The falling snow, the trip home for turkey and the upcoming finals all signify a momentous occasion for the freshmen of Donlon 2: the end of their first semester as Cornell students.
“It’s almost over — that was so quick!” Lindsey Giserman said. “It’s like there’s nothing to be nostalgic about.”
While nostalgia may be a stretch, the freshmen are at least seriously reflecting on their academic performance to date, and preparing for a more studious 2001.
“I can’t believe its almost over — how am I going to salvage my grades?” Katie Black said. “It doesn’t make it any better that my dad took the same courses here and got almost all A’s.”
“This semester sucked,” Jung Lee said. “I took on too much and I had to withdraw from two classes. I learned time management and I deleted most of my video games to stop my distraction.”
“One thing I can say for sure about Cornell is that there is no way you can graduate from here without knowing the material you’re majoring in,” Srinivas Rao said. “But sometimes the material is so esoteric that it just flies over my head, and I have to spend hours learning what others spend about 10 minutes on.”
All agree that the semester came and went before they knew it.
“After the first round of prelims came and went, everything just seemed to fly by,” Ritu Daga said. “Overall this semester was definitely a new experience. I met a lot of cool people while being challenged by difficult courses.”
Of course, the end of the semester also signals another inevitable part of college life — giving up newfound freedoms to resume residency in childhood bedrooms during breaks.
Art Klock’s abrupt return to the world of parental supervision already began on Parents’ Weekend, when his family finally found out about his alcohol-related hospitalization from his first week here.
“The shit hit the fan,” he said. “This sucks — all I did was leave the receipt up on my bulletin board, and my snoopy mom found it and they almost killed me. It was not a pleasant weekend — now my parents think I have a drinking problem.”
Despite the resulting crackdown on his academic performance, Art was relieved that his parents decided to pay the insurance bill. “At least now I’m more financially secure,” he said.
For others, Thanksgiving Break was their first extended experience with parents and old friends.
“I should have gotten more than six hours of sleep the entire break, but all my friends were home because it was my high school’s Homecoming, and it was just nonstop parties,” Nick Quinn said. “Now I’m actually more tired than I was before I went back.”
“I went skiing and hung out with my buddies — it was great,” Andy Welch said. “We didn’t lose a step. We partied like rock stars.”
“It was more relaxing, because Lindsey and I went home on Monday night, so we had almost a full week at home,” Kim Friedman said. “I saw some of my friends for the first time since this summer. I’ll be home in a few weeks so it made it easier to leave again.”
“We had 15 people at my house, and my best friend was there,” Kate Blosveren said. “We’ve been friends since seventh grade. It was really nice to see her — four months is a really long time to not see your best friend.”
Ritu said she that although her family does not celebrate Thanksgiving, she still enjoyed the break. “It was just a time to relax,” she said. “I’ve been home quite a bit this semester, but this time everyone else was home, too, so it was awesome.”
“There were so many people I was supposed to see and check in with,” Wes Walker said, who flew home to California for the first time as a college student. “But I just didn’t have time to see all of them — they’re probably going to get mad at me. I’ll be home in two weeks, though, so it’s not a big deal.”
“I went back to Mt. Snow and worked all weekend long as a ski instructor,” Brooke said. “I taught the four-year-olds how to ski, and I got them skiing parallel turns. I also had a family dinner and hung out with friends.”
Going home for other special occasions hasn’t been a possibility for the freshmen, who have been celebrating their birthdays without the annual familiar faces singing around a cake.
“It was strange not being with my parents and friends whom I’ve spent so many of my past birthdays with, but I had a good time celebrating here at school,” Kate said, who went to dinner in Collegetown with friends.
Kevin Gomez’s father actually drove up from New York City for his son’s birthday last month. “He stayed for a few days during the week, and I hung out with him when I wasn’t in class,” Kevin said. “It was nice.”
Others welcomed the opportunity to celebrate the occasion without parental supervision.
“I partied a lot; I drank 19 beers to celebrate, only to regret it the next day,” Vlad Muste said. “I had a really bad headache afterwards.”
COURSES NEXT SEMESTER
Almost all Donlon 2 residents suffered from brain pain a few weeks ago while attempting to sign up for next semester’s courses using the Bear Access CoursEnroll software for the first time.
“I think it’s pretty safe to say that my absolute worst night here was CoursEnroll night,” Kim said. “I stayed in hoping to get on exactly at midnight. P.S., I was still finishing up my schedule at 3:30 a.m. I wound up getting the courses that I wanted but the stress level that night was rough. This is why our suicide rate must be so high!”
“It was a nightmare,” Katie said. “I got the MTX virus and my computer was broken, so I used Nick’s because, of course, he went out and had fun while I stayed up all night trying to get all my classes for next semester together.”
While some opted to wait a few days to enroll, others had already snuck their schedules into the computer network early.
“Some people ‘Force Enrolled,'” Ron Zember said. “Freshmen would get an upperclassman to log into Just the Facts, and then they could change Kerberos and sign up for their courses weeks early.”
While academic issues like CoursEnroll and prelims have dominated their attention, the freshmen have also been following the legal battles in Florida, as the presidential election results remain shrouded in mystery.
“If they decide to have a revote in Florida, it would totally change the Constitution,” Scott Seiler said. “I don’t think that’s a wise thing to do. The recount in the counties is fine, though. But it’s Jeb’s state, so he might be hookin’ a brother up.”
“Gore got cheated out of winning the presidency,” Kevin said. “But even though Gore won the popular vote, I still support the Electoral College system. The flaws are in those so-called ‘confusing’ ballots and voting booths based on 20th century technology.”
Although the freshmen agreed that there were flaws in the process, not everyone believed that the ballot counts were entirely to blame for the situation.
“Your vote is your responsibility, and you have to pay attention — who punches more than one hole for a candidate?” Wes said. “If I were Gore, I’d be so pissed off at those people! Bush won — maybe he shouldn’t have, but nobody really knows.”
“A large portion of the country won’t be happy either way,” Kim said. “Imagine that the Psych 101 class could determine who would be the president — the amount of votes that could sway Florida is LESS than the amount of people in that class.”
But Lindsey took a different view, arguing that the entire system had been discredited by the recent events.
“My attention span is too short for this whole election thing,” she said. “It just shows that our whole system does not work, and that something needs to be done to fix it so this whole mess doesn’t happen again.”
While the election has been a welcome distraction from academics, the freshmen say they may have to place the issue on the back burner as they prepare for impending final exams and end-of-semester assignments. For some, the next two weeks can make or break a grade-point-average.
“The new rule is grades are everything — any D’s and I’m outta here, any C’s and no joining a fraternity,” Art said, referring to his parents’ new edict regarding his academic performance. “I’m really going to have to study hard for finals.”
“I’ll be locked away at Uris or Olin for days catching up on material,” Jung said. “I have to do well on the classes I’m still in!”
“They’re not going to be fun, I’m not excited,” Brooke said.
“I have a final paper due for my writing seminar, which I think is kinda ridiculous,” Vlad said. “We were given a presentation on researching stuff in the library; I felt like I was in junior high again.”
“I’m nervous about finals — the whole process of going through study week and two and a half hour tests for a class are things that I have never really done before,” Kate said. “I don’t really know what to expect, which is a little scary. I only have three though, which is probably good for my first go at it.”
As usual, Jon Sterk is taking this latest scholastic milestone in stride.
“I look at finals as just a test to take,” he said. “I take a relaxing view on tests, and I do not stress over them.”
“As my inevitable fate becomes sealed with finals week approaching, I think of the long hours spent studying, the parties to be missed and the pressure starting to mount,” Kevin said. “It’s somehow comforting to know I can spend my whole week hitting the books while Jon, playing Nintendo on the day of the test, can score well above the average.”
“Sometimes I think Cornell is made just for the geniuses and the hard workers go by unnoticed, unappreciated and sometimes [end up] with poorer grades,” Sri said.
“You can’t walk across this campus without hearing someone bitch, ‘Oh, I’ve got 14 prelims and three papers due the same day, I’m taking 29 credits and my T.A. hates me,” Wes said. “That seems to be the basic conversation around here. It gets really old.”
“I probably should have gone to the University of Hawaii or something,” Jason Porter joked. “Still, finals are finals — you do your shit and then you go home and party for a month.”
PLANS TO RUSH
After their month at home, many of the freshmen plan to return to Cornell early to face the rush process as they consider joining fraternities and sororities.
“If I’m going to join a fraternity, I want to know the people in it, so I’m not going to pledge next semester,” Nick said. “I’ll also be going out for football, so I don’t know if I want to get sucked into the whole D.U. [Delta Upsilon fraternity] thing.”
“I’m most likely going to join a house,” Lindsey said. “But it’s hard to know right now, because they’re not allowed to talk to us. It’s annoying, but I understand — it’ll help us make an unbiased decision.”
“Rushing is a lot of fun, but there’s too many fraternities to see all of them,” Ron said. “I’ll stop by four or five that I have in mind.”
“I have friends at different places, but I don’t want to limit my options,” Jason said.
“I’m not really familiar with the rushing process; no one explains it very well,” Wes admitted. “I’m looking at 10 to 15 houses, but I’m not sure about pledging. I can’t think of anything worse than living in a frat house with guys you don’t like.”
“I really want to just get a house with 15 rooms and start my own fraternity,” Nick joked. “I should get all hotel guys — it would be great, we’d sit around and party all the time!”
While some bags remain unpacked from Thanksgiving travel, the freshmen are eagerly preparing to decide which belongings merit stuffing into suitcases for the month-long winter break.
“Actually, I don’t pack at all,” Art said. “I just throw all my dirty clothes in a bag and go!”
“I’m really thankful that there’s just one week left before going home,” Scott said.
Jon hasn’t seen his parents or friends since August. “I’m looking forward to going back to my old high school and distracting my former teachers,” he said.
“I’ll probably go to Florida to see my grandmother,” Kim said. “I wonder if she voted for Gore or Buchanan on those ballots, actually.”
“I’ll be home for two weeks for winter break, then skiing in Tahoe for a week, and in Jamaica for one week with the Hangovers,” Wes said. “It’s not a tour, but we’ll probably sing — you can’t get those guys together for two minutes without breaking into song!”
“If anyone’s up at Mt. Snow, look me up,” Brooke said, who will continue in her position as a ski instructor there during the break.
Fellow avid skier Andy plans to divide his time between the Colorado slopes and the bars. “Vail. Drink. Ski. Puke. Ski,” he said. “Drunk skiing … yeah.”
“I canceled my trip to Israel,” Ron said. “My family there said, ‘Please don’t come, you’ll give your grandmother a heart attack.’ So I guess I’ll go visit in the summer. I’m nervous for them, though.”
Ron’s new plans are to snowboard in the Poconos, visit Las Vegas and possibly embark on a Caribbean cruise. “Then I’ll come back to warm, sunny Ithaca,” he said.
Some of the freshmen are excited about major trips abroad.
“I’ve never been to Europe, so I’m really excited,” Lindsey said of her upcoming trip to London. “It’s my grandfather’s 80th birthday, so it’s a celebration vacation.”
“I’m going to India to see my relatives there,” Ritu said. “I haven’t been there in a long time, so I’m really excited.”
Others prefer to relax at home, make some extra cash and have festive New Years Eve reunions with old friends.
“I’m going home to party up with my boys,” Nick said. “We’re getting a house for a week in the Poconos.”
“I’m going to be at Times Square for New Years for the sixth time,” Art said. “It’s the middle of the universe there — it’s awesome!”
“It’ll be good to be home without any work to do, but just like when I’m here I miss my friends from home, when I’m home I miss my friends from here,” Kate said.
Still, the freshmen seem to be looking ahead: first to finals, then to going home and finally, to the spring semester off in the distance. But they have all come to the realization that their freshman experience is half over.
The next installment of Cornell 101 will appear in late January.
Archived article by Nicole Neroulias