Before coming to CMU, I never knew what “stress culture” was. I went to a public high school where I was a diligent, hardworking student, like every other person here. I took all AP classes, had a few extracurriculars, and boom – I was accepted to one of the hardest universities in the nation.
It was after my first semester here that I realized there was a severe problem. People prided themselves on all their hard classes and their extensive course load. I knew a person taking Concepts and 112 simultaneously, all because “he just had to” and “his floor mate did it too.” I didn’t understand. Why would you purposely put all that pressure on yourself? Was there a need to prove yourself? Heck, you had already done enough by coming here in the first place.
I didn’t come to brag about how little sleep I got or how many units I was taking this semester. In all honesty, who cares? CMU is not a place for competition. It is a place of academic excellence, and we are the brightest individuals both nationally and internationally. We should be bringing each other up, not pulling each other down. Imagine what we’d accomplish if we all helped one another.
A classmate was surprised when I told her I was spending my Monday night with a friend downtown rather than studying for our Matrices exam the next day. “Why on earth would you go to dinner and not review the practice exam?” she asked incredulously.
I replied, “I know what I know. Reviewing for another hour isn’t going to help me learn anything more.”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned at CMU, it’s to go with the flow. I am still that hard worker I was in high school. I care about my GPA and strive to do well on assignments, but pushing yourself to dangerous extents isn't healthy. It’s no surprise that prospective freshman gawk at the students in Gates and the zombies walking around campus. Maybe we can change that, and show these students how much fun we’re actually having. Yeah, the classes are hard. Yes, the homework is insane. But look at us, we’re a thriving community of intellectuals. We are fighters. We are academically gifted, but we have compassion for one another. We give back to the community. I came to college to learn, yes. But I also came to explore, to branch out, and to meet new people. I came to explore my passion. We need to realize that our calling isn’t “computer science” or “economics.” It’s how we use that degree that matters. Use your Carnegie Mellon degree to do good in the world.