Welcome to Cornell, little lady!
It wasn’t so long ago when we met sharing a hotel room at high school debate states as your freshman self pressed me with questions about public speaking and research tips. Throughout the next few years, as your questions shifted from debate strategies to boy drama to high school classes to college applications to Cornell course selection, I have been lucky enough to watch you grow as your debate mom, and I can’t be more proud of all you’ve accomplished. Although I’m going to have to respectfully decline your real mom’s offer to pay me to babysit you here, I wish you the most incredible Cornell experience and hope to impart some washed up upperclassman insight.
When I arrived in my Donlon dorm, I was ready for college to be everything modern media and peppy tour guides nationwide promised it would be: transformative, enlightening and the best time of my young life. And so far, Cornell has delivered; however, it’s been far more complicated and messy than advertised. It turns out that there are whole swaths of college life that get glossed over by the glossy pages of Cornell brochures.
You will fail. You were quite the accomplished high schooler. When you put your mind and soul into something you truly cared about, you’ve almost always succeeded. However, rejection is going to be your new best friend. At some point, you will put your best foot forward only to be told you’re not good enough. You’ll be left staring at your foot wondering if you should have gotten a pedicure. At first it will sting, but somewhere between the third club rejection and the 30th internship rejection, you’ll learn how to deal with failure and it will leave you stronger. Fail often, fail freely, but learn how to pick yourself back up.
You will get sick. In addition to multiple run-ins with the Donlon plague, you’ll get sick of the cold, sick of RPCC brunch, sick of sweaty basements and warm Natty Lights. You’ll get homesick and long for your beautiful bed, petty fights with your twin, and the shared memories of the people you’ve known for the past decade. And when Cornell Health proves insufficient, you will need someone to lean on. It may take a while, but you will find people you can really call your own. And once you do, you will wonder how you ever survived without them.
It turns out there’s so much beyond the bounds of Short Hills. Be open to new ideas and new perspectives. Be ready to be engaged, be challenged, and be wrong. You’ll meet people with such different backgrounds and beliefs who will force you to question your own. And while it will be tempting to stick to your familiar bubble, if you venture outside of it, you may be so lucky as to befriend a farm boy wise beyond his years who grew up gay in the conservative center of Oregon and paid for his first year of Cornell by selling his pig or even a Ghanaian queen from Columbus who roasts you for your lack of understanding of black culture but makes you a better person everyday. You may also find a lot of people who will disagree that New Jersey is a suburban paradise. Feel free to cancel them on spot.
Join a cult. This may come in the form of a club or team or house, but if you are so lucky, you could find a home on this large and often lonely campus and maybe even something that sets your soul on fire. You could find friends you love and respect doing an activity that helps you grow and learn with mentors who support and inspire you. Go ahead, drink the kool-aid.
I’m so excited to spend the next two years with you wasting hours in Libe, going on midnight Wegman’s runs, and watching the sunrise after a night in the Cocktail Lounge. I can’t wait to show you to my version of Weehawken and introduce you to the absolute splendor of a perfectly clear night sky in Ithaca. Your next four years will be a delightfully surprising mess and if you ever falter, know I will be here every step of the way.
Sarah Park is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. S*Park Notes runs every other Monday this semester. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.