September 12, 2013

GUEST ROOM: How to Enjoy Cornell

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You have no idea how fast time flies. Four years ago, I was in your shoes, freshmen. One year ago, I was in your shoes, seniors. Classes are stressful and the weather can really suck, but the weather and classes aren’t what makes Cornell University such an amazing place. It’s the people.

I will never ever forget my time at Cornell because I met so many interesting and talented people. Everyone is so different. Even if they are from the same part of Westchester and went to the same high school, the common bond of hard classes and crappy weather is what brought us all together. It’s us, the Cornellians, and the people of Ithaca and the surrounding communities that make this place such a special one to so many people. The people who enjoy Cornell are the ones who are open, accepting and get immersed in the culture. My advice to you is to try new things, meet new friends, and do what makes you happy. Your relationship with all of the people you meet on the Hill is your Cornell experience. Once you leave Cornell, you will really miss it.

Don’t hold grudges — you never know what could have been. My freshman year, I managed to irritate Caroline Kelter ’13 to the point where she hated me. Of course, I had been a prick at some point and somewhat deserved it, but I saw she was upset one night, tried to make her feel better and asked if she’d forgive me for being a douche. After that it was all good, she became one of the best friends I have ever had and now works in San Francisco with me. What if I had never done that? Maybe I wouldn’t be friends with one of the people I appreciate the most in my life.

If you are Greek, branch out. Fraternities and sororities are awesome and you meet so many great people, but they aren’t your only brothers and sisters on campus. All of Cornell is your family once you leave. The first question you will get asked is, “Where did you go to school?” They don’t ask what house you were a part of when you leave, they ask you about the school. When you are a senior, you’ll realize that you have somewhat outgrown it. You’ll be over 21 and going to the bars with people from different houses and asking yourself why you didn’t hang out with these people sooner. Get to know everyone early and enjoy as much of your Cornell career as you can with them.

Get to know the “townies.” I personally hate when they are referred to as townies because it makes them sound like some sort of disease. These people are some of the most unique, hard-working, and amazing people I met while at Cornell. From Tammy Snyder and Chris Johnson, who made the most delicious wraps at Trillium, to David Peck from the Cornell Store, whose son, Sean, was my biggest football fan and has a sweet Instagram, to Caitlin and Lynn, who literally knew about every detail of my life because I was at Tompkins Trust everyday, to Kaleb Hunkele, the owner of Standard Art Supply and my go-to-guy for everything from T-shirts to Stabillo pens, to Missy Miller, owner of Annie’s Place and the perfecter of the fauxhawk. These are the people you will never forget. Get to know them. They work hard and have kids. These are people in the real world, not just Ithaca and the surrounding communities. There is no need to ever disrespect them.  You will learn so much just from hearing their stories

Seniors, don’t spend senior year worried about where you are going to be next year. Obviously, don’t ignore it, but don’t let it overtake you. I had so many friends change because they were stressed about jobs and it really ruined some of our last moments together. You didn’t get the job? So what? Life goes on. Your résumé is what you make of it. You can be your résumé if you want to be or you can be more than that. People in the real world care about what you actually do, not what you write or say. Our generation is the future, so make an impact that people hear about and everything will take care of itself job-wise.

Lastly, be proud that you went to Cornell. If you have time to join the Senior Class Campaign and raise money for Cornell, do it. I had an amazing time fundraising and got close to people like Corey Earle ’07, as well as Jon Weinberg ’13 and Fiona Ismail ’13, two other seniors that I would have never met had I not joined. Talk to alumni when you get the chance. They were in your shoes at one point and love to hear about absolutely everything. Get to know them, even if it’s just a brief conversation.

That’s how you enjoy Cornell. I graduated with a government degree, but what I really majored in was the study of different types of people (which is different from sociology if you are wondering). It has already taken me further than my 2.4 GPA ever will. I tried everything and got to know everyone. I messed up, triumphed, apologized and forgave. To be happy and successful at Cornell, you need to immerse yourself in the community and the culture. Be sure to appreciate absolutely everything and everyone because your time at Cornell doesn’t last forever. Yet, wherever you may go in the rest of your life, Cornell will follow you somewhere, some way and remind you of all the great people that you got to spend time with.

Max Martinez graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2013. He may be reached at [email protected] Guest Room appears periodically this semester.