Changing your life 180 degrees
Meet Anastasiia Runova, a second-year Computer Science student at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S., who told us of her experiences moving away from home and how she learned to navigate university life in North America.
Finding Carnegie Mellon
Despite her limited resources, Anastasiia found Carnegie Mellon through her keen interest in computer science and highly technical background. She told Cybernews Academy that she “spent a lot of time researching the university, doing virtual tours, and asking current and former students for their insight to get a sense of what was going on” at Carnegie Mellon. Due to her highly technical background, Anastasiia saw that this university could be a perfect fit. Don’t let universities far away from home put you off– you can do a range of virtual tours, get in touch with former and current students, and access various resources that will help you make an informed decision surrounding your prospective university.
Anastasiia experienced a bit of a culture shock when moving to the U.S. She mentioned that “it would be a lie to say I had never heard anything of American culture” as she had to apply to a North American university, pass the state exams, and write her essays. Despite this, it was a cultural shock, “like diving into icy water.” Anastasiia told us what she took for granted while struck with a new life. “Everyone around me speaks English all the time, 24 hours per day. It was weird initially, like a sudden influx of information swimming in my brain. It was strange. It was hard.” Even going to a North American grocery store was a difficult task a the time, let alone going to a lecture. However, she managed to bypass these emotions and dive head-first into university life. The vibrant and welcoming atmosphere accompanying Carnegie Mellon helped Anastasiia assimilate into this new environment.
Vibrant and very welcoming
During her interview with Cybernews Academy, Anastasiia mentioned the culture and atmosphere that surrounds Carnegie Mellon. She spoke fondly of her campus community: "The culture of support and teamwork seemed attractive to me." The atmosphere is vibrant and welcoming, filled with people willing to help. She observed that the campus energy displayed a perfect work-life balance that would aid her professional development. She said confidently, "It seemed like the perfect balance and a good place to start my future path as a software engineer and computer scientist." This future computer scientist mentioned the reputation surrounding North American universities and how they are "pretty chill." You can choose your courses, and many people party more than they study, or at least that's the reputation American universities have. However, Carnegie Mellon defied these expectations as Anastasiia wanted to study and study hard. "It has strong academics but is still an American university." This future professional said that despite her hard-working mentality, she still wanted to have friends and a life outside of work, but she would be reminded daily that this is where she would start her future career. Anastasiia made the right decision, as Carnegie Mellon presented all the necessary resources and the appropriate atmosphere that allowed her to grow.
Anastasiia told Cybernews Academy of her studies at Carnegie Mellon: “The strong core computer science curriculum was one of the main things that attracted me to Carnegie Mellon.” From freshman year or your first year of study, you have a particular set of courses that focus on writing code, reasoning your code, and making your code understandable for others. This core curriculum also includes lessons from different areas, which helps to diversify the curriculum. Anastasiia outlines one of the more unique methods used at Carnegie Mellon, their adaptive teaching style: “The main thing about this core curriculum and computer science in Carnegie Mellon is that they don’t just want us to teach how to write the code using the current standards and conventions in the industry right now. They want us to be able to think and search for the information we need to problem-solve in the most effective way possible.” Due to the ever-changing industry, Carnegie Mellon is teaching its students how to adapt to the market and setting their students up for success in the real world. “You always stay in the stream and always be on top of things.”
Studying brings bountiful opportunities to those who participate– however, it does come with quite a few lessons. "One thing I've learned is that computer science is really not an individual sport," she laughed. We might imagine that a subject like computer science is independent and individual. Anastasiia soon learned that you must work together to get things done. Coming from a competitive computer science background, she would compete with different students across her country. She would often participate in coding contests, solving a set of algorithmic computer science problems under limited time conditions. "Everyone is competing to be the strongest; it's very individualistic, but computer science isn't like that; it's all about teamwork." She gave a few examples of how her field is team-based: "With web applications, for example, someone is doing backends, someone else is doing the frontend, you have different roles, and you have to cooperate and work with each other to create an amazing end product." This reflects the industry standard, as there are customers, people responsible for customer relations, people who deal with finances, and all other roles. Anastasiia appreciates how learning at Carnegie Mellon directly correlates to industry standards. Carnegie Mellon is very cooperative: "They try to make us work together, not only with other students but with teaching assistants and professors." Once Anastasiia had transitioned from an individualistic learning style and adopted a more cooperative approach, she mentioned that her grades went up, and she felt happier.
Anastasiia told Cybernews Academy about her most recent internship experience. She worked for Red Hat, a large company responsive for many open-source projects like a Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Open source is a project or company open to external contributions, meaning that it welcomes people who are enthusiastic about projects and want to improve them, she explained. “There are screening processes, so you cannot change whatever you want as you risk breaking an application that millions of people use daily.” In this internship, Anastasiia worked on a Cluster API Provider, which allows the public to interact with Kubernetes clusters used widely to store an manage applications. Anastasiia told us that she had been working on this project for four months, perhaps even longer, as the ramp-up was huge. A Carnegie Mellon faculty member facilitated this internship, allowing her to practice her skills outside the classroom. Anastasiia told us of one exceptional experience she had during her internship. “Getting my first pull request approved was one of the highlights of my university experience.” A piece of Anastasiia’s code was used in an extensive project she was on, which means that people around the world will use this code. This is a brilliant achievement for Anastasiia and works to demonstrate the invaluable experience that internships and out-of-school training can provide. Unfortunately, internships are scarce in the U.S., so she was grateful for this opportunity to gain some industry experience and reinforce her future goals.
What’s next for Anastasiia
Anastasiia Runova looks forward to enjoying her life at Carnegie Mellon, pursuing passion projects, and moving towards her future career goals. Right now, she is focused on her internship search for next summer. In the future, she wants to become a developer and use the skills she has gained from her internship and her studies.
This budding computer scientist left Cybernews Academy with some words of wisdom. "Changing your life 180 degrees is hard. It's going to feel bad in the beginning. You might feel depressed, you might feel lonely, and you might feel like you cannot comprehend what is happening around you. But hang on in there because eventually, you will start finding little things for yourself. Then bit by bit, you can build your new life. No matter how hard it feels in the moment, keep going."