September 17, 2018

LEE | You Belong Here

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Almost a month into the fall semester, many students like myself probably find themselves questioning how they had been accepted here or whether Cornell is the right place for them. To anyone doubting themselves or feeling alienated, I want to tell you that you are not alone.

Thousands of Cornellians who have also walked along the Arts Quad know what it’s like to feel lost on this large campus. Walking home from Uris Library at 3 a.m. or watching the sun set on Libe Slope, we have all been worn out at some point. It’s okay to feel hopeless. It’s okay to ask for help or even just lean on a friend’s shoulder. To anyone on this campus who has had reservations about being at Cornell — from first year to graduate student — you belong here. You deserve to be here. Don’t ever doubt who you are or why you came here.

Most importantly, I ask that you look out for each other. Talk to your friends about the dreadful amount of work to do. Ask what their day was like. While opening up to others may be difficult, you would be surprised by the number of people who are ready to embrace you with open arms. Personally, I have always felt comfortable keeping things to myself, not wanting to unload my baggage unto others. But over the last couple of weeks, I have realized that so many people here at Cornell are willing to share the burden and listen to your worries. Everyone has a place at this institution, and the people here are there to prove it.

I encourage you to utilize Cornell’s mental health resources.  While these resources are a work in progress and have their own faults, Cornell Health’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) or peer counselors at Empathy, Assistance & Referral Service (EARS) could provide you with the support you may feel is lacking in this university. Mental health has often become a buzzword at Cornell — we talk about issues of mental health and the lack of help that Cornell provides for its students. Yet the concept is still largely stigmatized and is easily brushed off as just another way of “coddling” students who should learn to grow up on their own.

However, mental health is more than just an issue for young adults. All people in any stage of their life should heed the need to take care of themselves and look out for those around them. Mental health lies beyond the medicalized perception of “having something wrong” with one’s mental state. It is a discussion on the pressures and anxieties we face as students at Cornell and an understanding that support is available around us.

I also hope that you will not feel the need to succumb to peer pressure. For freshmen, you will soon realize that peer pressure in college is so different from peer pressure in high school that many neglect the fact that it exists in a university setting, often on a greater scale. On Ithaca’s campus, we students can easily get swayed by those who surround us 24/7. Notice what is going around you, but don’t forget who you are along the way. Think again before buying into what others say. Remember that you are your own distinctive Cornellian who brings your unique background to make this place what it is. Without you, there would be no Cornell.

I urge you to explore campus as much as you can. Walk along the paths of Beebe Lake in the brisk fall weather and listen to the sound of crisp leaves rustling around your feet. Wander around and find something new each time. For the first time last year, I had discovered the following inscriptions on the stone benches overlooking Libe Slope outside of Uris Library. Andrew Dickson White and wife Helen Magill White’s beautiful words have provided me with a sense of belonging at a time of uncertainty and stress. I hope that the following will do the same for you.

To those who shall sit here rejoicing,

To those who shall sit here mourning,

Sympathy and greeting;

So have we done in our time.