Given that I interned last summer in Manhattan, and spent this previous semester in D.C. through the Cornell in Washington program, it’s fairly safe to say that I’ve spent a decent amount of time away from Ithaca in recent months. While these experiences have given me a breath of fresh air from the 6 semesters spent in upstate New York, they’ve also helped me begin the slow transition to the real, post-college world.
Want to know one interesting component of my time away? It’s been thought-provoking to learn about the public’s perceptions of Cornell, outside of Ithaca. Sure, most everyone agrees that Cornell is a good school…but, I would argue (based on anecdotal evidence) that Cornell garners more unique reactions and responses from people than a lot of schools do.
Given my propensity to wear Cornell apparel in public (which I credit in no small part to the Cornell Store giftcards that I’ve accumulated over the years), it’s surprisingly easy to elicit reactions from strangers about the school, wherever you are. And, not like I’m Andy Bernard about it, but at my age…whenever you’re introduced to someone and exchange basic background information, the name of your college comes up relatively frequently.
Here are a few random notes from exchanges I’ve had with people over the last few months, when they notice any sort of Cornell apparel on me, or Cornell comes up in conversation:
- First off…it seems like everyone knows someone that went to Cornell. This probably happens more in the tri-state area than it does in rural Nebraska, but the point generally rings true. Are you at a supermarket near home? An elderly woman might stop you to say how her best friends’ grandson goes to Cornell, and loves it. Or, if you’re at a doctors/dentists office, the doc might start out the appointment by expressing how their [buddy from medical/dental/vet] school “LOVED his time at Cornell and talks about it lots, even though it’s [cold/stressful/isolated].”
- If I had a dime for every “Ithaca is Gorges” remark I’ve gotten…
- I was on a wine tour in Napa and Sonoma Valleys the other week, and an employee at one of the smaller vineyards got all excited when he saw my sweatshirt, saying: “You go to Cornell?! They have one of the best viticulture programs in the country! We call it the U.C. Davis of the East!”
- A few people have started conversations with me with regards to Cornell wrestling. One guy, in a location far from Ithaca, was in awe that I attended Cornell because that’s where NCAA legend Kyle Dake wrestled. I also once met a high school wrestling coach in an elevator who saw my sweatshirt and remarked, “Great wrestling team they have over there.”
- In my experience, the public loves talking about Cornell’s Hotel School–or at least those familiar with it. A few conversations I’ve had with people have started along the lines of, “Cornell’s the one with that cool hotel management program, correct?” It’s innately intriguing to many that an Ivy League school has classes in subjects like casino management and foodservice operations–as evidenced by this recent shoutout in The Simpsons.
- Yes, high schoolers and middle schoolers forced into using them, Cornell Notes were invented at Cornell. No, the format is not required to be used.
- On a much more serious note, given recent tragedies on campus in recent years, I’ve had people occasionally remark to me that Cornell is a “suicide school, right?” or “it’s really stressful up there, correct?” I’d imagine this became pervasive when USA Today and most of the other national media outlets reported on the string of tragic incidents a few years ago. Whenever this comes up, as much as I’d like to say that statistically, these tragedies are in line (and below) the national average, I often just emphasize the positive experience that I’ve had at the school and the avenues for support available on campus.
- Here are some pop-culture references and celebrities that come up in conversation: Andy Bernard from The Office, Natalie Keener from Up in the Air, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Keith Olbermann, and Ann Coulter.
- The weather. Ohh boy, people like talking about Cornell’s weather! Telling people you go to Cornell often elicits a “wow, it’s cold up there” comment…followed by an inquiry along the lines of how I deal with it. One of my favorite weather related remarks? When I got into Cornell as a high school senior Early Decision and was withdrawing my other applications…an admissions officer I had corresponded with from a school in a much warmer climate told me something like, I should “enjoy Cornell and be sure to buy lots of winter apparel” (said in good spirits).
Well, there you have it. Am I generalizing? Yeah, probably…nobody said anecdotes provided solid insights. But hopefully these have been interesting to read.
In other news, I’ll be back to Ithaca this weekend; check for updates soon!