For many students, transitioning from high school to college is one of the most challenging experiences of their lives. But for Daryl Lin ’13, coming to Cornell in 2010 was a welcome reprieve from his two years of service in the Singaporean army. Lin, who is from Singapore, was required to serve in accordance with the country’s mandatory service law.After three months of basic training, followed by nine months of officer cadet training, Lin served for a year in an active infantry unit.He recalled one particularly difficult practice mission during his time at officer cadet school: A helicopter dropped men, in groups of four, in the middle of a jungle in Brunei. The teams were tasked with finding their way back to their base.“It’s a nine-day walk with 70 pounds of gear. I had no food for nine days; I lost about 20 pounds,” Lin said.The mission also took place in the middle of monsoon season, Lin said. A constant torrential downpour provided an additional challenge to him and his team.While working in an infantry unit during his second year, Lin spent much of his time outdoors — occasionally jumping out of airplanes and helicopters. The sense of adventure and risk-taking he developed while completing his service led him pursue outdoor extra-curricular activities at Cornell, he said.“I heard it was beautiful in upstate New York, so I joined Cornell Outdoor Education and took a [physical education] class freshman year called ‘Backpacking in the Finger Lakes,’” Lin said.The next year, he came back as a guide for Outdoor Odyssey.As an Outdoor Odyssey guide, Lin found himself once again braving rough conditions. He participated in the Guide Outdoor Leadership Development program, a week-long backpacking trip over spring break 2012 in the Arizona desert. Though the team packed desert gear, anticipating hot, dry weather, they were met by something else when they arrived.“We were hit by a freak snowstorm … The sleeping bag of one of the guides we were traveling with got wet overnight because of the snow, and he was close to hypothermia. We couldn’t start fires because everything was wet. So it ended up being three guys in two sleeping bags,” Lin said. “It wasn’t pretty, but we made it work.”An operations and research major in the College of Engineering, Lin said he was first attracted to Cornell because of the strength of its engineering programs. He also relished the opportunity to get out of his comfort zone, he said, saying he wanted to travel out of Singapore. However, when Lin arrived at the University, things were not exactly as he had expected.“When I first applied to Cornell, I’d never been to the east coast of the United States before. So when I thought about New York, I had visions of going to New York City every weekend. [Then I] came and realized I was in the middle of upstate New York,” he said.Still, Lin has been traveling around the world between semesters. He embarked on a three-month backpacking trip around Asia with a childhood friend prior to starting his freshman year.“We backpacked the Golden Triangle, which consists of Thailand, Burma, Vietnam and Laos. We started in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, and ended up in Phuket, Thailand, at the Full Moon Party, a beach party, which was a great end to the trip,” Lin said.He said he also has plans to visit Turkey and Morocco this winter.Lin learned a lot from leaving his home country to attend Cornell and interact with a foreign culture, he said. “There is definitely a different culture here. In America, there’s an emphasis on being yourself … which is a nice difference,” he said.
Original Author: Cindy Huynh