A Summer in Suriname

by: Jacob Brunell

2014-07-20 06.46.04

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 Summer 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.

How I Survived My First Winter

by: Julia Montejo

Growing up in Guatemala City and South Florida, many were surprised when the majority of colleges I applied to were north of the Mason-Dixon line. Flash forward to May 1, 2013, when I committed to Cornell. I was extremely excited to tell all of my friends, but the primary response I got was not equally excited; rather it was a little hesitant.

“Why would you go to school somewhere so cold?” “Have you ever seen snow before?” “Do people even leave their rooms when it snows?” “Ithaca!? You might as well go to Canada!” “I’ve heard that there are only two seasons in Ithaca: winter and August.” “You won’t be saying you love Cornell in the middle of February”

After hearing so many comments about Ithaca’s weather, I was a little less excited to be on my way to Big Red territory. I had only seen snow twice, I had never lived through a full winter, and Ithaca is much closer to Canada than Jupiter, Florida. On November 3rd, as my roommate and I headed to the library after Sunday brunch, the first momentous flakes of Ithaca snow fell.

Soon after, I realized that I was incredibly unprepared for what was to come; but now that spring is here and the greenery is back, I can truthfully say I enjoyed this winter. So to dispel some myths and calm some worried minds, here are some of my thoughts and tips about Ithaca winters:

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Beebe Lake: a wonderful place for adventures anytime!

1. Winter does mean that there are three other amazing seasons, not just one frigid one. Many have told me that summers in Ithaca are gorgeous. Fall is absolutely beautiful, and the leaves are so much fun. Once on my way to class, I saw two people run from a distance and jump into a giant leaf pile, belly flop style, so I tried it myself. What I learned is that everyone should jump into leaves more often, too. Though spring was late in arriving this year, it is a very exciting experience that everyone looks forward to. This can be noted by the thousands of Instagram pictures of the blossoms that are posted as soon as they bloom.

2. There are a good number of people who haven’t lived through a winter or seen snow before coming to Cornell. You will not be the only one who is both unprepared and overexcited. There will be others who will want to make snowmen and catch snowflakes on their tongue. That being said, winter veterans can be very helpful in teaching you to make a good snowball.

3. Having appropriate winter clothing is instrumental to not suffering. However, ordering online and purchasing items at Ithaca stores is probably your best bet if you’re from a state like Florida or California where few stores will have heavy coats. I did have a pea coat and a lighter Patagonia that served me pretty well until November, when I purchased a heavy coat online. Also boots are pretty important in keeping your feet warm, so don’t underestimate them! While some of these items can be expensive, keep in mind that you’ll get your money’s worth because you’ll wear them a lot.

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First day of classes: the view from the foot bridge is always spectacular!

4. Winter does not deter anyone from having fun or finding things to do. In fact, fraternity and sorority recruitment happens during this time, and I can say that while the cold made things a little difficult at times, I enjoyed the process! People still go out to their favorite off campus spots like the Ithaca Commons, or take part in outdoor winter sports at locations like Greek Peak. Of course, campus gyms are still available for recreation. Yet many chose to continue outdoor frolicking. For example, the Cornell Outing Club continues their camping trips during winter months. And as a study break during finals week last semester, a friend and I went to the area around Beebe Lake and had a snowball fight and I got to make my first snow angel!

5. Winter is beautiful! Though it does get a little old to have to deal with snow in March, walking past the frozen gorges and seeing the quad covered in snow made me feel like I was in a winter wonderland. Winter is beautiful in its own way, and it makes you appreciate hot cocoa and blankets a lot more.

I know that winter sometimes comes with non-ideal situations, but I love it anyway. Taking into consideration all its little perks and taking the necessary precautions will make a winter in Ithaca not just bearable, but enjoyable. Plus, as Frozen’s Elsa would say, “the cold never bothered me anyway!”

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Big Red Elsa!

Getting to Know a Professor

by: Sam Doernberg

Having been close with my teachers in high school, I was worried I would not find the same relationships at a school the size of Cornell.  For an incoming freshman, the introductory courses were daunting, large courses where I fretted that the only face time I would get with an educator would be a 50-minute section with a Teaching Assistant.

For a long time I have been interested in Neuroscience.  My sophomore year I took a Neuroscience survey course that covered a wide breadth of topics.  The course is intended to give potential majors the opportunity to peruse the field and then select a few areas in which they are particularly interested.  I found several of the topics especially exciting, and solicited course recommendations from older friends in the major. Eventually I settled on an upper-level Neurobiology course, taught by a professor who had seemed dynamic and engaging in the large introductory course.  I was excited for a smaller setting – albeit one of 80 people.

It was a thrilling class, perhaps the best I have taken so far in college.  I participated a little at the beginning of the course, and found that in office hours the professor recognized me as someone who spoke up in class.  At first I went to office hours with questions about course material, but soon started going just to hang out.  The professor was engaging and inquisitive — asking about my college experience, while telling me about his background and research interests.  As I got to know the professor better, his lectures seemed more and more dynamic.  Naturally, when the professor announced that he would be offering an upper-level 15-person seminar the following semester, I signed up without thinking twice about it.

At first, I was very afraid of approaching professors during office hours, but I am very glad I overcame that, as the experience has been very rewarding.

 

Some Tips for a Successful Summer

By: Betrearon Tezera

At this point in the game, it’s no secret that summer vacation is fast approaching. We’re all eagerly waiting to leave campus and commence our summer vacations (bon voyage, wherever you’re headed!), and some of us will return in a few short weeks to spend a beautiful summer in balmy Ithaca (seems like an oxymoron, right?). But, regardless of what you do or where you end up, these are some priorities to keep in mind:

Decompress: you just made it through another semester at Cornell! Congrats! In fact, for many of you this is the end of your first full year as a Cornellian, and for others, this will be your last high school summer. However, as we celebrate the end of another academic year and plan for what’s ahead, we should all remember to make as much time as is necessary to relax and recharge. It can sometimes feel hard to slow down after a successful semester, but trust this old dog, and take a couple of weeks (or more!) off, where your only job is to be decadent and carefree. Make it particularly devilish by consuming a good amount of chocolate and sleeping more than anyone should. What you do after that is up to you.

Get off Facebook/Twitter/Other Social Media: this seems like a blasphemous thing to say, considering our insatiable need to feel connected to everyone and everything around us at all times, but sometimes, that’s exactly the problem. Part of enjoying yourself is trying as best you can to be mindful and present without an expectant audience. I mean, I understand that for many of us, Facebook and Twitter are primary modes of keeping in touch with distant family and friends, but it pays to get away from your laptop for a few days. I guarantee you’ll feel refreshed, calm, and much less distracted. Make space for “real” interactions, meeting people face-to-face and doing things that result in more than a few status updates and profile pics.

Spend Time with Important People: these may be friends, family members, significant others, or even pets, but get some good love in. Spending time with people (or animals) you care for can do tremendous things for our sense of connectedness, especially when we spend time with those with whom we’ve had little interaction because of the demands of school/work. These people, whether you acknowledge it or not, are essential to your success at Cornell, and will continue to strengthen your endeavors and passions far beyond college. Nurture these relationships, and let them nurture you in return.

Be a bum: I cannot tell you how many times in a given week I wish for a few days of doing absolutely nothing. No emails, no phone calls, no homework, no interviews, no clubs, no…anything. For a lot of you this will perhaps be an anxiety provoking exercise, but I promise you’ll quickly integrate it into your daily lives, even if only for a few hours each day/week. The power of putting absolutely no expectations on ourselves is so healing, and often to not be conventionally productive is precisely the most productive thing you can do. Make time for absolutely nothing, days at a time, if you want to. If you absolutely must be engaged, doodle.

Be Creative: try to journal or write poetry, depending on your interests. The goal of therapeutic creativity is never to create anything, but to recreate bits of yourself that have been lost or suppressed in the hustle and bustle of college life. Draw, make music, dance…do what you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t had time to explore further. Feeling a little rusty since 4th grade band? Try picking up that flute again, and make it interesting by trying to play current hits (Bach is fantastic, but this makes for a particularly entertaining time on any musical instrument).

Be Engaged: many of you will no doubt have internships or volunteering positions lined up for the summer, and some (myself included) will want to take classes or do research. However, make every day about feeling connected to whatever it is you’re doing; it often helps to think about all the great people you’ll run into, and the contributions you’re making beyond simply working/learning. Making the commitment to be engaged is much more than making the commitment to “do well;” it’s also about being vulnerable, and taking (reasonable) risks. It’s about putting something else before yourself, and making as many people smile as is possible within a day. Work to make sure you’re getting some good relaxation, alone time, love, creativity, and pure, unadulterated laziness in. Just because you’re taking a class at Cornell (or any other institution) or doing research on stem-cells, it doesn’t mean you don’t get to have an awesome summer too, full of adventure and street food and fairs and friends with lots of lots of other cool and interesting friends. It’s your summer: what will you do with it?

 

Things I Wish I Had Known Freshman Year

by: Rie Seu

An Arts and Science Ambassador for the first time, I have realized how much I have grown from being a senior high school student and a freshman college student. I remember coming in excited about meeting new friends and being taught by some of the most knowledgeable and fascinating people. My first year at Cornell was great – what’s better than living with some of your best friends and learning about what you’re really interested in? There are, however, things that I would have liked to know at the beginning of my freshman. So, I decided to write a blog post about what students should keep in mind, so that they can have a great, fulfilling experience at Cornell.

1.       Get out of the Cornell bubble

At Cornell, because the campus is so huge, it is so easy to not step out of campus. There is so much going on on-campus, ranging from a capella concerts to theater to inspiring speakers from all over the world. You try to balance all these cool activities while keeping in mind that you also have to study and keep up your grades. However, remember the Cornell has one of the best college towns in the U.S.! There is so much culture in Ithaca and so much to do – wine tours, restaurants, hiking, nature walks, dances and so much more. You just have to be adventurous and travel out to the Commons or Collegetown! This is definitely my number one goal for next year.

2.       Explore your options

Cornell is different from high school in that there are so many students interested in so many different things. I realized the importance of exploring my options and trying something new. Remember that you can go to a few club meetings, or even classes, and drop these if they don’t interest you after all. My high school doesn’t have a marching band, but after hearing so many good things about it the Cornell Marching Band, I decided to join in my freshman year. It was the best decision I made at Cornell, not only because I love playing the flute, but also because of the amazing people I have met! Clubs and extracurricular activities are a great way to create your own community in what may at first seem like such an expansive school.

3.       TAs are awesome

When going on college tours, a lot of people ask questions, such as, “How many classes are taught by TAs? How much do you interact with your professors?” Through my first year at Cornell, I realized how valuable TAs are in explaining concepts and helping you out with your homework or projects. I have really gotten close to some of my TAs, and am glad I attended their office hours! So, when coming here, remember to attend the office hours if you have any questions – this is definitely a more productive way of studying!