In my basement, rocking sweatpants, eating leftovers, and watching the Redskins lose: exactly how I envisioned spending my Winter Break. I made it home just a few hours before the Blizzard of ’09 unleashed its fury on the Washington area. I did my fair share of shoveling and digging out cars, which I hadn’t done in years. What a work out! Montgomery County’s three consecutive (and mostly unnecessary) days of school closure happily reminded me of my glory days, where school would be closed with a mere threat of snow. Not so at Cornell, which has closed once in (if I’m not mistaken) 39 years now? It’s my dream to have one last snow day before I graduate. I’ve considered skipping class to play in the snow, but we all know I’m not going to do that. Maybe an optional section, never a real class.
Title doesn’t seem so bad, right? At the risk of jinxing myself, I’m going to say that this exam period is shaping up to be my least stressful ever. All of my term papers are finished, and my three exams are spaced out pretty evenly over this week and next. My middle exam is going to be by far my most difficult, so there is a decent chance that my finals period will start and end on a high note. Doing well on the middle exam, American Civil War and Reconstruction, is a whole ‘nother story, and the main cause of me taking up residency in Mann, Olin, and Catherwood Libraries since approximately Sunday.
In addition to overzealous studying, exams seem to bring out the worst of my superstitions. At some critical juncture during my final exam period in freshman year, I convinced myself that I got As on all of the finals I had taken while wearing one of my Bruce Springsteen shirts. Whether or not this was actually the case, I remind myself of this fact every time I’m getting dressed on the morning of a test. Back in October on the morning of the Civil War midterm, I decided to change out of a Springsteen shirt in favor of something cuter because it wasn’t snowing for a change. I got destroyed on this test. In fact, it is the main reason I have to study so hard for the final. So don’t be surprised if you catch me walking out of a test rocking a Springsteen shirt, hopefully with a smile to match. How fortunate that I have three Springsteen shirts for my three exams!
The toughest week of the semester gave way to some of the most fun I’ve had this year. Last Thursday, I went to see Cornell’s performance of Romeo and Juliet. Our seats were amazing, thanks to the fact that we are friends with Romeo. As someone who can neither sing nor dance nor act, I am continually blown away by the level of talent and professionalism among the performers at this school. On Saturday, I wore a color other than black or red (!!) to ILR’s first annual Fall Gala, otherwise known as “ILR Prom.” The not-being-able-to-dance thing did present itself as a problem, but my friends didn’t mock me that much, and I still had a great time. I’m also willing to venture that our Dean Harry Katz is one of very few foremost experts on industrial relations who can also break it down out on the dance floor. Tonight, I just got back from an amazing hockey game in which Cornell held its own against Colgate, scoring beautifully the last four minutes. I’m still speechless. It was my friend Laurie’s first-ever game, and I’m so happy she got such a great introduction to Big Red Hockey. I’ve never really bought into the “work hard, play hard” mantra that you’ll often hear about Cornell, but I guess it pretty accurately describes this past week. Slightly different connotation… but I think it still counts.
The biggest weight-lifted-off-my-shoulders last week was handing in my application for a Truman Scholarship, which could (fingers crossed) provide some funding for grad school. The national application pool is hugely competitive, even at Cornell, where roughly twenty of us will apply and only four will be nominated by the school. Since I’m not planning on going to grad school for a few years, everything I had to address in the application felt so far away. Nerve wracking it was, I’m still happy I finally sat down and thought it all through, doing a lot of research into the great programs that are out there. Stop the presses, I now have a plan! But, rest assured, I am allowing plenty of room for it to change and evolve. And my priority for the next five days is enjoying my Thanksgiving Break.
Initially, I wasn’t thrilled about spending three hours of a busy Monday night at a teambuilding activity. I’m pretty slammed from now until Thanksgiving. Not to mention that I already know and love this group, the Student Advisory Council to the Cornell Tradition, the leadership body of my work and service fellowship.
I didn’t think there was much more to be learned about our group dynamics, as we’ve been working together successfully since the start of the year. I also didn’t think there was anything else I could learn about my personality – taking a Myers-Briggs Personality Test in junior year of high school gave me all of the insights I really needed about my psychological type. (In case anyone’s curious, I’m an ESFJ – stop the presses, right?) However, the series of exercises managed to surprise me. The model of leadership we studied divides people into four categories based on their natural orientation to the different components of leadership (task, facts, process, ideas.) Naturally, this model was developed by a Clint Sidle, a professor at Cornell’s Johnson School, so you know it’s quality. My type description – South, the “nurturer,” master of process and connecting, fit me very well. The “shadow,” or weaknesses, of this leadership style hit pretty close to home: overly sensitive, conflict-averse, and unassertive. But I’m working on it, I promise!
Another humorous part of the evening was how terrible I am at teambuilding exercises, especially the fun and simple ones. I am always the group member who never fully understands the rules or accidentally steps in the imaginary lava. One of my roommates once said that he loved teambuilding activities because they are designed so you complete them successfully, yet this never happens to me. However, I think my SAC friends were able to forgive me for dropping the marbles and not knowing my threes times tables nearly as well as I should at this age.
At the end of the exercise, one of my SAC colleagues pointed out that so rarely in our college lives do we ever just take three hours out of our workdays to get to know each other, and it’s so true. There’s only so much you can learn about each other in your weekly hour-long meeting. Looking back on it, I am very pleased I didn’t skip the meeting to stay in the library with my books; I learned so much about the different personalities on the SAC and how we can better understand each other. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be a little bit better at assembling an imaginary laptop battery with marbles and PVC piping.
Living so close to campus is just as awesome as it sounds, but the two-minute commute to campus can be dangerous when you underestimate how long it takes you to walk places and oversleep. I am a master at both of these, especially during this insane year. I’ve never been a morning person, and I have short legs, what can I say?
Lately, but this ridiculous week especially, I’ve been coming to my 10:10 classes between 10:11 and 10:15. It’s been slightly more of a challenge since I sit in the front of my first two classes in the morning, my foolproof way of staying alert at that hour. I try to open the door slowly, walk inside, turn gracefully, and gently shut the door behind me. Unfortunately, this does not work when you are wearing squeaky rain boots.)
Though I have figured out how to do this without too much interruption, I don’t want to make a habit of it. I miss being known as the one who was five minutes early to everything. Hopefully, I get enough rest this weeked to turn it around by Monday… and maybe not hit snooze when my alarm goes off at 9:15. This week’s level of crazy, I hope, has been a rare one. My visiting family was in town this weekend, and it was pretty easy to prioritize them over schoolwork. I managed to oversleep on Tuesday and run to class with wet hair, no jacket, only half of the books I needed for that day, and, as I discovered later, two different earrings. On Wednesday, I woke up at 6:30 for pre-enroll, a time-honored Cornell nightmare. I was so tired from lack of sleep and anger at our registration system that I napped through the first five minutes of my 2:55 class. Yes, 2:55. In the afternoon. I’m shocked at myself, too. So let’s hope this does not become a habit.
Having Homecoming and Trustee Weekend back-to-back this year was fantastic… and seriously prevented me from getting real work done two weekends in a row! As I’m getting closer and closer to graduation, the unfinished items on my 161 Things to Do Before You Graduate list start to loom large. And when the weather is nice and Cornell spirit is everywhere, my books become less and less attractive.
Having the Trustees back on campus for one of their annual meetings is always a treat. Once a year, a handful of us get to meet the generous donors whose contributions made it possible for us to attend. Ignoring the “business casual” instruction in favor of my favorite cocktail dress and Cornell red heels, I got to enjoy the reception in style. Getting a chance to talk to these Cornellians in such a setting had even more meaning after just a few weeks in my Economics of the University class. I’ve gained much more of an understanding of the trustees’ role in guiding the university… and quite a few statistics about endowment policies to toss into conversation.
Later that night, I was one of the 300 volunteers to assist with the Fall Gala. Though I’m not at liberty to discuss this event, I can reveal that there was copious cheering, an appearance of the Big Red Bear, performances of Cornell songs, glowsticks, and a saxophone solo from none other than President Skorton. I’m willing to guess most other universities don’t have as much fun as we do when our alums return.
If the true test of a vacation’s success is how little work one does, my Fall Break this year was one of the best. As I discovered on Monday night while packing to head back to school, I hadn’t even opened the backpack full of reading I brought home. No major consequences, though, I just didn’t get as far ahead on work as I had hoped. And I had an excellent time at home: Taste of Georgetown and heading over to my cousin’s house for an Ecuador soccer game on Saturday, hanging out with my nieces on Sunday, and visiting my friends at the University of Maryland on Monday. Most definitely a break well spent!
It was wonderful to be home, since I do find myself strangely homesick these days. I never experienced it during freshman year, since I was probably too caught up in the novelty of college life to despair, and also because I was fortunate enough to have one of my best friends from high school at Cornell, too. In sophomore year, during the election season, I started to terribly miss being near Washington. This year, I miss home so much more. Maybe it’s because I’m more certain than ever that I’m headed back after graduation. It’s also a huge “grass-is-always-greener” situation: as much as I miss working in DC and can’t wait to get back, wearing jeans and going to the library does have its benefits. I guess the key is just enjoying whatever you’re doing.
My third Cornell birthday was wonderful, as most celebrations that last for three days tend to be. We kicked it off with the ILR Open House on Saturday, when the School opens its doors to high school seniors from around the country. I truly love talking to new students and getting them excited about ILR. In all of my conversations with prospective students, I managed to highlight the key experiences of my life in ILR: connections to faculty and advisors from day one, lifelong friendships, interesting coursework, and that time I mistakenly took Calc II in freshman year. The event seemed like a huge success, and I’m so proud of everyone who had a tremendous role in organizing it – major shout-outs to ILR Admissions and Student Services for your amazing work. And fellow ILR Ambassadors, you made the day fantastic!
Later, we crammed an absurdly large group into the Mahogany Grill downtown. I love trying new restaurants, and I think there are probably two hundred in Ithaca I haven’t visited yet… I should get on that. After dinner, my roommates hosted our first big gathering in our awesome apartment on North Campus. What seemed like the majority of our freshman floor was back together, playing Apples to Apples and feasting on leftover brownies from Open House. Sunday was all about studying for my midterm on Monday, though I did manage to make it to the Carriage House for brunch (four words: brie stuffed french toast) and watch some Mad Men (so obsessed) before the night was over.
And let’s pretend that doing well on Monday’s exam was kind of like celebrating? That and a small gathering at my dear friend’s apartment after dinner for his birthday surely counts for something.
All in all, a lovely extended celebration that didn’t set me too far behind during prelim season. Perfect!
I’m in New York City for the first time in years, and what do I do? Spend some quality time at the New York Public Library. It’s beautiful, and I think my friend Michelle was actually being serious when she said she wanted to get married here. Catherwood is still home for me, but I do understand why people love this place!
I have a few hours before I get on my train to Washington. I’m making an unexpected (and a surprise for one of my parents, so keep it on the down low!) trip home this weekend. This is the first time I’ve really left campus for a major trip that wasn’t during a break, so this week was my crash course in the intricacies of traveling in and out of Central New York. I’ve never really had to scramble for travel arrangements before now. People from the DC area are extremely fortunate to have the Cornell-Bethesda Bus, a service privately chartered by the region’s Cornell parents. It picks up on three locations on campus for all of the breaks and delivers us home to a mall in the suburbs. (Coincidentally enough, my parents met at this mall, a fact of which I am reminded every break.) Without this service, travel is much more difficult: direct flights to Washington are very hard to come by, and taking a bus to DC tends to be a sixteen-hour nightmare.
Without the ease of the CBBus, I had to really sit down and figure out my plans this week. I consulted all of my travel experts and learned quite a bit about the airport options around Ithaca (there are way more than I could have imagined) and which bus stations are sketchiest at night (sorry, Rochester.) On this leg of the journey, I took a Campus 2 Campus shuttle from Ithaca to the Cornell Club of New York City. And how awesome was it to see Cornell flags flying over East 44th Street? It was a lovely way to travel: huge leather seats, free wifi, lots of food, surrounded by bigshot Cornell seniors in the city for interviews. After the bus, I’m walking down to Penn Station and taking an Amtrak train down to DC. I’m hoping to use my considerable charm to get an earlier train, since I overbudgeted my time.
The bus this morning was a great experience, and I am definitely planning on making more trips to New York before graduation. Some of them might even might be for reasons other than concerts! Maybe this is the point in my life where I really start enjoying travel and what the rest of the world has to offer? I went to a Cornell Career Center-sponsored presentation from the State Department yesterday, and I am seriously considering going out for an internship abroad this summer. Junior year, I believe, is a very a good time to be breaking out of my old routines – the fact that I’m in a library right now is besides the point.
It seems like I only settled on my schedule last week, and that’s probably because I did just settle on my schedule last week... thank you, long Add/Drop period! But just when I’ve gotten comfortable, I’m already facing two prelims and a paper? You’d think I’d be better at this by the third time around. Instead, I think Freshman Patricia chose classes a lot more carefully, or at least wasn’t so trigger happy with Just the Facts – Cornell’s online Student Center, where we add and drop courses at will. The way I see it, even though my extended dilemma regarding what to keep and what to drop set me behind in work, I’m happy that I gave myself the necessary time to make the best decision. And I think I did: two of my classes are dealing heavily in health care reform, one of my recently-discovered passions. I love my Civil War class, and the same goes for Economic Analysis of the University. I’m a little biased, since the latter is taught by my awesome advisor, whom I have learned is just as wonderful in front of a group of 40 ILRies as he is one-on-one. Academically, it’s definitely shaping up to be a great semester.
I’m just getting back from Olin Library now (yes, mom, yes, I got home safely!), but I made some major headway on studying for Thursday’s prelim. And, to be fair, part of why I’m so slammed this week is because of my fantastic weekend. On Saturday, we watched Cornell school Bucknell in the season-opener football game. As a Redskins fan, leaving a football game without wanting to switch allegiances is a rare treat. On Sunday, I led a group of Tradition volunteers to Judy’s Day at the Cornell Plantations. This year’s theme was Exploring the World Through Plants. I was assigned to the Day of the Dead tent, where I helped adorable little kids decorate chocolate skulls. The weather was perfect, our volunteers were awesome, and I was definitely pleased with myself for trying something new. Hopefully, I’ll spend lots more time outdoors this year… or at least after this weekend, when one prelim and one paper are behind me!