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Seniors share their experiences at the First Lectures Series

Credit: Barbara Samaniego/ Credit: Barbara Samaniego/ Credit: Barbara Samaniego/ Credit: Barbara Samaniego/

Every first-year reads Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture before starting at Carnegie Mellon. The book tells Pausch’s story of his persistence to keep a positive outlook on life despite his battle with cancer and leaving his final legacy. During his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon, Pausch offered his final words of wisdom and inspired the audience members, particularly the students, to educate and empower themselves before they embark on their individual ventures.

The Last Lecture, inspired The First Lectures Series, which is a series of student lectures given by seniors before they graduate from the university. These lectures are read in three separate events throughout the semester. During each event, two peer-nominated seniors share their experiences at Carnegie Mellon and offer their advice to current students.

This Wednesday marked the first installment of this year’s First Lectures Series. Students flocked to Doherty Hall to hear seniors Sneha Kannoth, who is majoring in neuroscience, and Jeremy Applebaum, a chemistry major, tell their stories.

Kannoth’s Story:

Sneha Kannoth started off as a premedicine mathematics major. She was obsessed with grades, which is a problem that many Carnegie Mellon students can empathize with. However, Kannoth had a brilliant revelation. She decided to officially declare five different majors not just because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to pursue, but because she was so afraid of remaining undecided. Some of these majors were mathematics, biology, and chemistry. After remaining in major limbo for a while, she did finally decide to pursue a degree in neuroscience.

To conclude her lecture she imparted the following words to current Carnegie Mellon students: “I propose we graduate, along with our respective major, with a degree in ‘undecided.’”

Her overall message: it’s okay to be undecided.

Applebaum’s Story:

Jeremy Applebaum was admitted to Carnegie Mellon off of the waitlist. He described his happiness, surprise, and excitement upon receiving this last minute notice of acceptance. Without hesitation, he decided to submit his deposit.

Soon thereafter, he discovered that his decision to attend Carnegie Mellon would not always leave him with the feelings of excitement he initially felt upon notice of his acceptance. He found himself facing some negative consequences.

For one, Applebaum constantly felt like he had to prove himself because he was initially waitlisted. Not only did he feel pressured to prove himself, but he also started to doubt his ability to fall in line with the high work rigor that is often associated with the students of Carnegie Mellon. He described a moment when one professor showed Jeremy’s class a slide that read “my heart is in the” followed by a blank line.

Applebaum stated that he “didn’t have anything to fill the blank line.”

Throughout his life, Applebaum felt as though he was constantly being told “no.” At the end of his lecture he proposed that our generation be the “just-say-yes generation.” He encouraged the audience to say yes to new environments, new things, and new opportunities.

To conclude, Applebaum showed pictures of what he said yes to; underwear bike races, spontaneous ski trips, and other unique opportunities.
“Being in college is a license to be dumb, so put yourself out there and say yes.”

The next lecture in this series will take place on March 16 from 4:30 to 6 p.m., with student speakers Rubini Naidu, a psychology major, and electrical and computer engineering major Nitsan Shai. The final lecture will take place on April 13 during the same time with electrical and computer engineering and human-computer interaction double major Erik Pintar, and electrical and computer engineering major Wole Idowu. These lectures will take place in Porter Hall 100.