Greetings from India! Shortly before graduating in May 2012, I accepted an offer as a Business Analyst with Tata Consultancy Services in Mumbai, and have been situated comfortably here for the past five months. The “real world” is not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be, although working in a new country does throw its own set of curveballs.I have been blogging about my day-to-day experiences as an expat for Project Firefly — an international forum for economic and policy issues. For those who are interested, the link is below.
My time at Cornell may be officially over, but I can honestly say not a day goes by where I don’t think about campus and all the incredible people I came to know through the University. Best of luck to any prospective students who happen to come across this blog in the venerable “Life on the Hill” archives, and Go Big Red!
Yesterday was the last day of classes for the spring semester (and my last day of classes ever, incidentally). True to Cornell tradition, a majority of students lucky enough to have professors not assign them tests spent the day in a state of barely coherent debauchery on Libe Slope.
This year’s “Slope Day” performers were The Wailers, Neon Trees and Taio Cruz. The Wailers were announced as an opening act just a few weeks ago, and while most of my friends immediately hailed the decision as one of the best Slope Day picks in recent years, I was a little more weary. When I think “Wailers,” I think Bunny Wailer (whom I already had the privilege of seeing live), the late Peter Tosh, and of course, the late Bob Marley. From a quick reading of “The Wailers” website, it seems that the main original “Wailer” present yesterday was Aston Barrett — fairly cool, but not enough to cure my skepticism. Fortunately for other, less cynical Cornellians, it seems like The Wailers put on a great show — hearing “No Woman, No Cry” on Libe Slope was a fairly fitting way to celebrate my senior Slope Day, I suppose.
I didn’t know much about Neon Trees before they were booked for Slope Day — after discovering that they were the group behind the ubiquitous “Animal,” I got pretty hyped. As it were, the start of Neon Trees’ set coincided with my urge to take a quick jaunt to Collegetown with some friends for food. From what I heard, they were the high point of the day — poppy music and an earnestly energetic live show.
Taio Cruz — about as controversially poppy a Slope Day act I’ve seen in my time at Cornell — was only on for about five or six songs. Seems like Mr. Dynamite doesn’t have much of a back catalogue. Regardless, I had a good time fist-pumping and thought his unabashedly catchy songs made for a perfectly fun main act , although it seems the general attitude following his performance was pretty negative. Some of the more common complaints I heard: his set was too short, he wasn’t actually singing (more often than not he would put the mic down and fist pump while the full song played from speakers), and he didn’t do a great job of audience interaction (besides, you know, the fist-pumping).
Even more memorable then the concert, of course, was the pre-game in Collegetown and at my fraternity house, and the night-time rally of bars and porch parties. The weather was perfect, the food was good, and the parties were popping. Overall, I’d say it was a great Slope Day.
Entrepreneurship is big at Cornell. Really big. Successful entrepreneurs — Zuckerberg, Jobs, Crowley, Hoffman — are like rock stars to money-hungry, dream-heavy college kids (and to big-kid investors as well). I know some people on campus who start personal ventures for strictly pragmatic reasons — make some money, obtain some good management and work experience. And that’s awesome. There are others who have got bigger dreams — social change, cultural revolution, whatever you want to call it. These people are some of the most interesting to talk to, but also have some considerably hefty obstacles to surmount to reach their goals. I’m rooting for them.
Personally, nothing has convinced me more of the importance of an “entrepreneurial spirit” in today’s tricky economic times then a talk I had with an alum a few weeks back over drinks. This particular alum happens to be a media executive at a fast-growing, fast-innovating television network. We were discussing the current state of the media industry — a rapidly shifting landscape, both from a financial and creative perspective — and he told me that “all media executives need to be entrepreneurs.”
His point reminded me of a maxim of Warren Buffet’s — ” Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.” In the case of the media industry, there’s a lot of fear — fear of job loss, revenue loss, degeneration of quality content — and a lot of questions. And that’s where entrepreneurs come in — they take the risks, bear the losses and, ultimately, answer the questions that can save an industry. Talking with this alum about all the exciting opportunities available in media — and other fluctuating industries — for young graduates was exciting, and inspiring.
For myself, I’ve helped lead a few ventures that I would call entrepreneurial (see here and here…and then my erstwhile rap career…), but when it comes down to it, I’m still finding my place in the whole canon of entrepreneurship. Either way, I think I’m pretty lucky to be at a campus that has multiple classes and a whole celebration dedicated to entrepreneurs — it certainly makes for a “synergistic” college experience.
I’m an Economics/Philosophy double major, for those who haven’t read my super-sweet biography on this blog yet. I fell into the Philosophy major as a wayward sophomore (not that majoring in Philosophy makes you wayward, per se…); I actively pursued the Economics major as — not only a more “practical” option — but a field that I was genuinely interested in, and always have been. However, I was initially scared away from Economics because I’m not, ah, exactly numbers-oriented.
So if you have taken an Economics class at Cornell — or anywhere — you know that the math is easy. Super-easy. Review the first month of a basic calculus course and you’ve got the gist of it. What is REALLY hard — and really tests the mettle of all those qualitative, artsy, would-be Economics majors out there — is making the synergistic connections between the economic concepts and the mathematical models, regressions and equations that help you reach those concepts. An example: finding the derivative of a basic total cost equation is easy. However, learning to really understand the importance and application of this “marginal cost” derivative to different aspects of economics has driven many introductory macroeconomic students to near insanity.
But what I realized when I was accepted to the economics major is that, like anything in life, it’s not a good idea to get bogged down in the numbers. Certainly the numbers are incredibly crucial — to my grade point average, for instance — but the fact is, I was fascinated by what made the markets tick, what made certain businesses and industries successful, and overall, learning why the heck the economy does what it does. And hey, if Cornell accepted me, I figured I must be at least good enough for the most popular major in the College of Arts and Sciences.
This Saturday, the legendary GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan will be coming to Cornell to give a lecture titled “Arts, Beats, and Eats with the GZA.” It is part of a mini-tour of college campuses, and it seems like GZA has some high standards for his lectures. He said that he hopes to “take a quantum leap and discuss the universe while taking us on a journey through deep space. Traveling at light-speed from the galactic center of one galaxy to the farthest corners of another. I hope my listeners will enjoy this cosmic adventure within a world of colossal planets, gas giants, meteorites, comets, and asteroids in the most extreme conditions.”
So I don’t know what he means by that, but I’m excited. Heck, I’m not even that big a Wu-Tang fan, at least compared to some of my friends, but I still figure it will be a unique way to spend a Saturday evening. What’s awesome is that this is only the latest in a long series of impressive lectures and interactions I have had with hip-hop luminaries since coming to Cornell; the full list is in this post I wrote last semester.
I think these sort of unique opportunities are the hallmark of a vibrant campus community. Bringing in artists like GZA — a singularly progressive force in music — incites students to think outside the box, in a way that a guest professor lecturing may not. As thought-provoking as GZA’s lecture will probably be, what he represents as an artist is just as inspiring to students. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the record execs Wu-Tang pitched to in the early 1990’s had no idea what the hell they were talking about with their “Shaolin,” “monkey style” and “killa bee” slang. Twenty years later, the Wu has created a culture and an iconic brand. And what college student doesn’t dream of leading stylistic cultural revolution? Now if I could only take a road trip to NYU in time for the Lil B lecture, my semester would be complete.
A few weeks ago, I voiced my skepticism on the necessity of blowing money on an extravagant Spring Break. Shortly after writing that post, I spent a few hundred dollars for round-trip tickets to Las Vegas. YOLO.
I just got back from that trip yesterday — it was great. Epic. Not much more to say about it. My friends and I painted the city red and I don’t think The Cosmopolitan hotel room #2101 will ever fully recover. But the trip also got me thinking about an issue that has come up frequently ever since the rap wars of the 1990’s: East Coast vs. West Coast.
As soon as we stepped out of the airport, I could feel something different in the air. It wasn’t just the Las Vegas dry heat either — it was something visceral. People seemed more relaxed — obvious, perhaps, considering I was in a city of tourists on vacation, but it was the type of “relaxed” that was ingrained in every part of the city, from the residential neighborhood I stayed in for the first night to the opulent hotel we holed up in for the last several days of the trip. The city seemed to have a laid-back swagger about it, and this wasn’t my first observation either. On every trip I’ve taken to visit my grandparents in San Francisco since I was a youngster, the West Coast has always seemed to have a much more steady pace then the East Coast.
Now, I know it would take a little more then just vacation time on the West Coast to truly understand the place, but regardless, I think that the difference between the East Coast and West Coast is something I can appreciate as a tourist, at the very least. For now, I’m happy to be living and working as a fast-paced, stressed-out East Coast college student, and taking a trip to the desert of Nevada was at once reinvigorating and eye-opening. Taking a break from my college work was like Las Vegas partying — good in small doses, but wearisome in abundance. I’m happy to be back.
Living with five other guys this year, there has been one problem that waxes and wanes every few weeks with the cycles of the moon. That problem is the piles of trash overflowing out of the trash bags, into our kitchen sink, onto the floor and slowly working its way into the smallest corners of the apartment.
I realize this is all quite ironic, considering how my last post was about how I am just the cleanliest young bro on the block these days. And I’m not saying that post was a lie; it just applied to literally no other part of my apartment besides the 100-square foot space that is my room. Step outside my room, in fact, and you’ll end up right in our kitchen, a.k.a. “ScatterBox” — the epicenter of all things unholy and unhygienic. Well, unhygienic at least. Also, we don’t actually call it “ScatterBox.” It’s real name is “The Greasy Spoon.”
Yes, it would certainly be fair to blame us for the mess — the inhabitants of 426 Eddy, Apartment 4. But I’m going to use this little bully pulpit of mine to kvetch about another cause of overflowing trash bags in apartments across Collegetown: the exorbitantly priced “trash tags.” Collegetown residents are expected to place a single trash tag — averaging about four dollars a pop — on each bag of trash that goes on the curb. Bags without tags are not picked up on trash days (Tuesdays and Fridays), and Collegetown residents are threatened with fines if they try to slip tag-less bags past the discerning eyes of our neighborhood trash collectors. Now, I’m certain the money from these trash tags go to a fair place, and I don’t think it’s any of my business to complain about the trash tag system when I really don’t know too much about its origins or necessities. But $24 for six tags? I’m sorry, but for cash-strapped Collegetown residents, that’s going to mean a lot of missed trash days. And a lot of accumulating trash.
At this particular moment, things are coming to a breaking point with our trash. Making it even more frustrating is that just last week, when we hosted a pre-game for a campus group myself and several other roommates are involved in, we were able to see the apartment in all its trash-less glory: the video-game chairs that double as speakers, the big-screen TV that came with the apartment — everything looked infinitely more classy. Of course, within 24 hours following the pregame, the trash was piling up again. I’m thinking one of us is going to buy trash tags tonight — probably me — to ameloriate the situation, but if not, then it’s just going to be another week of eating lunch in The Greasy Spoon.
As a freshman and sophomore, I was messy. My bed was never made, my desk was piled with old papers and books, the floor was strewn with laundry, and my backpack was brimming with dog-eared notebooks and folders. However, as the old adage goes, “the first step is admitting you have a problem,” and it wasn’t until late junior year that I really discovered how much more effective I could work if I took the extra time to stay organized.
Like every other post on this blog, I understand that I’m not exactly on to anything fascinating here — “organization breeds success,” “cleanliness is next to Godliness,” et al. However, the main thing that resonates me when I think back to my less-cleanly days is how much I denied my lack of organization, as well as ignoring how others would possibly view me. Needless to say, when you show up to a study session and it takes you twenty minutes to find the necessary notes and worksheets within the maelstrom of your backpack, it doesn’t exactly speak to any particular talents or work ethic you may think you have. I was always “that guy,” and it took quite a bit to make me realize that I would remain “that guy” until I made a change.
Now this year, I’m not saying I’m Martha Stewart, but it has made my life a lot easier now that I’m able to find everything I need, when I need it. I can even indulge in some “feng shui” in my room now that it’s clean enough to appreciate. My roommates may not say it, but dammit, I know they think my perfectly lined up collection of shot glasses underneath the old wooden “Doyle’s Tavern” sign above my bed is pretty classy. Last year, those shot glasses would have probably been crushed beneath a pile of laundry or lost in some drawer. Even better, a friend of mine who recently walked into my cleanly, conservative, wood-paneled room commented that it could be in a catalogue for Brooks Brothers. And that, my friends, has made every piece of laundry I’ve folded this year worth it.
Several of my roommates were discussing potential spring break plans earlier this week. One of them may be heading out to Las Vegas with a few of our other fraternity brothers. Another is adamant about spending spring break with friends from his hometown — a “last hurrah” for him and his crew. I weighed the possibility of joining either one of my roommates on their respective trips, but — though the jury is still out — I am strongly considering laying low this spring break.
By “laying low,” I mean that I may just stay in our apartment in Ithaca, pick up some extra hours at my job at Johnson, and generally recoup for the last half of my last semester at Cornell. Maybe take a day trip to NYC, but nothing too crazy. This is a far cry from the beer-drenched, road trip Spring Break extravaganzas I always imagined having in college, but to be honest, I feel like the fun I have during the school year is more then enough keep me stead over. And plus, there is the far more important (in my opinion) issue of the post-graduation trip to plan and pay for.
There is still more then a month until Spring Break, so I have a bit of a time cushion until I really have to make the big decisions. I may very well end up biting my tongue on this post and taking a trip to Cancun for a week of debauched and derelict living. I’ve had some great road trips and breaks during college, but have never exactly blown the bank on a big Spring Break trip. I like to think this is for the better, but my roommates may convince me otherwise.
Today is my last “first day of classes” as a Cornell undergrad. Is it weird that I’m still really, really excited?
For all those in high school: being a senior in college is much different than being a senior in high school…for the most part. During my senior year of high school, I distinctly remember sinking into the proud “senior slump,” along with the rest of my friends. The “slump” was especially noticeable during the second semester after I had received my acceptance to Cornell. Part of it was simple utilitarianism — it’s hard to care about high school when you’ve already been accepted to your dream college — but another part of it is sort of an easy sense of accomplishment. It’s certainly a very privileged way of living your last semester in high school, and it’s certainly flawed, but it is what it is.
In college, people are much more diversified in the extent of their slump. When you’re paying $55,000 a year to take classes, it’s essentially a waste of money to “slump,” no matter your circumstances. I do have friends who have been accepted to graduate school, and for all purposes, they could slack off now, although they are also the type of students who believe in working hard and taking classes that genuinely interest them. There are many people — including myself — who would like to keep graduate school in the cards for the future, and so this semester is as important as any to maintain or even improve a solid GPA.
Living with five other seniors as I do, I would say Cornell’s “work hard, play hard” attitude is simply more prevalent, if anything — we know that our time is running short here, and we want to experience Cornell as much as possible before graduation.