November 17, 2022

CHOUNG | Popping the Cornell Bubble

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For the first time this semester, I will be returning home for this Thanksgiving Break. It’s a surreal experience for me: the thought of leaving our Ithaca bubble when this life has been all that I have known for the past couple of months is strange. Cornell has developed a reputation of being quite isolated; most students do not own cars and rely on public transportation to travel across Tompkins County. Outside of Tompkins County, there are miles and miles of land that surround us. Personally, I do not mind that Cornell is more isolated than other universities. The small number of restaurants and cafes in Collegetown guarantees you’ll find a familiar face in each one, and the thought of being in a bubble filled with friends and acquaintances is a comforting one. 

Still, it has been a strange reality that I have been living here. It feels as if I have one foot out in the real world and another foot in the reality we know to be the “Cornell experience.” I have felt very disconnected from the rest of the world and have only concerned myself with matters related to Cornell or Ithaca. Even the most recent election season has felt very distant to me, despite the best efforts of Cornell students to encourage each other to vote. It is as if I have entered a simulation game where I play the character of a college student, where the bosses to defeat are prelims and copious amounts of homework. 

All of a sudden, a golden ticket has presented itself to me. Now that an opportunity to leave has fallen into my lap, it feels as if I am exiting the simulation and reentering the real world. Now, I feel that I am standing at the crossroads of the two places I consider home: Cornell and my hometown. Both feel like fragile entities that can fall apart at any moment. I have started to establish a new home in Ithaca and the distance away from my hometown has left me in a limbo state where it’s easy to feel lost. My time away from my hometown has helped me to build an identity that isn’t based on old childhood familiarities but instead on new experiences that I have been fortunate enough to have. 

The idea of home seems especially relevant as we enter the holiday season. As we count down the days before Thanksgiving break, I have begun to reflect on what I have been grateful for the past couple of months and what aspects of my experience at Cornell has solidified the idea of home here. The daily routine of going to class, enjoying the natural scenery, having dinner with friends, late-night walks talking about life — all these little aspects of life here has created a comforting bubble. 

The bubble will soon pop as my flight leaves the airport, and the magic from Ithaca will fade as I enter back into the real world. Going back home means reconnecting with your childhood and viewing things you once took for granted from a new perspective. Home may not be as familiar anymore, but there’s now just a new aspect of it that you have the privilege to explore. 

Whether you are staying in Ithaca or traveling somewhere else for break, I wish everyone a restful break and urge you to reflect on what home really means to you. 

Adin Choung is a freshman in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at [email protected]A Dinner is Served runs every other Thursday this semester.