Poetry as an Experience

by Prerana Chatty

On the surface, I’m your typical biology major premed. Like almost every other biology major, I took general chemistry, introductory physiology and cell biology my freshman year, organic chemistry my sophomore year, and am currently taking physics and biochemistry during my junior year. I have spent far too many nights at Olin Library working on problem sets, practicing mechanisms, and memorizing pathways (needless to say, I have become very well-acquainted with Libe Café, Olin’s coffeeshop).

However, there’s one class on my roster this semester that doesn’t fit the typical premed schedule – intermediate verse writing.

I have loved writing for nearly as long as I can remember. When I came to Cornell, I was fairly certain that I wanted to study science, but choosing to major in biology felt like letting one of my two passions ‘win.’ I felt an intellectual tug-of-war between science and writing and hoped to find a way to incorporate both interests into my education. Luckily, Arts and Sciences’ liberal arts requirements forced me, in a way, to reach outside the ‘comfort zone’ of my major – and I am so glad that it did.

I chose to enroll in “Intermediate Verse Writing” after I took “Introduction to Creative Writing” as a sophomore. Although I was well acquainted with fiction, this introductory creative writing course exposed me to poetry in a novel and exciting way. I fell in love with combinations of words, lines, and sentences and the power that words have to make us feel. As the semester ended, I spoke to my teacher about taking upper level creative writing courses and she suggested I take intermediate verse writing to cultivate the poetry seed that had been planted in my brain. I couldn’t be happier that I did.

When I walked into class for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect. My teacher, Lyrae, is an absolutely incredible poet whose anthology has been nominated for the National Book Award. She commanded the room when she walked into it and I was mesmerized by her love of poetry and words, and even more than that, her genuine desire to help us become poets. She warned us that the class would be challenging and time-intensive (in addition to our readings, we write three poems a week – so it lived up to the expectations she set), but that it would undoubtedly improve our writing. Halfway through the class, I feel that she was right.


The class dynamic is unique – conversation is free flowing, animated, and enthralling. We all feel that 50 minutes twice a week isn’t enough. There are only nine students in the class, so we have all gotten to know each other intimately and personally. Lyrae asked us to form workshop groups and meet regularly to discuss each other’s work. Originally, I was nervous about this. I was concerned that I was the only bio major in a class filled with English majors who were way more advanced at poetry than I could ever aspire to be. I was timid both in class and in my workshop group because I was convinced that being so far out of my comfort zone wasn’t working. Speaking with Lyrae and with my workshop group members showed me that I was wrong. The students in the class have such diverse majors, interests, and experiences. Sharing our learning processes as we get to know each other’s (and our own) writing has been incredibly rewarding. I have gained newfound respect and confidence about my poetry and learned far more than I expected to.

I had always been told that a liberal arts education was valuable, but until I took “Intermediate Verse Writing,” I didn’t really understand why. I now realize that the lessons I’ve learned by writing poetry will carry me in life even when I become a physician. The ability to direct words in order to convey a specific meaning has shaped my decisional thinking. My positive interactions with my peers and with my professor, who is obviously far more experienced in this subject area than I am, have taught me the importance of confidence, patience, and to a certain extent, resilience. Drawing on the human experience for subject matter has reminded me of the importance of compassion, kindness, and virtue, traits that will undoubtedly craft my persona as I enter a medical profession. And of course, my mind and my heart have both been challenged.

For me, poetry is more than words. It’s truly an experience.


A New Side of Medicine

by Teresa Xu

“Complementary and alternative medicine,“ or, better yet, “integrative medicine:” What do these terms mean to you? Well, before this summer, the only term that would’ve come to mind would’ve been “alternative medicine” I couldn’t have told you about all the different modalities included under integrative medicine, nor was I aware that things like yoga and tai chi were considered medical modalities.

Let me begin by taking you back to this past spring semester, early January, when it seemed that everyone already had a summer internship secured. I still didn’t have anything significant lined up for the coming summer, but I knew I wanted to be home in Portland, OR. As a pre-med student, there always seemed to be that obligation to intern in health care related fields, but, more importantly, I knew that whatever I did had to be meaningful to me as an individual. On that note, let me diverge and impart this piece of advice that I always live by: don’t pick opportunities because you feel like you “have to” or “should”, but rather pick them because you’ll be excited to speak about them later on.

I was always particularly interested in the prevention aspect of medicine. I wanted to know how to enhance current health, prevent disease, and prolong future health. If there is one line that I’ll never forget from my internship at the National College of Natural medicine, it’s this: “integrative medicine can bridge that gap, that last 10%, between feeling good and feeling great”. This internship, located in Portland, OR (a hot spot for integrative medicine practice and development!), was divided between classes in integrative medicine and lab based research on breast cancer.

Acupuncture, traditional vs. Classical Chinese medicine, ayruvedic medicine, herbs and botanicals, and hydrotherapy were only a few of the many topics that I learned about during the integrative classes offered. For lack of a better phrase, I felt like my mind was blown every single day. All of these medical modalities were things that you’d rarely find in a traditional hospital or allopathic medicine setting. However, integrative medicine opened my eyes to a whole new world of ways to prevent, treat, and cure illnesses, but using all natural methods.

Now when I say “all natural”, I am referring to relieving pain using the purest form of herbs that are found in the wild. I’m talking about seeping echinacea flowers in tea rather than consuming bottles of Emergen-C when you’re trying to prevent a cold. I’m talking about using peat to relieve osteoarthritis pain without ibuprofen or Advil. I’m talking about using food as medicine, and enhancing the immune system by sprinkling turmeric in every dish.

Many of you may be reading this and quite confused about what I’m talking about. I don’t blame you, but I do implore you to do some research into integrative medicine yourself, especially if you’re a non-believer of what you think is “alternative medicine”.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that nearly all, if not all, of the artificial medications you’ve taken have a parallel in nature. Every little ache and pain that you couldn’t explain over the years has an integrative medicine modality that can relieve it, or one that can explain it. I visited a naturopathic doctor this summer as part of my internship, and they spent 2.5 hours with me as I went through every ache, pain, or concern I’ve ever had. They made connections between much of what I was saying, and I finally understood the most important philosophy behind integrative medicine: to look at the body as a whole and to explain conditions by tracing their path through this whole being.

If you were looking for an exact definition of what integrative medicine was, I’m sorry to disappoint you by ending this here. There is no one definition that could possibly encompass all that integrative medicine has to offer, but just consider this one last fact that sheds light on its potential for future health care: naturopathic medicine students at the National College of Natural Medicine are required to take a full class on nutrition while the average MD student gets about 30 hours.

Meeting Professors 101

by Sami Briggs

Cornell has an endless number of outstanding qualities that make it the phenomenal institution that it is, not least of which is its professors. I have had the privilege of taking classes taught by dynamic professors who piqued my interest in their subject matters, which proved incredibly helpful when choosing my majors and concentrations. Forming a bond with your professors is not only useful for when you are applying to internships and/or graduate school and need references and recommendations, but it also affords you the opportunity to speak with truly fascinating individuals; no two professors arrived at their current position in the same way, they all have stories to tell, and they all have insights about the practical application of your major.

That being said, bonding with professors is often easier said than done, especially when some classes – at the introductory level particularly – can be quite large. Professors constantly invite students to come to their office hours even if it is just to chat, but how does one fit that into a day that is already filled with commitments? Like so many of my peers, I have experienced the dilemma that is wanting to bond with a professor that I admire, but not knowing how to actually go about doing that. I like to think that I have been successful with several professors, and I am here to share some of my wisdoms.

Libe Cafe, located inside Olin Library in the Arts Quad, is a popular location for the Cornell community to talk, meet, and work.

Libe Cafe, located inside Olin Library in the Arts Quad, is a popular location for the Cornell community to talk, meet, and work.

  1. Speak up in class. Professors are scholars who choose to teach because they want to form relationships with the young minds in their classes, but oftentimes it is impossible for them to really know all of their students because they simply have too many; so, stand out! If your class is discussion-based, participate in that discussion, and if your class is lecture-based, ask questions. Then when you see your professor in Libe Café between classes, the professor will recognize you, and you can start to get to know one another on a more personal level.
  2. Arrive a little early. Professors generally arrive a little early to organize their materials, set up their presentations, and oftentimes battle technology a little bit, so if you don’t have time in your schedule to attend office hours, take advantage of this time. Sit closer to the front, ask them a question about the last assignment, share an idea you had while reading last night, commiserate over the chilly weather, anything! Another benefit to this method is that there are other students filling in around you to join in the conversation, so if you tend to be shy, you can be at ease.
  3. Try to get into their discussion section. Most classes at Cornell are lecture-based, with sections meeting once a week to discuss the week’s material. These sections are generally led by the course’s TAs (teaching assistants), but oftentimes the professor will lead one of these sections – try to get into that discussion schedule, if possible. This way the professor can get to know you as a student on a deeper level, and you have even more opportunities for pre- and post-class conversation. If this discussion doesn’t fit into your schedule, though, don’t worry! The TAs themselves are very helpful and interesting as well!
  4. Go to their office hours! Although I have just finished espousing all of the alternative methods of getting to know your professors, if you indeed have a question about the material or want to discuss an upcoming assignment, by all means, make the time to visit them in their offices. Use the excuse of having a question about your research paper to ask them about their research, bring up a discussion from the previous class and share your thoughts, and remember: your professor wants to chat with you and hear your opinions.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know one professor in particular, and I am very thankful for it. Not only does he always offer useful advice regarding assignments and college life in general, but also in times of stress, it is comforting to know that I have an ally. I once arrived to class after a very busy few days and a challenging midterm, and he could tell that I was quieter than usual. He asked to make sure I was okay, and I answered that it was just stress. Then after the following class, he asked again to make sure that I was feeling better. It’s the little things that can make the biggest difference, and his concern helped me remember that there are always people around campus who care about your well being and want to help when they can. All you have to do is find them!

On Proofs and Critical Theory

by Solomon Maina

As a Computer Science major in the college of Arts and Sciences I always get asked “Why aren’t you in engineering?” to which my answer is always “Liberal arts!”

Indeed, it was the liberal arts approach to education that attracted me to the College of Arts and Sciences when I applied to Cornell, and so far, it looks like it was a good decision. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the vast majority of my liberal arts classes but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to describe just two such classes, drawn two fairly different fields of enquiry: Prove It! offered in the Math department, and Introduction to Critical Theory offered in the German Studies department.

Prove It! was a class that I took partly because I could take it (something which students in the College of Arts and Sciences have more freedom to do), and partly because I like math, and people who like math should know how to prove things. I thought that the professor did a very good job of encouraging creative thinking that was clear and structured at the same time by using perfectly chosen examples from a wide variety of fields in mathematics. We were also encouraged to share proofs that we had done in problem sets and/or make presentations on particularly interesting proofs that we had seen, which made the class interactive and hence more fun. By the end of the class, even though I couldn’t claim to have the oracle power of being able to prove or disprove the truth of any mathematical statement, I felt very satisfied to have taken that course, and I had a new appreciation for the creativity of mathematicians.

Introduction to Critical Theory was another class that I really, really liked. I took the class mostly on account of the very positive experience I had had in my writing seminar “Marx, Nietzsche and Freud,” and Critical Theory seemed like a natural extension of this course. It also fulfilled my Literature and the Arts (LA-AS) requirement. I found the readings for Critical Theory to be extremely interesting and very well-paced as well: not too much, not too little and carefully chosen.

But if the readings were interesting, then the in class discussions can only be described as magic. Often times it felt like I was in a movie where some other-worldly philosophical discussion was taking place, and being in the midst of such stimulating discussions made for a truly memorable course. Interestingly enough, Critical Theory is also the class that I find had the most rigorous grading: essay comments from the grader regularly topped a page and were very incisive. Much like in the course Prove It!, the importance of clarity of thought could not be understated in Critical Theory, and it certainly felt that we weren’t just having fun discussions; we were being engaged to think about important issues, and at a very high level, which made the class very gratifying in retrospect.

I have taken other classes which were as memorable as these two, and if there is something that stands out in all of them is that I was engaged at a high level in whatever it is that I was studying at the time. What’s special about the College of Arts and Sciences is that it gives students the opportunity to be engaged in this way, but in many different fields of enquiry, be it Mathematics, German Studies, or Computer Science.

24-Hour Playfest

2014_0954_011_select.jpgby Jillian Holch

Two weeks ago, I organized the Schwartz Center for Performing and Media Arts’ annual 24-Hour Playfest.  Although I had shadowed the head coordinator the year before, this was my first time running the event all by myself.  It was exciting, terrifying, but probably one of the best and most humbling experiences of my college life thus far.  For those who have no idea what a 24-Hour Playfest is, writers create plays (based on a theme and a twist) that are acted and directed by students and then put on for an audience all in 24 Hours. As the head coordinator, or “Lord of the ‘Fest” as I was called, I was in charge of everything.  I chose the writers, directors, stage managers, and actors, and made sure the day stayed on schedule.  The performance was a huge success (We had a completely filled audience), and everyone (60+ participants) had a lot of fun!  I thought for this blog post I would include a breakdown of the day, from start to finish.

24hour-shows-01 (1)


5:45pm: The actors, directors, writers, stage managers, technical support have all been chosen and are aware of their parts.  I meet with Brian (Titleless Associate) and Laura (Technical Director) to set up for our informational meeting at the Schwartz Center.

6:00pm: All participants file into the theatre and the informational meeting begins.  I go over the schedule for Saturday, as well as the responsibilities for each position.  Everyone introduces themselves.  We have participants across all grades and several colleges!

6:40pm: The meeting ends a little early, and I announce the THEME AND THE TWIST!!!  The theme is “Re-Start” and the twist is “Magic.”  Everyone is dismissed to get some rest, and I quickly meet with the writers to offer some last minute advice, as well as let them know how many people they will be writing for.  The stage managers and I set up the Flexible Theatre, our performance space.



12:45am: I have already answered some questions from writers, and they all seem to be making great progress.  One writer, Ariella, sends me her finished play, and I quickly read it before I go to sleep for a few hours.

5:00am: Time to wake up!  As my coffee is brewing, I skim through the plays that have been sent to me throughout the night.  I am still waiting on several plays, but the writers assure me they are almost done.  The plays look hilarious and I am so excited for the day ahead.

6:00am: I meet with the writers, directors, and stage managers in the lobby of the Schwartz Center.  I assign each director a play, and the writers and directors briefly conference to talk about casting.  The stage managers and Laura start making more copies of the scripts to distribute.

6:15am: I meet with the directors and we quickly and diplomatically (similar to a professional sports draft) cast over 40 roles in 20 minutes.  Each stage manager is assigned to a director to follow for the entire day and offer assistance.

6:45am:  Actors arrive, and after a few minutes, we announce the casts.  Each director meets with their actors and get ready to go off to their first rehearsal space.  From 7am-11am, each play will be in the rehearsal spaces on 1 hour rotations.  Bagels also arrive at 7am, and each director lets their actors take a bagel break at some point.  Brian takes photos with his camera of the participants of each play, and Laura begins to call the actors that are late.  The writers go home and get some much deserved rest.

8:00am: I begin to make half-hour visits to each of the 6 plays.  At these visits, I watch what each play has already worked on, and offer creative and logistical advice to work on moving forward.  Laura gets to work in the Flexible Theater, going through each script and programming sound cues.  Brian starts working on the designs for the program for each play.

11:00am: Tech begins!  Each play gets 50 minutes in the performance space to work out blocking as well as coordinating sound cues.  The stage managers meet to gather props and costumes needed for each play.

3:45pm: Brian has finished the program and has started printing copies.  Every play is at a good place.  Actors have learned all their lines and everyone is still calm and collected.

4:00pm: We break for dinner.  I finish spiking the set pieces for each play, and make last minute adjustments.  Everyone goes home to grab last minute prop and costume pieces.

5:00pm: Everyone comes back from break, in costume and ready to begin dress rehearsal.  We have an hour and a half to coordinate scene changes from play to play, as well as incorporate lights for the first time.  Brian starts to set up the lobby, preparing for the audience to arrive.  I fold programs off to the side.

6:45pm: The audience arrives!  We have to turn people away, because there is such a high turn-out.

7:00pm: SHOWTIME!


The entire time I was in the audience, I was so nervous, hoping everything would go right, and thankfully, it did.  At the end of the performance, people were saying that it was the best playfest they had ever seen.  It could not have gone better, and while I felt pride at the end of the night, what I felt most was gratitude.  In big events like 24-Hour Playfest, it takes more than one person to see the event though.  It takes so much teamwork.  I am so grateful for all the help I received, from the Performing and Media Arts Department, my friends, and the writers, director, actors, and stage managers who for some reason decided to take this crazy journey with me.

When you are at Cornell, hopefully you will have at least one opportunity to take a leadership role in the community.  When you do, remember to be thankful for those who offer to help you along the way.  Also, think about not what you did for your event, but what your event did for the community.  For many participants, 24-Hour Playfest was the first interaction they had with theatre at Cornell.  In the coming weeks they went onto be cast in several productions on campus.

To finish up, a few days after 24-Hour Playfest, I got a Facebook message from two people I didn’t know.  It turns out they were the ones that started 24-Hour Playfest in the Spring of 2008, and were so happy to hear that the tradition had continued, and a part of them lived on at Cornell.  I am honored to have helped carry on the tradition, and hope that it will be able to continue for years after I have left Cornell as well.


Smile! Some of the students who performed during 24-Hour Playfest.

The images above are posters for some of the plays of 24-Hour Playfest. These were designed by Brian Murphy, ’16. 


A Home Away from Home

by Austin Chien

The sky is cloud-free, the type of blue that “sky blue” must be derived from; the sun beams but doesn’t beat down with its rays. The scene looks like it belongs in a desktop background. My feet sink into the sand with each step, but it doesn’t slow me down. The waves beat strongly in my ears but soon fade and shift, forming a backing beat. Water and sand for miles and miles. I lay down my towel, pull out some books and a pen, and get to work.

Being from California, I value every summer highly. Summer is a chance to take advantage of the sun and the warmth Ithaca can lack. I’ve spent this summer taking classes and sitting on the beach: three times a week I wake up at around 8, drive to UCLA at 8:30, where I take classes for psychology and sociology. I chose UCLA because this summer I’m needed around my home in southern California by my family, and the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles is a nice change of scenery from wintry Ithaca. After studying for an hour or so, I head down to Santa Monica where I hit the beach. Sometimes I meet up with friends and we lounge about, sitting on the sand as the salty water hits our toes, talking about anything and everything. Other times I go by myself. I’ll run across the beach for miles, the cool air brushing by as I move south down the coast, calmed by the rhythm of the waves. Or I’ll just lie on the sand with a book (I’m currently working on Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums).

Though it is miles away, lying on the beach, hand behind my head, watching seagull fly by overhead still makes me think of an experience at Cornell. It reminds me of that time I went stargazing last winter. Transpose me from the sand to an empty field, replace the clear sunny sky with the starlit pitch of the night, and cover me in 4 extra layers, and it’s pretty much the same: a calm environment with a nearly endless expanse in which to allow the mind.

Picking out individual stars can be difficult. The big dipper and little dipper don’t seem to differ in size quite as much as you’d hope when they’re one hundred light-years away. Constellations at times seem to muddle and mesh. But each star on its own and as a member of the whole makes the night beautiful.

On the beach my friends and I lie on towels in swimwear, soaking up the sun. I think back to winter, when my friends and I, lying in that dark field, huddled together to conserve heat. The experience is different, but the effect is similar.

It can be jarring sometimes to see how different Cornell is from my home. But there are times like these where I see how similar they can be. Sharing experiences with friends, learning new things, and exploring the world around me help make Cornell feel like home, even if there are no beaches.

The Importance of the Summer Internship

by Nithya Sheshadri

Starting freshman year students scramble to get the ideal summer internship, a trophy line on their power-packed resume. Whether they are headed towards grad school or the workforce, students gain valuable experience from an internship in their chosen field of study. Although finding the right summer internship can be a daunting task, the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) offers many ways to search for summer internships, and many faculty members are willing to help!

The Career Services center in the College of Arts and Sciences has career advisors who aid students in planning out their journey towards achieving their employment goals. From there, students may choose to use the various employment search engines offered on the career services website, such as CCNET or Internships.com, to locate summer internships. Under Domestic Resources on the Internships and Experience tab of the Career Services page, students can find an A&S Internship List for numerous summer internship positions.

Apart from the online search engines, CAS also hosts recruiting events in many major cities in America. For example, the annual New York City Recruiting Consortium in January hosts employers from various different fields who interview CAS and College of Human Ecology students for summer internship positions. Recruiting events are also held in other cities, like Boston and Philadelphia.

For more ambitious students, CAS provides engaging summer programs like Cornell’s Summer in Washington. Students in programs like this one not only participate in a summer internship, but also enroll in summer courses, earning academic credits towards their bachelor’s degree. Cornell’s Study Abroad program also hosts a diverse assortment of summer programs that combine fieldwork with classroom studies for students to participate in.

With so many opportunities to get started, it may seem important to discuss when students should begin their internship hunt. Well, Arts and Sciences Career Services provides a timetable along with helpful tips to guide students along the process (provided in the links below).

The Career Services advisors recommend students take fall semester to “assess your interests.” Students should research employers in the field of study they are interested in. Students may use their fall semester breaks to contact employers at home and network with “family, friends, relatives, RAs/TAs, former teachers, and coaches.” During winter break, students have the opportunity to engage in a longer externship, giving them the opportunity to explore their interests. CAS students in the FRESH program apply for externships over winter and spring break with Cornell alumni.

Students apply for summer internships over winter break and the beginning of spring semester. It is advisable to start scheduling interviews or meetings with prospective employers following February Break. After finding the internship position appropriate for them, students will have the whole summer to tread the waters of their chosen career path.

It is recommended that students choose internships that will help them learn the most and aid them in defining their career goals. Summer internships can provide a taste of the future and many times, they can lead students to modify or even change their career goals. My summer internship not only helped me confirm my career interests, but also gave me the resources to begin achieving them. While a summer internship may not be the choice of every CAS student, students seeking one have all the resources to get started!


Cornell College of Arts and Sciences Career Services page on Internships and Experience:

Career Services Timetable for Internships:


A Summer by the Bay

by Bingyan Shi

Research is a common activity for Cornell students.  However, I think it’s easy to forget that everyone’s research experience is unique.  In the summer of 2013, I had the chance to participate in a program in which I conducted research in marine microbiology at the San Francisco State University.  As a freshman who had just finished her first year at Cornell, I had found the program online, and was thrilled to get a taste of research, something I had heard so much about on campus.

My research project aimed at finding out why the marine phytoplankton Emiliania huxleyi produces calcium shells, which account for one of the largest deposits of organic carbon in the ocean. When I first heard about my research project, doubts about my ability to not only understand, but to actually design experiments definitely unnerved me.  However, the lab was very welcoming and kind which gave me the confidence to ask many questions, and as a result learn more than I ever imagined.  I even had the chance to use some impressive technology when I helped take photographs of my cell cultures using a scanning electron microscope.  Seeing these tiny cells clearly displayed on a black and white monitor under this multimillion-dollar piece of equipment was truly incredible.  The experience strangely resembled that of exploring the surface of a distant planet – just as mysterious and impossible to see with your naked eye.


We found sting rays at the beach, but we released them right after!

Besides gaining hands-on experience, the program also gave me many insights into science as a profession.  All program participants attended a workshop on the ethics of research and I was shocked to learn about the unethical behavior committed by researchers in search of fame and funding.  From plagiarism to fabrication of data, such misconduct dispelled much of my own naiveté about being a scientist.  As a profession that pursues new knowledge, it still holds much honor and prestige.  However, I now realize that it is also an industry, driven by money and personal needs.  But in general, I was incredibly inspired by this program, especially by the other participants – motivated college students from across the US.  Some were upperclassmen already experienced in research.  They were so passionate and knowledgeable about their subjects, yet still so eager to learn.


We had the opportunity to create fish during the camping trip!

One of the highlights of the program was a camping trip where everyone was excitedly pointing out to each other organisms they had studied, from salamanders to insect larvae.  For the first time, I found myself having serious and enjoyable discussions about science and what it means in our society in a non-academic setting.  I was also so humbled and fascinated to learn about the professors’ and other students’ backgrounds and talents, and to finally seeing how diverse the field of science really is.

At the end of summer, every student researcher had the opportunity to present his or her project to professors, graduates, and their parents at San Francisco State University in a symposium.  It was amazing to see all the different projects, ranging from DNA recombination to the study of salamanders in Northern California.  I felt a great sense of accomplishment and pride for my fellow student researchers and for myself.  Research, either in the biological sciences or otherwise, is not an easy field to be in.  Having an interest in the subject is not nearly enough.  Making meaningful discoveries requires a passion for your goal, discipline to report your results truthfully, and resilience and perseverance to perform tedious tasks over and over again –hard work that may not necessarily result in any findings. All these qualities I saw when I worked with my lab members, whose creativity and sense of humor also stood out to me as invaluable in science.  It was truly a rewarding environment to be in, where everyone constantly learned and helped each other.  I’m excited to learn about the lab’s future projects, and to engage in other research at Cornell as well.

Arts and Sciences Career Services, Networking, and My Internship with Penguin Random House

0393_14_064.jpgby Melissa Lucía Sarmiento

I cannot put into words how much stress I felt when I began to think about summer internships as a college freshman. As a history and German major, I was genuinely panicking, thinking that my skills would not measure up in an increasingly competitive job market.

It was around this time, just when I thought that I was going to spend an exciting summer at home with my parents in suburban Florida, that someone recommended that I stopped by Arts and Sciences Career Services. This is basically how I learned that Arts and Sciences Career Services existed. I immediately made an appointment, and that same day I was exposed to a myriad of resources that were immediately available to me to help me find summer internships in various areas.

That was my first of many meetings with a career adviser, and from it I got my first internship: I did end up going back home my first summer, but I had an internship with the local PBS branch in Miami. I was very appreciative of this opportunity, and I learned a lot about the world of non-profit television. However, I also learned that it was not necessarily a field I wanted to pursue.

As a sophomore, I started my internship search much sooner (I failed to mention that as a freshman, I decided to apply to internships in April… and I still found one!), and this time I made sure that I took full advantage of absolutely every resource offered by Arts and Sciences Career Services. I was able to meet with a Cornell alumnus who is now an editor for the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, and thanks to this I am currently interning for one of Penguin Random House’s Spanish imprints: Vintage español.

Yes, I know. This is not a good picture of the Penguin Random House building; it's  just a really tall building that I couldn't fit into my lens. But look at how nice it is!

Yes, I know. This is not a good picture of the Penguin Random House building; it’s just a really tall building that I couldn’t fit into my lens. But look at how nice it is!

Although I can honestly say that I do not want to live in New York City, I can also say that this internship has been great: working for one of the smaller imprints has taught me about several aspects of the publishing industry, ranging from design to sales. I have had the chance to read manuscripts and share my opinion on whether or not they should be published, and I have done translations for books that will be coming to the market soon. I also manage multiple social media accounts, promoting works by prestigious authors including as Paulo Coelho, John Green, and Gabriel García Márquez.

At Vintage español, there are only two employees beside myself, so I really feel like I am making a difference and that I am part of a team. The people I work with are incredibly nice and always willing to answer my questions and help me when I need it.

It is an unpaid internship. However, once I was offered the position, I was able to find funding through Entrepreneurship at Cornell, which gave me a stipend for the summer, without which I would have not been able to stay in the city.


Perhaps one of the coolest perks of this internship is that I get an unlimited amount of free books, in various languages by very famous authors. Fun fact: there are four piles of books there, not just two!

Through this process, I learned several useful life lessons:

Your major does not matter: the skills you gain when you are in college, ranging from critical thinking to excellent writing are what really matters when you are trying to find a job. Trust me on this one: my background is as liberal arts as it gets.

Go to Arts and Sciences Career Services every semester. If you need help writing a resume, a cover letter, finding an internship, a job, or figuring out what to major in (and I know that you need help in at least one of these things), you need to come to this office. It will save you a lot of time, panic, and stress when summer breaks and graduation come!

Don’t be afraid to talk to alumni. I have this internship because one of the career advisors introduced me to the editor at Knopf. At first, I was hesitant to talk to him. However, he was incredibly helpful, offered to forward my resume to the hiring manager, and, above all, incredibly happy to be able to mentor a fellow Cornellian.

Explore your resources: You never know where there might be available funding, so don’t let geography or the words “unpaid internship” be the deciding factor.

Don’t limit yourself: try new fields, because you never know what you will like and how much you will learn in just one summer!

If you wish to learn more about Arts and Sciences Career Services, please visit them here, and don’t hesitate to make an appointment! To learn more about Entrepreneurship at Cornell, please visit their very nice website here.

A Summer in Suriname

by: Jacob Brunell

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When it first became apparent back in April that there was a possibility I might be spending my summer working at the U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo, Suriname, I racked my mind for what I knew about the country. I had a rough idea of where Suriname was (on the northeast coast of South America) and what language was spoken there (Dutch), but beyond that, I had nothing.  At that point, I decided to spend a bit of time reading up about the country and its culture, history, and politics, figuring that if I ended up traveling there, with such knowledge I would hopefully be better equipped to converse with locals and adjust to daily life.

Fast-forward to today.  I accepted the internship position, and have been living in the country’s capital and working at the embassy here for a little over two weeks.  In the short amount of time I’ve spent here, however, I’ve had some unforgettable experiences, and the chance to speak at length with a number of interesting people from almost every imaginable sector of society.  This past weekend, I visited one of the many massive illegal gold mining installations in the jungle here with a group of students from Tulane University, who are here to study the environmental and health consequences of the mercury-heavy method of resource extraction used by the miners.  Last week, I joined the ambassador at a lunch with a number of local LGBT activists who are campaigning for some level of recognition—or at least protection—of their rights by the government.  The week before, I participated in a meeting between the ambassador and a widely-known and respected medicine man from a tribe in the country’s interior jungle region.  Beside these experiences, I have also had the chance to work on a number of issues of concern to both the embassy and to these members of the local community.  Indeed, at the moment my primary area of focus here at the embassy is on the issue of land rights for indigenous groups like that of the aforementioned medicine man, and I’m in the process of drafting a cable to be sent to the headquarters of the State Department in Washington D.C. detailing recent developments on this topic.

The interactions with locals and experiences I have had here so far have allowed me to see that a good number of assumptions that I had about the country and its people before I arrived here were way off-point.   A few examples: Suriname may indeed be located in South America, but it shares few characteristics with the other South American countries in terms of language, culture, and history;  Suriname does have a history of political violence and military governance, but you would never know it from the people here, who are among the most friendly and upbeat people I’ve encountered anywhere; the lingua franca here is not in fact Dutch, but rather Sranan Tongo, a uniquely Surinamese creole language that has a base primarily in English, but blends together elements of Dutch, Portuguese, and a number of African languages as well (everyone I’ve met here speaks it, from government officials to local university students);  everyone here also speaks English, the majority quite fluently.  This is all not to mention the current state of the country’s politics, which I won’t get into in this blog, but is quite interesting and you can read more about here.

A colleague of mine at the embassy provided perhaps the most apt characterization of the country that I’ve heard so far: “Suriname is a Caribbean nation not on an island, a South American nation that doesn’t speak Spanish or Portuguese, and a Dutch-speaking nation that would prefer that weren’t the case.” An obvious question arises from all of this: if Suriname indeed “isn’t” any of these things, then what is it?  Although I don’t have all the answers yet, I think that the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met here so far have helped me get a much better sense of what defines Suriname.