Fall Break Adventures

The longer I stay in Ithaca, the less I want to leave!  This is a slightly belated post, seeing as Fall Break occurred during the middle of October, but as per usual, life on the hill tends to get super busy around this time of year.  I actually decided to do something different during this break, and I chose to stay in Ithaca instead of making the trek home to NYC. There were various reasons I made this decision; I’m not a fan of the bus, getting a ride would mean missing a bunch of classes, and the break really isn’t that long anyway.  All in all it was a good decision because instead of traveling home to sleep, eat, and watch TV, I stayed in my room and did all those things, without the stress of a long trip in a short period of time.  This definitely can make me seem slightly lazy, but honestly I was just grateful to have a chance to sleep in until 1 pm, guilt-free.  It even just so happened that a number of my friends stayed in Ithaca as well, so the break turned out to be way more fun than expected.  On Saturday night, a band called Moon Hooch came into town to play at the Haunt, so a group of us went and had an awesome time.  The next morning there was none of the usual Sunday pressure to finish homework, so we went for a hike.  There is really no reason to leave Ithaca in early October; the leaves are beginning to change and are at their prettiest hues of red and gold, the temperature is warm enough that you still don’t need a coat, and honestly, if Cornell hadn’t called the four-day weekend a break, I doubt anyone would’ve gone home!  You know where I’ll be next Fall Break!

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Self discovery – that’s why we’re here

I must admit that I have a bit of an obsession with all things Italian.  This has not been something long-term; in fact, it came about after my study abroad experience in Rome the summer after freshman year.  Prior to going to Italy, I assumed that the month-long program in creative writing would be a perfect amount of time to explore an new culture and get a break from my science classes.  Boy was I wrong.  The little, month-long taste of Italy was a catalyst for a series of personal and academic changes I have made since, all which revolve around bringing me back to the beautiful country of Vespas, pasta, and gelato.  That being said, there is a point to this post: change is something that can be scary, but can also lead you to amazing new discoveries.  I have come to realize that college is the time at which we are most supported; we live on a beautiful campus, in a place where virtually all resources are available.  Our job is to study.  The only difficult part of these four years is working out the complicated tangle of our personalities: who we are, who we want to be, and how we can be good people while getting there.  Let me not make light of this task — it is often confusing and isolating, which is why college can be a time of huge emotional strain.  I have been going through this since my post freshman year trip to Italy and I’d like to quickly explain how I have been (and continue to) work out the complexities of becoming a person.

I started off as pre-dental and was planning to go straight through dental school after undergrad.  This was not meant to be, I soon realized after coming home from Italy and deciding that I wanted to do an entire semester abroad.  My sophomore fall, I was taking an odd mix of science and humanities classes: biology, organic chemistry, Italian history, and creative writing.  I was doing what I felt was a good alternative between my plans to be a dentist and my love for liberal studies, in particular writing.  One day, my favorite professor sat down with me as I was eating lunch and started asking me about my classes.  I talked and she listened, but after she told me that I should really consider investigating other options, that it wasn’t too late to change my course of study, and that change is inevitable when we have not had a chance to experience many options.  This resonated with me.  I started looking at different majors, different career paths, different schools within Cornell.  Eventually I found the urban planning program in the school of Architecture, Art and Planning and decided that it was right up my alley.  It even had its own Cornell in Rome study abroad semester.  Sophomore spring, I did not take any science classes for the first time.  Instead I took an intensive Italian course, a planning class, statistics, and a class in the ILR school that I found interesting.  It was a very different Cornell experience.  During this semester, I applied to transfer to AAP, and got in during the summer.  Next semester I will be in Rome.  Yet two weeks ago, as students all over campus were trying different classes and settling into their schedules, I decided that I wanted to keep taking science classes as well as the plethora of liberal studies classes for my new major.  I added the class BIOMI 2500: Public Health Microbiology, and am loving it.  Hopefully I will be able to graduate with a major in urban planning, and minors in biology, creative writing, and Italian.

My decisions were not easy and often difficult to explain to my parents.  I was motivated by more of a feeling and less of a practical inspiration (that would come later,) and this was not simple to justify.  Yet this is a representation of my emotional and academic experience during the past two years; it doesn’t continue in a straight line, but changes with the weather, or the day of the week.  It’s hard to keep up, but that doesn’t mean that change is bad.  In fact, it has allowed a new degree of flexibility into the things I am learning in that I have picked the subjects that I find inspiring and am trusting myself to deal with any changes along the way.

(On a side note — not all changes have to be done alone.  In fact, most don’t.  Cornell has a plethora of advisors and people who want to talk about everything from emotional experiences, to academic engagement.  Next time, I definitely will be knocking on my advisor’s door!)

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O Week Round 3

Aaaaand it’s that time again!  Orientation week started off with a bang as the freshman arrived on campus this past Friday, the 19th.  I felt an urge to write about my third O week, just because it is SO strikingly different from the previous two years.  While I am excited to see my friends whom I have missed during the summer months, I know better than to get too excited during this week because there is a long semester coming up and I want to be fully prepared to dive into the school year.  Therefore while in past years I have felt the need to constantly be busy and active during O week, this year I am trying to do the exact opposite — chill with friends, set up my bedroom, read books (because I won’t be able to read as much once classes start,) and get ready for a new semester.  Some may consider this boring, but having spent four semesters at Cornell already, I am aware of how fast paced the classes are, and how precious these last few days without any responsibilities can be!  That being said – it definitely is nice to be back on campus with everyone else here.  Over the summer there were significantly fewer people, which was fun because it gave me a chance to meet people I may not have met otherwise, but at times campus could feel pretty empty.   The hustle and bustle of Collegetown is a bit of a shock for me, but I definitely am feeling the buzz of excitement that radiates from all the students being back in town.  With slight trepidation, I say, bring it on junior year!

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A Word on the Learning Process

I have reached the midway point of my Cornell career, and boy is that scary to write.  While the idea of being an upperclassman is in many ways totally bizarre, the past two years have given me a chance to really explore how the process of learning works as I have taken a variety of classes across many disciplines.  This summer I am taking Introductory Microeconomics, a class that I never thought I would have to take as part of my required curriculum just two short years ago, but it turns out that my freshman self would be in for some surprises.  The biggest one: I like Micro.  While this is a pleasant surprise, I cannot say that it is entirely due to the subject matter, but rather mostly an effect of the class structure.  Three major things are different:

  1. The reading for the next day is written on the board.  There is no missing this announcement, no digging through papers to find the syllabus on which all the readings are laid out, no confusion at all about what is expected.  Therefore the task of doing the reading before lecture (which time and time again has shown to be a more effective way of processing new material) is made easier by this small change.
  2. There are office hours every day, in the same place, at the same time.  While this may seem insignificant, these hours are truly important because it is a chance to ask questions and go over confusing material while it is still fresh.  Therefore if a student knows where and when to find help everyday, they are more likely to make a habit of getting their question answered.
  3. Perhaps the most importance difference in this class is the fact that problem sets are NOT graded.  Instead they are assigned every week and the professor goes over all the answers in class.  This is important because it puts the responsibility on the student to learn the material rather than to get the answers.  I have taken classes in the past where problem sets are a big part of the final grade, and therefore students feel pressure to get the right answers, whether that be on their own, or from a friend, instead of working to understand the concepts behind a problem and fully synthesizing the material with that which is being taught in class.  Therefore doing the homework assignments becomes more of a learning process rather than a stressful race to complete a problem set.

I’m grateful for this class because it has shown me that there are better ways to learn new material that end up making a class less stressful when it is time to take the exams.  While I am aware that not all classes are laid out in such a helpful manner, these changes are easy enough to do with a few small changes.  I’d say the most important change is to start using a daily planner with a ton of space so that everything can be written clearly and legibly.  Then at the beginning of the new semester, before everything gets a little crazy and a little stressful, take the syllabus from each class and write in the reading for each lecture, as if it is something that you are responsible to have completed before class.  Then, mark when and where the TA office hours will be held for each class – and do this for every week until the end of the semester.  Hopefully then these will function as subliminal reminders to get questions answered and to come to class fully prepared!  In terms of taking time to fully understand the problem sets and connect them back to class material, I think it helps to do two things: first, start the homework early so you won’t be too stressed out, and two, really make a habit of going to office hours and listening to the TAs, instead of just comparing answers with someone else, or listening for the steps on how to solve the problem.  The TAs want you to understand what is going on and they will take the time to make their answers to questions as full and relevant as possible.  Take advantage of this!  It’s easy to forget, but in college, your education is truly in your own hands.

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5 Reasons Why Summer in Ithaca is A REALLY Good Idea

I have to say, I was pretty torn about whether I wanted to spend the summer after my sophomore year in Ithaca.  It had been a rough semester (spring semester at Cornell can feel like running a race at times) and I was ready for a break.  Yet after spending a month at home in Brooklyn, letting my parents fatten me up and sleeping more than a bear in hibernation, I decided to come back to Ithaca for its famous summer adventures (and also to take Introduction to Microeconomics, work at an on-campus cafe, and work on an independent study – but that’s all!)  Here were a few of my reasons before coming up and a few that I’ve discovered after being here!

If you have a lease, you’re likely paying for housing in Ithaca already.  Most students going into their junior or senior year have a lease in Collegetown that is 12 months, meaning that they either lose three months worth of rent, or they take the plunge and move up to Ith for the summer.  So unless you manage to snag a coveted 10 month lease, or you don’t have housing set up for the next year, why not get your money’s worth?

There are a lot of jobs, internships, and opportunities for summer students.  No matter the subject of your major, it is possible to find a summer activity that fits your professional, personal, or academic goals (or a combination of all!)  From internships at Ithaca Children’s Garden, to biomedical research positions, to summer classes, to jobs at the Statler, Cornell summer students are doing a wide range of activities, all catered to their personal goals.

Summer in Ithaca is a combination of the best parts of Cornell: good weather, more free time, and happy students.  The summer vibe is much different from that during the school year; while students are definitely busy during the summer with their aforementioned activities, most of their time is taken up during the work day and after 5 pm, there isn’t much more studying or work to be done (unless you are taking classes and have a prelim the next day — then I’d recommend studying a bit more than usual!)  Therefore students are really able to relax in a way that simply isn’t possible during the rest of the year, which is an amazing opportunity to explore Cornell and Ithaca with a more open mind.

Speaking of exploration… there is so much nature around Cornell that awaits discovery, and summer is the perfect time for this!  There is so much natural beauty on and off campus that is generally unexplored during the school year.  Summer presents the perfect opportunity to get in touch with your wild side!  There are a variety of local hikes and swimming holes around Ithaca that can be reached by car or bike, and now is the time to go explore!  For example, last Saturday, my friends and I found an amazing swimming hole, and with a little more exploration, ended up going on a five mile hike along the beautiful Fall Creek.



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Time to reconnect with friends and meet new people.  Another wonderful thing about having more free time is the opportunity to get closer with friends.  After the end of a semester, it’s easy to distance oneself from friends in the crush of studying for finals.  Spending a summer in Ithaca is the best way to reconnect, as people are ready to get together and explore in a much more enthusiastic way than during the school year.  In addition, since the pool of people who spend the summer in Ithaca is much smaller, it becomes possible to make new friends who you may not have met otherwise.  All in all, a win-win situation.

Alas, I am here for the summer and discovering new things every day to incorporate into this list.  I’d recommend spending the summer after sophomore year in Ithaca because it’s a nice renewal of Cornell appreciation after the infamous “Sophomore Slump.”  Also, it is reassuring for those who are going abroad for a semester to know that they are making up for lost time at Cornell during the summer.  10/10 would recommend.

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Construction at Cornell!

To my dearest friends in the blogging sphere: I apologize for my reticence in writing for you all this semester. As things go in college, I got busy and put blogging in that pile of things entitled “To Do Later,” as opposed to the much smaller pile “Do Right Now,” which never ever works in terms of getting things done. Alas, here I am, writing to you in hindsight about all the events that occurred this semester.


  1. That huge, monstrosity of a construction site that occupied a decent section of University Ave for the longest time is gone. In its place is the new Klarman Hall, which I must say is an architectural feat, with its glass atrium and sleek staircases. It’s a little sad for me because the Temple of Zeus café, which used to be located in the small, but cozy basement of Goldwin Smith Hall, moved to Klarman, where it occupies a larger and more open space. Feelings are mixed on this move – but at least the soup is still the same!
  2. If we are taking about construction, I’ll continue on to say that Gannett has its own project occurring as I write: it’s a new facility for mental health administration, and is being built as an extension of the current site. This is supposed to be finished sometime over the summer. This is an extremely important project because college age students are most likely to suffer from mental health issues, and having a place to go and get help can make some of their issues be put at ease.
  3. Another exciting development has to do with food; due to a number of petitions from various dining groups and the student assembly, a grocery store will be opening up in Anabel Taylor hall! This is a source of huge excitement for those living in Collegetown and do not have meal plans because going to Wegman’s is only convenient with a car. In addition to this grocery store, an extension of the Green Star Market, the co-op from the Commons, will be taking its produce to Collegetown! As I move towards my junior year, all I can say is thank gosh for that!


That’s what’s been up on campus – lots of projects, as per usual, but many of them which are actually supported by a large number of students themselves. I remember going on college tours, seeing construction and hoping that it would be finished before I came to the campus, but now I realize that most of the construction really is for the sake of the students! So food for thought: construction really ain’t that bad.

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Winter in NYC

Winter has finally arrived in New York City! After a balmy Christmas, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt a little concerned about the state of the environment this year, but rest assured, it’s looking like we will be seeing white this winter. I just wanted to comment on winter break, de stressing from one stressful semester, and assimilating into family life for the 5+ weeks of break. I remember being in high school and thinking, wow, why are college breaks so long? I need a break like that too! But as an unknowing high schooler, I had yet to realize what it really meant to finish a semester’s worth of work and the necessity of the seemingly extra-long college breaks. I dragged myself home this semester after a wonderful, but very demanding few months. It wasn’t that I was taking a crazy, 22-credit course load either – nope, I pulled the average 15-credits this semester, but at the end, it still felt like I had been worked to my very core for each one of these credits. That’s why these past few weeks have mostly been taken up by sleeping (in between stuffing myself with holiday cookies) because at this point in the year, as it is a little darker and a little colder, getting up in the morning has become something that is quite difficult to accomplish. Right now I am treating myself as well as I can, which means paying extra attention to the little things that I may not have the time to think about while at school – things such as getting enough sleep, eating well, taking some down time, and exercising. It’s time for my batteries to be recharged.

Another strange part about being home for break is that my parents aren’t really here all the time, nor is my younger brother, who recently applied for Cornell (!), since they had a much shorter break and are back in the swing of their regular schedules. It’s a different home than what I experienced during grade school – the fridge is often empty, no one cooks dinner until eight or nine most nights, and the house is so darn cold because the heating turns off while my family members are at school or work. Therefore as it is great to get this time to catch up with my family, friends, as well as myself, it will feel good to eventually return to my college schedule and life because that is where I belong now, living independently (for the most part!)

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Arts @ Cornell

This semester has been one of lots of discovery, especially in regard to the arts.  Someone, in some higher up place, has put me on the listserv for creative writing minors, so I now receive weekly emails informing me of the english-related activities going on.  While college students do receive a plethora of emails on an almost daily basis, requesting our attendance at events of all kinds, these english emails were also forwarded to me by my narrative writing professor.  Therefore I went to my first reading.

Thursday October 15th: An alumni reading from The Barbara and David Zalaznick Series

Cornell MFA grads came back to read some of their recently published work at their alma mater; Siobhan Adcock, dawn lonsinger, George McCormick, and Cori Winrock all read pieces from either recently published books or poetry collections, or they read pieces they wrote during their time at Cornell.  Good use of my time?  Yes.  I have a new favorite poet, dawn, whose work you may find here: http://www.dawnlonsinger.com/

Thursday November 12th: Reading by Marilyn Chin, also from The Barbara and David Zalaznick Series

Upon a gentle push from my narrative writing professor, I attended another reading.  This time, Marilyn Chin was the guest, and she BLEW ME AWAY!  For a small woman, she has a loud voice and a stage presence that commanded the audience from the moment she started speaking until the very end, when she finished reading her poetry and poetic short fiction.  Another Thursday well spent thanks to the arts at Cornell.

Friday November 20th: The first year MFA reading series

Again, with the help of my professor, I found myself at another reading.  This one took place at Buffalo Street Books, the cozy bookstore located just off the Commons in downtown Ithaca. Two writers read their work — or should I say, expanded my mind with their creative passions, providing a new interpretation of the world in which we live.

All in all, if I have learned one thing this semester, it is to go to the events that are constantly promoted in emails the arrive day by day in our undergrad inboxes.  They’re relevant and more importantly, round out that Cornell education, giving students context for their creative passions.  I’ll definitely be around at the readings next semester.

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Do you like kids?  Do you like playing the role of a mentor and taking responsibility in some small way for shaping the development of a young person?  If yes, then join the club YOURS!  Youth Outreach Undergraduates Reshaping Success is a an organization dedicated to furthering the education of elementary, middle, and high school children and teens who come from low-income trailer park homes.  As a club member, you participate in the program on a weekly basis, on your day of choice.  I personally chose to be a part of the Monday program because we work specifically with younger kids, all between the ages of 7-10.  Mentor/mentee pairs are decided based upon common interests, and together both the Cornell student and the elementary schooler work together to come up with activities that target developmental and/or academic issues of the mentee.

This is my sweet mentee Shiann!
This is my sweet mentee Shiann! Some of my friends have said that she looks like she could be my daughter, which is somewhat frightening to hear!

So it’s only been a few weeks of the program, but so far it has been amazing to get off campus, interact with a new group of Cornell students, and most of all spend time with my mentee!  It’s a change of pace from the typical student activities in which I am involved, so it’s a breath of fresh air to go to the community center where the YOURS programming takes place and just spend time being silly with my little eight-year old.  In addition, the community center is on about five acres of beautiful woodland area, so almost every week we have gone out into the woods to play games, go on hikes, and collect foliage, another activity I don’t typically do during the rest of my week.  This program was actually developed by a Cornell student many years ago who came from this trailer park community and wanted to give back to her home neighborhood after being exposed to the magnitude of resources at Cornell.

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Life Changes — and Why They Should Happen!

Sophomore year is typically described with a whole slew of negative adjectives; you have the sophomore slump, sleepy sophomores, etc, all just to describe the year that most people don’t qualify as meaningful when compared to the other three years of college.  Freshman year is huge because it marks that big transition into a new environment; junior year is when the real world starts to loom – internships turn into jobs, then careers this year, and senior year is bittersweet, tinged with memories of the previous years and hope for the future.  So what happens sophomore year?  Well, I’ll tell you my opinion: sophomore year may be the biggest of them all, simply because it is the time in which students generally come to realize their interests in a more developed manner, and they take initiative to change their educational goals and plans.  This change is often a culmination of a slight bit of discontent with previous educational experiences, or it is an effect of an eye opening educational experience.  Either way, sophomore year is the year to make major changes because there is still time to do this without falling too far behind in a major track.

I actually experienced this a couple of weeks ago.  Suddenly I realized that I had a few more goals for my academic experience at Cornell, and in my major of nutritional sciences, I was not going to be able to take all of the classes that I thought were necessary in order for me to have a well-rounded understanding of the world, especially in the areas that I am specifically interested in.  I also looked at the upper level classes for my major and realized that I was not very excited to take them, which I thought was a bad sign if this was supposed to be my preferred area of study.  I did some research and found out about the interdisciplinary studies major, which is a very open course of study within CALS.  I went about changing my major in a very simple manner: I walked into CALS student services, asked for a meeting with the IDS coordinator, and within half an hour I had a new major.  As an IDS major, the only requirements I must fulfill are my CALS distribution classes (many of which I finished during my first year at Cornell) and taking 55 CALS credits, which again, I am on my way to fulfilling.  Otherwise, my course of study is completely left open.  I can take classes in any college, in any subject.  I have some core focus areas, which help to organize the class selection process, but basically the rest of my college experience is really going to be dominated by whichever classes I want to take.  While for some this may be a scary prospect – coming up with your own course of study is not exactly a simple decision – but in my case, I understood that this was the best way for someone with broad interests to get the most out of a well-rounded school such as Cornell.

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