Monthly Archives: September 2013

D.C. Update

This is an interesting semester to be a “Life on the Hill” blogger for Cornell.edu. Because most of the people reading these blogs are prospective Cornellians, who I’m guessing would care more to hear about life in Ithaca, I kind of feel obliged to discuss habits/feelings/thoughts from my first 3 years at Cornell. But, another part of me feels that participating in one of Cornell’s most prominent off-campus programs merits abundant attention, too…so, I’ll continue to strive for a happy balance. Let me know, as always, what you want to hear more of, or if you have any questions about Cornell or the Cornell in Washington program!

So, what have I been up to in D.C.?

  • My internship is going well–but because I intern 3.5 days a week, and still juggle a full Cornell course load with classes at night and in the morning, I’m very busy. 
  • The senior year job hunt is at its peak; while I’m not on campus, figuring out what I’m going to be doing next year is undoubtedly on my mind. I definitely want to enter the workforce, though. No grad school for me, at least right off the bat. (Maybe a nighttime MBA or something, a few years down the line?)
  • D.C. weather, on the whole, is sunnier, drier, and warmer than Ithaca weather. This results in a noticeable difference in my mood; I’m much happier walking outside. (I think this means I shouldn’t go job hunting in Alaska.)
  • A major part of the Cornell in Washington program is writing a substantial research paper–so that’s why I’m immersing myself in business-government relations research as I’m sitting in this Dupont Circle Panera Bread on a Saturday morning.
  • It’s so much easier to get around here, compared to Ithaca! The metro, while not as comprehensive as the NYC subway system, is convenient, and everything you could ever need is a metro ride away. Traveling from here is a breeze too, with a couple of airports nearby and proximity to an Amtrak station.
  • Anecdote: So I’m walking back from my internship the other day, and see the roads blocked off, with a ton of cop cars and motorcycles all around me. I’m wondering what all the hubbub is…then I see a parade of black Escalades, then this:

Yes, I was 10 feet from the Presidential state car. I was…kinda shocked by that one, but that’s a #DC experience, for sure. (Somebody reading this just cringed at my hashtag.)

So…yes; life is going well, though I miss Ithaca. I can’t believe how fast this semester is going!

The Definitive “What Major?!” Response Post

Given the nature of this blogging position, and my job as an internal transfer mentor, I’ve fielded a lot of questions from fellow students on a wide range of topics…and a common theme among inquiries has to do with Cornell college and major selection.

With 7 colleges at Cornell and 82 majors,  I’m a unique person to ask this question to, because–as evidenced by my posts, I shuffled around a bit at Cornell before finding the business program that best suited me (and that I’d come to love). Honestly, I wish I had a surefire, definite answer to give when people ask for assistance with the perfect program. But, because a lot of your college experiences are random, there’s no way to predict your happiness. So, I have absolutely no authority to tell you what major/school/program at Cornell is the “right” choice.

What I CAN do, though, instead of recommending specific majors, is to provide anecdotal examples from friends/Cornellians I know regarding their program/major selection. Hopefully you see yourself in one of these people, but if not–at least I’ve given you some things to think about. Plus, at least in my opinion, it’s inherently interesting to hear about other peoples’ lives and the decisions they’ve made.

Oh, and a disclaimer before I begin–this is PURELY anecdotal, so the fallacies of generalizations apply.

So here we go:

  •  One friend I know transferred into Cornell as a communication major, but realized too late into her curriculum that she had a passion for HumEc’s Design and Environmental Analysis program. While it was too late for her to change her major to her newfound passion, she ended up taking loads of classes in the area and will be pursuing a masters in the field after some post-graduate work experience. See, it wasn’t the end of the world that she didn’t have the 100% perfect undergrad major.
  • Another friend has pursued a dual degree in Art and Psychology (which you can do between AAP and Arts and Sciences), but realized 3 years in that he wanted a more technical education from Cornell–because he developed a passion for digital design and coding. He packed his last few undergrad semesters at Cornell with high level computer science courses, and is now sticking around for a masters in computer science.
  • Every once in a while you get the “wait a second…I’m a New York State resident, and I’m in Arts and Sciences majoring in biology/information science…why don’t I just switch to CALS and save a crapload of money with the subsidized tuition?!?” scenario.
  • If you’re applying to a unique program like Industrial and Labor Relations or the Hotel School, make sure you know what you’re getting into by taking a nitty-gritty look at the curriculum. Look, ILR and Hotel can certainly be generalized as ‘business’ programs, but if you’re not damn sure that labor/the workplace is your academic passion, you’re not going to enjoy Labor Law, Collective Bargaining, Labor Econ or Labor History. Same goes with the Hotel School; when you apply, you’re making a profound commitment to forego most of the traditional “college” curriculum for 22 required hospitality courses. I’ve talked to way too many prospective AEM transfers from majors that they realize now they’re not too fond of.
  • When do you stop adding majors? I had a suitemate one year that was probably the most brilliant person I’ve ever met–a math, chemistry, and physics triple major that takes >25 credits each semester in courses like graduate quantum mechanics, and aces them. He’s probably picked up a few majors since we last spoke. I’ll probably read about him in the papers after he’s found the cure for AIDS in 2 years. I’m not sure how much free time he has, but God bless ‘im. Seriously.
  • Occasionally you hear about that one course’s that’s so amazing that people declare their majors in the field after taking it. While I haven’t taken all of these, I can tell you based on conversations that some of these courses are GOVT1817: Intro to International Relations with Katzenstein, PSYCH 1101: Intro to Psych (but Maas, the legend, left–I’m not sure if the new professor is good), PAM 2300: Intro to Policy Analysis with Avery (I’ve heard she’s fantastic, but the class is difficult), and INFO/COMM 2450: Communication and Technology with Hancock. Others can chime in with math, science, and engineering courses since I don’t have a ton of experience there.
  • No, pre-meds, don’t feel pressured to major in bio/chem because it looks good for medical school. From what friends have told me, admissions committees don’t care. I can think off the top of my head of a French major and an AEM major that are pre-med…and they’re totally okay since they’re taking the required medical courses.
  • I know a few people that transferred out of Engineering to less time-sucking/stressful programs. An engineering degree can be a great thing since employers love quantitative skills, but at the end of the day, y’only got 4 years in college…so if the academics are hampering you from doing the extracurriculars/things you wanna do, as they felt, its the right move to switch out.
  • I had a friend in an interesting scenario: she was basically done with her English major early, but was concerned about employability/job prospects. So what could she do with her time left on campus? She examined lots of minors on campus, but in the end picked up an economics major, which she could fit in easily with her schedule.
  • A bunch of people I know stumbled on, and now love, the new information science major on campus as an alternative to traditional computer science; it explores the social/human sides of computing in addition to programming. Many of them already have sick jobs lined up with big-name tech companies. If I wasn’t spending the semester in DC, I would totally would have a minor in the field.

So, prospective freshmen/undecided students…there you go! Hopefully, through these anecdotes, you now have a little bit of foresight into possible actions/routes to take. Will this help you directly? Meh, probably not, but it might stick with you longer than the “it’ll come to you!”-esque advice you hear regularly.

Impossible-to-Prove Cornell Hypotheses

Warning: If you’re looking for an extremely intelligent, substantiative, and well-evidenced post, you might want to scroll further down. (Or, heck, visit a different Life on the Hill blog.)

Over the last 3 years at Cornell, I’ve definitely gotten accustomed to a certain way of life; the more time you spend in the 607, the more you observe and pick up on the “intricacies” of life in Ithaca, and, well…you begin to see the same kind of patterns occur. What I’m going to do in this post is lay out some arguably stupid hypotheses I have regarding the Big Red, which I have absolutely no way of proving. Some of these are serious, and some are incredibly stupid. I’ll let you be the judge.

So, let’s begin:

  1. People are much more outgoing in Mann Library than Olin and Uris. I’m not sure what explains this–maybe the quality of air? The brightness of the lights? The nature of the furniture setup? The quality of Manndibles food? But I can tell you, there’s something about Mann that makes the people on it happier and more social than in any other library. (Of course, I’m in AEM and that’s where I see the majority of people I know, so there’s bias for you.) I also only really use the first floor of Mann, where it’s more “socially okay” to talk, than some of the other floors…so what do I know?
  2. The prospective student weather transformation. During Cornell Days, the period in the spring semester when accepted prospective students visit the campus, the weather goes from cloudy, freezing, and snowy for 5 months straight to clear skies, warm, and sunny. I kid you not, this has happened over quite a few years that I’ve encountered. I’m actually convinced that the Cornell administration has state of the art weather-changing machinery that they use to alter the weather during various week-long periods in March…to assist with enrollment yield!
  3. My NetPrint fees to the University over the last 3 years have given Cornell the financial stability to go ahead with the NYC Tech Campus. Okay, this isn’t true–we can thank philanthropist Chuck Feeney for the multi-million dollar donation. But, come on, I’d like to think I contributed to that; it costs 9 cents to print a piece of paper anywhere on campus, and I’ve printed way too much stuff since freshman year that’s been billed to my bursar account–papers, required readings, etc. The amount I’ve paid is absurd. At the very least, I should get a building with my name on it by graduation.
  4. Californians are awesome. Again, I can’t prove this. But for some reason, most Cornell students I’ve met from California have been extremely down to earth, friendly, and incredibly outgoing. That’s not to disparage other states–heck, I’m from Connecticut–but wow; maybe there is some truth to that west coast “chill” vibe people talk about. Also topping the anecdotally “awesome”  list: people from Upstate NY, I’ve found are super nice as well. (Cue the disclaimer: stereotypes aren’t true, there are plenty of awesome people at Cornell, etc.)
  5. Ives Hall and Martha Van Rensselaer Hall were deliberately designed for you never to be able to escape. Having been at Cornell for 3 years, I’ve walked through both of those buildings regularly, and it baffles me how absurdly confusing they are. (My favorite part of MVR? Taking an elevator on the third floor…that takes you to another third floor.) I’ve written about getting lost in them before, and since sophomore year my mental map of the buildings has gotten better, but not much. As one of my friends recently put it best on Facebook:

6. It’s literally impossible to have an empty e-mail inbox here. This one is as frustrating as it is true. Clearing out your email inbox, especially after you’re signed up for club email lists and are enrolled in BlackBoard for all your classes, is akin to using a bucket to try and remove water from a flowing river. Sure, you can try to archive ’em, and heck, you might get close, but come prelim time, you’re getting 5 emails a day from each class (“Exam review session moved!” “Reminder: Exam!” “Reminder: No graphing calculators for exam!” “Reminder: Exam grades will take a few days to process!” “Exam grades are up!” “Exam regrade policy: Please read!”). You just gotta take them all in, and come to terms with the fact that you won’t have an empty inbox here, ever.

So there you have it–6 of my impossible-to-prove hypotheses. Give me a shout if you disagree with ’em. I’m currently sitting here at a Starbucks in Washington D.C. (again, I’m participating the Cornell in Washington program)…and it’s about time I get back to my research paper!

The Cornell in Washington Experience: “You’re Studying ‘Abroad’….Where?”

So…the fall semester of my senior year is here, and with it comes the excitement of returning to classes, the thrill of seeing new and old Cornellians, stress about the challenges to come, and an increase in the overall usage of my Amazon Prime account. But…what makes this semester different from others? Well, I’m about 300 miles south of where I’d normally be about now, as I’m spending the semester in the Cornell in Washington program.

It’s come to my attention, based on puzzled looks that I’ve gotten when I say I’m doing a semester in D.C., that many people haven’t heard of this Cornell program. I find it semi-surprising, because it’s recently gotten some media attention (here and here). Let me give a brief overview of the program and how my experience has been, even though it hasn’t even been two weeks into the semester!

Here’s a quick run-down: Cornell owns a building in Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, where about 50 or so Cornellians live every semester while taking classes and participating in an internship. All courses are taught in classrooms in the building, and are mostly offered Thursdays and at nights, so scheduling isn’t a problem.

The reasoning behind the program stems from the fact that a semester in D.C.–one of the most intellectual and vibrant cities in the country–provides students with experiences that can’t be had at Cornell. Simply put, as quaint as Ithaca may be, the bottom line is that you’re not going to get the same opportunities there–be it access to internships, concerts, or cultural events, etc.–as you would in a large city.

So, how has my personal experience been thus far in the program? I’d say positive. There are opportunity costs, sure, but it’s been an interesting time. Working at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, in the Office of Economic Policy, is a once in a lifetime experience. (I still pinch myself every time I walk into the building, as its majestic exterior–combined with the fact that it’s literally next to the White House–still keeps me in awe.)

Academically, it’s still very early in the semester, but I’m getting good vibes. I will be writing a substantial research paper for my 8 credit Public Policy class (I’m hoping to write about the link between economic policy and firm strategy–anyone have any thoughts?!), and my other elective hasn’t started yet.

Everyone in the program has been super friendly, as well. At Cornell, seeing 13,000 faces makes it hard to connect with people all the time due to proximity, but seeing the same people in classes and in the common room of the building has made it an intimate community.

Speaking of rooms, you’ve got to check out the kitchens that they provide in each apartment–seemingly brand new. (See photo at right).

My only dilemma is when I accidentally say that I’m studying “abroad”–probably not the appropriate term for a semester in the same country. Plus, studying abroad (in my mind) conjures up the image of me growing a beard and traveling with just a backpack across Eastern Europe, making important life revelations along the way.

Maybe I’m not doing just that…

If anyone has any entertainment or restaurant suggestions for D.C., feel free to send them along!