I picked up my parents at the Ithaca airport Saturday morning.  My brother Robert and I walked to Schoellkopf to attend Convocation, where David Plouffe, senior campaign manager for Barack Obama, commended the graduating class for shaping the election and promoting change for the future.  Plouffe also gave a shoutout to my friend CJ, who served as Convocation Chair, and his recent unsuccessful foray with Introduction to Wines.  In other words, he didn’t pass (sorry, CJ).  The Lins then set off on a full day of receptions and get togethers.  The weather was sunny and humid.  “I didn’t expect Ithaca to be this warm,” my mom remarked, as she trailed 25 feet behind Robert and I.  Apparently her solution to the heat is walking at a snail-slow pace while holding her handbag over her face to block the sun: an interesting sight.

Rise and shine!  Drowsy from the red-eye flight…

…cleaned up at the Johnson Museum

Sunday was a whirlwind of caps, gowns, diplomas, flowers, and balloons.  All the graduates assembled on the Arts Quad before the procession started around 10AM.  With overcast skies, I was glad that it was cooler, since sitting in a black robe that doubles as a compact sauna is not an ideal situation for anyone.  During the procession, my heart dropped when we walked through the Day Hall parking lot.  There, professors flanked both sides in their Harry Potter-esque cap and gown regalia, clapping and congratulating us on this special occasion.  It really put our achievement–graduation from a university–on a much more meaningful scale.  It was a bittersweet sendoff as we progressed to the stadium.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Schoellkopf packed (it apparently has a capacity of 40,000), but it was teeming with family and friends Sunday morning:

Meanwhile, on the other side, Robert reported that the scene at Schoellkopf resembled the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.  “And now…the College of Arts and Sciences!”

President David Skorton addressed the graduates, asking us to take charge and embrace change.  With our liberal arts foundation and Cornell support, we have the skills and moral character that’ll ensure success in the future.  Then, one by one, the degrees were conferred.  Most notable in show were the Vet grads, who cleverly blew up arm-long plastic gloves to double as those thunder sticks you get at basketball games.  When Skorton mentioned “swine flu,” the flurry of blow-up arms drew a huge laugh.  We sang the Alma Mater as an entire class (I teared up a little bit), and before I knew it, it was over.

It still hasn’t hit me yet.  In a few months, I’ll be moving into an apartment in Manhattan and working in finance, a response which drew a lot of “get us out of this mess” and “finance…oh, I see” comments this past week.  I will be returning to JPMorgan this August, working in their Sales and Trading division, undoubtedly entering a field that thrives on high stress and quick thinking.  This show-no-mercy masochistic environment gets me going, and while I may be hitting the floor early in the morning, working hard every second until evening, I know it’ll be a fun ride.

I have many people to thank in this last (and rather long) blog entry.  First, to my family.  It was my dad who pushed for me to apply to Cornell in the first place.  Although we are separated for most of the year, the support my parents have given me over my 22 years, their respect for the “college experience” and their personal American Dreams have shaped me into the optimistic and direct Cornellian I am today.  To Robert, for becoming a new close friend instead of the pesky brother that makes fun of me…oh, wait…

Next, to friends old and new.  Special shoutout to my 219 Linden roommates (Katy, Hannah, Cath, Court, Michelle, Jill, Kara), some SHpecial friends, my KDs, fellow tour guides, and while it looks like I’m pulling names from a baby book, in no specific order: Jen, Danny, Frankel, Dave, Paz, Schneida, Steve, Scott M., Alex, Ryan, Bryant, Ray, Krebs, James, Jess, Sarah, and I’m missing about 50 other names–please forgive me, and the really nice coffee lady at CTB who always gets my medium hazelnut coffee…apparently her name is Paula.  To friends that I met from the first week of freshman year, and others I met this past year, with so little time left.  Regardless of duration, the bonds are rock solid and long term.  I’m talking about us ladies sitting in rockers knitting together when we’re grandmothers.  Not to ride on any stereotypes, but the guys, well, I don’t foresee us knitting, but perhaps playing golf or something else.  You all have changed my perspective on life and taught me to see things differently.  I’ll cherish our fun nights out, the relaxed nights in, the impromptu discussions, and heart-to-hearts.   While I’ll be able to see a lot of you next year in NYC, to everyone else spreading out in the states (or even going overseas), we are the generation of GChat, email, Facebook, and Skype, and by George, I hope we stay in touch.

Thanks to my elder mentors.  To my professors, who have instilled the importance of learning and curiosity. To Lisa, who got me this blogging job and put up with my antics: you probably think I’m crazy.  To Hilary, my rowing coach for 3 years: thank you for taking a doe-eyed freshman under your wing and giving me knowledge, faith, and the challenge of the sport of rowing, which I look on as one of my most memorable experiences.  To Taiya and Peggy, my tour guiding supervisors, I will definitely miss the hubbub in Day Hall.  Even to my finance gurus at my upcoming job (Rita, DBD, and others, all Cornell grads!), I appreciate your mentoring and look forward to August.

To my readers (Matt, Drew, this is for you):  Thank you for your continued support and comments.  While I was sure that the banality of my routine college lifestyle would be as boring as watching summer TV reruns, I’m glad there was something in my blog that willed the faithful few to keep up with my life.  Maybe it was the pictures…

And finally, thank you, Cornell, for the most amazing 4 years of my life.  Leisurely, I will miss Stella’s half-off burgers, late night pizza from Sindbad’s, Cornell Dairy ice cream, pitchers at CTB, fun nights at Rulloffs and the Palms, Olin Cafe, runs through the Plantations, Cayuga Inlet, the chimes, muffins and soup from Temple of Zeus, the driving range, and of course, Wegmans.  Let’s not forget the prelims, problem sets, papers, the bitter wind, and the hills.  You have challenged me, excited me, and given me hope and opportunity.  I leave the Hill with a sweet taste in my mouth and an enthusiastic smile.  I’ll be back, but for now, I’m ready for the next chapter in my life.

Finals are finally over, or in my case, have been for the past 6 months, but all of my friends are finally on the same page with having fun and living up the last few days as a college student.

Is Senior Week fun?  Absolutely.  Is Senior Week relaxing?  Depends on how you look at it.  Starting in early April, Senior Week tickets for events, including white water rafting, spa days, brunches, cruises, and wine tours, go live for the mad rush of Seniors who buy to their liking.  I opted for a couple of events spread throughout the week.   Outside of events my friends and I went to the movies (Star Trek and Angels & Demons), visited a ton of bbqs and parties, soaked up sun at the Plantations, went to the driving range, and of course, hit up the Collegetown bars at night.  At the same time, the Senior Week planning committee also planned free events on campus, starting with a carnival in Barton, a Casino Night in Duffield, and free dinner catered by Dinosaur BBQ (YUM! Love those pulled pork sandwiches).

A brief picture log of a few of my week’s events…

Starting off the week with a little bit of winetasting at Cayuga Lake wineries…

A Twilight Cruise with some close friends…

A sunset dinner cruise on Seneca Lake…

And a refreshing day hike of Buttermilk Falls!

There wasn’t an excuse not to do something every day, since “final”, “thesis”, and “grade” did not apply.  This is the life of leisure.  In good company, weather, and food and drink, no better way to celebrate the past 4 years.  The Class of 2009 knows how to party, and we sure went out with a bang.

I decided last Wednesday to fly back home to LA to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day.  As much as I like to seize the day and embrace spontaneity, tickets for Virgin America were MAD CHEAP (as in <$250 round trip), and that pushed me over the edge.

While travel can be a pain, I had nothing to complain about with my flights.  In fact, with Bryant hyping up Virgin Amerca, I couldn’t wait to get on the plane.  Virgin America’s planes are hip and have the hookups, literally; they offer WiFi and live TV on their flights.  Instead of busting out an IPod, I browsed through their music library and formed my own playlist.  There’s even in-flight chat.  I didn’t use it, but it’s a potentially cute and/or creepy way to contact a cute boy you see up 2 rows.  The tray tables are not the generic gray blah:  they are shiny white plastic!  Walking onto the plane, I felt like I entered a night club instead of a potentially-claustrophobic cabin; did I mention the cabin lights are purple?

36 hours in LA was surreal and fleeting, but the smile on my mother’s face was worth the 30 hours of travel.

My friend Mike (the tall one) is on the Board of Cornell Tradition and coordinated a National Volunteer Week kickoff event a few weeks ago.  A team of students met up on Saturday and dispersed around various sites in Ithaca for a one-day service project.  Team Mike, which included myself and a few of my close friends, was sent to the Ithaca Children’s Garden by the lake, and we were in for a full day’s worth of shoveling and sawing.

Is it sad when I say that before Saturday, I had never pushed a wheelbarrow or used a pitchfork?  I learned the hard way that you cannot roll a wheelbarrow with one hand…I guess living in suburbia really only teaches you how to play a mean game of roller hockey and pop wheelies with your bike.  As a first timer, my eyes lit up when I saw that pile of mulch by the toolshed.  One of the projects was to pitchfork the mulch into wheelbarrows, then transport the goods to the other side of the garden and spread the mulch to kill the weed grass.  Scooping the mulch was hard work–watching the spores fly around the mulch area wasn’t that comforting either, but by the end of the day, the garden was spruced up and ready for the kids.

As a former Big Red student athlete, it was always hard to make it to other sporting events other than your own, since juggling 6 practices a week, weekend regattas, and a full course load leaves little time to breathe.  However, this past Saturday, I had a full bodied experience off the water and turf–as a Big Red fan.

Cornell Athletics is having an amazing spring season.  From Wrestling, Polo, and Lacrosse, to Gymnastics, Softball, and Basketball, the words “vying”, “clinching”, “Nationals”, “NCAAs”, and “finals” are splashed all over the Daily Sun sports articles.  From early morning to late afternoon, I traversed campus with my friend Lauren (who plays on the Women’s Basketball team), hitting up five different Big Red athletic events to cheer on some of my close athlete friends.

9:00AM
Location:  Collyer Boathouse
Event: Women’s Rowing vs. Dartmouth
Katy, Matt, and I woke up bright and early (after a fun Friday night out)to see our 5 rommates at their only home race of the season against the Big Green.  It was definitely hard for me to watch the races go by, since I would much rather be in the boat in the chaotic heat of the moment, rather than watch the shells go by.  Strong finish by the novices, and some great family support for the Seniors.

12:00PM
Location: Schoellkopf Stadium
Event:  Women’s Lacrosse vs. Notre Dame
After a pit stop at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market for some breakfast burritos, I met up with Lauren and Brian to watch the beginning of Women’s Lacrosse.  The Notre Dame team finished first in their league, and the Big Red were staving off the Fighting Irish, as we watched the Big Red surge to a 6-3 lead in the first half.  The final score?  11-9, Irish.  Things to note:  the very active communication among the players, and the baller coach that was just as engaged with the game as the actual lax-ers themselves.

12:30PM
Location:  Niemand-Robison Softball Field
Event:  Women’s Softball vs. Dartmouth
This was a best of 3 match for the Ivy Championship.  The Big Red sailed through the first game of the double header, winning 4-0.  The second game was not as great; Dartmouth won 5-1.  Jessy Berkey, a friend of mine from middle school, held down right field with some awesome pop-up catches.  I played softball in high school, and it was great to hear the popping of the gloves and the metal clangs of the bats once more. And stepping in remnants of sunflower seed.

2:25PM
Location:  The Robert J. Kane Sports Complex
Event: Track & Field vs. various schools
My friend Jessica runs the 400m hurdles.  And fast.  From the gun, Jessica smoked out the competition, jumping over the hurdles with ease, crossing the line a good few seconds ahead of the pack.  My other J friend, Jeomi, is a jumping goddess, but decided not to compete at the meet due to a sore hamstring, or what she called a “hammy”.

3:00PM
Location:  Schoellkopf Stadium
Event:  Men’s Lacrosse vs. Hobart
The last home game for the seniors (although I just found out that the NCAA first round against Hofstra is this Saturday at home; I will be there), I finally made it to a Men’s Lacrosse game.  Watching it live is a lot more exciting than on TV…although still just as hard to see where the ball is going.  Almost as quick, but a little more visible, are the players; watching my friends Max and Pierce sprint across the field like rockets, they would definitely smoke me out in a 40 yd. dash.  Not unless I fall to the field first from injuries sustained from a 70 mph solid rubber lacrosse ball hitting my shin.  I am cringing at the thought.  The Men squeaked by with a 8-7 win over Hobart.

At the end of the day, it felt good to see what other Big Red athletes are up to, how different sports train and play, and to see how bad my sandal tan could get.

Under a pleasant April sunset, the Class of 2009 kicked off their Senior Class celebration with a reception at the Johnson Museum.  A group of 600 Seniors gathered in the lobby for some catching up, hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and open access to the museum exhibits.  However, no Senior Sendoff is complete without a champagne toast–not just a nod to our many 21st birthday celebrations in the past year–from our lovely President David Skorton.  The mood was a lot more subdued and nostalgic than College Ave. on a Saturday night, and Skorton’s somber yet hopeful speech appropriately reflected what many of us will face in a month.  While I count my blessings everyday that I have something lined up after graduation, some of my friends are still on the lookout for jobs.  It’s a tough time to be a recent college grad, but knowing that we have a strong and extensive Cornell network behind our backs is reassuring, a reminder that we still have time to figure things (read: life) out, and that everything does come together in the end.

Skorton thanked the Class of 2009 for inviting him to the reception, mentioning that a perk of the job was being able to toast the outgoing Senior Classes each year.  Someone in the crowd then smartly retorted that another perk is the “sweet parking spot” right outside Day Hall, to which Skorton admitted in good spirits.

Cheers!

Last Saturday, I went with two of my friends to fulfill another 4-year-long dream:  attend a Pao Bhangra performance.  Hosted by Cornell Bhangra, it is the largest Bhangra exhibition in North America, pulling teams from all over the country to perform at Barton.  This year, NYU, USC, and a few other DC-area teams visited Ithaca.  However, none of the teams were as impressive as the Cornell Men.  In front of a crowd of 2,600–a new record–the men leapfrogged, swung around, and showcased their hop-skip-and-jumping skills.

The performers’ traditional outfits were visually stunning.  With traditional head dresses (turla) and kurta and pants ensemble, they are brightly colored and intricately embroidered.  Definitely give props to the men; the garments probably kept in heat, but the performers looked like they were having a ball on stage (shout out to my friend Arjun).  The ladies team DC-BC sported color combinations that reminded me of sour gummy worms.  Flares of pink-blue and orange-green tones; unfortunately, they did not have my favorite sour gummy worm combo, red-yellow.  It was great to see the traditional and contemporary worlds collide, when one Cornell group danced to a remix of MIA’s Paper Planes.  The music was hoppin’, and I left Barton ready to rock out!

Our final stop on our epic 2-week Europe extravaganza: Rome.  As you may have read in Tim’s blog, Cornell has an amazing Architecture, Art, and Planning program in Rome.  I stayed with my good friend Jess, a Urban and Regional Students major.  Knowing that we had a few hours less in a more intimidating city, Sarah and I managed to cram a lot into 48 hours.

Day 1 in Rome started with a nice morning hike around the Trastevere area (where we were staying), hiking through the hillside park called the Gianiculum, and trekking our way over to the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.  Tucked behind the Basilica lies the famed Vatican Museum.  The museum was breathtaking: from Raphael’s School of Athens to the Sistine Chapel, it was masterpiece after masterpiece everywhere we turned.

From there, we walked across the Tiber to Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, to Trevi Fountain (we tossed a coin over our left shoulder, so we’ll be back!) and down towards Piazza Venezia.  Right behind Piazza Venezia? The Forum and the Coliseum.

The feeling of walking along ruins that have stood for millennia was overwhelming.  Makes you feel pretty insignificant.  Pictures of the ruins really don’t do it justice. The sheer size of these buildings makes you wonder how all of this was possible without modern technology.

On Day 2, we booked tickets to the Galleria Borghese, home to the famous Bernini sculptures David, Apollo and Daphne, and the Rape of Persephone. I stood in the Apollo and Daphne room for half an hour, just ogling at the detail.  How is it even possible to sculpt marble so thin that it looks like glass?!?!  We then strolled through the nearby Villa Borghese gardens, and made our way over to the Spanish Steps.

The view from Aventine Hill:

It was so hard to leave.  My trip to Europe was everything that I imagined it to be and more.  Seeing masterpieces in real life, soaking up the European lifestyle, was exactly what I needed to cap off a busy-bee four years.  If there’s anytime to take a trip, it’s now.  With my Roman Holiday over, I’m now looking forward to graduation in (YIKES) four weeks!

Ah, yes, the Big Red Ambition.  I remember opening the Daily Sun my freshman year to a page long list of 161 things every Cornellian must do before departing the Hill.  With feats as simple as eating pizza at the Nines (#96) to a little more daring (#36. Dress up and view the Rocky Horror Picture Show at Risley), you have four years to check off all 161 things.  As of last week I realized that I had only completed 70.

I completed a double whammy last Friday: #14. Listen to a full chimes concert from the clock tower and guess the songs played. and #161. Climb all 161 steps to the top of McGraw Tower.  My friend Kathy is a Chimesmaster and invited a couple of friends to scale the 161 steps on a beautiful afternoon.  If you heard the 6 PM bells, that was yours truly tag-teaming with 3 other friends.  Kathy dazzled a full crowd with her agile chiming technique, playing Malaguena, Les Miserables, and Kokomo.  The view from the top is truly spectacular, although my acrophobic self did get a little queasy walking around the top.  Some pics:

In a scramble to partake in everything Ithaca has to offer, Katy and I trekked over to Taughannock Falls State Park last Saturday for a leisurely hike.  With a 215 feet drop, the falls is taller than Niagara Falls, and is one of the highest drops east of the Rockies, not to mention a stone’s throw from campus.  We hiked on a flat 3/4 mile trail to get to the falls, soaking up the sun and marveling at the natural beauty.  Definitely won’t be able to see things like this in New York City…

Jumping for joy?

Beautiful!

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