February 25, 2020

TAARIQ | Escape Ithaca

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As much as we love Cornell, many students jump at the chance to leave. Whether it is for a break, a semester or a whole academic year, many students take the opportunity to participate in an exodus off-campus and explore new and exciting places either abroad or domestically.

But can you really blame them? Imagine an opportunity to act like an adult but with a great support system, a chance to skip an Ithaca winter and spend our weekends traveling to nearby countries, or doing homework in a forest. Sounds better than trekking to the arts quad. Granted, studying abroad can be challenging for some, but it is important that we try to step out of our comfort zone and try something new.

For so many students, going abroad can be a life-changing experience that helps them solidify what they want to do in the future. I’m not saying that students can’t have a fulfilling experience at Cornell without studying abroad, but there is value in being somewhere outside of your norm. I have multiple friends who have gone abroad (or are abroad) that are so grateful for their experience.

Absetou Diakite ’21 shared, “I had a great experience in London last semester because I was able to gain my first experience working in a corporate environment. I had great leaders to coach me along the way and it helped me make sense of everything that I have been learning in my ILR courses.” Robert Sanchez ’21, who is currently studying in Rome, said that his “favorite part about studying abroad in Rome has been being able to experience the city in its modern and historical contexts and checking out the ancient ruins!” If you are interested, Cornell offers many resources.

Centered around the Office of Global Learning, there are more than 450 global learning opportunities in 80 countries and international services. The office is focused on “developing and supporting the next generation of global citizens by fostering mobility, exploration, and international and cultural exchange.” Students can conduct their studies in places like London, Nairobi, Beijing, Mumbai or Buenos Aires. There are five categories of program options for education abroad that students can participate in. Cornell Global Programs offer the opportunity to take classes at a center alongside students from other top universities. Cornell College Exchanges allow students to directly enroll in courses at top universities. Students can also directly enroll at a partner university where they can study alongside local students. Center-Based Programs let students take most courses at a study center and participate in extracurricular excursions and opportunities for on-the-ground experience. Lastly, Faculty-Led Programs are special short-term programs designed and led by Cornell faculty. In terms of accessibility, program costs vary, but financial aid goes with you and scholarships are available for students to apply for. Your college advisor is the key contact for planning your study abroad experience, especially in terms of what major and minor credits you will be able to fulfill.

In Fall 2019, I had the amazing opportunity to spend the semester living in Cornell’s dorm in the middle of Dupont Circle, Washington DC. “Cornell in Washington offers a transformative, applied learning experience where students engage with the most pressing issues of the day through dynamic internships, world-class courses, and community engagement, emerging as scholars, professionals, active citizens, and leaders.” During this semester I took full academic credit classes and worked part-time with a great organization. Through the program and through our own initiatives, the other students and I were able to experience so much of what D.C. had to offer. Moreover, we learned so much from the professionals who were invited to speak to us.

Still, this is a Cornell program and the experience was still challenging. Balancing work and school were a challenge, and I found myself constantly saying, “This 9-5 life ain’t for me!” I had to maintain my finances and budget my time. I would come home tired from work but still have to switch gears and complete assignments. I was also lucky enough to come in knowing one other person in the program, but that is not always the case. My biggest challenge, feeding myself every single day, became one of my strongest skills. The professors, staff, students and city made for some of the best times I’ve had at Cornell. I made new friends and contacts that I’ve sustained even after the semester ended. My favorite part of the experience lay somewhere between experiencing the political pulse of D.C. and frequent trips to Trader Joe’s. The professional side of D.C. is great, but it was also incredible to experience and learn about D.C.’s Black history. I would suggest this particular program for anyone interested in working in politics, NGOs and think-tanks.

Overall, I highly recommend students take advantage of Cornell’s resources, and spend time learning off-campus. Not only is beneficial to professional and academic growth, but opportunities like these can lead to personal development, and exposure to new people you may not have interacted with before. Many of us won’t be able to have an experience like this once we leave Cornell, especially with this University’s extensive network and resources to push us further. So, think about it: Will you take the chance to escape Ithaca?

Aminah Taariq is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. I Spy runs every other Tuesday this semester.