The Best Places to De-Stress on Campus

A student practices sign language outside the Johnson Museum of Art.

By: Lia Samuelu, A&S ’20

While Cornell offers you a dynamic, challenging environment in which you can see yourself getting pushed to the fullest, the same things that drive you can simultaneously be things that inadvertently stress you out. This ambivalence is a given at any institution that offers a rigorous learning experience, both inside and outside the classroom. My favorite way to help mitigate this stress is by taking the time I need to be alone. Stepping away from the hustle and bustle of campus and student life gives me room to look at myself and see what I need to do to best maintain my mental, emotional, and physical health.

The number one place to be on campus is the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. Located right across the way from the arts quad on Central Campus, the Johnson has permanent pieces that never fail to catch my eye while also having rotating exhibits that often correlate to contemporary social climate. I often find myself going into the museum, putting my belongings in a cubby, and wandering amongst the art. There are chairs to sit and observe, and the tables in the lobby are always there if I want to get some work done in a space that is beautiful, calm, and curated. After visiting the Johnson during my time with the Pre-freshman Summer Program in 2016, I find myself going there even if I do not have the direct intentions to. It is always free, but make sure to leave a small donation before leaving! And say hello to the security walking around; I promise they’re really nice.

A photo of TONG YANG-TZE's IMMORTAL AT THE RIVER, a large-scale calligraphy piece.
Tong Yang-Tze’s 54-meter long calligraphic work. Immortal at the River, a poem by Yang Shen (1488–1559) at the Johnson Museum of Art. (Photo: Lia Samuelu)

If not at the Johnson, you can find me in the Ivy Room in Willard Straight Hall. The Ivy Room is a little eatery that’s themed with the different schools of the Ivy League. You can go in, order your food, and sit at one of the many tables to watch the sun set as it lights Libe Slope. I usually like getting a breakfast burrito and curly fries, or I switch it up with some fresh pizza. It’s never too busy, and it’s a great alternative for when I get tired of the redundancy of the dining halls. Sitting at a table and watching people pass on their way home gives me a little reminder of what I’m doing at Cornell and why I was compelled to do it in the first place. If I had the time, I would sit there for hours and just try to find myself in the greenery of Cornell’s hills.

But after I’ve spent time at the Johnson and had dinner in the Ivy Room, the place I really want to be is home. I’ve lived on campus for all four of my years at Cornell, something that is unusual for people to do. But over the years, I’ve managed to appreciate my dorm room. The best piece of advice I can give you is to carefully craft a space in which you find happiness. Hang pictures of your family all over your walls! Buy a white board to write your To-Do’s! Make sure your bedding is comfy and cute! Life gets so busy and it is so seldom you find yourself actually relaxing in your bed watching some brainless tv show on repeat. Find the beauty in your living space so that it truly does feel like home.

A little introspection goes a long way. So when work and school and friends do start to feel like they’re weighing you down, you have places you can find solace: places where you can think about yourself and prioritize your needs. It is completely acceptable to be selfish when you need to be, meaning it is okay to put your phone on Do Not Disturb and not reply back to any emails for a day. It gives you room to figure things out a little bit. Take a deep breath and try not to worry too much. You’ve come too far to let a place like Cornell make you forget yourself.