fund some of our equipment costs. I have also been a part of one of the many great Christian fellowships on campus, an ad-hoc soccer group, the table tennis club, and the pool club, as well as academic honour societies.

The educational flexibility
At Carnegie Mellon, we are allowed to pursue depth and breath sequences of our own choice, by putting together our own schedule every semester. As a student in Electrical and Computer Engineering, I have been able to take classes from the Departments of Civil Engineering, History, Philosophy, Computer Science and Music that I find interesting. I have for instance taken several interesting courses in religion, and the music courses I am allowed to take counts towards my general education requirements. I believe it is an excellent quality of the education model that the students gain deep insights in more than a single field.

The ice cream
Pittsburgh, and in particular the Oakland and Squirrel Hill areas, are the Mecca and Medina of great ice cream. Carnegie Mellon, being strategically located between the two, is thus a great starting point when hunting for the sugar shot of the day: Go east to Squirrel Hill, and you will experience the deepest, darkest, most fulfilling chocolate milkshake that man has ever made at the Cold Stone Creamery; Go west to Oakland, and your taste buds will praise you in utter astonishment for the chocolate with hot fudge you got at Dave & Andy's Homemade Ice Cream.

The professors and teaching assistants
Getting to know the teachers and professors have been one of my great experiences at Carnegie Mellon. The vast majority of them do their upmost to provide plenty of time where the students may ask clarifying questions, and the professor or his assistants will answer general or specific questions to the best of their ability. While I was ignorantly unaware of how great this offer really was my freshman year, I really started appreciating this form of learning when I became a teaching assistant myself, first semester of sophomore year. Talking about course material (or even material that only is only vaguely related to the course) with course staff is simply one of the best ways I could possibly learn, and also a good way to find fellow students to work with.

One of my many favourite professors, Helmut Vogel
Having the opportunity to teach as a course assistant for three semesters myself was also a rewarding experience, both because of how well I got to know the professor, and also because of the rewarding interactions with students in the course. I sincerely hope I will have the chance to do more (that resembles) teaching in my future career.

Research opportunities
The research opportunities at Carnegie Mellon are wide and diverse. As an undergraduate in Electrical and Computer Engineering, I have been encouraged to participate in research projects with world-renowned professors, and one of the research projects I have participated in have already shown some quite remarkable results. Applying what we learn to a real research projects is immensely rewarding, and is an excellent supplement to the required Capstone project classes that I think everybody ought to take advantage of.

The game room
How often do you get to play as much pool as you want, on good tables and with excellent opponents? Answer: All the years that you spend on Carnegie Mellon. The game room community is diverse, and covers table tennis players, DDR –dancers, foosball players and pool players, as well as the many occasional flirters who attempt to teach their targets how to hold a pool stick, and those who just play randomly with a bunch of friends. Yup, there is an air hockey table and a curling –table as well.

In sum, I am very happy that I studied at Carnegie Mellon, and I would have chosen to study here again. I hope to maintain the best friendships I have made here, and I hope to come back to visit during spring carnival some time. It has been an honour staying here, and I am confident that Carnegie Mellon University will continue to excel in teaching and research in years to come. I pray that its students, staff and faculty will continue to see the fruits of their hard labour, experience personal fulfilment and live in happiness. As they would put it here in America:

May God bless Carnegie Mellon.


  1. dear sir
    thanks for the update. my son has joined this yeat with CMU for MS electrical and computer science. what is your suugestion for him to double excel in his studies . he is good in music and play lot of musical instuments like sax,fluite,keys etc.