May 2, 2019

KIM | What it Means to Be a Transfer at Cornell

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It has been exactly one year since I received my official Cornell guaranteed transfer acceptance. I still remember it like it happened yesterday. It was a perfectly sunny day, and my close friend and I sat on my bed in my cramped dorm room at Case Western Reserve University eating to-go sushi rolls while watching The Office on my carefully balanced laptop. What had always seemed so distant had suddenly become shockingly close. Before I knew it, I was no longer strolling down Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. Instead, I found myself walking through the Ag Quad in sweet ol’ Ithaca.

Having Cornell University on my mind nearly every day for a year made it seem more like a concept that couldn’t exist beyond the confines of my mind. After watching numerous YouTube videos and drowning in spectacular Google Images, Cornell was a whole other world to me, with its beautiful gorges flowing through the campus, the numerous libraries and dining halls, the luscious, rolling hills and the breathtaking buildings basking in the rays of the setting sun.

Now, living in what was once a mere fantasy, I’ve realized how idealistic my Cornell vision was, but at the same time, I’ve also come to realize the real beauty that hid underneath the glistening panoramic photos. Being a transfer added a greater sense of appreciation for the typical Cornell experiences that encompass our youthful years in college.

My first year at Cornell was certainly tumultuous with its frightening rigor and unexpected twists and turns. Located on the West coast, home and family always felt a little too far. Maintaining regular communication with old friends became challenging. My academic and professional plans floated around. The windchill dried my eyeballs, leaving me red and teary-eyed as I walked between classes. Not only was the student population massive, but also the physical size of the campus was truly overwhelming compared to the smaller university I had transferred from. It was large to the point where I had to whip out Google Maps to find my way to class (and sometimes still do). I felt as though I was experiencing a sort of “Freshman Year 2.0.”

The transition as an external sophomore transfer was a high-speed, neck-cramping roller coaster with its corkscrew loopty loops and brief breathing periods of steadiness between each bump and mountain. I felt unprepared, timid and uncertain.

But beyond this initial fright, being a transfer student ultimately brought with it a unique experience that I’ll forever be grateful for. I was able to experience college through different eyes, and it provided me with the opportunity to appreciate the little things that I wouldn’t have been able to truly acknowledge and appreciate otherwise.

But even beyond the little things about the campus, the education itself really brought everything into perspective. The academics have been brutal but equally rewarding, and I’ve realized what a privilege it has been to be taught by such brilliant and passionate professors. It’s also been an amazing privilege to be able to learn about anything I could dream of, like human relationships or “magical mushrooms.” The opportunities are dangerously endless, placing me in an unexpected situation of having to limit myself.I’ve become inexplicably grateful for the supportive circle of mentors, advisors, peers and friends who’ve taught me that I won’t be alone.

Most of all, I’ve realized how much of a privilege it is to attend a university like Cornell. An experience like this is hard to come by, and I tend to forget that in the midst of organic chemistry prelims and 12-page essays. By realizing the enormity of student privilege we have, only then can we make our positive and negative experiences all in all truly memorable.

I don’t mean to say that my experience at Case Western was one of dreariness and regret. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the most cherishable and mind-opening experiences I’ve had. Now, it provides me with a bigger, more well-rounded picture of what college is really all about.

Alexia Kim is a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at [email protected] Who, What, Where, Why? runs every other Friday this semester.