By CAITLAN SUSSMAN
As the semester heads into full swing, and the days of wearing flip-flops to class and tanning on the Arts Quad give way to Ithaca’s notorious precipitation and less-than-warm weather, you may be tempted to sit in your room with the heat on, lamenting the black cloud of prelims that looms around the corner, or to curl into a ball on a comfy couch in Mann Library equipped with a onesie and a 20 oz. can of red bull. I am here to tell you that both of these are bad ideas.
This is not to say that studying is not important. We came to Cornell first and foremost to learn. But learning does not simply come from hours spent in a classroom or a library. Seeing academic accomplishments as the only goal of our time in college neglects the fact that we live on one of the most beautiful and exciting campuses in the world, located in a city that offers so many cultural, artistic and personal growth opportunities. So what better way to get the full Ithaca/Cornell experience than to cross items off the Big Red Ambition list?
For those of you unfamiliar with this staple of Cornell life, the Big Red Ambition is a compilation of 161 items that Cornellians should see or do in their four years here. Some are inappropriate (re: the infamous #1) and some are illegal (#123: pizza from a blue light phone, anyone?), but most will genuinely enrich your experience at Cornell and provide a welcome distraction from the monotony of your daily routine. This is not necessarily a list to be completed fully, but can be seen more as a set of guidelines to supplement your time at Cornell. But the more you complete, the more rewarding it will be for you.
This week, I am here to give you five reasons why you should complete the items on the Big Red Ambition list. Trust me: I’ve done 87 of them.
[Disclaimer: I do not condone or support any activities on this list that may be unlawful or potentially disruptive to others.]
1. Work Towards New Goals
We set ourselves goals in college every day: Study for a certain number of hours, ace that History paper or get above the mean in that Bio prelim. However, setting your sights on purely academic goals can become stifling and overwhelming. The Big Red Ambition allows you to feel the same sense of achievement, but in a way that is not primarily competitive in nature and does not come at the expense of others. Whether it’s completing the Pinesburger Challenge (#99; quite the spectacle) or charging your Banfi’s meal to CornellCard (sorry, Mom and Dad!), you’ll feel great about yourself afterwards, and get a welcome break from school.
2. Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
It is far too easy to get stuck in the Cornell Bubble on the Hill. We are so immersed in our education that trying new things and having new experiences outside of academics get pushed to the sidelines. Everyone needs to take risks once in a while. The Big Red Ambition list lets us step outside of this comfortable place, without leaving upstate New York. Sledding down Libe Slope (#5), experiencing the Apple Festival in The Commons (#23; the homemade apple cider is delicious!) or seeing an opening at the Johnson Museum (#45), have the potential to greatly expand your horizons, both personally and intellectually. That, if nothing else, is why we are here at Cornell.
3. Make New Friends
One of the best things about Big Red Ambition is its ability to bring people together. I have had incredibly interesting conversations with other students, faculty, storeowners, “townies” and even tourists, through my pursuit of the many items on the list (President Skorton and I apparently share the skill of playing the flute). Even if you don’t end up being best friends with the people you meet along the Big Red Ambition journey, it is never a bad time to hear new perspectives and make connections.
4. Strengthen Existing Bonds
There is nothing that brings you closer to your already close friends than sitting on a group on a picnic blanket at midnight in the plantations laughing and eating Oreos by candlelight (#57), running at full speed across the Arts Quad with your clothes in hand (#7: It was a friend, I promise!) or (if you are so inclined) taking your significant other for a walk around Beebe Lake while holding hands. New experiences will bring out commonalities that you never would have imagined, and provide you with the most memorable moments of your college years.
5. Discover Fun Activities to Do on Weekends/In Free Time
Although the notion of “Free Time” on this campus is almost obsolete, too much work and no leisure time can spread everyone too thin. Whenever you do have time to spare — whether an hour on the weekend or 15 minutes between the end of a class and the start of a meeting, Big Red Ambition always presents some new possibility to fill the space. These activities are low energy (mostly), often consume very little time and can be done either alone, or with friends/a willing partner (I’m talking about Beebe Lake — get your head out of the gutter!). They will make your weekdays and weekends more enjoyable and won’t leave you with a massive headache in the morning. In short, Big Red Ambition is there for you when you need a healthy break.
So venture out, Cornellians! Take a break from studying just for half an hour, an hour or even two, and see what this campus and this town have to offer. I promise you won’t regret it. See you on the flip side!
Caitlan Sussman is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Big Red Ambition appears alternate Tuesdays.