Looking to the Fall: Studying Abroad in Paris

Here on campus, we’ve just started our finals period! Even in the midst of exams and papers, though, our ambassadors are looking ahead. Sophomore Shanna Smith discusses her plans to study abroad next semester, all while juggling the requirements of being a biology major on a pre-med track!

By: Shanna Smith ’18

I was once told that for me, studying abroad would be difficult, if not impossible. Touring colleges, I was always afraid I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my dreams and go abroad due to my rigorous major, Biological Sciences on a pre-medical track. During my first month here at Cornell, I hesitantly approached my pre-medical advisor, Ana Adinolfi, and asked how difficult it would be to study abroad. Her response: incredibly easy.

210Having studied French since middle school, I continued my francophone education at Cornell during my first semester. I initially began French here to fulfill my Arts & Sciences language requirement, but I immediately fell in love with Cornell’s French program. Taking French has allowed me to think in a much different way than in my biology courses. During French class I step away from biological processes and organic molecules towards an incredibly difficult yet rewarding way of thinking – in words that a couple years ago had absolutely no meaning to me. Cornell not only offers French grammar courses but also courses in French literature, films, culture, and the most unique one I have seen: pronunciation. The latter I am currently enrolled in and I cannot express how much more fluent I feel and sound in the language. As a result, I have taken French all four of my semesters here at Cornell, far beyond what’s necessary to fulfill the language requirement. By my freshman spring, I knew I had to study abroad in France.

In just three months, I will study in Paris with one of Cornell’s amazing French-speaking programs, EDUCO. I will take classes at universities in Paris and be completely immersed in the French language and Parisian culture. A major focus of the EDUCO program is to integrate students into French culture in all aspects. Thus, I will be a true Parisian student, not a tourist traveling to France for a semester. My courses will mainly fulfill distribution requirements outside of biology. However, I am not completely taking a break from my major. The EDUCO program can set me up with biology research in Paris, and it will count as one of the four courses EDUCO students must take!

219I utilized the Arts & Sciences study abroad advisors’ open office hours as a resource multiple times when going through the application process, and both Dean Patricia Wasyliw and Dean Clare McMillan were incredibly helpful. They made the application process as easy and as non-stressful as possible; they truly want every student to have the opportunity to go abroad. Ms. Adinolfi also helped me lay out a 4-year college schedule that allows me to spend a semester abroad.

I cannot wait for this opportunity to see and appreciate Paris, because it holds so much beauty, history, and culture. I will not be limited to Paris, however. There will be various trips scheduled specifically for my program to let students explore other parts of France, and I’ll also be able to spend weekends traveling around Europe if I want. My ultimate goal is to become fluent in French, and after taking many courses at Cornell and learning more and more about the EDUCO program, that goal seems very probable.

I will always be grateful that Cornell has given me the gift of studying abroad, despite past fears that it was a terrible idea for someone in my major. I went from being uncertain that I would have time in my busy course schedule to go abroad to committing to a wonderful Parisian abroad program and picking up a French minor.

“Boring” Summer Plans

By: Christopher-James Llego ’17

Last night, as I was eating my salad bowl of spinach and baby carrots (and loathing my friends who were on their cheat days), a thought went through my mind: my summer plans stink. I hadn’t really thought much about my summer plans—and if I did, it usually wasn’t in such a negative way—but after hearing about Friend A’s internship in New York City, Friend B’s plans to backpack through Europe, and Friend C’s plane tickets to XYZ LOCATION (I kind of zoned out at this point), I really got to thinking about how utterly boring my summer would end up being.

To be fair, I might just be exaggerating, though Cornell students seem to have a peculiar habit of “doing the most.” So here’s my attempt at trying to look on the bright side: this summer, I’ll be conducting research for my honors thesis on Global Horror Cinema and Transnational Feminism, studying for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and contemplating graduate programs in Comparative Literature or Asian Studies or English (so many options!) and fulfilling an Arts & Sciences distribution requirement.

Christopher-James and thesis research materials

Here’s me, a book pile from phase 1 of my thesis research, and my fifth cup of coffee that night.

Within Arts & Sciences, seniors on the honors track (i.e. those with a high enough in-major and overall GPA) have the opportunity to write a ~50 page thesis on any topic that interests them. I have a weird obsession with cult classic horror films, foreign languages, film and media theory, and feminism, so I decided to combine my eccentricities and start a project examining the “Final Girl” Teen Slasher trope and its various permutations, as well as its variations across foreign film movements like the New French Extremity, Giallo all’italiana, and Tagalog Aswang films. Nifty, huh? I like it. In fact, I like it enough to have spent my past year watching and re-watching over 300 horror films—and will spend this summer and all of next year watching hundreds more.

GRE prep

A remnant of my first day studying GRE vocabulary. Notice the similarity to SAT prep. Unseen in this photo—me sobbing as I have a flashback to my days studying for the SAT.

And why am I doing all of that, you ask? To fulfill a deep-seated desire to validate my obsessions, to find the feminism in a misunderstood cinematic genre, and to practice for what will most likely be several more years of research. Yes, graduate school! This summer, I’ll be self-studying for the GRE. Locked away in a small apartment sublet with blank walls and piles of GRE prep books and card sets, I’ll be cramming for an exam that will decide my FUTURE (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). Such a scary thought. Will I get into graduate school? Which field will I pursue? What will I do with my life?

Well, the answer sort of depends on whether or not I can graduate first. And so, we come to the last part of my summer: an online course on Human Evolution. Arts & Sciences has a few distribution requirements, which allow students to choose courses in fields that they normally wouldn’t pursue. I discovered my Gender Studies major through the Cultural Analysis requirement and Comparative Literature through both the Foreign Language and Literature & the Arts requirements. Unfortunately for me, I have a knack for procrastinating and have avoided any math or science courses these past three years. So now, I’m finding ways to fulfill these requirements during my breaks.

Online class

Online courses—taking classes from the comfort of your bedroom desk.

Cornell is awesome in that it offers Physical & Biological Sciences courses that aren’t as intensive as, say, Organic Chemistry. In other words: non-science-minded students need not be afraid of the distribution requirements! Also, pro tip: don’t wait until the last minute (senior year) to start taking these courses!

So yes, I may not be backpacking through Europe, but at least I’ll get to do something that I love: conduct research. And hey, thanks to Cornell’s dedication to providing students with online courses, I’ll get to spend my summer blasting my A.C. and avoiding the blistering heat that I’m so unaccustomed to as a Cornellian.

Approaching Alumna-Hood

We’ve made it to May! As seniors approach graduation and underclassmen look forward to summer break, we at the Ambassadors blog have decided to focus on “Looking Forward.” Senior Samantha Briggs starts off the month with a post about her experience deciding on her next step: Columbia Law School.

By: Samantha Briggs ’16

Me on my first day at Cornell!

Me on my first day at Cornell!

I think I speak for the majority (if not the entirety) of the Class of 2016 when I say: you will not believe how quickly four years fly by. On the one hand, it feels like many millennia ago that I was moving into Clara Dickson Hall on North Campus as an incoming freshman, and on the other hand, it feels like I hardly blinked and am suddenly preparing to graduate. Although I am sad to leave this wonderful and beautiful place, I am incredibly excited for all that is coming next. For me, that is being a part of Columbia Law School’s Class of 2019.

I snapped this shot of Manhattan from Columbia's campus, which will be my new home for the next three years.

I snapped this shot of Manhattan from Columbia’s campus, which will be my new home for the next three years.

The process of deciding to apply to law school, applying to law school, and enrolling in a law school can be challenging, and at times, downright confusing. I could not be more thankful for the endless help and support I received throughout the process from Cornell’s academic advisors and my professors. The College of Arts & Science has several academic advising deans for undergraduates, including those who specialize in pre-graduate program advising. For example, Dean Heather Struck specializes in pre-law advising. My first appointment with Dean Struck was in the spring semester of my junior year, when I had decided that I was going to apply to law school, but I wasn’t sure if I would take a gap year. Then, over the summer between my junior and senior year, when I was studying to take my LSAT (the law school admissions test) and beginning to prepare my application, I corresponded with Dean Struck over email. This year, I have been a frequent flyer in Dean Struck’s office. She has provided me with invaluable advice on a bevy of different topics, from writing my personal statement to making sense of my admissions offers, to applying for financial aid. There is no manual for applying to law school (no matter what might be on the shelves at Barnes and Noble), but I never found a question to which Dean Struck did not have an answer.

My dream workplace: the Supreme Court building.

My dream workplace: the Supreme Court building.

Throughout this entire process, I knew my professors were rooting for me. Whether it was writing a letter of recommendation for my application, allowing me to miss class or providing assignment extensions to accommodate interviews, or just providing reassurance, my professors have been a constant source of support.

Just thinking about my upcoming graduation fills me with nostalgia, but I know I’ll keep coming back up to Ithaca long after I leave. Law school is the next step toward achieving my dreams of working for the federal government and ultimately, hopefully, for the Supreme Court, and I have Cornell to thank for helping me start on that path.


Spotlight on the Summer: Opportunities to Work around Ithaca

Being a student here definitely has its perks – one of the reasons that students choose to attend Cornell is the wealth of opportunities available to us during the school year, during school breaks, and even after we graduate! In our last April post here at the blog, junior Julia Montejo discusses the variety of ways in which she was able to give back to Cornell and the surrounding community through her multiple jobs last summer.

By: Julia Montejo ’17

When I first arrived on campus, I constantly heard about how amazing the summer in Ithaca was. I decided to give it a try last summer, but it came with a huge change of pace: working instead of studying! As a dedicated student with many extracurricular commitments, I love to keep busy. To fill my summer days, I worked at two summer camps, one part time job, and a volunteer position. They were staggered throughout the summer, and made for one of the best summers I’ve ever had.

11856527_1214113771947906_7066314112626275157_oIn June, after visiting in Florida for a month, I came back to Ithaca to begin my job at the Cornell Undergraduate Admissions Office. As a student employee, I spent my mornings setting up, speaking at, and breaking down information sessions for prospective students. I loved meeting the admissions officers and other staff while interacting with students from around the world. Because Cornell visits are really popular during the summer, we had sessions with more than 750 visitors. It was so exciting to be able to share my Cornell experience with so many people. I also became an expert restaurant and campus eatery recommender! I loved being able to suggest places to eat both on and off campus to visiting families.

During June, I also continued my volunteering commitment at Finger Lakes Juvenile Residential Center, a detention center for young men in Ithaca’s next-door town, Lansing. I worked as a volunteer debate coach and helped young men develop their advocacy and public speaking skills.

Some friends and I pose in front of Cascadilla Falls.

Some friends and I pose in front of Cascadilla Falls.

During early July, I worked at the Ithaca Shakespeare Company’s Kids’ Shakespeare Summer Camp. As an actor and passionate student of literature, I had a great time great time working with children for a week, developing their acting skills while teaching about Shakespeare. We prepared all the kids to perform at the Ithaca Shakespeare Festival, where they did a short compilation of texts incorporating many Shakespearean works. It was an amazing experience to meet families throughout Ithaca and to share my passion for acting with younger children.

11793374_10207437398919006_279559027_nAt the conclusion of the summer, during the first week of August, I worked as a camp counselor for the Cornell International Summer Debate Camp. To say that it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had during my time as a Cornell student would be an understatement. I was both a residence hall mentor and a teaching assistant for the camp, where I worked with debating experts to develop teaching modules and created fun activities to do in the evenings with the students. Students from all over the world, including China, Canada, the UAE, and Mexico, came to camp, in addition to students from across the United States.

I learned so much from my students and I was able to help them grow as well. I loved being able to share the most important activity from my upbringing as a high school student, debate, with students from around the world.

Jobs and internships are a huge part of the college experience, and mine have been made possible by living in the wonderful City of Ithaca and by being a Cornell student. Once summer came to a close, I was able to continue volunteering at Finger Lakes Residential Center, and I’m still a student employee at the admissions office. I’m so fortunate to be able to continue engaging in what I love during my time as a student and during the summers.

Arts and Sciences Advising Deans: A “Ray” of Sunshine

It’s finally spring here in Ithaca and that means that admitted students are coming from far and wide to visit Cornell’s campus for Cornell Days! Some of the most popular events during Cornell Days are the info sessions, which are hosted by Advising Deans and Ambassadors for the College of Arts & Sciences. Sophomore Sydney Mann explains how her experience sitting in on Advising Dean Ray Kim’s info session in the spring of her senior year of high school kicked off a surprising series of events. Enjoy (and, if you happen to read this and then sit in on an info session, don’t be afraid to come say hi!).

By: Sydney Mann ’18

Far above Cayuga’s waters lives Cornell: a university with a student population of 21,850 students, about 55 times the size of my high school. The small setting of my high school allowed me to create strong bonds with both my administration and faculty; such ties cultivated a strong community.

Advising Dean Ray Kim and I take a selfie in Klarman Hall.

Advising Dean Ray Kim and I take a selfie in Klarman Hall.

My biggest fear before applying to Cornell was that I wouldn’t find those relationships I was able to generate in high school. I was afraid that I would be a tiny fish lost in the large sea of Cayuga’s waters.

During Cornell Days, as a pre-frosh, I sat in on Advising Dean Ray Kim’s information session. Easily one of the most engaging info sessions I had attended thus far in my grueling college process, Kim described not only his role in reviewing students’ applications, but also his experiences as an Academic Advisor. It was refreshing to see a man of such importance so involved in students’ lives. He exuded passion, as it was clear he cared about his students’ wellbeing at Cornell both socially and academically. From what I understood, he developed friendships with his advisees.

I began working as a Cornell Arts and Sciences Ambassador during the second semester of my freshman year. I was determined to engage with Cornell in a more personal way; I wanted to demonstrate to prospective students just how much of a community Cornell is. I remember my first ambassador’s experience vividly: I worked during Cornell Days as an ambassador with none other than Ray Kim. I was star-struck; I had the luxury of accompanying a figure that was so influential in my decision to attend Cornell. Before the session had started, he introduced himself to me as “Ray.” Before I said my name, he said, “Sydney, right?” I nodded my head, assuming he had just read my bio beforehand. Staring me in the face for a brief moment, he asked, “You’re from New Jersey, yes? You attended Newark Academy.” My jaw fell slack. I was speechless. He reached out his hand and said, “Hi Sydney. I admitted you into Cornell.”

Klarman Hall atrium: the Admissions and Academic Advising Center where Dean Ray Kim's office is located is just off to the left.

Klarman Hall atrium: the Admissions and Academic Advising Center where Dean Ray Kim’s office is located is just off to the left.

Throughout the entire information session, I finally understood what the previous ambassadors had talked about: a bonded community. Honestly, I felt as though a celebrity knew who I was. I had always thought that I was just a nameless face amongst so many talented, well-rounded students. In that moment, Mr. Kim proved to me that Cornell’s administration knows about every student they accept. The encounter still reminds me every day that I am in a setting that wants me to thrive.

Far above Cayuga’s waters lives more than just the institution of Cornell. Far above Cayuga’s waters lives a community where students are taught to excel and challenge themselves, where I can confidently say that I’ve found a home. Cornell has given me so much more than a liberal arts education. It has given me a network of wonderful individuals, bonds that I will have for the rest of my life. Thank you, Ray Kim – thank you for being living proof that Cornell truly cares about every student in every study.

Spotlight on Peanut Butter: Why I Chose Cornell

By: Emma Bryan ’19


Allison Wild ’19 and I pose in Bear Necessities, the convenience store on North Campus that conveniently sells Cornell peanut butter!

As I near the end of my first year at Cornell, I can’t help but reflect on why it was that I decided to come here in the first place. Why, as a senior in high school, did I decide to spend the next four years of my life in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere? Why would I subject myself to an atmosphere where I was not guaranteed success? Why was I leaving my parents and my beloved dogs in northeastern Ohio and traipsing to an area with which I was completely unfamiliar? Honestly, the answer to all of these questions is simple: Cornell peanut butter.

During the fall of my senior year, I came to visit campus with minimal expectations of what I would find. I had obviously done research, but little did I know that Cornell has the best peanut butter ever. When I arrived on campus, my host for the evening greeted me with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that had been stolen from the dining hall, and from the moment that sandwich entered my mouth, I knew that Cornell was the place for me.

Peanut butter

My reaction when the dining hall momentarily runs out of peanut butter

The texture of the peanut butter was literal perfection, and in that instant, I knew that this could not be a one-time thing. Yes, Ithaca in the fall is beautiful: I went on a field trip to Taughannock Falls and spent half of the time with my mouth agape in shock at how striking this place is. Yes, Cornell has amazing academics and a seemingly unlimited number of fascinating courses taught by world-class professors as well as endless support networks for students, but I can honestly say that I chose this place for the peanut butter.

Cornell University: A Home Away From Home

We’ve made it to April! While it’s currently snowing here in Ithaca, we’re sure spring is just around the corner, as is National College Decision Day (on May 1st). For those students who are struggling to decide between Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences and other institutions (or those high school students wishing that they will be in this position a year or two from now), we here at the Ambassadors blog have decided to showcase the reasons why our Ambassadors decided to join the Big Red. Sophomore Dylan Van Duyne starts us off with a post about how he was excited by Cornell’s location and its stellar academics. Check out other relevant blog posts and outside sources by clicking on the blue hyperlinks!

By: Dylan Van Duyne ’18

April: a month defined by April Fool’s Day, Tax Day, Earth Day, lots of rain showers, and, of course, the college decision process. For some of you, this will be the month that you choose Cornell University as your home for your next four years. As May 1st nears and you approach decision day, know that choosing Cornell was the greatest decision of my life. Personally, I chose Cornell because of the location, the academics, and the welcoming community.

Clocktower view

The view of Cayuga Lake and the Arts Quad from the top of McGraw Clocktower.

One of the largest appeals of Cornell is undoubtedly the location: Ithaca has been ranked the #2 college town in the United States by the American Institute of Economic Research, and there’s a rumor that we’ve got more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the United States. I grew up outside Philadelphia, so I wanted to go to a school that wasn’t too close to home but wasn’t too far away either. Cornell is just a three-and-a-half-hour drive away from home (and a four-hour bus ride from New York City!), which was perfect for me.

Watkins Glen

One of the many waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park

In addition to being a Cornell student, though, I’m also lucky to be a resident of Ithaca, one of most exciting places to live with an unlimited amount of things to do. There are so many amazing places to eat, and there are numerous events held throughout the year, such as Apple Fest and Chili Fest, that bring huge crowds to the downtown Ithaca Commons. Ithaca is also home to countless gorges and several state parks, providing endless possibilities for outdoor adventures (check out my blog post from October about how “Ithaca is Gorges!”). Buttermilk Falls State Park, Robert Treman State Park, and Taughannock Falls State Park are just a few of the local favorites. I recently traveled to Watkins Glen, a park with a 2.4-mile gorge trail that winds over and under the spray of waterfalls


A Cornell sunset over Libe Slope

Climbing 161 steps up the iconic 173 foot McGraw Clocktower will give any student a breathtaking view overlooking all of Ithaca, spanning out across the 37.9 mile Cayuga Lake. Right off of Cayuga Lake, one of New York’s many Finger lakes, is the Ithaca Farmers’ Market, a quaint little getaway on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, just one of the may outdoor wonders that Ithaca has to offer. Ithaca also has some of the most astounding sunsets you will ever see, and a walk back from the library at night will leave you awestruck at cotton candy skies

Farmers Market

Nicholas Karavolias ’18, Rana Suleiman ’17, and I enjoy the Ithaca Farmers Market.

In addition to the amazing location, Cornell University is truly an institution for “any person, any study.” I came into Cornell as a prospective Biology and Spanish double major, but my only true certainty from an academic standpoint was that I wanted to be a doctor. However, halfway through my freshman year I decided I didn’t want to be a Biology major anymore, and in the beginning of my sophomore year I declared my Spanish major. In addition to my Spanish major, I am now pursuing minors in Global Health and Psychology. One of the greatest assets of the College of Arts and Sciences is that you don’t have to declare your major right away – you have two years to decide what you would like to major in. My message to prospective students is this: don’t panic if you don’t know exactly what you want to do or who you want to be. Within the College of Arts and Sciences, you will enjoy a holistic undergraduate education, enjoying distribution requirements that allow you to become a more well-rounded intellectual. With this comes the opportunity to explore and find your academic passion. I’m certain that within the College of Arts and Sciences you will take a class, whether it be through your Freshman Writing Seminar or through a language requirement or through a historical breadth requirement, that will end up teaching you a lot about yourself as a student and a growing intellectual.

Fencing tournament support

Toti Lee-Shapiro ’18, Jack Jones ’18, and I support Julia Telischi ’18 and her teammates at her fencing tournament.

Thinking back on my senior year of high school, I know I made the right decision in picking Cornell; here, the motto “any person, any study” is in fact a reality, and within the College of Arts and Sciences in specific, I found a welcoming home.

And as a final side note – if you’re worried about “fitting in” at Cornell, please use my freshman experience as an example. The friends I made when I first arrived at Cornell’s campus are still some of my closest friends today (and are pictured in the final picture). Choose Big Red, and I’m sure it will be one of the best decisions of your life!

Working at Libe Cafe: A Video Blog

As we close out March, check out this video blog from Jendayi Brooks-Flemister ’18, a student worker at Amit Bhatia Libe Cafe in Olin Library. If you get the chance to visit our Ithaca campus as the weather turns warm, definitely check out Libe Cafe and its many great drink and snack offerings!

My Job at the Office of Campus Life

By: Solveig van der Vegt ’18

I got my job at the Office of Campus Life through an email that was sent out to Balch Hall residents last year. There are many places to get jobs around campus, but this one particularly interested me because it was in the building that I already lived in. I applied and luckily got the job and it has been fantastic ever since! I work not only with fellow students but also with people from outside the university. It is refreshing now and then to talk to people who look at Cornell in a different way and who have a broader perspective on the local community.

office photo

Check out the office!

The job I have is very relaxed and fun. We have a small office in South Balch Hall where we greet visitors and direct people who come to the building for meetings. Besides that, I pick up the phone and either answer people’s questions or if I cannot, I transfer them to a department that can. I also assist other offices in Balch with administrative tasks like filing if necessary. When the office isn’t busy, I’m allowed to do my homework while I am on my shift, which is really nice. I like this job a lot because it allows me to interact with a broad range of people – students, parents, and Cornell staff. The people I work with genuinely care about me and I about them, so it is a wonderful community to be a part of. One of my colleagues sometimes buys me or the other student workers a cookie if we have the final shift of the day, which is always a great surprise and a good note to end the day on!

Overall, my job on campus has given me a different positive perspective on the Cornell community. I enjoy going to work and the money I earn is a good source of income to use to go out to dinner with friends or go to events on campus or even just to treat myself now and then.

Taking a Break from Work…By Working!

By: Eric Reinhard ’18

Does the title confuse you? I don’t blame you if it does. Why would someone take a break from work only to work more? Well, I’m here to tell you that I do just that (I promise I’m not crazy).


The lobby of the Residential and New Student Programs Office.

I work at the Residential and New Student Programs office, located in one of the freshman dormitories, Clara Dickson Hall. My official title is Student Administrative Assistant, which might make my work seem a little fancier than it actually is. My job consists of copying, filing, typing, answering phones…you get the idea. Sound boring to you? Maybe. But I can sincerely say I love each and every second of it. There’s something very calming and peaceful about my job. Does the office want me to count out over 4000 quarter cards? No problem. Look through several hundred dormitory keys for a specific key that may not even exist? Sure. While the tasks are relatively simple, I actually really like doing them!

Copy room

The copy room!

Cornell is challenging – few people will argue against that. As a Biological Sciences major on a pre-med track, I am very familiar with the concept of difficult schoolwork. What helps me manage that schoolwork is the four hours per week that I work, where I don’t have to fight my way through challenging concepts or study for hours for an upcoming test. Instead, I do a different type of work, giving my brain a much-needed break. The best part about this “break” of mine? I get paid to do it.