048 The Back Issue

It’s common practice for upperclassmen to tease the freshmen on their amateur ways. Perhaps the biggest identifier of a freshmen is some kind of lanyard worn around their neck. Of course, no one actually cares whether or not people are wearing lanyards. I believe it’s just upperclassmen trying to reminisce and relive our first year. That being said, I made up a way to entertain myself on the walk to class everyday, which involves trying to guess whether people are freshmen are not. On my way to class yesterday, I actually noticed another identifier of a freshmen which I see as an actual problem (compared to all the lanyard wearing).

Backpacks

I’ve noticed the poor practice of not wearing proper back-wear. I saw a surprising number of people wearing those Nike drawstring bags, probably meant for the gym. But these kids are stuffing their computers and notebooks and binders in them. Is this some sort of high school trend? I vaguely remember not carrying a backpack to my classes in high school, but that was only because my classes were all two minutes away from each other and my locker was conveniently located in the middle of all the academic chaos. Even if backpacks were considered uncool in high school, this is college. This is Cornell. The walk to class is more than a few minutes and going up and down the hills that are campus, not wearing a proper backpack could really hurt people in the long run.

In terms of buying a backpack, consider it an investment. Like winter jackets or snow boots (sorry Forever21), backpacks are worth the money, especially compared to the possible medical bills you might be faced with later on. I had bought this really cute, polka-dotted Jansport backpack for my first semester at Cornell. There was no pocket for my laptop, there were only two compartments, and the material was super thin. If I had put any book inside, the entire bag would sag down my back. Don’t make the same mistake I made. Although the bag was cute, it was completely unreasonable, and I now feel as though I wasted so much money. My backpack now is a North Face, with two main compartments and several smaller ones. There are small belts that snap together the two main shoulder straps, and there’s even a padded pocket for my computer. The back is also extra padded, and the entire thing is water-proof. Although I’m a huge support of the multiple compartments, I am not a fan of those extra large bags that seem bigger than the wearer. The goal for a backpack in College is not to stuff everything in your desk into it, but to just carry what’s necessary to class.

Which brings me to my next point: What to pack. Sometimes a friend will ask me to hold his backpack while he puts on a jacket or sweater, and whenever I take it from him, the backpack takes me down with it. It feels like they stole an entire weight set from Helen Newman. A backpack should never feel heavy. In fact, a backpack should never exceed 10% of your total body weight. You shouldn’t notice it; it should feel natural. Try to minimize the things you bring to class. Plan out what times you can return to your room to exchange materials for class. Binders should stay in your room, carry folders instead, and then empty out the folders into their respective binders. Do you really need a five-subject notebook for a class that gives handouts? Charge your computer the night before so you don’t have to carry your charger around. If you’re really desperate, there are charger stations in some of the libraries (Uris and Mann for sure). The only things in my backpack right now are a one-subject notebook, a folder, 5 writing utensils, my wallet, an iClicker and chapstick (and my computer and headphones, if I weren’t using them right now).

Make sure you’re packing your backpack right as well. It doesn’t make sense to put a molecular model kit closest to your back and your laptop on the very outside pocket (Ouch!). Put flat things closest to your back (laptop, folders, notebooks), and smaller things away from your back. I have a compartment specific for my cables and small electronics (iPhone charger and iClicker or calculator).

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This is a weight distribution diagram of how things in a backpack should be packed. I think it’s for hiking trips, but hey, walking around campus is basically like hiking, right?

DISCLAIMER: Sometimes, I’ll carry my Longchamp tote around to class as well. But those are only the days when I only need my computer and wallet. So it never feels like too much of a strain on my shoulder or back. So…I guess that’s okay.

047 The Roommate Guide

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As orientation is approaching quickly, I thought I would write a few words about my living situation last year. I remember hearing a lot of crazy roommate stories right before college, which definitely freaked me out for my freshman year. Of course, living by yourself is a lot easier than living with a complete stranger. Even if you decided to room with someone you knew from high school, things may still get tense at times. Someone I know roomed with one of her great friends this summer, thinking that it would be the best living situation. She soon came to see a lot of flaws that her friend brought – messiness, inconsideration, loud noise, etc.

Of course there were times last year when I was annoyed at my housemates, but those annoyances never lasted long. I was lucky – all my housemates were super cool and chill, and although we had diverse interests and personalities, somehow we made it work. I realized that every pair of roommates are different – some are best friends, some don’t talk to each other unless it’s about the room, some are complete strangers. Although you don’t necessarily have to be best friends with your roommate, I’ve always been jealous of those who seem to do everything together.

My Advice:

1. Make sure you get each others contacts as soon as possible. It’s easy to get locked out, and you don’t want to annoy your RA at 2 in the morning. I remember I was at my friend’s townhouse in December, just hanging out, when we heard a knock on the door. His neighbor accidentally forget their keys and they couldn’t get in. When I asked her if she had called her roommate, she responded saying she didn’t have her phone number. What.

2. Before any awkward situations occur, it’s best to make a practical set of rules for when you have unexpected guests (ahem). This doesn’t just refer to random hook-ups or boyfriends, but it’s good to text your roommate before anyone comes over. Living in a townhouse first semester, it was easy to play hostess to a lot of people. We would have movie nights and hang out sessions, but it was always nice to have a heads up in advance.

3. Use headphones.

4. Support each other! It was so fun getting the entire house together to go to each other’s musicals, basketball games, sorority events, etc.

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5. Do your share of the chores. I guess it’s a bit different in a townhouse, since we have to clean for ourselves. But don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink for longer than a day. It literally only takes 2 minutes. If the trash is full, don’t let it over flow. Clean the hair out of the shower. I get the whole clothes-on-the-floor thing, I do. I’m guilty of it. In the morning, I go through clothes and just throw them on the floor. But at the end of the day, make sure they’re all picked up. Granted, I do prefer messiness over dirtiness.

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6. Communication is probably the most important. If something is bothering you, you should definitely bring it up. There’s a good chance that your roommate just doesn’t know it’s bothering you. Whatever you decide to do, passive aggressiveness is the worst. It’s annoying and the only thing it does is build up angst.

7. Be friends with them! Get to know what’s going on in their life and see them as someone you can go to if something’s up.

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046 Kayaking on Cayuga

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It’s already mid-August, which means everyone is hurrying to complete those million things they told themselves they would do before summer ended. For me, all those things are things you can only do in the summer. I started out with renting a kayak with Brandon and a few of our other friends for a couple of hours on Cayuga Lake. The rentals were pretty cheap: it came out to about $10/person for 2 hours. Since we rented on a weekend, we even got to dock our boats at the Ithaca Farmers Market and walk around for a bit. It was super fun and kind of a work out! After our rentals expired, we took a short road trip to East Shore Park, where we swam in the lake as the sun set. It was beautiful.

 

045 Quirky Interests Interest Me!

I really love cooking. I think everyone who knows me knows that. I’d much rather cook for myself than go out to eat and I absolutely love cozy potlucks. Not many of my friends like cooking, and it’s been the trend during the summer session at Cornell for students to finally learn the art of cooking for themselves and save some money.

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Toward the end of the spring semester, I met Dan, a senior who is off to work for Shell in the fall. Since I’ve met him, Dan has showed me a side of cooking which I never even thought of. He’s kind of like Good Eat’s Alton Brown times a million. He cooks for the chemistry of food and can probably explain every single culinary phenomena through science. Most pantries consist of canned food and dried pasta, but Dan orders chemicals from Amazon like calcium salts and sodium alginate. His kitchen is his lab, and he records all of his findings in a composition notebook, which I had stumbled across one day. He’s experimented with spherification (kind of like fake caviar – flavor burst!) and culinary foams. He’s an avid fan of baking his own breads too!

Anyway, looking past my fascination of Dan’s unique hobby, I realized how diverse Cornell is. Almost anyone could have one of these quirky talents or hobbies and it’s such a cool feeling to realize that what you learn in class is actually applicable to more than a 20-point problem on a test. Dan has also inspired me to try some of these new tricks in my own cooking adventures – so look out world!

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044 The End of Another Semester…

This morning, I took the final to my last and only math class in college. =)

043 Ithaca is Gorges!

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Last weekend, I went hiking with Brandon at Tremen State Park, one of the many state parks in Ithaca. There were several trails leading up to different waterfalls and all uphill (haha). It was a gorgeous hike and it’s about 2.5 miles one-way. There’s also a really cool natural swimming hole at the park that you should check out!

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And of course, after our hike, we just had to reward ourselves with Purity Ice Cream. SO MANY DIFFERENT FLAVORS! We kept letting people in front of us in line because we couldn’t decide what we wanted. Definitely going back!

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042 Do What You Love

I often visit “Humans of New York” on Facebook for inspiration. It is a page that has a collection of candid photos taken in NYC. These people often comment on their lives and give advice to whomever is reading them. I came across this photo that I thought was really impressive. This man followed his dreams and is now the editor of one of the most famous magazines, The New York Times. 

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It seems as though the media has heightened the importance of “doing what you love no matter what”. As a college undergrad, there is an ora of pressure that everyone feels to know what they want to do by the end of college. There’s a pressure of getting a well-paid and brand-name job right after these four years. The biggest piece of advice that all my professors, mentors, and friends have been convincing me since I’ve gotten old enough to make my own decisions is to forget about all expectations of doing well in a “respectable” career and to follow my heart. I guess in my case, the epitome of a feasible career is to go into medicine or engineering, with no room for more, and so I can definitely sympathize with those who feel that pressure.

At the same time, however, this “do what you love” mentality has somewhat butchered my work ethic. When people tell you to do what you love and to follow your dreams, they fail to tell you about how much difficulty comes with everything, regardless of whether you love it or not. They make it into an ideal and the very decision to choose to do what you desire is considered the most difficult feat. Despite any stereotype you want to impose on me, I do want to be a doctor. That is what I love. But when there’s a class I can’t seem to do well in or a topic which I simply don’t understand, I feel as though this “do only what you love” mentality has made me lazy. Take biology, for instance. I’ve never been good at it, and these past semesters has proved that. I have little interest in the subject matter and it’s definitely not my strong suit. Instead of working harder, my love for medicine quivered. I questioned myself and what it was that was truly for me…until I realized that there isn’t anything I can’t do. Life isn’t about following your dreams, it’s really about gaining the feeling of accomplishment. Of course no one should be forced into a specific career, but I completely misunderstood the constant encouragement to “do what you love”. The editor of The New York Times, along with everyone else who has said that makes it seem so much easier than it is. Within all his accomplishments, we don’t come close to the many individual failures he probably faced. I liked this photo because we are shown a small portion of his difficulties. He doesn’t ignore the fact that following your dreams and goals actually does come at a price, bigger than anything money-related. I’ve simplified it so much in my mind that whenever I come across some sort of hinderance, I tend to automatically question myself and my wants.

I’m hoping that this summer semester class will be a turning point for that.

041 My Final Days in S. Africa (delayed)

Better late than never, right?! I apologize for not posting my happenings immediately. My last few days were kind of crazy and I’ve been trying to get settled back in Ithaca. Luckily, I wrote down everything I did everyday in Africa…

Day 13 (Thursday): This was my last day of school. After administering more tests, I went to the local cafe, Delish, to document the DRA results. Immediately after ordering, however, we were informed that the teachers (in my opinion, irresponsibly) let their students out early without warning. The four of us that were at Delish rushed to school last-minute to tutor fifth graders that were asked to stay after school. After I tutored a fifth grader, my assigned two sixth graders, Iron and Siphosethu, came, and I tutored them as well. I didn’t mind the last-minute call to school because it meant I could teach more before I left the program! I wrote Iron and Siphosethu letters in their journals and said my parting words to the school.

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Afterwards, we all went to a live jazz show in Cape Town at The Crypt, a local jazz bar/ restaurant, which was pretty cool. I was kind of hoping for more of an African influence, but it was still great!

Day 14: We hiked up Table Mountain, which also has the option of a cable car to the top of the mountain. At the top, there’s a cafe and gift shop and an incredible view. Afterwards, we went to Camps Bay to watch the Spain vs. Netherlands match and eventually made out way to Long Street. It was an incredible game, with the Netherlands winning 5-1. I unfortunately lost my iPhone during the night, and I’m pretty sure someone pick-pocketed me. When I found out it wasn’t with me, I immediately called it using someone else’s phone and it was turned off. “Find My iPhone” was also disabled. What a buzz-kill!

Day 15: Since cage-diving was cancelled (yet again) due to bad weather, I made last minute plans with Stephen to go to the Old Biscuit Mill Neighborhood market. I bought a lot of handmade goodies and they had an incredible food market. We had barbecue steak sandwiches, Belgium pancakes, French macarons, fresh fruit smoothies, and a mushroom kabob. Afterwards, we went to the Two Oceans Aquarium, which was huge. On the car ride back, the taxi driver gave me a hard time. He spoke about how once Nelson Mandela was elected, he resigned from being a high school biology teacher, claiming that, with the loss of corporal punishment, the students would lose all respect for their teachers. But based on how he was yelling and screaming at me once I got in the taxi, I don’t know if he had the right idea of respect. He made me so uncomfortable and, while making eye contact with me through the mirror, made a highly offensive comment on China. He talked about how corrupt the politics in South Africa have become and that Mandela was the reason for the decline in economy in Cape Town. I’m sure he isn’t the one person to think these things, and I’m sure he has reason to believe what he does, but from his previous interactions with me, I just wasn’t feeling it. I packed up my things shortly after and after having Greek food for dinner, I attended my last poetry night with the cohorts, where we watched really well-done spoken word. The last one resonated with me. I’m not sure who performs it, but it’s called “Knock Knock” and the person is very emotional. We also talked about the comparisons between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., and how their goals and methodologies were completely different. We watched interviews of each leader, and I noted that the voice of the speakers reflected what their ideals were; Malcolm X spoke very rapidly and with a lot of aggression, whereas Martin Luther King Jr. was very patient and articulate with his words. We talked about my taxi driver from earlier that day and how corrupt the ANC has become (Note to Self: Look into this more). We talked about “Lollipop Moments” (TedTalk), where all your actions have an unknown effect on someone. It is impossible to know the degree to which you change someone’s life. I wish I had written down my thoughts and the thoughts that were shared that night because I can’t even remember most of the ones that I really resonated with. Somehow, the poetry night lasted three hours. I arrived to our new hostel, The Atlantic Point, with Kyla and met a bunch of students from Hong Kong who gave me brownies and ice cream!

Day 16: I woke up and met the cohorts to go on a wine tour. Our tour guide was the nicest and we visited four different vineyards. The first, Fairview, was so cute. We were able to taste six different wines and I ended up buying a bottle of Shiraz and Caldera, both really nice reds. They also offered an amazing selection of cheese to try. I bought so many bottles of wine. They were so cheap and so good. At the hostel, I played games with the group of students from the night before until 4AM! It was fun! We met a few other people at the hostel and watched a little bit of the France – Honduras game.

Day 17: Kyla and I woke up to go on a Cape Point tour. We saw a ton of great views and went hiking. We rode bikes through the National State Park and got to see the penguins at Boulder Beach. There were so many baby penguins that would be SOOO fluffy. Omgsh. They were all so cute. Throughout the tour, we saw traffic signs for baboon warnings. I didn’t see them until we were at Cape Point, when a few baboons actually came up to me. On our drive back, there was a baboon just chilling on the roof of a car. I really really wish I had gotten a picture. After our tour, we met the other cohorts at a local bar in Hout Bay to watch the game. Germany won 4-0! =)

Day 18: I woke up after two hours of sleep to go to the Greenmarket Square with Kyla. We bought so much stuff. After sending Kyla off to the airport, I went to buy mailing boxes for all my souvenirs. I packed at the hostel and went to the postal office in a place called Woodstock, one of the developing areas outside of Cape Town. After 45 minutes of waiting in line and another 45 minutes of paperwork, the postal worker told me my credit card wouldn’t be accepted if it wasn’t South African…even though it was a Visa international card. It was SO frustrating. I didn’t really know what to do at that point and I was so frustrated at the guy because he literally went so slowly while he worked. He would take breaks to drink coffee when I was at the window with him, and he would be texting the entire time. He started laughing at me when I was showing signs that I was getting pissed off. Anyway, I went to the airport afterwards and it was funny, because I checked in two bags, and the guy winked at me and said, “If you’re paying with cash, checking in your luggage may be less expensive”. I didn’t understand what he was getting at for like, five solid minutes, and kept arguing that I was paying with credit. It wasn’t until after I went through security when I realized that he was trying to get me to pay him. Haha! I had my first Toblerone bar (yum!) on the plane. My first flight to London was a like, a 13 hour flight and because I didn’t sleep the night before, I’m pretty sure I slept 12 hours. I don’t even remember taking off and then I woke up when they were making an announcement that landing would be in an hour. It was crazy. No wonder why I was so jet lagged coming back.

040 A Day in NYC

Yesterday, I had lunch at Sarabeth’s with a friend from school. It was super cute and has multiple locations, but we went to the one on the upper west side.

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I imagined it being a great brunch spot on the weekend! Super cute. Afterwards, we treated ourselves to macarons at Laduree, probably one of the most famous macaron shops in NYC. It was the prettiest display of cookies I have ever seen and I was in heaven! We shared four among the two of us and ate them as I browsed a Longchamp store. I felt so French!

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Afterwards, we walked around the Upper East Side and went into all the stores we couldn’t afford – including Bergdorf Goodman. We looked at a shirt that cost $20,000 USD. It was insane. Afterwards, we visited FAO Schwartz and the Lego Store. We made our way down to Jacques Torres, a famous chocolate shop, to meet another friend of ours.

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We then visited Big Gay Ice Cream, near NYU and Washington Square Park to try their notorious “Salty Pimp”.

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Finally, my friend took me to meet his father, who works at ABC studios. We got to see the set of the studio and watch a live news report. We saw all the backstage work and the computer rooms and it was so cool! When I was younger, my dream was to become the next Diane Sawyer. I think I slightly fulfilled a dream of mine yesterday. It was too cool!

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039 A Brief Comparison Between SA and US

I am back in the States, after 21 hours of flying, and it is currently around 5AM. I guess you could say I’m just a little bit jet-lagged. Although I would like to write a more extensive post about the rest of my South African trip, I just wanted to make a brief comparison between South African living and the US. This only covers the surface.

First off…

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Their electrical sockets are rounded and in the shape of a triangle. Each socket also has its own on-off switch, which, if you think about it, makes so much sense. In South Africa, the light switches are on the outside of the bathroom. Meaning you have to turn the light switch on before you enter the room. When I came back to the US, I found myself aimlessly searching for the light switch with my hand before I entered my grandparents’ bathroom. It was embarrassing.

Traffic

In South Africa, traffic lights are called robots. I was so confused, and somewhat excited, whenever my taxi drivers would speak of the “red robots”.

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Driving on the left-hand side of the street was always something to get used to.

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The South African Rand (RAN, RND, ZAR).

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You can imagine how confused we were when our elementary students were asking us if we had rubbers. Which reminds me, periods (in the English language) were called “full-stops” there.

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Baboons are actually a huge issue in Cape Town. There are so many laws about them and so many street signs about what to do if a baboon approaches you. They’re super smart and very dangerous. A couple actually came up to me one of my last days. It was actually crazy. They even have “baboon rangers”.

More importantly, however…

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South Africans are 30.2 times more likely to be HIV positive than Americans.

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They also have a 7.1 times higher chance of dying during infancy.

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And are 45 times more likely to experience the class divide. The walk from our apartment complex to this township was literally less than five minutes. The divide is so visible, and yet, it is often ignored.