October 15, 2018

LEE | Making Cornell A Place to Call Home

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The other day, I watched the first episode of Reply 1994, a Korean television series that features students from various provinces who live together in a boarding house to attend college in Seoul. The first episode, titled “Seoul Person,” explores the sentiments anyone can feel about moving away from their hometown to a new city. I could resonate with so many of the scenes, and I’m certain anyone who has experienced moving to a new place or opening up a new chapter of their life would feel the same.

Just as one of the main characters felt lost trying to walk in between all of the people hurriedly strolling inside Seoul Station, I had felt misplaced inside Port Authority Bus Terminal two years ago when I first embarked on my journey to Cornell. Knowing that I wasn’t too good with directions, I went over how to get from JFK Airport to Cornell’s North Campus again and again before even arriving at the United States of America. Yet, all of that seemed useless as I found myself passing the same stores over and over in search of the Shortline stand that would sell a bus ticket to Ithaca.

I recall just standing in the middle of the bus terminal thinking to myself, am I fit to be here? All the New Yorkers around me seemed to be moving twice as fast as me. I appeared to be the only one that was out of place. I thought that some stereotypically friendly and talkative American would approach me as I was struggling to carry a suitcase my size but no, I was all alone. Before I had even begun my college career, I learned through experience that if I were to find a place to call home here, I would need to earn it myself.

Two years down the road, I think I may have discovered that home. Moving around from country to country, I had not considered a single place to be my “home,” so I never truly understood what “going back home” even meant because I just went to wherever my parents were at that time. But strangely enough, I find myself becoming more attached to Ithaca and Cornell.

Maybe it’s due to all of the time I had spent proving myself to get into this university, and then continuously questioning my place here. Through all the doubts and reservations I had about coming to or being at Cornell, I was able to develop a unique sense of self. I think there is no better place or time for me to be able to truly explore who I am and question my identity. And in that process, I discovered a sense of comfort and fondness for this place.

As much as I dread the unwelcoming weather and vicious hills that seem to constitute 70 percent of my Cornell experience and as much as I hate to admit, I think I have discovered the meaning of “home is where the heart is” here at Cornell. Much of it stems from the bond I have developed with my peers on this campus. Each of us come here with big hopes and dreams, unified under the name of “Cornellian.” We have left our family and past behind to struggle together to find our place in this world. And along the way, we have become attached to Cornell and Ithaca in one way or another. It serves as the stepping stone to our next phase in life or as a place to come back and reminisce about the “good old days.”

Despite all the issues we face on this campus that remain unresolved, there is one thing I am certain of. Cornell will be the home I can always come back to whenever I feel lost trying to find my place in this world. Because to all those who have come and gone, the memories and experiences at Cornell will forever be in your heart.

DongYeon (Margaret) Lee is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Here, There and Everywhere appears alternate Tuesdays this semester. She can be reached at margaretlee@cornellsun.com.