Carnegie Mellon is one weird beast of a physics department: they try to invite what waitlistees they can. Per Roy Briere, since CMU, unlike most physics departments, actually earmarks spots in the class for the waitlistees, waitlistees are still in the running. That said, even if they actually stand a chance, there actually were only two internationals visiting, admits or waitlistees: some Brazilian student interested in observational cosmology and me. Plus there are quite a bit of current students I talked to over the course of the past three days that were admitted off the waitlist. At most other schools, however (e.g. WUSTL), the waitlist is there as a reserve against having too many students that decline.
Now for the actual trip. I had to wake up at 3AM so that I could actually catch some early-bird flight to Detroit, and eat before I could leave home, from where I took a flight to Pittsburgh, and I thought that airport security and border pre-clearance would take a rather long time. As with most early-bird flights, that flight to Detroit had a large number of empty seats. On such short-haul flights on regional jets, the carry-on allowance is, in fact, twofold: one for the cargo hold, in which case you check that in at the gate and you also claim that at the gate, and another one for the personal item.
Once I arrived at Pittsburgh, I had the impression that my waitlist position has to be rather high (even given the terms and conditions, as well as the waitlist process at CMU) for CMU to spend this much on an international student (even though the airfare for me in particular is not any higher than for those students that would come to CMU from Sonoma State or UC Irvine) to visit, since every single visitor had the chauffeur service from the airport to the hotel in a luxury taxi.
Because I was the first to arrive, I had to do some scouting around Shadyside to locate one of the key areas of the second night, that it, Trapuzzano. And the Carnegie Mellon campus, with a whole bunch of pictures from it (I couldn’t get a clear shot at the outside of Wean Hall though) and even a T-shirt from CMU (couldn’t get one with the university seal on it, unlike at UPenn last summer) as proof of visit.
Finally, at the opening night reception, there were a sizeable number of visitors, but obviously not all of them. As for the food: crudities, egg rolls. And there were a few current graduate students, but, between them, the center of attention was obviously Tabitha Voytek, a student that just defended her dissertation on some radio-astronomy topic a couple of weeks, or even days, ago. For all the fun I had on the first day, I had but one frustration: I couldn’t access my email boxes (and that seems to be an issue while I am on the road) for much of the first day.