April 8, 2013

GUEST ROOM: A View From the Other Side

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Last year, I was tired of Cornell. I had seen too many professors berate their students after giving tests with means in the 50s. I had watched tuition rise again and again, even as funding for my classes and research kept shrinking. The administration was hollowing out the Greek System, more concerned with the University’s liability than the actual safety of their students. Meanwhile, Collegetown was steadily becoming a slum where empty storefronts and boarded-up windows were constant reminders of better years gone by. To say the least, I was ready to get out.

And then I did. My big graduation weekend came and went. I listened to Mayor Michael Bloomberg speak under the hot sun, walked through Schoellkopf in front of thousands and bid farewell to all my old friends. I sold any book I could find, along with about five iClickers. The next day, I had my last sandwich at CTB — Jonah’s Jive — and packed up my bags. I hit the road and didn’t look back.

In the months that followed, I found myself thinking about my time in Ithaca nearly every day. I eventually came to terms with the fact that many of my frustrations were not unique to Cornell and would have arisen regardless of which school I attended. Nowadays I tend to dwell on favorite memories — walking around the gorges in the fall and meeting my girlfriend on North Campus during freshman year. I wonder what I might have done differently if I were to go through it all again. With this new perspective, I find that all I want to do is come back. Indeed, distance makes the heart grow fonder.

The transition from college to the “real world” is not easy, and I’ve had dozens of conversations on the topic with family and peers in the short time since I left. We talk about the challenges of keeping in touch and what everyone is doing with their lives. My friends often text me about their long work hours or the fact that TPS reports are real. One had to clean up kindergartner poop. Another learned that taxes were taking away almost 50 percent of his income.

I can fortunately say that medical school has shielded me from many of these experiences. Each day I wake up and go to classes. I still sit in auditoriums, waiting to fill out Scantrons, and live in an on-campus dorm. Several of my classes overlap with ones from my years on the Hill; for the briefest of moments, I occasionally forget that I am so far away.

Having read to this point, you’re probably now terrified of life outside of college. Yet, no matter your trajectory upon leaving Cornell, you have a great deal to look forward to. Trust me.

Your degree will astonish you with its power to change both opportunities and perceptions. You can move beyond the abstractness of the lecture hall and apply concepts for practical purposes. Your friends will become leaders across the country, entering industries ranging from fashion to banking, engineering to law. Perhaps best of all, you will get to live vicariously through them — talking to my friend about his job at Raytheon is definitely cooler than talking to him about his fluid mechanics problem set.

It is truly difficult to describe all of the impacts of graduation in such a short space. Nonetheless, I will leave you with some brief words of wisdom from the other side. Juniors and underclassmen, you have plenty of time left, but it will disappear faster than you will realize. I could tell you a million different things to do with that time; however, the 161 list is far better than anything I could ever come up with. The one recommendation I have is that you take advantage of the incomparable breadth of offerings at Cor­nell. If you major in chemistry, you can still take “The American Presidency” or “Intro­duction to Painting.” English students can enjoy “A Survey of Jazz,” and anthropologists can study the “Biology of the Honey Bee.” Course enrollment may be miserable and your computer may freeze every time, but you will find few occasions in life that allow you such freedom to discover any aspect of the world around you.

To the seniors, I know that you are on your way and likely contemplating the path ahead. In doing so, please do not make the same mistake that I did. Do not wait until months after you leave that special place to reflect on its meaning to you. Take a few moments each day to look around, to stop on Ho Plaza and to see the sun set behind the clock tower just one more time. You may not think much of it now, but, when you get to where I am, you will be the better for it.

Nathaniel P. Morris graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2012. He is currently a first year student at Harvard Medical School. Feedback may be sent to [email protected] Guest Room appears periodically this semester.

Original Author: Nathaniel P. Morris