May 3, 2022

AGGARWAL | To All Who Listened

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At Cornell, the majority of students pursue a STEM degree. These fields are typically grouped together because they share a fondness for objectivity. Not to say that economics or linguistics do not have exact answers, but STEM field studies often stand apart in their pursuit of objective truths, be it in physics or algebra or computer science. As a student of computer science myself, I have experienced this desire for objectivity and exactness. 

But, that is what has been so particularly rewarding about being an opinion columnist for The Sun this year. It has truly been my first experience in forming and cultivating my own opinions — sharing my own perspective on topics ranging from farmers’ markets to course enrollment caps to reflecting on my four years here at Cornell. While I continue to pursue objective truths in my computer science classes, I also enjoy fostering independent and opinionated debates now that I feel empowered to share my own thoughts with this outlet. 

My columns became the place where I could express views I had cultivated, but not necessarily addressed head-on, after years of experience living the Cornell life. As the comments on The Sun’s Facebook page have shown me, some of my opinions may have been controversial, but in writing those, I hoped to spur a conversation that encouraged contrarian thought.

Coming from computer science, I hadn’t always felt supported in taking risks and being creative, as you may have heard me touch on in my column, “Small Fish, Even Bigger Pond.” This column showed me that there is a way in which I could contribute to campus conversation and share my experience in digital agriculture to engender some much-needed discussion about Cornell’s role in our local community. That was not spontaneous happenstance, but rather the result of numerous conversations, personal brainstorming sessions and a fair amount of sheer belief that my efforts were going somewhere. The responses I received from fellow students and even faculty members confirmed to me the ability of ordinary students like myself to be creative, effect change and disrupt norms. Throughout this part of my journey at Cornell, I met more friendly faces amongst professors, professionals and friends of Cornell than I had perhaps in any other part of my life. And it goes without saying that I felt more supported by the Cornell community and the engineering community because of it. 

Through this experience, I realized there is an ethos supporting disruption, change and openness on our campus. Just as opinion columns encourage us to embody and own our unique opinions, I hope my journey inspires those who read this to go out and do something trailblazing of their own. Even when coming from objectively-driven fields like myself, I still tried to disrupt the status quo in ways that will stay with me for the rest of my life. 

To reflect on my time at Cornell so far is an admission that this part of my life is coming to an end. As momentous as this reflection is, it’s accompanied by the well-known feeling that it went by all too quickly. Cornell has been more of a home than I could have ever imagined. That feeling for me will be confirmed when I have to take my first steps as an alumnus. And though this parting can be sad, I have immense gratitude and happiness for the journey that was my college experience. Although altered by a once-in-a-century pandemic, it meant that we as students had to face more of life’s struggles in college than we perhaps anticipated. These ups and downs, highs and lows and the necessity for resilience are what I will take with me as I enter the next chapter of my life. 

Somil Aggarwal (he/him) is a senior in the College of Engineering studying Computer Science. He can be reached at [email protected]. This is the final installment of his column print(“Somil”).