Category Archives: Life in Ithaca

Halloween at the Johnson Museum

2014_0954_024.jpgby Kathy Xu ’16

Surrealism, magic, and wonder oh my! With First Year Parent’s weekend falling on a very festive Halloween at Cornell, there are many events both parents and students alike can participate in. One in particular that is sure to astound is exploring the ever expanding collection at the Johnson Museum.

With the largest collection of Asian art in all of NY State, excluding the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Johnson Museum offers a wonderful experience to its over 8,000 annual visitors. With 35,000 + pieces of art in its continually growing permanent collection, and over 10 special exhibitions per year, the Johnson Museum definitely has something for everyone.


Current temporary exhibits include Jie Boundaries, and Surrealism and Magic; both captivate audiences through innovative ways.

On Halloween Cornell’s very own Undergraduate docents were able to provide students and their families a brief 1-hour tour that showcased some of the museum’s prowess. As a new member of the docent team, I was thrilled to give my first inclusive tour on Halloween.

In keeping with the Halloween theme, I began my tour with the Surrealism and Magic exhibition, particularly highlighting certain pieces that relate to the supernatural. Pieces of interest included Tarot cards, manifestos, and the like. My personal favorite, Melusine and the Great Transparents, showcases the combination of mythology and realistic aspects of the United States landscape. Museum3Especially enthralling is the actual process in which the artist created this particular piece of artwork. The painter, Kurt Seligmann projected images and forms of cracked glass, then traced the intricate patterns to create the twisted and tornado like shapes within the painting. When I first saw the piece, the tornado like figures immediately reminded me of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy is sucked away by the tornado into the magical world of Oz. In a way the Johnson Museum itself transports visitors to the magical world of art.

I could only show so much to the visitors in the 1-hour period of time, however each individual showed genuine interest in the museum and wanted to explore more of its contents. With the limited time, I made sure to cover each floor, ending the tour on the fifth floor. I advise anyone who visits the Johnson Museum to go to the fifth floor which not only houses the Asian art collection, but also includes a beautiful view of the surrounding campus. Visitors are always amazed.


Besides these specialized events, the Johnson Museum offers both students and the public various resources throughout the regular academic session. Interested in making origami and how mere folds of a piece of paper can transform a 2-dimnsional sheet into a 3-dimensional work of art? Are you curious about the intricate mastery of shadow puppetry? If so, check out Workshop Wednesdays where students can partake in creating these wonderful crafts. Ever wondered what it’s like to stay a night at the museum? How about attending the Johnson’s After Hours, filled with performances, tours, and other activities? Most importantly these workshops and events are free; so if you are a current, prospective, or future student I wholeheartedly encourage all of you to enjoy everything the Johnson Museum and Cornell University has to offer!

I’ll see you at the Johnson Museum!

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!


Cornell's Hidden Beauties

by: Kathy Xu

Photography: Kathy Xu

The wondrous Clock Tower, the celebrated Libe Slope, and the all-encompassing Arts Quad are all beautiful in their own right. But on a lovely spring day, are these locations the only options for a picnic underneath the blue sky, a study session in the open air, or a pleasant afternoon nap with the spirit of nature?

I’d like to share 5 gorgeous locations on campus that you may not have heard of. There is no particular order, just 5 places I find underappreciated, but which will never fail to capture my heart and spirit.

1.       Willard Straight Hall Rock Garden


This is definitely the more well-known locations on my list. A wonderful garden situated next to Willard Straight Hall (WSH), only a step away from Ho plaza. The area offers a relaxing sitting area, and also includes a waterfall. This area is blocked off from the regular flow of traffic, and tends to be much quieter than the rest of Ho plaza and WSH.

2.       Willard Straight Yard/Lower Front Entrance


Unlike the WSH rock garden, this area is located right next to the bustling activities of Ho Plaza. Sitting underneath the tree one can view the many a busy passersby, giving the occasional wave to a friend or professor. This is an ideal location for taking your lunch to go, especially on warmer days when the seating outside offers a relaxed and open atmosphere.

3.       A.D. White Garden


This beautiful area is a bit hidden. It is definitely off of the beaten path; however the encasement offers shade. Accompanied by the breeze this is a perfect location to study, read, or rest. It is located behind the A. D. White House and Mallot Hall, next to The Big Red Barn. Make sure to check the surrounding area which is equally beautiful. For instance, the waterfall next to this garden contains live Koi!


4.       Porch on Plant Science Building


This location is located next to Mann Library. A desirable study location, you can be sure to find students finishing off a problem set, rattling off scientific terms, and having lunch. One of the best parts of this location is the tables. Sure, you can take your study material anywhere. However, for some it may be more convenient to study or work at a table. This location offers both tables and benches, as well as a wonderful view.

5.       Garden in Front of Plant Science Building


Finally, we conclude with the garden in front of the Plant Science building. I end with this location as an opportunity for you the reader; I hope that you will come with anticipation. As spring has only just begun and the flowers are only beginning to bloom, the wildlife in this garden is only starting to show its true colors. The wild flowers and daffodils have already begun to bud. However, the flora and trees have yet to bring forth their true potential. When you get a chance, swing by this magnificent area right in front of the Plant Science Building. I would love for you to share pictures of your own!


It does not stop here; there are other wonderful locations around campus waiting to be discovered!

5 Restaurants You Have to Try in Collegetown

by: Jonathan Yuan


A view of Collegetown Bagels

To the future Cornell University Class of 2018 – biggest congratulations on your acceptance!  I’m sure you’re thrilled at the prospect of studying among some of the brightest students around the world, under the guidance of some of the most brilliant professors in the United States.

But here’s something you might not often hear about from reading college guides – you’ll also be coming to one of the greatest towns for foodies in the United States!

As the Ithaca Independent reported last year, Ithaca “is so dense with restaurants, the New York Times called Ithaca a ‘gastronomic oasis.’”

So whether you’ll be coming to Ithaca as an accepted student, a prospective student, or as simply a visitor, be sure to visit not only Cornell’s nationally-ranked and award-winning campus dining options, but also take a peak at the numerous delicious restaurant choices in Collegetown – a quick two-minute walk from Central Campus.

Here is my entirely subjective list restaurants that you should absolutely try in Collegetown:

5) Mehak

This is not only a great Indian restaurant located in Collegetown, it’s probably one of the best Indian restaurants in all of Ithaca.  Whether you’re a fan of chicken tikka masala or need a weekly fix of some crispy garlic naan bread – Mehak’s got a broad menu of classic Indian favorites for both you and your vegetarian best friend.  And its flat-price lunch buffet is a killer deal.

4) Aladdin’s

I’m not the biggest fan of Mediterranean food, but some of my friends swear by this Collegetown staple.  It caters to the traditional Greek and Italian palate, serving a broad menu that ranges from chicken souvlaki and pitas to different pastas and salads.  Plus, it’s one of the classier and more high-brow options in Collegetown – a perfect restaurant to take your date on before a formal.

3) Plum Tree

If you’re a fan of sushi – Plum Tree is definitely the place for you.  With a huge selection of sushi rolls along with other Japanese classics like yakitori, udon, and rice dishes, Plum Tree offers the perfect ambience to end a hectic week with some elegant Asian food.

2) Ruloff’s

Sometimes, all you want is a nice, juicy burger coupled with fries, and there’s no better place to get that in Collegetown than at this classic American restaurant-by-day, bar-by-night.  Come for the variety of burgers and sandwiches as well as for the delicious weekend brunch specials!

1) Collegetown Bagels

CTB is truly the lifeblood of Collegetown.  This quirky restaurant embodies the eccentric and artistic spirit of Ithaca, while serving great food. Don’t let the name fool you, though – while you can find an astounding assortment of bagel and bagel sandwiches here, you can also find a wonderful selection of soups, sandwiches, desserts, and ice creams.  The store is always teeming with customers; be sure to stop by for a coffee or a bagel and stay for a conversation with a Cornell student or an Ithaca local.

Dragon Day 2014

by: Sarah Marie Bruno

Every school has its share of traditions—strange activities and festivities that would, to any sane outsider, appear like some strange pagan ritual. Cornell is no exception to this rule, and I would like to tell you about my own favorite Cornell tradition: Dragon Day, a tradition that is over 100 years old.

Each spring, the first year architecture students construct a dragon. Then, the day before Spring Break begins, they march the dragon through campus in a huge parade.

The Dragon emerges out of the architecture school.

The Dragon emerges out of the architecture school.

Architecture students who are not responsible for carrying the dragon dress up in costumes and form the dragon’s colorful entourage as it makes its way from the architecture school to the engineering quad.

This year, even Putin, Hillary, and Kim Jong Il, were in attendance.

This year, even Putin, Hillary, and Kim Jong Il, were in attendance.

Once the dragon reaches the engineering quad, it comes face to face with the Phoenix, built by the engineering students. In past years, the dragon and phoenix would then engage in a battle, usually involving flames. While actual flames are no longer allowed, the battle is eagerly anticipated by all participants!

Students pose by the Phoenix as it awaits the coming of the Dragon

Students pose by the Phoenix as it awaits the coming of the Dragon

This year both the dragon and the phoenix were met with a surprise when the physics students decided to get involved in the tradition, constructing their very own mythical creature. They chose to build a unicorn, modeled after the character “Twilight Sparkle” from My Little Pony, which came galumphing out the Physical Sciences Building and joined the parade.

The physicists triumphantly march their unicorn in the parade.

The physicists triumphantly march their unicorn in the parade.

I enjoy this tradition, because it is a chance for students from the various schools in this large, diverse university to come together for one goofy celebration. It provides some lighthearted and creative fun before Spring Break. We Cornellians work hard at our studies, but we are not afraid to have a good time and make fun of ourselves. In future years, I hope to see mythological creatures emerging from the other disciplines. Plant sciences maybe? Audrey Two, anyone?


New Beginnings by Prerana Chatty

One thing I’ve learned in my past (almost) three semesters at Cornell is that college is a series of beginnings- a string of adventures that fuse into one another. The day I moved into school I knew that I was embarking on a  new beginning – that I was starting a four-year journey that was going to change my life. What I didn’t realize is that move-in day was simply the beginning of beginnings.

My first “beginning” was the beginning of an academic journey – one that I’m still on. As a biology major, the classes I’ve taken at Cornell have only intensified my passion for the subject. In the College of Arts and Sciences, I’ve also been able to take French, writing, and anthropology courses that have all reminded me that education is holistic. To truly understand the world, you need multiple lenses. The classes I’ve taken and the professors I’ve had shaped the beginning of my academic journey and continue to impact how I think and view the world. Joining a lab has provided me with an even different lens as I’ve been able to apply the knowledge I’ve gained to a practical, hands-on approach.

My second “new beginning” was the beginning of my journey in service. Being surrounded by students who care about the world and genuinely want to impact it and shape it has made aware of the difference I can make on people around me. Among other things, I’ve been able to give back to my community by training future guide dogs, hosting service-related events, and acting as a peer adviser.

My third “new beginning” takes my journey of service to an entirely different level. This adventure started when I was talking to a friend about an organization known as Partners in Health and its impact on global health. We recognized the impact of Partners in Health on global health and wanted to involve Cornell students in its efforts. We contacted the organization and quickly became part of a grassroots movement to advance the idea that “health is a human right.: Partners in Health has changed my life as it has provided me with a passion for global health, a sense of purpose, and a commitment to change the world. The remarkable interest that my classmates have expressed in this campaign to change the face of global health reminds me of how many truly incredible people by whom I am surrounded.

My fourth “new beginning” is my journey of forming real, lasting relationships with these amazing people. The friends I’ve made and the people I’ve met are now indispensable in my life. The fact that I can sit on my bed and talk about global health and politics with my roommates and watch “How I Met Your Mother” in the lounge with friends a few minutes later is incredible. Forming bonds with people of a multitude of interests is its own journey and is one that is incredibly rewarding.

So when people ask me what my life at Cornell is like, I think of it as a series of “beginnings.” Sure I’m a sophomore now, but the “beginnings” are far from over. Learning is a never-ending process and the journey that I’m on at Cornell is challenging, but extremely engaging and fulfilling. The best part is that there’s no such thing as an “end.” There are only new beginnings.

The Typical Freshman Experience by Jillian Holch

On August 17th, 2012, while the majority of incoming freshmen were moving in to typical freshmen dorms, I took the road less traveled and moved into Risley Residential College for the Creative and Performing Arts. Unlike normal dorms, Risley is a program house, and is home to students of all four years. The walls are covered in murals painted by former residents and the dorm has a small theater, dance studio, and various shops for art, ceramics, and media.

At first glance, many people would say that I didn’t have the “typical” freshman experience. I didn’t live in a normal freshmen hall, had to deal with sharing a bathroom with a dozen other people, and the majority of my friends were not freshmen. However, my Risley community quickly became my best friends. A lot of my upperclassmen friends acted as my older siblings, and helped ease me into college so that I didn’t have to navigate Cornell’s social world on my own. They supported me when I performed in plays such as Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We would eat together in Risley’s dining hall that looks like it is straight out of Hogwarts, and I was even voted secretary for Risley’s governing student body, “Kommittee.”

However, the thing is, there is no “typical freshman experience.” I chose to live in Risley with students of all ages because I knew I would make friends easiest among people who shared similar interests in the arts as me, instead of those who were just in the same year as me. While I knew that I would be happier there than a freshman dorm, this is not the case for everyone. Some of my friends that did theater didn’t live in Risley and loved their freshman dorm. Some people I know in Risley did not like their experience living there.

There is no one “right” way to experience your freshman year at Cornell. The dorm you live in, the people you hang out with, the clubs you decide to join, all make your time at Cornell special and unique. And even if it’s getting to be a couple months in and you’re not totally satisfied with college, it is okay to make some changes. I have known people who have switched rooms or even dorms second semester. I even joined a few new clubs second semester to branch out, which was a great experience. Although it may not seem like this at the time, your freshman experience does not define the rest of your time at Cornell. Your life is not set in stone after one year. It is never too late to join more clubs or make new friends. One of my best friends just joined an a cappella group as a sophomore, and he couldn’t be happier. So, to all the current and future Cornell freshmen, make sure that YOUR freshman experience is perfectly suited for you, no matter how typical or atypical it may be.

Sunny Days in Ithaca by David Makee

I think most Cornellians would agree that winter on campus can get a little dreary. Don’t get me wrong- I love this place. But stomping up the slope in the morning through the driving wind and snow isn’t exactly ideal. A little demoralizing, even. What’s more, winter lasts a long time. It just snowed this weekend- in April. If you ski or snowboard or snowshoe, (I snowboard) this isn’t so bad- that’s a little extra time on the slopes (I recommend a weekend trip to Vermont or Canada). But even so, we all need our vitamin D. And especially around late February and early March, everybody needs that spirit-boost that only a day of sunshine can give.

When that day comes, I am reminded of why I chose to come to Cornell in the first place. That first step outside- bundled in your winter coat, when you realize its 75 degrees- is unreal. Spirits thaw, as do the snow constructions on the quad (you’d be surprised what our architects can do with that medium). Suddenly everybody is outside- sunbathing, throwing frisbees, or just hanging out. Small classes move outside and talk on the quad. Pickup sports games on North Campus start up again (a Sunday afternoon football tournament really can’t be beat). Suddenly that problem set due on Friday isn’t a big deal at all- it could probably wait a few more hours. After all, there are burgers on the grill.

Perhaps the deciding factor in my coming to Cornell was the campus’ natural beauty, which is only accentuated by good weather. Whenever it’s warm out, I go running in the Cornell Plantations, an area of trails and gardens on the eastern edge of campus. If you like running, it doesn’t get much better. Equally satisfying is a hike down the gorge trails. As the snow melts, the waterfalls start gushing- it’s pretty impressive. There’s also kayaking on Beebe Lake, sailing on Cayuga Lake, climbing in the area- anything
you can think of, really. And it all takes place in a beautiful natural setting. That’s what I call a study break.

Social events pick up in the spring too. A lot of groups go on wine tours around Cayuga and Seneca Lakes. Barbeques are frequent (as they should be). And of course, the madness of Slope Day draws ever nearer. So yes, there are some dark days in the winter. But the warm ones definitely make up for it. When the sun’s shining, there are few places I’d rather be.

Jumping into a Pool of Activities by Austin Lee

Transitioning into Cornell makes my high school look like a tiny pond and not the bastion of diversity and activities I once saw it as. With over 900 organizations and a student population larger than my hometown, Cornell clearly towers above. In high school I felt limited by the number of activities available to me. It was no problem fitting in every event in which I wished to partake. Out of 10 clubs, only 2 really interested me.

However, during Orientation Week at Cornell, I attended ClubFest and saw rows upon rows of organizations in every field imaginable. People were all over yelling about this and that, readily throwing quarter cards in my face (quarter cards are print advertisements the size of a quarter sheet of paper and Cornellians’ favorite way of marketing). Kendo club had people out and about hitting each other with wooden sticks. I was definitely overwhelmed.

The aftermath- It seemed that almost a quarter of the booths interested me so I took their information and I signed up for numerous list-servs. I came home and dumped all the sheets of information on my desk. Already within days I was getting spammed with club emails inviting me to their first general body meetings.

My approach- I decided to go to as many as possible of these general body meetings. I really wanted to get to know what these organizations were about. Every meeting started the same: a powerpoint briefly introducing the club and e-board (executive board) members. All in all, I must have had membership to over 10 clubs in the first several weeks.

Slowly but surely, I began to cut down the clubs I wanted to join. Some clubs seemed rather mundane and did very little to incorporate members in activities other than fundraising. I wanted to do something more personal and real.

After several eliminations, I continued to be a member of the Cornell Elderly Partnership (CEP). It is an organization that visits local long-term care facilities in the Ithaca area and volunteers with older adults. I had no experience with the elderly, but I gave the club a chance. After my first visit, I met the nicest lady there and loved the club. From there on out, I went every week.

CEP has become a focal point within my career here at Cornell. It has influenced me to minor in Gerontology and study Sociology. Taking part in this small club here at Cornell has changed my life path and interests in ways that I would have never guessed. This goes to show how one’s life here at Cornell and beyond can easily be changed by what you choose for your extracurriculars. Cornell allows for its students to really explore and find what their real interests are. I’m glad for this experience and what it has brought to my life.

Stomping Grounds by Lizzie Brooks

Freshman year, North Campus, 8:00 AM – I’m up, way too early, but on track to make it to my first year writing seminar at 8:40 AM. I eat a muffin in one hand with my phone in the other because it will take me another year to become addicted to coffee. I get to Goldwin Smith and join the small group of zombies that is my class. There I slowly come back to life as my professor discusses a play in which the protagonist is literally a talking head. It’s weird, no doubt, but I leave thinking a thousand thoughts that would have never found my head otherwise.

I go down some steps to French class where the former Paris resident au pair next to me reminds me just how far I have to go, while the professor across the table reassures the rest of us. She seems to have a fondness for my butchering of her language. At 11:00 I walk over to Temple of Zeus for some soup and much missed English conversation. I sit with my friend and learn about her parent’s concerns over her choice of religion when “Temple of Zeus” showed up 43 times on her credit statement. We go down the hall to get the classic department’s version of Initiation to Greek Culture, complete with 200 pages of reading for the night. Such might have been one of my first days at the arts college. Goldwin Smith was my freshman year stomping ground. I got out a bit for psych 1101 and tried not to eat more than one meal a day in Libe Café.

Junior year, Collegetown, 11:00 AM- I’m up for my first class at 11:40 AM. If I could love the Arts College for one thing in particular it might be that I have never again had to take another class at the ungodly hour of 8:40 AM. I actually have not had to start my day before 10:10 AM since then. I have declared my film major as well as my psych major and at this point almost all of my classes are in Schwartz. Though I would have never guessed it, I barely see that arts quad. Goldwin Smith used to feel like my personal bubble, but now feels like a time capsule.

The first few times I found myself on the arts quad this year I felt a departure from my early Cornell experience yet at the same time was reminded of the larger college of which I was a part. Sometimes I forget that everyone does not want to take directing and screenwriting, and most people think of Ingrid when I say Bergman. Its funny how such big changes happened without me realizing them. Changing classes each term seems simple, but stomping grounds shaped my community more than I thought. I love where I’ve wound up, but along with where I’m going, I’m sure to keep where I am in mind.