November 13, 2017

LEE | Why is Cornell So Bland?

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Two weeks ago, my friend who attends Princeton visited Cornell to see me and another friend. It was during the middle of a busy week of prelims and quizzes, so I didn’t expect to be able to show her much. I mean what is there really to show around campus and in Ithaca other than natural scenery, the A.D. White Library and perhaps the Commons? What’s worse, the weather was forecasted to rain all week as per usual, and we were supposed to get our first semi-winter weather at around 40 degrees.

As rain poured down heavier than I had seen in weeks, I thought to myself, “Why oh why did I invite her all the way here to take a two-hour train ride and a five-hour bus ride, only to see pretty much nothing in bad weather?”  Even my friends were surprised at the fact that someone would come all the way to Cornell just to see their friend. Whenever I ran into any of my Cornell friends and introduced my Princeton friend to them, their reactions would be the same: “Wow, you came all the way to Cornell?”

It turned out to be that her visit was well worth it. The night she arrived, my roommate and I took her to RPCC because it was the only dining hall open at that time. I really hadn’t expected much because I was pretty bored of the overrated dining hall food last year, and so I hadn’t visited RPCC in months even though I lived on North. But my friend loved it. Initially surprised by the sheer scale of the dining hall due to both its variety and the number of people, she happily chose from a wide selection of omelets, noodles, sushi, pancakes and, of course, ice cream. The only aspect that had changed from last year was the noodle bar, but I too developed a love for the food that night. I already knew how great Cornell’s food was, but I hadn’t truly embraced the greatness until my revisit.

Although my friend couldn’t purchase much from the Cornell Store because of how overpriced everything was, she enjoyed seeing the gorges while crossing bridges, liked the walks around the Arts Quad and was amused by the White Library and Johnson Museum. I had already been pretty much all around campus from far down the end of Tower Road to the tip of North Campus, so I anticipated that the only great thing that would come out of the tour would simply be showing my friend around where I walk every day and catching up on what we had missed from each other’s lives.

As a matter of fact, those walks were the best I had since freshman orientation week. I saw the campus from a new light — the blend of old and new, the diversity of different types of people from different walks of life, the beautiful buildings, the crisp clean air, the multicolored leaves along the Arts Quad, the starry Johnson Museum, the pleasing sounds from McGraw Tower — all things that I had passed by everyday without giving much attention to. I had been so used to badmouthing Cornell just like we all do, that even the smallest things made me realize what a wondrous place it is to be at.

Yes, even though “Ithaca is Gorges” and “Ithaca is amusing,” it isn’t quite as glamorous as New York City. Nor is the weather even half as pleasant as it is in California. I always thought it was a problem with Cornell in and of itself; even my columns are almost always criticizing Cornell. But what I realized these past few days is that all along it had been a matter of my own perception.

When I went to watch the ice hockey game against Dartmouth for the first time, I was instilled with a sense of pride and delight that can only be gained through a Cornell experience. Last week for the first time, I noticed that there were carvings on the walls of Goldwin Smith, a building that I walk in every other day. Again, I simply passed by this place without being conscious of where I was. Looking above and around the paths I walked along each day, I saw the entire campus in a new light. Most importantly, I recollected the excitement and awe on my first day and remembered how honored I was and will continue to be here.
DongYeon (Margaret) Lee is a sophomore in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at mlee@cornellsun.com. Here, There and Everywhere appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.