What I have learned in College

When we embark on college–the next four, two, eight, years of our life to be consumed by an institution that will give us nothing more than a piece of card stock with some fancily drawn letters on it to commemorate our blood, sweat and tears (and then only communicate with us to ask, no, beg us for money)–we do not realize just how much there is to be learned. Yes, I can tell you about the intricacies of Collective Bargaining in the Auto Industry and why the relative power of the Unions has decreased in recent years. I can carry a conversation about Macro Economic policy in Europe. I’ll give my opinion on literature in America, the impact of social media on society, and the fragile political system in the global north. Hell, I can even tell you how much Bees add to our economy every year ($14 Billion. Bees! $14 Billion!) But this all pales in comparison to what I really learned in college.

One of my single biggest fears coming to college was  my diet. At home, my mother was in charge of making sure I ate veggies, and had a good balance of carbs, grains, and whatever. At college, she wasn’t going to be there to make me eat these things.

I had to learn how to iron shirts effectively. And how to make a budget. How to ask a professor or TA for help when I was doing poorly in a class, instead of them holding my hand along the way. I had to learn how to behave in a social setting–how to handle my alcohol (one of the most important things I learned) and also how to handle other people on alcohol. And when either of those got out of hand, I had to learn how to navigate into safety, or talk my way out of trouble. I had to learn how to talk to girls.

Actually, I still have to learn that one…

On the real though, it is all of these things, and more that I will walk away with as the most worthwhile learning experiences. I learned that I am bulletproof, only to learn that that is not truly the case. And sure, the conversations I can maintain are excellent, and the point of view I bring to the table is informed and unique, but these aren’t the most practical applications of my education. It is what I learned on how to be a person.

So thank you Cornell, for while I may have avoided your libraries, cursed the professors you deemed appropriate for tenure, and openly criticized the expectations you have of your students, ultimately,  I owe you.

ID Numbers

While I have mentioned before that I never feel like I am just a number at a school of 14,000 undergrads, that is in fact how Cornell classifies all of us. There are a few numbers that mean anything to me as a Cornell Student:

2011 is the year I graduate.

cbh58 is my NetID, and the most common form of identifying myself. It is my email, and what is required of me to log-in to computers, Blackboard, NetPrint, etc. This number is intuitive; my initials, and I am the 58th person to have such initials. Some NetIDs make you ponder them; one of my roommates was pfe4. It seems shocking that he was only the fourth PFE in the hundred plus year history (REALLY old alumni who were around before the internet still get NetIDs). Some don’t surprise you. sas226 for example. Not surprised that there are 225 previous SAS-es…

The number that really puzzles me is the 7-digit student ID. This number, mostly used for administrative purposes, seems to have no rhyme nor reason to it. I thought maybe it was assigned alphabetically, but my sister is completely different from me, and has a lower number. The guy I sat next to in Wines, alphabetically almost as close as you could get in the senior class, was very different from me too. He thought that maybe it had to do with when you were accepted. But he got in after me, and also had a lower number than me. There just doesn’t seem to be any logic to the way these numbers are done.

Where in the World is…

Chris Fleischl??

Every freshman across the country has that fear of their roommate situation when they first get assigned sometime in June or July. I was no different; I spent weeks checking the Cornell Class of 2011 website to see what the prognosis would be. By no means did I want a single– this is college, you should have a roommate– but I also didn’t really want a quad or really even a triple. I got lucky enough to get just one roommate.

His name was Chris and he was from Ringwood NJ. His Facebook profile said he liked frisbee, friends, and games. He took a few weeks to respond to my emails, and when he did, he used an awful lot of emoticons. I figured he couldn’t be too bad, right?

Your first impression is absolutely a lasting one, and I am not sure I made the best first impressions. Having been a day student at a Boarding School for high school, I kind of knew what stuff I should bring. Being a life-long pack-rat and survivalist, I brought way too much stuff. I moved in first and immediately took over “my” half of the room. A few hours later, after my mom and I had already lofted my bed, organized shelves, drawers and desks, Chris, his twin brother, and his loving parents showed up. He had one suitcase, his backpack, and one bin of odds and ends. My usurpation of the room would go unchallenged. As if that wasn’t enough of a first impression, there were two conversations that probably (and rightfully) freaked out Chris and his parents

The first was about a street sign I had “acquired” over the summer in some remote town in Illinois.  It read “Cornell Ct” and Chris’ twin asked me where I got it. I replied I had found it in a yard…come on, who finds a street sign in a yard? That lie didn’t fool anyone, and I distinctly remember Mrs. Fleischl giving me a “who is this kleptomaniac that my son is rooming with” look.

The second conversation was in regards to a hammer. My father bought me my first hammer and said “Son, I want you to sleep with this hammer”. I did so, and since he has never told me to stop sleeping with said hammer, it still resides next to my bed (former girlfriends have decided that under my pillow was too literal…). When my mom pulled the hammer out of its box and asked where I wanted it to be put, “next to my bed” did little else to impress the Fleischls.

Despite the rocky start, Chris and I got along well enough over the rest of the year. He was a Packers fan, and I liked the Bears. We both would procrastinate until no end. We had similar enough music tastes and sleep habits (although the kid could sleep through a bomb going off). We had a few little disagreements, that I was most likely completely responsible for, but all in all he was a very good roommie. We parted ways for the summer, me to go and work at a factory, and him to go and work for Schindler Elevator company. Only he didn’t come back.

Chris took a semester off. We would text, Facebook, email, etc when the Bears and Packers played or saw something worth mentioning to each other. I saw him on campus once or twice when he returned from his semester off. But then, he stopped responding to texts. And calls. And shut down his Facebook wall. None of our friends have seen nor heard from him in well over a year…

This is very unfortunate to me as he was a decent friend of mine (at least I think he was). If anyone knows where in the world Carmen, er, Chris is, they should holler at me.

Highlighting a few Cornell Entrepreneurs

Obviously Cornell has a rich alumni group that has done a lot of really cool things. Big whoop, what is really cool are the kids who do stuff while at school or start a company in their first year out. Two of them in particular are pretty awesome.

scuttleHub: Social Networking really became big when Facebook blew up. Now everyone wants to get in on the party, but the landscape is cha


nging again and going towards geo-location based social networking (ie Foursquare). The problem that has arisen with most social networking are the privacy concerns. Well scuttleHub eliminates that by making all contributions anonymous. They take each location and make it into a virtual bulletin board. It is currently being tested int he Ithaca area. Very cool. Very Cornell.

Life Changing Apparel: Socially responsible clothing is so in. Just ask Tom, who sells shoes and then gives a pair to kids in Argentina. LCA works under the same principle: sell a shirt, give a kid water. They are partnered with a company that distributes

LCA. Live Longer.
LCA. Live Longer.

Lifestraws, a device that can be stuck in any water source from puddles to muddy puddles and when you drink through the straw, clean water comes through. Because everyone deserves water.

Both of these companies founders are less than a year out of Cornell. One of them quit his job to pursue his passion. Cornellians having an impact and making a name for themselves: that’s the way to play the game.