I frequently look forward to long breaks between semesters because it gives me an opportunity to escape Ithaca and get back in touch with reality. To unwind, I try really hard to stay away from Facebook, Gmail and Cornell’s homepage.
I try, but I usually fail after about a day or two.
Something draws me back to this place. Something makes me start counting the days until I brave the four-hour drive from Northern New Jersey to Upstate New York. I find myself looking ahead to another great semester filled with stories and learning experiences.
What draws me back so frequently and so quickly? It’s not the excessive amounts of homework, the cold weather, the geographic isolation or the copious amounts of walking. It’s not the spotty cell phone service, the bureaucracy (or Big Red Tape) or the excessive liberalism that makes me scratch my head and go “really?”
It’s the people. It’s the campus. It’s the things I have learned and the experiences I have had. It’s the fact that I arrived in Ithaca nearly four years ago and embraced the opportunity to evolve throughout this chapter of my life.
Cornell has become a part of me, as I am sure it has become a part of you.
But as a second semester senior, I can’t help but think that the end of my Cornell experience is near and that long gone will be the days of gorge jumping, post-prelim hi-jinx and forgotten nights at the Palms — though the latter two might be the same occasion. Long gone will be the days of waking up early for add-drop, lounging outside of CTB to get a few pitchers and relishing the last few days of sun.
It has become uncomfortable for me to walk around campus, see tours, and think, “When these students arrive for orientation, I won’t be here anymore.”
But I’m comforted in knowing that my Cornell experience has prepared me for what lies ahead.
Yes, Cornell has become a part of us and we will take it wherever we go. We will have the memories of the past four years, the friendships that will last for many years beyond this and the privilege to be counted among a dynamic and accomplished list of alumni. I’m proud to be a part of it.
The Cornell Experience, I’m convinced, does not end when your degree is conferred in May. Even as graduates, we will be given opportunities to network and to meet other Cornellians around the world — there are, after all, over 260,000 of us.
This experience will extend to interviewing at our future employers and realizing that they, too, are Cornell graduates. Many of these conversations will inevitably turn into, “What bars did you hang out in?” as opposed to the typical job interview roast.
Our experiences will take us to walking the streets of a crowded city, sometimes thousands of miles away, and stopping someone when you see that they have a Cornell sweatshirt.
You have to believe that the friendships that you have made at Cornell will not abruptly stop upon graduation. I have found that my Cornell friends have a tremendous commonality and I will maintain these relationships for years to come.
And to keep the spirit of the Cornell Experience alive, a whole department known as Alumni Affairs and Development exists. Sure, they’ll hit us up for money every once and a while, but the reunions the Alumni Affairs and Development Office set up will be worth it. In addition, The Cornell Club of New York City is a great central meeting place for the nearly 80,000 Cornellians who live in New York State.
It will definitely be sad to graduate and leave here. But I have come to terms with the fact that there is nothing I can do to stop it (without failing classes — and yes, the thought did enter my head).
Let us embrace our upcoming graduation. While balancing classes and your efforts to finalize plans for after graduation, do your best to spend time with the people that mean the most to you here and let them know how important they are to you. The coming days will echo through your experiences with these people in the decades to come. In ten years, you won’t remember that minor detail on that biology test (or in my case, wines), but you will be thankful that you made the most of your final semester on the hill.
So, here’s a toast to the final semester at Cornell. To fortifying those friendships and appreciating the experiences that you have had here in the past four years. And for the experiences that will continue long after the champagne has been drunk.