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.

London, England: Looking Forward

In the last post of the year, junior Meredith guides us through how she came to decide to study abroad in London next semester. Thank you all for following our blog this year, and happy holidays!

By Meredith Chagares ’19, History major, Business and Law & Society double minor

Next semester, I will be studying abroad in London through the Hansard Scholars Program. This program consists of two classes taken through the London School of Economics and an internship at the Parliament. As a history major interested in politics and international relations, and their influence on the economy, I am extremely excited to begin the program in January!

I chose to study in London primarily because of my great interest in England’s history. In addition, I was attracted by London’s role as a financial and political hub of not only England, but also Europe and the world. My decision to study in London was ultimately confirmed after I spoke with upperclassmen and alumni about their experiences in London and the different programs through which they studied. Hearing their stories helped me to make an educated decision about where I would be able to enrich my education the most effectively.

While abroad, I will be visiting Edinburgh, Scotland and Cardiff, Wales with the Hansard Scholars Program. I also plan on taking research trips to other parts of Europe, such as Berlin, to begin research for my senior honors thesis. After I created a list of places that would be helpful to visit for the thesis, the Cornell Abroad office guided me toward the safest and the most financially effective ways to get around Europe.

Although I am a little nervous to travel and live in Europe on my own, the Cornell Abroad office has made me feel extremely comfortable with my upcoming adventure. They provided me with opportunities to meet and communicate with other Cornell students studying abroad in the United Kingdom. Additionally, the Resident Advisor for Cornell, who lives in London and acts as support for students, visited Cornell and gave a helpful presentation on tips and tricks for studying abroad. I know that I will miss Cornell next semester, but I am extremely grateful that the College of Arts and Sciences has given me the opportunity and support to immerse myself in a different culture and have an adventure of a lifetime!

Sevile, Spain: No me ha dejado

This week, senior Samantha tells us about her challenging yet incredibly rewarding five months in Sevile, Spain, through which she learned to embrace the uncomfortable. 

By Samantha Cohen ’18, Sociology major, Business minor

Learning a new language is difficult. And for deaf people, it is very difficult. That is why it was a bit surprising to my parents, and even myself, when I officially decided to spend the Spring semester of my Junior year studying abroad in Seville, Spain.

Me, my roommate and my host-mom Rosario.

For hearing people, learning a new language can be like learning the lyrics to a new song that you hear on the radio. For the hearing-impaired, we have to pause the music and practice the words one by one. We are always struggling to capture the words while they run away from us. It requires a lot of time and energy. To say the least, it is a complex process, and on occasions, very frustrating.


The students of CASA Sevilla program.

I had been studying Spanish for six years throughout my middle- and high-school years. However, when I came to Cornell as a student in Arts and Sciences, studying the language became less of a chore and more of a skill of which I could be proud. In just three semesters, I saw more progress in my language development and understanding than I had seen in the past six years combined. I was scared yet ready to take the ultimate leap of faith: to study and live with a family in Spain.

Me and my friend Liza (also Cornell ’18) in front of the aqueducts of Segovia.

Along with ten other Cornell students, I arrived at the city of Seville and started what would become five months of classes at the Universidad de Sevilla. This entailed meeting with new friends for a mid-day “café con leche,” watching Spanish Jeopardy with my host-mom Rosario, taking long bike rides through Parque María Luisa, and eating more oranges than you could possibly imagine (Seville is known for its orange trees!). I travelled to other cities in Spain to see the aqueducts of Segovia and the famous Gothic cathedral in Toledo, which I had learned about during the first week of my Spanish Art class. I spent three days on my own in the Northern Basque country and then flew out to meet up with three Cornell friends from my program to relax and eat paella on the beaches of Valencia.

Me during the Feria de Abril festival. ¡Olé!

I won’t say my semester was an easy one. I had my fair share of awkward moments with the host-mom because I couldn’t understand her jokes. I spent countless hours hungry waiting for the clock to read 9:30pm – the typical dinner time in Spain – to eat dinner. I failed my first exam. I got lost navigating winding cobblestone streets with no access to Google Maps.

But all in all, I would not change any of the experiences I had during my semester abroad. It was the challenges, both academic and emotional, that made those five months incredibly rewarding. I gained a new family. I learned to laugh when I mishear something. I learned to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Although I’m happy to be back on Cornell campus for my senior year, I routinely browse through my photos and keep up WhatsApp conversations with my Spanish family. As the people of Seville would say, “No me ha dejado” (It has not left me).

Oxford, England: Cultivating Knowledge for the Sake of Knowledge

This week, senior Arlinda takes us to England, where she was able to expand her study of philosophy through courses and professors at the University of Oxford.

By Arlinda Shehu ’18, Philosophy and Psychology double major

Punting on a sunny afternoon at Cherwell River.

During the Fall 2017 semester, I was a visiting student at St. Anne’s College at the University of Oxford. As a philosophy major, there were two reasons why I wanted to study abroad at Oxford. First, boasting a long and rich history, Oxford is an unparalleled institution at which to study philosophy. Second, Oxford is home to a unique teaching system called the tutorial system. Tutorials are generally one-to-one, and at most three-to-one, weekly meetings with your tutor (professor) during which you discuss assigned readings and your essays in a relaxed setting (I met with my teachers in their home office at times). This system, unique to the University of Oxford and only a small handful of other schools, meant that I would have the chance to engage in more in-depth and personal conversations and debates with professors – an experience different from those common at American universities. My utmost wishes came alive thanks to Cornell’s long and strong relationship with Oxford.

A view of the Radcliffe Camera library atop the St. Mary’s tower.

Studying at Oxford – and more broadly in England – for 6 months meant that all of Europe was at my feet to explore easily and cheaply. However, even if I had never left Oxford, there would have been enough to keep me occupied for months: from college formal halls (fancy dinners where everyone dresses up), punting on the river and rowing events inter-college balls, 99 libraries to explore, pubs that Bill Clinton and J.R.R Tolkien had visited, and finally to Harry Potter filming locations.

Me and other visiting students pose for a group photo before heading off to St. Anne’s Specturm ball. I am in the red dress!

Oxford was undoubtedly a fun place to be, but it came with its fair share of hard work. Tutorials were intense and our reading lists were long. The focus was on self-directed and self-motivated studying. Since students do not get graded and none of the exam grades actually count (only ones taken during the final year do), the focus was less on grades and GPAs, but rather on cultivating knowledge for the sake of knowledge. I could study as much or as little as I liked, which was both a freeing and dangerous situation. I learned that I like working on my own, doing my own research, and do not need a lot of supervision to do well. Six months in this intellectually stimulating environment in which I had to keep my own self in check – a preview of graduate school work – helped me realize that I could thrive in such an environment and that I would like to pursue a PhD in philosophy.

A Year Abroad: Making the Leap from Cornell to Catalonia

December is here! This month, Ambassadors will be writing about their experiences studying away from campus in Spain and the United Kingdom. Senior Hadassa starts off by giving us a taste of her year abroad in Barcelona.

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

The breath-taking scenery of the Catalan city, Cadaqués, in the Costa Brava.

My decision to study abroad was monumental, and pretty daunting. Was I really going to pack up my things and leave behind everything and everyone for an entire year? At first, I hadn’t really planned on it. In fact, I hadn’t planned to major in Spanish, much less spend more time abroad. I had already fallen in love with Spain the summer after my freshman year through the Cornell in Madrid program, but I still felt a lingering taste for adventure. After going back and forth countless times, I finally decided to ignore my apprehensions and just take the plunge. I am so glad I did, because it was one of the highlights of my university experience.

The Cascada Monumental of the Parc de la Cuitadella, just a short walk from my flat and right across from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

From the many programs in various cities across Spain, I had settled on the Consortium of Advanced Studies Abroad (CASA) in Barcelona, which brought together students from different universities across the U.S. The structure of CASA added greatly to the quality of my experiences abroad. I was excited to live in a student flat in the innovative 22@ district (rather than in a home-stay) because of its proximity to the city center, beach, and the university. The program had three wonderful advisors that helped with every aspect of studying abroad, from transportation to choosing classes to adjusting to the slower Catalan pace of life.

My attempt at making traditional Valencian paella!

One of the great things about CASA was that it provided plentiful opportunities for me to immerse myself into the culture of Catalonia and Spain. Before classes at the university began, the program held a short seminar course that taught us some basic Catalan and helped brush up on our Spanish, as well as giving us some context on the history and political atmosphere of Catalonia. We even participated in a cooking class to try our hand at making typical Spanish and Catalan dishes such as paella, gazpacho, pa amb tomàquet, and crema catalana.

The interior of Gaudí’s yet-to-be-completed architectural masterpiece, La Sagrada Família.

In addition, each semester was centered around a particular theme that deepened our familiarity with the Iberian Peninsula, packed with weekend excursions. During the fall, we focused on modernism, Pablo Picasso, and his influences. Our first trip was just outside Barcelona where we visited the abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat which boasts a wonderful collection of modern and avant-garde paintings as well as stunning mountainous views. We took a weekend trip to the Costa Brava to see Salvador Dalí’s home, Portlligat, in Cadaqués and the Dalí Theater-Museum in Girona. We also spent a weekend in Madrid, the capital of Spain. We took tours of the impressive Prado and Reina Sofia museums, the latter of which boasts Picasso’s Guernica. In the spring, we looked at the ancient ruins and the impacts of the Roman rule in the Peninsula. We visited Tarragona in the Costa Duarada region of Catalonia, the oldest Roman settlement in the Peninsula, and saw the ancient ruins of a great amphitheater near the sea. We also took weekend trips to Valencia and Lisbon, and saw the architectural influences of the Roman Empire still present in the cities today.

The view across from Plaça d’Espanya: The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc and the Palau Nacional, which houses the National Musuem of Art in Barcelona.

I was even more deeply immersed into the Mediterranean culture through all of the activities in Barcelona. There was such a plentitude of museums (e.g., the Picasso Museum, the Museum of Design and the National Museum of Art), historical landmarks (e.g., the Sagrada Família, the Isle of Discord, the Montjuïc Castle), and entertainment (e.g., flamenco shows, beach discotheques, soccer games in Camp Nou) that I was constantly and actively engaging in la vida española. In addition, through CASA, I was able to select my courses from four different universities in the Barcelona. Besides my Spanish political science courses, I chose to take classes that would improve my Catalan so that I could speak both local languages. This opened up the number of courses I could take (since many were in Catalan) and helped me understand on a more personal level what I had learned about the political history of Catalonia.

Despite my initial hesitations to study abroad for a whole year, spending time in Barcelona wonderfully complemented my studies at Cornell. I had a first-hand experience learning about an entirely different culture, social-political structure, and lifestyle. Not only did I grow to appreciate and integrate myself into another culture, but I was also able to look at my own country – the United States – through a fresh, new perspective. When I came back to Ithaca to start my senior year, I had definitely changed. Not only had my Spanish vastly improved, but I also had a different way of approaching my courses. My immersive year in Catalonia showed me that I could apply what I had learned, both at Cornell and abroad, to prosper in an unfamiliar environment and to get out of my comfort zone. Now, other monumental decisions that I have to make no longer seem as daunting.

From an Awkward Pre-Frosh to a Confident Adult

In the last post of November, senior Sydney looks back at the many ways Cornell has surprised and changed her for the better. 

By Sydney Mann ’18, American Studies major, English minor

Me at my high school graduation in 2014.

Cornell has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From my grandfather to my mom, and then my sister, Cornell was just always there. For that reason, I thought that I already knew everything that one needed to know about Cornell even before setting foot on campus; where to eat, what classes to take, what month the weather switches from 70 degrees to 40.

And just like any good story goes, I was wrong. I had no idea what effect Cornell would have on me because I was yet to discover myself.

My first semester freshmen year was pretty standard. I had chosen a major (English), found friends, and joined an a cappella group. It wasn’t until the second semester that things began to shift. From classes becoming harder, to friend groups changing, I started to feel lost. Sophomore year was a lot of the same; I wound up changing my major essentially ten times. I even considered switching out of Arts and Sciences.

My a cappella group, Nothing But Treble, at our Spring Concert 2017.

But then I realized, college isn’t supposed to be easy. If it were, people would never change – they would walk out of college exactly as who they entered as. In fact, the intensive courses were what made me realize that I was passionate about history, sociology, and English, to name a few. Arts and Science’s American Studies Program has provided me with an unparalleled holistic education that I am extremely grateful for.

As for friends, I never thought that the people I sing with in my a cappella group would become my people. Little did I know, they have shown me – time and time again – that people can truly change others for the better.

Some friends and I at the Intergroup Dialogue Retreat in Spring 2017.

One of my most formative experiences at Cornell has been participating in the Intergroup Dialogue Project. Never in a million years did I think that anyone (and I mean anyone) would let me co-lead a class of sixteen students. In addition to introducing me to arguably some of the best people of Cornell whom I would not have met otherwise, the project showed me that I had grown into a confident and mature woman.

So, upon reflection, I can confidently say that Cornell has changed me because it has challenged me. It has transformed me from an awkward pre-frosh into a confident adult. It has made me realize that it’s okay to not know exactly what I want to do. It has cultivated me into an independent actor and thinker who is always up for what life has to offer.

Becoming A Smarter, More Confident Self

In the final post of the month, sophomore Sylvie shares how, over just a year, she came to learn a lot about herself and grew as a person through meaningful interactions with professors and peers. 

By Sylvie Kuvin ’20, American Studies major

First day of my freshman year.

I have only been a Cornell student for a little over a year, but I already feel as though I have changed in ways I could not have predicted. Cornell has been a part of my life ever since I was little – both my grandfather and my mother speak incredibly fondly of their time spent here, and would tell me stories of Ithaca winters, late nights in Uris library, and the Dairy Bar ice cream, which is “to-die-for.”  When the time came for me to apply to college, I knew Cornell would be at the top of my list. I wanted to discover a whole new place: one that was big and beautiful, and bursting with knowledge. Cornell passed my test with flying colors, and I was absolutely ecstatic when I found out that I would be going to school here.

Posing with my mom on the first day of sophomore year.

When I arrived on campus freshman year, I was wide-eyed and timid, unsure of my every action. I did not know where to eat lunch or how to use the printer, let alone how to navigate the enormous campus. I constantly second-guessed myself and my abilities. I thought that I was definitely not smart enough to be here, and that I would not be able to do well or make friends. However, as time passed, I figured out how to walk to my classes, and I realized that I could be a successful student here. I made amazing friends and developed a steady and fun routine. As I reflect on the short time that I have been at Cornell, I realize how much I have learned from the incredible professors and people I have met. These are the individuals who push me to think differently, and with whom I can have stimulating and thought-provoking conversations. I have developed a voice that I did not know I had, and that has made me more confident and self-assured both in- and outside of class.  Although it feels as though the person who stepped onto North Campus last year was a completely different version of myself, it wasn’t. I am definitely the same person, just a little smarter and more confident. I cannot wait for the next two and half years so that I can learn and experience more of what Cornell has to offer.


This week, sophomore Renée reflects on how being assigned to a single dorm room in freshman year – something she was worried about at first – motivated her to go beyond her comfort zone and shaped who she is today.

By Renée Girard ’20, Government major, Law & Society and Public Policy double minor

My first year room in Balch Hall.

I am confident that Cornell has fostered my growth as an individual and will continue to contribute to my development as a lifelong learner in the years to come. Coming from San Francisco without any of my fellow high school graduates, I was apprehensive when I was assigned to a single dorm room. Looking back, it was this very room assignment that gave me invaluable skills that have shaped who I am today. When I moved in, I was motivated to go beyond my comfort zone and maximize my experience as a student.

I quickly learned that Cornell attracts students who are dedicated to their studies, and this commonality allowed me to connect with my dorm-mates regardless of our majors. Although I am studying government, I became very close with a girl in my hall, a fashion management major from Vietnam. We bonded over passions for our future endeavors, and enjoyed working together and comparing our fields of study. My assignment to a single dorm gave me the opportunity to go beyond my comfort zone, pushing me to reach out to peers in my classes, my dorm, and extracurricular activities. I joined Cornell’s Pre-Government Fraternity and the Society for Women in Politics, and subsequently befriended students from around the world that I could learn from and relate to. I even found friends in my dorm who were as passionate about skiing as I am, and we broke out our skis during Cornell’s snow day to ski behind our favorite dining hall.

Skiing with my friends during Cornell’s first snow day in over 20 years!

During my first year as a Cornellian, I developed the skills to be proactive in connecting with those who share my passions, which gave me the confidence to pursue an internship in a field I was curious about. This past summer, I had the opportunity to work at a law firm that specializes in gender discrimination, an issue I had developed an interest for after interacting with other students and their experiences in my career-oriented clubs. I am grateful for the skills that Cornell has given me thus far, and I am confident that I will continue to develop over the next three years!

Embracing My Heritage at Cornell

This week, sophomore Dean discusses how Arts and Sciences’ language requirement and Asian Studies department helped him explore his heritage and culture as a Korean American. 

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

My KOREA 1102 (Elementary Korean II) section from Spring 2017 semester, posing for a group photo after discussion. We had just learned about ordering food at restaurants!

Looking back to just over a year ago when I arrived at Cornell, it is hard to imagine that I am the same person now as I was then. To think that the very same person, who, one year ago, went to Uris Library instead of Uris Hall for a Korean class and shyly asked the librarian where to go, is now an extroverted sophomore declaring a major and a minor is astounding. Cornell has positively changed me in too many ways to count, from making me more independent and responsible, to helping me discover new interests and hobbies.


Before coming to Cornell, I did not know a lick of Korean and needed to enroll in the non-heritage Korean course because I had no speaking or listening ability whatsoever. Regardless, I decided to take Korean to fulfill my language requirement and also to impress my parents by speaking to them in Korean the next time I went home.

From left to right: Isaac, Kim seonsaengnim (teacher), and me after the end-of-semester Korean Language Program Showcase.

This was one of the best choices I have made since coming to Cornell. 송 선생님 (Teacher Song) and 김 선생님 (Teacher Kim) were both so engaging that I never felt bored in class. In fact, I could not get enough of Korean and frequently attended both of their office hours, reviewing materials from class and simply attempting crude conversations in Korean. From these two semesters, I gained so much more than the ability to speak Korean, 12 credits, and a fulfilled language requirement. I made friends and memories, learned about my culture and heritage, and set the foundation for pursuing an East Asian Studies minor.

My KASA gajok (family) from last year dressing up as farmers and farm animals for Halloween. (Robin the Gorilla didn’t get the memo.)

In addition to taking Korean classes, I joined the Korean American Student Association (KASA) last year as a little and was matched with a gajok (family). My gajok supported me through thick and thin, and we had a great time hanging out over the year. I made great memories, learned about Korean pop culture, and grew less shy. Even now, we still hang out to catch up on what we are doing in our lives. This year, I am a big with my fellow co-littles from last year. I hope that I can provide my littles this year the same wonderful experience I had as a freshman, and help them learn about their culture in as many ways as I can – from gajok dinners at Korean restaurants in CollegeTown to 노래방 (Korean Karaoke) events! In just a year, Cornell has changed me a lot and has allowed me to learn about my Korean heritage and embrace my culture. 한국어를 사랑해! (I love Korean!)

Creating My Own Identity Amidst Cornell’s Diversity

This week, junior Jady looks back at her time at Cornell thus far, and shares how she was able to make the vast campus her own through classes, clubs, and friends. 

By Jady Wei ’19, Economics and Government double major, Law & Society minor

Me and my friends at our very first Cornell basketball game, celebrating the start of second semester freshman year.

I can still remember walking into my very first class at Cornell as a freshman. It was at 9:05 a.m. on a Tuesday, all the way at the Statler Hotel, which back then, seemed like the farthest trek to ever be endured. Of course, my overly-excited freshman self made certain to set the alarm hours ahead so that I would have ample time to wake up, get ready, grab breakfast, and navigate through all the slopes and hills. Soon, as the auditorium began to fill up, I became more aware of my surroundings — the class was huge, the lecture hall packed, and the number of students easily exceeded a couple hundred. It was an introductory economics course, which I later learned, would explain the class size. Little did I know that this experience would play a significant role in defining my time at Cornell.

My project team for Social Business Consulting, a business organization I am involved in on campus!

Now as a junior, I realize that one of the most important things I have learned at Cornell is to find my own identity and voice in an institution with a considerable student population, a large breadth of focuses, and a wide array of classes. As a Resident Advisor on North Campus, I often hear my freshmen residents vent about the size of Cornell and how the vast spectrum of resources Cornell offers can be overwhelming and challenging. However, that is the essence of Cornell’s significance — the opportunity to challenge ourselves to navigate amidst the abundance of resources, and carve our own experiences the way we want to define our college narrative. Overwhelmed by the amount of resources Cornell had to offer, I joined eleven different student organizations in freshman year. Over time, I have consciously narrowed these down to a few key commitments, which in turn, have shaped my friend group, interests, and direction for my future.

Me and some friends during an event for one of Cornell’s pre-law societies.

In one of my final classes of freshman year, a professor read one of my favorite poems by C. P. Cavafy. One verse always lingers in my mind whenever I hear the piece: “Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you would not have set out.” Cornell truly has so much to offer, and although the size of this campus and abundance of resources can be more anxiety-inducing than comforting at first, learning how to navigate the resources on such a vast campus and understanding the importance of creating my own identity amidst the diversity were the most valuable lessons I have learned thus far. It has challenged me to continue rediscovering myself, be open-minded, learn from those around me, and ultimately, follow a path that I know is unique to my own experiences.