Category Archives: Cornell on Break

Arts & Sciences & Healthcare & Business

In our last post of the year, junior Zoee shares her excitement for a summer internship in healthcare consulting, not necessarily a position of her utmost expertise but one Arts and Sciences’ holistic education helped her attain. 

By Zoee D’Costa ’19, Biology & Society major, Psychology minor

Student taking photo of interview outfit

This is a picture from just before my first interview with the company. I was super excited to be wearing business formal clothes instead of my usual medical garb!

This summer I will be working in Chicago interning for a consulting company focusing on healthcare. While at first glance, business and finance might seem like dirty words to an idealistic pre-medical student with goals to serve communities across the world, they are concepts that are intertwined and dependent.

As a student versed in both the humanities and sciences, I have seen the value in the connection of fields. Studying Biology & Society in the College of Arts & Sciences has helped prepare me for an internship in business in invaluable ways. I have developed skills in critical thinking and problem solving across disciplines, and I’ve been given the opportunity to see how understanding trends in healthcare and biological science affect patients and communities. These skills have clearly helped me gain employment in a field that is different than my training because the skills are transferable and make me a holistic candidate.

Here is a photo from my final round of interviews with my company–they flew me out to Chicago to do a full day of problem solving, interviews and cases.

Furthermore, being exposed to so many contrasting ideas and fields in my undergraduate experience gave me the confidence to seek employment outside of my comfort area and be sure that I will find success in this field as well. Finally, combining business and health may seem strange but I think it is very important to try a wide variety of positions within the field before committing to a path so that you not only solidify your choices and lessen your regrets of opportunity costs, but also gain experience and knowledge that is applicable to a career in medicine. I am excited to learn about the business of healthcare and find out how to optimize practices so that I can bring that to my patients when I am a physician. Here’s to a great summer!

Kidney Research Internship: Branching Out from the Comfort of Cornell

This week, sophomore Dean talks about exciting new opportunities that await him this summer and how Arts and Sciences has helped him step out of his comfort zone and challenge himself. 

By Dean Kim ’20, Chemistry major, East Asian Studies minor

This summer, I will be participating, along with 12 other undergraduates from across the country, in the UAB Kidney Undergraduate Research Experience Program.

As the semester comes to an end and the weather gets warmer, I’m looking forward to packing my bags and traveling to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical School campus where I’ll be participating in their Kidney Undergraduate Research Program (KURE) for the summer! The College of Arts & Sciences has helped me prepare for what lies ahead by teaching me how to explore and think independently.

Me presenting research at the Boyce Thompson Institute Plant Genomics Summer Research Symposium last summer!

Coming to Cornell, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And while I’m still a Chemistry pre-med undergraduate as planned, I have also discovered new interests and changed my outlook on learning through taking distribution requirements. Arts and Sciences has taught me the importance of meeting new people. In my core Chemistry courses, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people with similar interests as myself. Having classes together each semester has allowed us to bond and form close friendships. However, when I took a course in film history this semester, I met a whole new group of people with different interests, hobbies, and perspectives. Branching out in my classes exposed me to a diverse group of people that had new ideas and experiences I could learn about.  While staying in my comfort zone felt safer, the most beneficial experiences I’ve had at Cornell have been when I had left my comfort zone and explored. For instance, I discovered a new hobby by taking a juggling class, and took interest in the East Asian Studies minor after taking a Religious Studies course last fall.

Touring Song Lin’s Lab in April 2018. On the left is Juno, a graduate student in Professor Lin’s Lab. I’ll be conducting organic chemistry research in the Lin Lab next Fall!

Arts and Sciences has also taught me the importance of problem-solving. Hard work can never be overstated, but smart work is often overlooked. In my studies, I’ve learned that there is never a singular way to do anything or one perfect solution. For example, the way I study for organic chemistry does not work for studying sociology or film studies. I have learned how to adapt when I face challenges. This has been an essential skill that has helped me in my research lab at Cornell and will continue to help me as I conduct kidney research this summer. Thanks of these lessons learned through Arts and Sciences, I was inspired to leave my comfort zone of Cornell and my hometown of Wilton, CT to branch out. I’m extremely excited to make new friends and new experiences at UAB this summer.

Off to Oxford!

Can you believe it’s already May? In the final month of this academic year, ambassadors will tell us what adventures await them this summer or, for some, after graduation. Senior Solveig starts us off by sharing how Cornell and Arts and Sciences helped prepare her for what lies ahead at Oxford. 

By Solveig van der Vegt ’18, Biological Sciences major, Mathematics minor

A view of Christchurch College at Oxford, taken when I visited Oxford with my cousin last summer.

31 months down, less than 1 to go. Graduation is getting really close and I am both super excited and a little scared. The past 4 years at Cornell have been amazing, but I also feel like it is time to move on. So at the end of May, I will be packing up my suitcases to go home for a few months. I will be doing a lot of traveling and relaxing over the summer and in October I will be starting my graduate studies at the University of Oxford! I have committed to the Systems Approaches to Biomedical Sciences CDT, which is a combined masters and PhD program, and I couldn’t be more excited.


To be fair, I didn’t get here on my own. Graduate school applications aren’t easy, especially when you decided to that you want to go abroad. Luckily, I had some amazing people supporting me along the way, from the people at career services who reviewed all my application materials, to the wonderful faculty who agreed to write letters of recommendation and helped me decide which programs would be the best fit for me. All the opportunities that Cornell offered over the past four years – rigorous classes, research, volunteering – were also helpful in building a solid resume and having something interesting to talk about during interview.

The Radcliffe Camera at Oxford.

Applications are stressful, but meeting with faculty and staff and discovering that they are truly excited about the opportunities you are pursuing and want to help makes the whole process 10 times better. It takes a village, as they say, and I truly feel that at Cornell and in the College of Arts and Sciences, the village is there.

Swimming with Skittles and Dancing through San Fran!

This week, sophomore Shoshana shows us how she spent her winter break training (and delivering candies) in Arizona as well as dancing in San Francisco!

By Shoshana Swell ’20, Performance & Media Arts and Information Science double major

This winter break, I travelled to Arizona for winter training with my Varsity Swim Team. I created this video to highlight the team’s training, adventures, and candy deliveries during practice. Let’s be real, we all know the feeling of panic when you get hungry in the middle of a workout. You might be craving Oreo cheesecake, chicken nuggets, or a full pie of pizza. When two swimmers on the team craved Skittles, our divers delivered them right to their lane. If that is not teamwork, I don’t know what is.

If you are looking for a sequel to my video abroad, Why Walk When You Can Dancehere it is! Aside from Arizona, I travelled to San Francisco, California to reunite with the friend I studied (and danced) with in Prague. We toured San Fransisco the only way we know how… dancing!


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Hospital Shadowing in Kerala, India

Welcome back! This month, we have two themes – “Work and Community Service” and “Winter Adventures.” Ambassadors will be sharing with us what they did over the winter break and also about jobs or volunteer positions on campus that they love. Junior Nitya starts the month off by telling us about her warm winter break shadowing in Kerala, India.

By Nitya Deshmukh ’19, Biology and Society major

When the fall 2017 semester finished, I was ready to escape the cold of Ithaca and travel somewhere warmer. Two weeks after my last final, I got on a plane to India.

The drive to the hospital.

Around 16 hours later, I was in Kerala, a state in South India. I showered, ate dinner, and went to sleep, full of excitement for the next two weeks I would spend shadowing at a local rural hospital.The Government Tribal Specialty Hospital in Kottathara, Kerala, had four floors, was open air, and packed everyday with patients coming in with issues ranging from diabetes or blood pressure, to snake bites and scabies. I was lucky enough to be allowed to watch so many physician-patient interactions, and even was able to sit in on several surgeries, something I had never done. The first surgery I observed was a cesarean (or C-section). The doctors were kind enough to explain some of the things they were doing, such as using spinal anesthesia instead of local, and how horizontal cuts were preferred over the old-school lateral cuts.

Taking the train!

As they began to cut, I got nervous. What if I can’t handle the blood? What if I faint, or vomit? What if I really dont have what it takes to become a doctor after all?

Luckily, none of this happened. I watched that C-section, and was rewarded by seeing a baby born. When the baby didn’t cry at first, I and the other nurses became nervous, but soon, the baby did and the whole operating room sighed collectively.

I sat in the OP ward, or the walk-in primary care, for around 4 days, and within that time, I saw what I believe to be around 400 patients. This is not an exaggeration – the doctors were so efficient and cut right to it, and I couldn’t get my head around how they didn’t get tired or worn out. In fact, I was always struck with how all of the employees were so calm all the time. When a code blue (signaling a heart attack) would sound, they wouldn’t rush. The patient would be saved, obviously, but the important goal was to make sure that everyone kept their head.

A part of the hospital’s complex outside.

I was also interested by how the hospital was run, as a rural government hospital. I took a population health class last semester at Cornell in which we spent a lot of time discussing rural healthcare, and it was intriguing to see how many of the same issues and actions were present in an American rural hospital and an Indian one.

Eventually, I left Kerala, spent a few days in Mumbai, flew home, and drove back to Ithaca. I couldn’t bring the weather, but I definitely brought the experience with me.

Why Walk When You Can Dance?

In our last post of the month, sophomore Shoshana takes us for a stroll across Europe, where she spent the summer studying Psychoanalysis and Art, and traveling.

By Shoshana Swell ’20, Performing & Media Arts and Psychology double major

This summer, I travelled to Prague, Czech Republic to take a class about Psychoanalysis and Art (not to become a prima-ballerina). Halfway through my trip, I had dozens of photos just of me smiling and wanted a new way to remember the trip. So, I decided to dance! Each scene highlights a magical moment in my travels abroad. In addition to a month spent in Prague, I travelled to Hungary, France, and Croatia.

This summer was all about putting myself into unfamiliar situations. Once the last final exam of my freshman year ended, I packed up my dorm and flew out to Prague two days later. I immersed myself into a new culture, found a new family of friends, and everything became clearer. Living abroad is one of the most magical experiences I have ever had.

I spent my mornings studying the untold stories of the psychoanalytic perspective in Psychology and how they weave into the creation of art. On the weekend, I travelled to Croatia and chased peacocks around on an island.

Europe gave me more than what I could have asked for. Here are just a few moves to show you how groovy it was (so cringey, so punny?).


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A Very Spanish Summer: Interning at the U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona

This week, senior Hadassa shares with us how she spent her summer interning at the U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona, an experience that complemented her studies in Government and International Relations.

By Hadassa Jakher ’18, Government and Spanish double major, International Relations and Law & Society double minor

My first day at the U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona.

I had the incredible experience of spending my past summer interning with the U.S. State Department at the Consulate General in Barcelona. I worked in the Political/Economic Section of the Consulate. I prepared analyses and reports concerning the political and economic developments of the autonomous regions of Catalonia and Aragon, as well as the Principality of Andorra.

This was an exciting time to follow the political situation of Spain, and in particular, Catalonia. That summer, the autonomous community was in the midst of planning to hold a unilateral referendum on independence from Spain, despite the central government in Madrid declaring such a referendum unconstitutional. (On October 1, Catalonia attempted to carry out their referendum, which was met by opposition from the Spanish state). Working with the Political/Economic Section allowed me to see American foreign policies applied firsthand, a wonderful complement to my studies as a Government major and International Relations minor.

Decorations for the annual 4th of July Celebration and 25th anniversary of Barcelona hosting the Olympics.

I also had the opportunity to participate in the Consulate General’s annual 4th of July celebration. This event coincided with the 25th anniversary of Barcelona hosting the 1992 Olympics, with various Andorran and Catalan government officials and Olympian athletes in attendance. Because of my high proficiency in both Spanish and Catalan, I was entrusted with escorting the VIPs and presenting them to the Consul General. It was a great experience to have been able to speak to the attendees, especially to members of the Catalan Parliament, the Catalan Regional President, and the Syndicate General of the Andorran Parliament.

Me (left) presenting the Syndicate General of the Andorran Parliament, Vincenç Mateu Zamora (middle), to U.S. Consul General Marcos Mandojana and his wife (right) during the 4th of July Celebration.

Interning at the Consulate General in Barcelona was a fantastic way to spend my summer as I learned a lot about Spain and the U.S. Not only was I able to cement my interest in the U.S. Foreign Service, but I also had the opportunity to do so in the beautiful Catalan capital of Barcelona.

Summer in Tanzania

Continuing on with the theme of “Summer Adventures,” senior Shanna tells us about how she spent this past summer in Singida, Tanzania conducting global health research.

By Shanna Smith ’18, Biological Sciences and French double major

One of the most interesting experiences of my life was participating in global health research in Singida, Tanzania this past summer. I have been working on the Singida Nutrition and Agroecology Project (SNAP) since Spring 2016. SNAP is an agroecological intervention-based project that also focuses on nutrition and gender equality education to address household food insecurity and the high stunting rate among children in rural villages of Singida. This past summer, I got to see my research come to life as I visited our ten intervention villages to lead semi-structured interviews and partake in participatory validation of graph data. I also played a role in mother and child anthropometric measurements and data entry quality control.

Women in Singida, Tanzania walk to the village SNAP meeting.

One of my favorite aspects of field research was getting to meet our participants. I got to not only hear about their lives but also see their lifestyle. Before this summer, I had never had the opportunity to witness or be immersed in a non-Western culture. I came out of the summer gaining an appreciation and much greater understanding of customs and cultures that are different from those of America. Many of our participant interviews took place in subjects’ homes and occasionally while the participant was doing housework. Also, at the end of my first village visit involving a village-wide meeting of SNAP participants, everyone broke into song and dance. Dancing along with them was an experience I will never forget. I really admired the idea of community in Singida. We had a team of Tanzanians helping us with transcription and translation that I got to know at a personal level at the office every day. If one of our staff members was home sick, we would visit him or her and bring a small gift.

I have always praised Cornell for the extensive research opportunities given to students. For instance, there is a research database on the Office of Undergraduate Biology website that lists professors and details their research, making it relatively easy to learn about and get involved in academic research taking place on campus. Cornell also provides research opportunities that do not involve joining a research group. While I decided to continue the research I had been working on for a couple years, there are many global health abroad programs – both summer- and semester-long – that students can participate in through Cornell to gain valuable fieldwork experience.

Overall, I am really grateful for this amazing opportunity and will remember the fieldwork I conducted, the Tanzanian staff I worked with, and the memories I created during my stay for the rest of my life.

Interning in London

Happy October! This month, we will be focusing on two themes, “Easing Back into Classes” and “Summer Adventures.” In the first post of the semester, senior Solveig shares with us her experience interning in London this past summer. 

By: Solveig van der Vegt ’18, Biological Sciences

I went on a day trip to Oxford with my cousin and visited the botanic gardens there.

About halfway through the Spring 2017 semester, I was starting to panic a little because I had not yet found an internship for the summer. Most deadlines for applications had passed by that time and it was hard to find anything in the U.S., especially as an international student. While googling opportunities, I came across the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, which is affiliated with Imperial College London. This ended up being the luckiest thing that happened to me all semester!

My family came to visit me and we walked across the roof of the O2 arena, which gave amazing views!

The past summer in London has been one of the most exciting internships I have done so far. The research group that I was in, Behavioural Genomics, was very welcoming and I learned a lot throughout my time there. I got experience working with worms, which I had never done before, and I got to try my hand at computational biology, which was very exciting because that is what I want to study in graduate school. Moreover, I had the chance to talk to many PhD students and postdocs, which was incredibly helpful as I am applying to graduate school this semester.

I stayed in Camden, which has the most amazing market over the weekend with all the best food you can dream of.

Besides an amazing research experience, I was lucky enough to have the time to explore London! I had been to the city a few times before because I have family there, so I could avoid all the more touristy bits and just explore all the different markets and lesser known museums around town. I also got to meet some incredible people in my lab who took me out to bars and restaurants. I am still in touch with some of the people from my lab and I hope to return to London some time soon to see them again. All in all, not a bad summer!




When the Summer Ending is Just the Beginning: "Coming Home" to Cornell

The last member of our Arts & Sciences Ambassadors E-board is Kasey Han ’18. After spending most of her summer conducting molecular and cellular neuroscience research at Stanford University, Kasey returned to campus early for training to be a Student Assistant on West Campus. It’s fitting that Kasey’s post closes out our September collection just after Homecoming Weekend here in Ithaca – her post strongly emphasizes how it feels to leave summer behind and “return home” to Cornell!

By: Kasey Han ’18, Recruitment Co-Coordinator

Niagara Falls

Here I am (second from left) with three other members of the Cook House staff on our annual trip to Niagara Falls!

Returning to campus this year, I felt like a kindergartener excited for their first day of school all over again. This August, I started a new position as a Student Assistant in West Campus’s Alice H. Cook House. Amid all of the prelims and problem sets looming just weeks away, I was thrilled to step foot back onto transiently sunny Ithacan soil.

Three weeks before classes began, I moved into my new dorm room. I strung up my twinkly lights and laid down my fuzzy rug. I plastered feel-good posters and important event flyers around the building. As an SA (another name for Resident Advisor) my goal this year is to make my residents feel as welcome and at home as possible.

Cook Community Engagement Course

House Professor Shorna Allred leads a discussion with Cook residents as a part of the Cook Community Engagement Course.

West Campus is a truly unique place to live, in that each of the five residence halls is a hub for both living and learning. Like the four Harry Potter houses, each student has a home base that emphasizes both intellectual and social engagement. Through a variety of programs, we connect our residents with professors and community leaders that work in fields of their interest, as well as with their neighbors to build community and a sense of “home.”

After an early August move-in, our training schedule was a whirlwind of fun. The first half consisted of staff bonding and Cook House missions. We rented out a massive house off campus and spent time discussing our vision for Cook House, strategizing how to engage residents in a living-learning community, and all around becoming better leaders. Once the sun set, we broke out the card games, challenging each other in Mafia and Taboo. By the end of our retreat, it was clear that we Cook House staff had formed our own family and that the rest of the year would only get better.

welcome back cake

When the West Campus Dining Halls opened back up, we got to enjoy this delicious “Welcome Back” cake!

The second half of training explored handling common and uncommon situations that may arise when you work in the same place that you live. We discussed everything from roommate conflicts and academic stress to bias, sexual assault, and mental health. While each day was necessarily emotionally and mentally heavy, I felt much better equipped by the end to look after my residents and assume a leadership position.

Regardless of what we study and how we spend our free time, every Cornellian is excited for the start of a new year. We may have reservations about leaving behind our easy summer routines, but the underlying emotion is always eager anticipation for what the next year at Cornell holds in store. I think this universality is because, no matter where we come from, coming back to Cornell means returning home.

West Campus

A view of West Campus from Libe Slope.