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!

Links:

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.

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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.

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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

by 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.

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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.

Summer Sites in Ithaca

by Sarah Marie Bruno

Throughout my freshman and sophomore years, upperclassmen would always tell me that I had to stay at Cornell at least one summer during my four years here, because summer in Ithaca is incredible. So, this summer, I decided to stay to do research and take a summer class, and I found that they were absolutely right! Here are some of the awesome places to visit during the summer (and during the Fall, but especially during the summer!):

Buttermilk Falls: Buttermilk Falls is a popular weekend destination. It has beautiful hiking trails, a swimming area, and the falls shown in the photo below! Cornell’s bus system, the TCAT, has a special summer-only route, # 22, that will take you right to this State Park. The bus is free on weekends to students with a Cornell ID. Admission to the park is also free—the only fee is for parking if you drive yourself rather than take the bus.

Buttermilk

Treman State Park: Treman Park is just one bus stop farther than Buttermilk on bus #22. At Treman Park, like Buttermilk, you can go hiking and swimming, and even swim right up to the falls! There is also a diving board if you are feeling adventurous. Treman Park is a great place to go for a picnic and to lounge out in the sun. If you are lucky, the ice cream truck might also stop by while you are there!

Treman Park


Ithaca Falls: 
Ithaca Falls is within walking distance from campus. Swimming is not permitted at this site, but it is still a beautiful place to visit and a great place to take some photos and go hiking!

Ithaca Falls

Beebe Lake: Right on campus, you can visit the waterfall at Beebe Lake. As a freshman living on North Campus, this will be your view walking to class every day! You can hike right up to the falls shown in the picture above. There is also a hiking trail that circles around Beebe Lake, and at the far end of the trail, you can see yet another waterfall.

Beebe Lake 1

The bridge in the picture below is at the head of Beebe Lake. It is dedicated to Cornell Alumnus Colonel Henry Woodward Sackett from the Class of 1875. There is a legend that if a couple walks all the way around Beebe Lake holding hands (you can’t let go even once!) the couple will eventually get engaged.

Beebe Lake

Stewart Park: There isn’t a waterfall at Stewart Park,but it still makes the list as a beautiful place to visit during the summer. Stewart Park is right on Cayuga Lake. It has gorgeous views of the lake, places to eat picnics, a playground, and (you guessed it) plenty of hiking trails. Stewart Park is also the site of Ithaca’s Fourth of July festival, where fireworks are launched in the evening.

Stewart Park

Cornell Plantations: Last but not least is the Cornell Plantations, alive with a botanical garden, an arboretum and a variety of nature preserves. Again, the Plantations are a great place to go to eat a picnic and relax. There is even a sculpture garden and a gong!

sculpture garden

Over the summer, the Ithaca Shakespeare Company also performs a series of Shakespeare plays outdoors at the F.R. Newman Arboretum at the Plantations. These performances are something no Cornell student should miss!

Summer is a beautiful time to enjoy the outdoors at Cornell. This academic year, it will be my turn to tell the underclassman, “You have to stay in Ithaca at least one summer!”

My Three Summers in Ithaca: Some Reflections

 by Betrearon Tezera

It is by now impossible for me to deny just how attached I am to Ithacan summers. Having by now spent two and a half summers at Cornell (and counting), it seems appropriate and even necessary for me to share some of the personal and intellectual joys I’ve been able to experience here. Honestly, I’m not a fan of hyperbole, but spending a summer at Cornell will always change you in the most unexpected of ways. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • The Summer Course: By the end of this summer, I will have taken three summer classes during my eight-semester stay here. That seems a little suspect, doesn’t it? Well, here’s the thing: I consider myself a professional academic, always have, always will, which is why you should remember this post is by no means prescriptive. The summer internship is a perfect alternative to the summer course. More school after lots of school, however, is just my thing. Maybe I’m suspending “growing up,” maybe I’m a masochist, I don’t know, so try not to judge me too harshly.
  • More Specifically, The Independent Study: The summer course is a perfect way to explore a topic you’re interested in that you don’t have time to dissect during the regular term. My personal favorite summer course program is the independent study. I am now completing my third independent study, and it is mind-blowing. Want to learn how? The process is quite simple: sometime in the middle of the Spring, you get in touch with your (amazing) Arts and Sciences advising dean and request a form for a summer independent study. (NOTE: Generally, summer independent study forms and semester independent study forms are different from one another. It is often the case that your advising dean will direct you to the office of the department within which your independent study will be conducted, where you will be able to find a department-specific or course-specific form). Once said form is procured, you should carefully select a faculty member you regard particularly highly (both in terms of their academic interests as compared to yours, and their personality). I personally have always taken independent studies with professors whose classes I’ve taken in prior semesters and I’ve performed well in. This is one of the best ways I know of that allows you to build a personal relationship with a professor you admire while creating a mutually challenging and personally fulfilling academic experience.
  • Why the Independent Study? As mentioned above, I personally prefer the independent study because of the freedom it gives me to explore personally salient and intellectually difficult topics, well, independently. While discipline and commitment are of course required, there are some perks to taking advantage of the independent study format. For instance, you and the faculty member directing your reading, depending on what it is you’re going to explore, will be equally involved in creating the reading list for the summer, and I’ve had great fun reading some of my favorite childhood texts (The Little Prince: ring a bell?) and watching some of my favorite films and television shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, enough said). In other words, I’ve been able to really criticize what the meaning of an “academic” text even is in the contemporary moment: how does one read a film, for instance, as a media text? What exactly is happening in the act of “reading?;” these are just a few of the questions that come up for me, since I am after all focusing on the study of culture, knowledge, and existence, as a Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies (FGSS) major. Perhaps for you, the questions will be a little different. “How can I improve the Suzuki method to expend less energy and use the least number of materials or steps?” or “how can I play with nanoparticles to make extremely durable and virtually unbreakable materials from everyday waste items?” can be your research foci, and they can be anything and everything you want. Really. Remember, in some senses, you are both the instructed and the instructor.
  • What on Earth is so special about an Independent Study at Cornell? To put it very plainly, I absolutely love asking extremely controversial questions in the academic setting, which is why the “one-on-one” method of instruction, afforded me by the independent study format, is incredibly interesting and important to me. Further, I want to be asking these questions and asking them without fear, strengthened with evidence, and with a commitment to seeking true enlightenment, bolstered both by a contemporary point of contention and a more classical, argumentative approach to learning. I want to go to graduate school. I think of teaching one day, and I can’t imagine a better way to prepare myself for what is to come than the independent study. I love being in Ithaca during the summer. In many ways, some of the hardest questions I’ve had to ask and answer have been asked and answered here, and that’s what makes a place “home” for me. You should find the learning format, course, campus, internship (and beyond) that gives you a similar feeling and run with it. I know I am.

Studying Abroad 101

by Sami Briggs

Well, first off, I should amend the title of this post because at Cornell, we do not have any courses labeled 101. Cornell’s course catalog is so extensive that introductory level classes are labeled 1101. So, Cornell’s Psych 101 class is truly Psych 1101. But I digress. 

I came to Cornell in the fall of 2012 with what I thought was a very solidified plan of what I would and would not do during my days at Cornell. I will openly admit that the majority of my days thus far have been spent in ways that I never predicted, and I am thankful for those twists and turns that brought me to where I am today; I might not have expected to find my niche where I found it, but I have never been happier. My experience with planning my semester abroad has been no exception.

First, I thought that I would go to somewhere in central Europe such as Germany or Austria. As a History major I was fascinated by the culture and wanted to see the sights, hear the music, and enjoy the art of such cities as Berlin or Vienna. But…then I remembered that I do not speak a word of German, and I thought my semester abroad would be better spent in a place where I would be able to truly immerse myself in its culture. The College of Arts and Sciences has a language requirement for most study abroad programs for this reason, and with my lack of natural language skills, learning a new language was not a commitment I was willing to make.

After nixing central Europe, I decided that I would go to London. Half of my family lives in southern England, and since at that point in my Cornell career I had decided to concentrate my History studies in British imperialism, it seemed to be a logical destination (also, I may not speak German, but I am a pro at English). But then a conversation with a friend made me rethink my decision all over again. I had heard about the Cornell-in-Washington program before, but since I had already set my sights on Europe, I didn’t really consider it as an option. I gave it a second look when a friend told me she was considering the program and it took me all of five minutes to realize that the Cornell-in-Washington program was perfect for me; I major in Government as well as History and plan to work in government upon graduation, and this program allows me to take classes toward my major while interning in a government department or think tank. Cornell-in-Washington and I fit together beautifully, and I am beyond excited to study abroad domestic next semester and room with that very friend who helped me decide on Washington.

So, as you start planning out your own study abroad adventures, here are some tips and important facts that you should know about studying abroad at Cornell:

1. You do not have to go to Europe. Let me qualify that. Europe is a phenomenal place to study abroad; it is composed of unique and fascinating countries and has the delightful quality of being small enough that you can travel internationally with relative ease (especially within the Euro Zone, you don’t even have to change your money!) but, there are tons of other possible destinations, and you should explore them so that you can make a well-informed decision. A friend of mine who studies Animal Science spent last semester split between Kenya and Tanzania, studying wild animals in their natural habitat. Another friend who wants to become an attorney focused on social justice is spending this summer in New York City with Cornell’s Urban Semester Program (CUSP) with the Legal Aid Society. Another participated in the Semester-at-Sea program and spent the semester on a boat studying oceanography and traveling the world. Don’t let Europe be a default option, if you choose Europe, choose it for a reason! And don’t be afraid to look to other destinations.

2. You don’t even have to leave the country! The Cornell-in-Washington program is in Washington, D.C., the Cornell Urban Semester Program is in New York City, etc. The program that is right for you could be closer than you think!

3. Explore all of your options! Refer to tips #1 and #2.

4. The College of Arts and Sciences has a language requirement. As Cornell’s liberal arts college, the College has a language requirement for matriculation, and focuses on foreign language immersion for study abroad programs in countries where English is not the national language. If you are continuing the language you studied in high school, this is generally only two semesters of courses, but if you are beginning a new language, this generally amounts to more like five semesters of courses. Your adviser or dean might be able to help you find a way around this if this requirement becomes prohibitive, so, don’t fret!

5. There is no particular semester that you should go. You can go either semester your junior year, your first semester senior year, or even over a summer! While the majority of students will study abroad second semester junior year, you can and should choose whatever works best for you.

6. You can study abroad even if you major in the sciences. You will hear that it is more difficult to study abroad when majoring in the sciences due to the challenge of transferring credits, etc. But, where there’s a will there’s a way, and with some planning ahead it is absolutely possible to study abroad and still graduate on time.

7. Try not to let FOMO prevent you from going. You will find that Cornell is bursting at the seams with clubs to join, classes to take, places to go, people to meet, and opportunities to take advantage of; my sister put it best when she said she could spend four more years at Cornell and fill each day differently than she did the first time. I consistently feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do, so choosing to spend a semester away from my beloved Cornell was a tough decision. I knew that I would have immense Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), but, upon further reflection, it is still totally and completely worth it to spend a semester abroad.

8. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. This last piece of advice applies to more than just if/when/where you will study abroad; it applies to everything and should be thought of always. When you arrive at college, you are most likely 18 years old, and you are given the weighty task of choosing what you want to do for the rest of your life. What 18-year-old can say for certain that they know exactly what they want? This 20-year-old can’t even say that with complete confidence. Granted, I have a pretty good idea, and I had a pretty good idea at age 18, but one of the reasons I chose Cornell over the other universities to which I was accepted was for the freedom it would give me to change my mind. If I hadn’t been unafraid to change my mind, I never would have found the study abroad program that was right for me.

Happy traveling, and good luck!

To learn more about the Cornell in Washington program, please visit http://ciw.cornell.edu/. To learn more about Cornell Abroad, please visit http://www.cuabroad.cornell.edu/.

The CAPS Program: One of Cornell’s Hidden Gems

by Lauren Avery

Note: this blog post is about the China/Asia Pacific Studies program at Cornell. It is not about Counseling and Psychological Services. 

When I was a freshman, I (unofficially) changed my intended major at least four times. I entered Cornell as a linguistics major, then I was astronomy, then came government and pre-law, and I was even pre-med for about a week. Even though I was interested in all of these subjects, none of them were my passion, and this left me feeling frustrated and confused for a long time.

The truth is that my real, intense, gets-me-up-in-the-morning kind of passion is traveling. I wanted to study languages and explore different cultures,and my problem was that at first I couldn’t find a major that focused on an international experience.

It was by a good stroke of fortune that I began taking Mandarin Chinese my freshman year, and in my second year of Chinese class, I met several students who were CAPS (China/Asia-Pacific Studies) majors. A few months later, I declared a CAPS major myself, and I have not looked back since.

What exactly does a CAPS student study? The CAPS program is dual-faceted. On one hand, students study the history and development of Chinese-American relations, and on the other hand they study Mandarin; four whole years of Mandarin, in fact.

You should know that CAPS is special in several ways. First, it is a relatively new program and it is unique to Cornell, so it is truly an opportunity that cannot be found anywhere else. Second, it is very, very small. Each year is capped at around 20 students, and my year only has about 13. This means that you are getting really specialized, individualized attention from professors who are leaders in the field of Chinese-American relations. In fulfilling the CAPS requirements (which I will discuss later), I have never taken a course with more than 30 or 40 students. By the time they graduate, CAPS students are often very close to the other CAPS majors and to the CAPS professors as well.

Another exciting feature of the CAPS program – and one that really sealed the deal for me – is the study abroad requirement. All CAPS majors are required to spend two semesters abroad. The first semester is spent in Washington, D.C. with the Cornell in Washington program, and this usually occurs in the fall semester of the student’s junior year. Then, in either the spring semester of junior year or the fall semester of senior year, the student travels to Beijing, China, to live and study at Peking University. I’ll be leaving for my semester in Beijing in about two months.

The beauty of the CAPS study abroad programs is that they are very relevant to the program’s purpose. In both Washington and Beijing, CAPS students take CAPS courses from Cornell faculty, continue studying Chinese, and complete internships. In Washington last fall, I worked at the Department of Justice, where I learned about the nuances and procedures of the American political system. Also, all Cornell in Washington students (not just CAPS students) perform an independent research project on a topic of their choice. Many students then get their projects professionally bound and even published. I researched Chinese territorial disputes with other nations and how American public opinion affects official US foreign policy, and I was incredibly proud of the finished product.

CAPS is also unique in that it has relatively few requirements. Most required courses are taken in Washington, D.C. and Beijing. Besides that, CAPS majors must take just one gateway CAPS course and two CAPS elective classes, along with completing four years of Mandarin or testing out. This makes the CAPS curriculum especially flexible and adaptable. Many CAPS students pick up a minor or a double major (the most common being economics, government, and history). For me, I chose to use this space in my schedule to pursue a second language, and I began taking Arabic in addition to Chinese.

Even if CAPS isn’t for you, here is a word of wisdom from a student who was once very undecided about her major: there are so many wonderful academic opportunities at Cornell, and many of them may be under the radar, so be sure to dig!

To learn more about CAPS at Cornell, please visit caps.cornell.edu

“What Would You Do in Another Life?”

by Lisa Liu

“What would you do in another life?” That’s a question that I have been asked many times, and it’s an important question worth knowing the answer to. I’ve heard plenty of answers to this question, ranging from career choices to life fantasies: I would be a fashion designer; I would be a professional soccer player; or I would be a stay-at-home-dad. The importance of this question is, most simply, a way to decode the answer to yet another common question, “What are you passionate about?”

After I thought carefully about the question, I arrived at my answer and replied with confidence: “I would read all of the classics and gain insight from timeless, brilliant ideas.” Now don’t get me wrong—part of the adventure of life is getting up, taking life by the reigns, and owning your future as a result of all the decisions that we make. But there’s something special about getting a glimpse of a character’s life and entering into an unfamiliar world. There is something to be said about the plot twists, character developments, and deeply touching moments in a novel that make it come to life.

I came into Cornell extremely eager to learn. I had a thirst for knowledge, and I came to relish both my pre-medical courses as well as my humanities and distributions courses. In my first year at Cornell, I decided to take two Freshman Writing Seminars, both of which were in the English department and both of which had a maximum of 18 students. The first semester, my seminar was called “Great New Books,” where we read The Kite Runner, No Country for Old Men, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and the class choice, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, among others. The second semester I took “Memoir and Memory,” which were artistic representations of six different authors’ lives. Delving into these novels seminar-style provided me a new love for reading and writing that had always existed but had not been fully developed before college. I had begun to truly appreciate the distributions requirements for the College of Arts and Sciences as a way to balance my workload with topics that I am genuinely interested about.

I am now a rising senior, just as interested in the sciences as I ever was, but with an undeniable passion for the humanities as well. During my junior year, I decided to take a comparative literature course called “Great Books,” where we studied books from the Renaissance to the modern time period, and from regions all over the world—France, Germany, the United States, Argentina, and more. In this class, I learned how to critically analyze a text. This class was discussion-based, so I also learned how to formulate an opinion about the text and articulate those analyses succinctly. The relaxed atmosphere of the class contributed to class participation, and once we became comfortable talking, we not only enjoyed studying these novels, but we also started loving the discussions we had, gaining not one, but 25 different interpretations of each text we studied. The conglomerate of my reading and writing experiences at Cornell led to me to find my second passion beyond medicine: literature.

When I imagine all the good times on the hill, I think of meeting the “Wolf Gang,” a group of my closest friends, experiencing rush and meeting 200 new sisters that became my extended family, sledding down Libe Slope, hearing the chimes from the clock tower, and enjoying the view on campus (it’s absolutely breathtaking). Moreover, the academic side of my Cornell experience has been just as meaningful to me. I also think back and smile at the times when I stare down at a problem set and have no idea where to begin (challenge accepted), the highly intelligent professors I have had the opportunity to meet, doing research in a place I consider home, and last, but definitely not least, curling up in one of those comfy sofa chairs in Libe Café and reading a great book.

“What would you do in another life?” is such a grand question to me. It is because as soon as I figured out the answer to that question, I had no fear in tacking on an English minor, knowing that my Cornell experience would not be the same without more English classes. To me, figuring out the answer is only the second most important thing. The most important lesson is to be brave like those characters in those novels, and don’t wait for another life to do what you are truly passionate about.