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.

How to Complete Distribution Requirements While Watching Music Videos

Writing on the theme of “Easing Back into Classes,” junior Sheyla tells us about an exciting class on Beyoncé, intersectional identity, and feminism. 

By Sheyla Finkner ’19, Biology and Society major

We had a professional photographer take our class photo to send as a birthday card to Beyoncé!

It is a typical Tuesday morning. I walk from my ethics class to a lecture hall on the arts quad, sit down, and pull out my laptop. A few minutes later, my professor walks in and begins playing several Beyoncé music videos over the projector onto the big screen. Our class begins dancing and singing along. After a few videos, the professor begins lecturing and leads a class discussion. As the end of the hour approaches, we hand in our essays, pack up, and head out. This is just an average day in class.

Cross-listed in American Studies, Africana Studies and Research Center, English, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Departments, my class is better known on campus as “Beyoncé Nation.” Taught by Professor Riché Richardson, “Beyoncé Nation” addresses highly important and relevant topics, such as intersectional identity and intersectional feminism, and creates a space for open dialogue. However, rather than lecturing about such topics, Professor Richardson takes a different approach –  teaching through the example of Beyoncé. By watching Beyoncé music videos and reading biographies and other literature written on Queen Bey, we are able to discuss such important issues and see how she has influenced the conversations around these topics. Let’s face it – we are all a little more excited to attend lecture and learn when it is centered on one of the most iconic celebrities of – dare I say – the century.

Professor Richardson created a syllabus that does double duty as a research guide!

Not only is this class fun, informative, and important, but it also completes a distribution requirement! This course fulfills the Literature and the Arts category for Arts and Sciences distribution requirements. While the thought of completing distribution requirements may seem daunting, classes such as “Beyoncé Nation” make it fun and manageable. In addition, there are no core or required classes in Arts and Sciences, so you get to choose what class you want to fill each category with! If “Beyoncé Nation” is not your cup of tea, you can choose from hundreds of other classes that do interest you instead. Distribution requirements are a nice way of taking a step back from your normal coursework and learning about a new topic. Personally, many of my favorite classes at Cornell were those I took because of distribution requirements.

As I go through my days filled with biochemistry and ethics, I can always look forward to going to “Beyoncé Nation” to watch some great music videos, learn about the impact of a pop star, and complete a distribution requirement for graduation while I am at it!

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.

Easing into Junior Year: New Year, New Me with a Clearer Path

This week, junior Emma Bryan talks about how the flexibility of the Arts and Sciences curriculum helped her discover her passion for French and reconfirm her interest in Economics, setting her up for an exciting junior year.

By: Emma Bryan ’19, French and Economics double major

Here I am ready to start my junior year while picking apples that are fortuitously ready today with friends at Indian Creek Farm!

After spending the summer in Ithaca, August finally rolled around, and I couldn’t wait for people to come back to campus so that I could start my junior year with my peers by my side. Ithaca in the summer is amazing, but there aren’t as many people as there are during the year, and I was ready for campus to become livelier. There were many aspects of life at Cornell that I was eager to resume—eating Cornell Dairy ice cream, enjoying bubble tea with my friends in Collegetown, marveling at how the song on the clock tower always seems to fit my exact mood—but above all else, I was ready to dive back into a year of academic challenges and the pursuit of further knowledge in my second-to-last year at this esteemed university.

For my first two years in the College of Arts and Sciences, I had no set plan of what I wanted to accomplish academically. Freshman year, I came to campus saying that I was going to double major in Computer Science and Economics; however, I took CS1110 (Introduction to Python) and quickly realized that my home at this large university was not going to be in the Department of Computer Science. At the same time, I took a French class to satisfy the language requirement, and I was so intrigued by FREN2320 (Introduction to Francophone Culture and Film) that I decided to veer off of my more computational path and dabble in the Romance Studies Department. I continued taking French courses, and two years later, here I am with a declared French major. First semester freshman me wasn’t completely wrong though! The interest in Economics stuck, and after passing all of the required major core classes and realizing that I truly am passionate about Economics, I refuse to let go of that half of my initial plan.

Though my first two years of academic exploration were a blast, it is so comforting to now come back to campus and have a clearer path and individual major advisors who are able to give me guidance as I navigate my final years at this university. I remember picking courses as a freshman the summer before I came to campus, and I’d be lying if I said the process wasn’t a bit overwhelming. I felt as though I were blindly choosing classes, knowing that there were over two thousand courses offered every semester and I was going to be taking only four or five of them. What if I chose the wrong courses? What if I didn’t know what I wanted to study? What if I wasted my time taking classes that had nothing to do with my ultimate path? To put it bluntly, in the kindest way possible, the answer to each of those questions is a simple, “it doesn’t matter.”

This is a picture of me enjoying Ithaca in the summer! I took a hike with some pals at Buttermilk Falls State Park.

First, there’s an add-drop period built into the beginning of the school year, so if you decide that the classes that you signed up for are absolutely not what you’re interested in taking, you’re able to drop those classes and add others. Additionally, if you’re interested in a class but do not foresee it being something that you’re going to major in, you have the option to take it S/U (satisfactory/unsatisfactory) so that so long as you pass the class, the credits count, and the overall grade will not factor into your GPA. After realizing that Python was not for me, I switched it to S/U, which took a lot of pressure off, and I was able to enjoy learning for the sake of learning rather than worrying about my GPA.

What I love about Arts is the fact that cross-field curiosity is encouraged, and earlier in my college career, I took advantage of this by taking classes that have nothing to do with my majors, which assured me that I am confident in the direction I have since chosen. You are not required to declare your major until second semester of your sophomore year, and after that, it is very possible to change majors. I’ve taken a wide range of classes in other departments, such as Government, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and Cognitive Science, yet I’ve made enough progress on both of my majors to potentially graduate early. Now that I have a set path, I find myself increasingly excited to choose my classes, and as I have grown and spent more time on this campus, I feel that I have really gotten the hang of things.

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!




The "Hogwarts Effect"

This week, sophomore Yousef Anwer describes how his interdisciplinary experience at Cornell has been utterly magical…

By: Yousef Anwer ’19, Economics major, Law and Society minor

Growing up I had Harry Potter fever. I still low-key blame J. K. Rowling for ruining fantasy books for me, because nothing I’ve read since has ever been able to match up to the wild imagination that was allowed to run rampant in her novels. Still, at least we parted on good (?) terms – sort of like when you finish that jar of Nutella and part of your brain says, ‘well that’s enough saturated fats for you’ and the other half is screaming, ‘MORE!’ – so there’s something to be said in that.

The first time I’ve really thought about Harry Potter since I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Tw0 was right at the end of my freshman year when I was checking out McFaddin Hall (I was supposed to live there in the coming fall). ‘Ooh you’re going to be living in Hogwarts,’ is what everyone said to me when I told them about my housing arrangements. Personally though, I wasn’t too fussed about it. I’d be living on the sixth floor, and yeah, the view was nice, but there was no elevator (gasp, I know right).

A magical view of West Campus (Haris Hasan, SHA ’18)

Anyhoo, glossing over my first-world problems and back to this so-called ‘Hogwarts Effect,’ I entered my sophomore year, and even though it’s not over yet it has (if I may say so) been the greatest nine and three-quarters of a year (see what I did there) that I have ever had. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re in the middle-of-nowhere-there-are-cows-grazing-10-miles-away, maybe it’s the professors, maybe it’s the phenomenal students, maybe it’s all of the above, but there’s just something magical about Cornell (and I’m not just talking about PLPPM 2010: Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds).

“He was home. Hogwarts was the first and best home he had known. He and Voldemort and Snape… had all found home here” (Rowling 697) [You have to remember to keep these MLA citations, they give us a huge spiel about plagiarism and what-not during orientation]. But back to this effect I keep harping about. Minus the bit about ‘first’ and adding ‘one of the’ before ‘best’ and not restricting this to males, we have what I like to call the ‘Hogwarts Effect.’

I genuinely believe there’s something special about Cornell. It’s is possible we’re being slipped a love potion (my guess is one of the Wonder Witch line products from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes) but I’m a little skeptical about that – it’s just difficult not to fall in love with this place. I came to Cornell as a very goal-oriented and inflexible individual. I was going to graduate in three years, major in economics, and be off on my merry way. Instead, I took a course in astronomy where I met Professor Steve “The Martian” Squyres (that’s what I call him, I don’t think anyone else does), and so began my little affair with the subject. Sometime later I took BIOEE 1540: Introductory Oceanography (which I think should be mandatory for every single student – global warming it’s a thing, check it out, we should be freaking about it, but I digress) and it significantly changed my views on what I wanted to achieve in life. There are so many other courses like this that I’ve been able to take as an Arts & Sciences student which have left me better off. Even the ones I’ve been atrocious at (I’m looking at you CS 1112: Introduction to Computing Using MATLAB) have left me with a set of skills that I didn’t previously have. I’ve now come to realize the value of that extra year which I was ‘saving’, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Finding My Niche in the Sciences: The Information Science Major

This week, senior Meg Shigeta talks about how the breadth of the Arts & Sciences course roster allowed her to explore different fields as an underclassmen until she found her home in the Information Science department. Enjoy!

By: Meg Shigeta ’17, Information Science major, Business minor

ice skating

Ice skating at Lynah Rink freshman year with friends (I’m on the right)!

When I first entered Cornell as a freshman in the fall of 2013, I had very little idea what it was I wanted to study. I was the epitome of an undecided undergraduate, and I was nervous that this lack of direction would set me back somehow, make me less of a real student compared to my friends who had planned the next twenty years of their lives out seemingly overnight. However, I now realize that where I was lost, the College of Arts & Sciences was able to step in and point me in the right direction. The curriculum of Arts & Sciences allowed me to take a wide range of courses, each of which slowly led me to my area of study today. Just what subject is that? Well, let me take you on a little trip.


Getting brunch at Taverna Banfi sophomore year!

As a freshman, one of the first classes I took was called SOC 3010: Evaluating Statistical Evidence. It was a class I found unexpectedly, and ended up being one of my favorites of the semester. After taking this class I decided to explore more sociology courses, and took SOC 1101: Introduction to Sociology. Because I also felt more aligned with the “Sciences” part of the College, I was able to take MATH 2130: Calculus III during this time as well. Even though I was still undecided, my diverse course load helped me fulfill my Arts & Sciences graduation requirements, and slowly led me towards figuring out just what it was I wanted to major in.

For February Break during my junior year, my friends and I visited Niagara Falls.

After taking these courses, I realized that what I wanted to study was this middle ground between human systems and information systems. After speaking to friends and advisors about my new interests, I decided to try taking some classes in Information Science. As a result, when I returned to Cornell as a sophomore in the fall of 2014, I decided to take INFO 1300: Introductory Design and Programming for the Web, and after that there was no looking back.

Celebrating homecoming during my senior year!


Today, I will be graduating as an Information Science major, and plan to further pursue additional education in Information Science after I finish my undergraduate career. I am so grateful to have found this major, and I don’t think that I would have discovered it had it not been for the myriad of classes I took in a variety of departments my freshman year, each of which slowly helped me to discover just what it was I was truly passionate about. So yes, I may be that cliché student who started out as an undecided freshman four years ago, but do I regret it? Not one bit.

Finding Science in the Arts

This week, junior Kasey Han discusses how the depth and breadth of Arts & Sciences have allowed her to pursue unique opportunities as a College Scholar studying Developmental Circus Arts.

By: Kasey Han ’18, Biology and College Scholar double major

Life’s way better upside down!

Here’s a real piece of advice I’ve received: “Do a handstand before your exam.” Even if seeing me doing a handstand outside my prelim (Cornell’s version of midterms) warrants a few incredulous stares, the suggestion holds merit. While I’m upside down, blood flows with gravity down towards my head, bringing with it the oxygen, glucose, and nutrients my brain needs to function optimally during an exam.

This is merely one example of the many connections I form as part of my College Scholar project. Housed in the College of Arts & Sciences, the College Scholar program allows students to create an interdisciplinary major in an area of interest, design their own curriculum, and occasionally feed on chocolate-covered strawberries. As a College Scholar, I study how Circus Arts may be used as a form of therapy for children with neuropsychiatric disorders. Circus Arts is viewed through a range of academic lenses, but I am primarily interested in the physiological and psychological underpinnings of engaging in circus. The science of the art, if you will.

In circus, we lift each other up!

As part of my independent major, I choose classes that relate to my field from amongst Arts and Sciences’ 2,400 courses on offer each year. This past fall, I took Brain Control of Movement, taught by my favorite professor: Jesse Goldberg. In his class, we took an in-depth look at the neural circuits underlying movement and motor learning, and how dysfunctions of the circuit can lead to diseases like Parkinson’s, cerebellar ataxia, and basal ganglia disorders. Applying my newfound knowledge on the brain’s motor circuits, I can better understand how Circus Arts play a role in reinforcement and supervised learning and may ameliorate symptoms of physical disabilities.

This spring, I am currently enrolled in Adult Psychopathology, taught by the amazing professor and clinical psychologist Harry Segal. After blowing my mind with his unique take on Freud’s psychodynamic theory, he lectures on the etiology and treatment of everything from depression to schizophrenia. With his course, I have a greater grasp of various disabilities and how Circus Arts may be integrated into current treatments. These and many more courses give me the information, as well as the critical thinking skills, to direct how I train in and teach circus at Ithaca’s local circus school, Circus Culture.

Probably the greatest thing about Arts & Sciences is that my mashing of science with art isn’t that uncommon. It’s not the exception to the rule—it is the rule. It’s in the name! Without preaching too much, this is the beauty of the liberal arts degree. The arts and the sciences do not go simply hand-in-hand: there is art in science just as I study the science behind the arts.

What Do I Want to Do with my Majors?

This week, meet junior Suzy Park, an economics and psychology double major who was recently inspired by her experiences in Arts & Sciences to pursue a career in law. Suzy will be taking over the Ambassadors blog next year – see what she has to say below!

By: Suzy Ji Soo Park ’18, Economics and Psychology double major, Communications minor

When I introduce myself as an economics and psychology double major, 99 percent of people say, “Oh, that’s cool! So what do you want to do with it?” Until recently, my response was, “I’m not sure. Econ and psych are just fields that interest me!” But starting a couple months ago, I can confidently say, “I want to go to law school.”

A view of the beautiful Cornell Law School building on a March afternoon.

All throughout my life, the word “lawyer” was constantly thrown around in conversations with my dad. He had always emphasized the advantages that come with a licensed profession – accountant, doctor, actuary – and lawyer was on the top of his list. But honestly, the idea of becoming a lawyer was as scary as it was interesting, and I never truly considered it as a potential career until I took PSYCH 2650: Psychology and Law the fall of my sophomore year.

Taught by two distinguished law scholars – Professors Jeffrey Rachlinski and Valerie Hans – the course explores how psychology research helps us understand and improve the legal system. Delving into areas of constitutional law, criminal law, false convictions, jury decision-making, and more, the course not only confirmed my passion for psychology, but also instilled in me a newfound curiosity for the law. During one part of the course on children’s testimonies and their reliability, we read an article titled “Expert testimony in a child abuse case: Translating memory development research” coauthored by Maggie Bruck and Stephen Ceci, who is the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology here at Cornell. Incredibly excited by his body of research on children’s memory and its implications in the courtroom, I approached him to discuss working as a research assistant in his Child Witness and Cognition Lab. I am so grateful that he offered me the position, and over the last three semesters, I have worked on two exciting projects about intergroup relations in children and about linguistic analyses of juror deliberations. Although his lab is housed in the College of Human Ecology, I have been able to use the research credit hours towards my psychology major thanks to the flexibility of the Arts & Sciences curriculum.

I pose (second from the right) with my fellow research assistants at a poster forum hosted by the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board.

The best part of being an Arts & Sciences student is that the College allows the entire campus to become your field of exploration – your intellectual journey is not restricted to Arts & Sciences courses and professors (which are undoubtedly amazing) but rather, you are free to take advantage of the law school, the business school, other colleges, and more. Following Psychology and Law, I have continued exploring the discipline of law through courses such as LAW 4021: Competition Law and Policy, as well as through conversations with PhD and law students I have met along the way. By making available all of Cornell’s valuable resources, Arts & Sciences invites its students to build upon their strong liberal arts foundation through coursework and extracurricular experiences that span over all seven colleges and four graduate and professional schools.