Following Hurricane Maria’s devastating and lasting effects on Puerto Rico, Cornell welcomed 62 students from the Universidad de Puerto Rico this semester with free tuition, room and board.
Upon arrival, a number of students indicated concerns regarding both the weather and the workload, as previously reported by The Sun.
Looking back on her semester, UPR sophomore Belma Sandoval-Caraballo noted that “Cornell and UPR are two very different schools and the transition was not easy.”
“Making new friends, getting used to the weather and trying to participate in as many social activities as possible while trying to do great on your classes is not easy,” she said.
UPR junior Vilmarie Jimenez Garcia echoed Sandoval-Caraballo’s thoughts.
“When prelims and assignments started kicking in at once, I found it so hard to keep up with classes,” she said. “I really thought that I wouldn’t be able to make it.”
Although students cited Cornell’s amount of workload as a challenge, many also noted Cornell’s benefits.
“Cornell has provided me with some amazing resources that I won’t have when I come back [to the Universidad de Puerto Rico],” said UPR sophomore Jose de Jesus Szendrey, referring to the multiple teaching assistants in classes and Cornell’s libraries.
“Students have a lot of resources for success compared to our school,” said Sandoval-Caraballo. “For example, in my campus, UPR-Mayagüez, the library has been closed for over a year because it was damaged prior to the hurricane, and the hurricane worsened the situation.”
UPR junior Lianis Marrero Mendez also expressed that having advisors, T.A.s and mentors had been very helpful, specifically noting her relationship with her public policy professor, Jamila Michener.
“She challenges students to fix current problems and encourages us to develop pathways of how policy can change or improve the world we live in,” Marrero Mendez said. “Moreover, since I met her, she really demonstrated that she cared about Puerto Rico and that’s something I personally value. Throughout my journey, I will always remember her.”
Multiple other students also noted the impact of their professors in their experience at Cornell.
“Amazing is the only word that’s able to describe this experience. It’s been full of academic challenges that the University of Puerto Rico has prepared me for,” said de Jesus Szendrey. “Professors have been very caring and engaging in my classes. It’s [an experience] I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and it has definitely changed and influenced [me] in a positive way.”
Sandoval-Caraballo expressed her gratitude for her semester at Cornell, despite all the challenges her months in Ithaca brought.
“I am truly grateful to Cornell for this experience,” she said. “Thank you for a warm welcome in the cold Ithaca weather!”