April 14, 2011

Cornell Daze

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The coming of Cornell Days for the incoming Class of 2015, pre-enrollment for my junior year and the (long awaited) arrival of spring have all led to a startling revelation: my time at Cornell is almost halfway done. Speaking with prospective students and planning for next semester have both led me to reflect on my first two years here (and put off a few papers in the process). In what you could call a mid-Cornell crisis, I reminded myself of why I have come to love this place. I have been able to learn and accomplish so much here over two years and realize there is so much still to be done.

Cornell really is a special place. When I first arrived on the Hill, I didn’t know what to expect. What I found and came to appreciate challenged me both intellectually and socially. If you don’t like being challenged, you probably don’t like Cornell — whether it’s battling the cold and wind to make it up the Slope or struggling to complete a challenging assignment, adversity is the norm. Overcoming that adversity characterizes a Cornellian. I came here a chronic procrastinator, and I still am in some sense, but I’ve been able to read (and read and read and read…), write and learn so much more than I would have ever done elsewhere. I look back at the challenges I met here and realize how much overcoming them made me stronger and allowed me to really grow.

“Any person … any study” really does hold true at Cornell. The unique academic programs attract students from across a spectrum of interests and skill sets. And for the most part, we appreciate each others’ unique perspectives and interests (insert Hotelie joke here). Seriously, though, Hotelies are incredible and will be leaders in their field. As we all will. I am always impressed when I see the math my Engineering friends do for problem sets, and they are usually amazed when they see the amount I have to read and write. The many specialized academic options truly build a diverse academic community, more so than could possibly be created at a traditional university. Of course, a liberal arts education is still available for those who want it — that’s the beauty of Cornell. Whether it’s applied economics and management or applied and engineering physics, you’re bound to find your calling here.

I cannot stress the importance and availability of communities at Cornell. I applied thinking fraternities were like Animal House and not for me, and now I am an incoming member of my fraternity’s council. The size and diversity of the Greek community means there is truly a house for everyone, and I sincerely mean that. Joining my house challenged me in a very different setting but uniquely contributed to my growth and development. My brothers are the closest friends I have ever had (shout out to Sig Tau) and our house is really a home.

That being said, there is no need whatsoever to go Greek but rather a need to involve yourself in something outside the classroom. Communities and social relationships are built around clubs and activities, and there is certainly something for everyone. Clubs and communities are built on anything from culinary tastes to community service to creative expression. Every community has regular social events and forms lasting bonds; I once went to a Daily Sun section mixer and a fraternity-sorority mixer in the same night. I often find people who don’t like it here (there are a few out there), who never find a community — but if you are one of those people, it’s never too late to get involved.

There is so much I have yet to accomplish here, and that I only have two years left scares me. I’ll never come close to completing the 161 Things list (for a variety of reasons) but there are a variety of other things I can still do. For example, a Labor History paper led me to check out books from the Library for the first time. The selection in the Olin Stacks is incredible. And some of them move! I plan on exploring the libraries much more and finding books from which I can learn and think critically. Likewise, Cornell’s extensive course offerings have always intrigued me, and I want to take courses outside of the ILR School that enhance what I have learned about the workplace and help me to better appreciate its unique role in society.

On that note, I also plan on taking advantage of the many diverse events held on campus. I want to attend more performances and guest lectures, and I hope regular attendees of those events join me for hockey games at Lynah. Enrichment takes many forms, and to truly benefit from everything Cornell offers, one has to step outside his or her comfort zone. Finally, just walking around campus, exploring new places and meeting new people can prove to be both fun and enlightening. The nice part of being at a large university with a large student body is that you can never be bored, and there is always something new to discover.

In times of stress, confusion and doubt one can benefit from putting things in perspective (like the said papers I have yet to begin). The weather usually sucks and the assignments pile up, but as my friend aptly pointed out, the fact we still love Cornell in spite of its challenges speaks volumes about the school. Small, specialized communities, both academic and social, in a large research university create a diverse marketplace of ideas and opportunities. Cornellians do not compromise, nor do we bow under pressure. Rather, we rush to complete challenges and learn from each other. I still can’t believe it’s been two years since I was a pre-frosh at Cornell Days and that I will (hopefully) be preparing to graduate in two more. Don’t waste a minute while on the Hill, and if you too ever have a mid-Cornell crisis, think about what you have left to accomplish here, what you can still contribute to the community and what you can take away from the adversity you have faced.

Jon Weinberg is a sophomore in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be reached at jweinberg@cornellsun.com. In Focus appears alternate Fridays this semester.

Original Author: Jon Weinberg