December 1, 2022

CHOUNG | Reflections on a Freshman’s Fall Semester

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Alas, it is finally here. Just appearing right in front of us: the golden finish line, the acclaimed end to a semester of madness and chaos, the right to properly relax and enjoy ourselves during winter break, the wondrous, fantastic… finals season? 

It seems that after a semester full of prelims after prelims, Cornell decides to reward us with a finals season so horrible, it might haunt us throughout our break. However, in a mere short few weeks, the semester will be wrapping up, and I can say that I have officially made it through one-eighth of my college experience. It feels like just yesterday when I was writing at home about my worries about college, nervously anticipating coming to Cornell. I entered college as a freshly-turned 18-year-old, young and curious about what the world had to offer. I packed up my entire life in two suitcases and moved across the country to live independently away from any support system I have built up. Two thousand miles later, I sat alone in my dorm room, waiting for the chaos of O-Week to begin. 

August flew by and, in the wise words of Taylor Swift, “August slipped away into a moment in time.” The month was a flurry of late-night Collegetown runs, matching the wrong names to the right faces, frantically running around Central Campus looking for my classes and a sense of unfamiliarity haunting my every step. Having to find new friends after four years of being surrounded by great friends in high school was much more difficult than I had anticipated; I was always told that college friends will be your lifelong friends but I couldn’t find what I was searching for.

I realize now that friends are found in the most unexpected places and setting such expectations was bound to disappoint me. I found some of my very good friends just from attending a workshop together or from consistently seeing them at the Cocktail Lounge. Letting go of the mindset that friends can only be found through classes was instrumental for me in opening my eyes to the possibilities outside class. Classes only make up a small portion of our day; how we choose to spend the rest of it is an indicator of where we can find our friends. August was a period of new beginnings and reflective goodbyes as I started to settle into my new life. 

September rolled around and thus started the longest month of my life. It was a month highlighted by club rejections, venturing out into Ithaca Commons and late nights alone in my dorm reflecting on my life. Friendships felt so fragile and I was waiting to find my people, as all upperclassmen had advised me to wait on. The distance away from home felt further with each passing day and I questioned if Cornell was the right school for me. 

Then came October, a month when I reevaluated my goals and got closer to my friends. I freed myself from the mentality that I needed to follow other students’ paths and started exploring clubs closer to my interests. It’s easy to fall into the different pipelines that Cornell students pursue, especially ones that lead to consulting or investment banking jobs. Seeing the frantic scramble to join consulting and finance clubs only encourages this narrative, and I quickly realized this was not the path for me, at least not in my freshman year. I joined two clubs that I quickly became passionate about and dedicated most of my free time to. I was proud to be involved with these organizations and that I was able to find my own path through the muddles of clubs offered at Cornell. October was also a month of new friendships. I was able to meet so many new people and was grateful for all the experiences this month. I realize that happiness can be found in the small moments and sometimes, these moments are even more valuable than what people describe as the typical college experience. 

Before I knew it, it was November. This month flew by and I was able to go home for the first time since stepping foot on campus. Thanksgiving Break was greatly needed and it was my first time traveling alone. I recognized my growth in this moment and all the independence I have gained throughout the past few months. I’ve settled into a routine and Ithaca has finally started to feel like home. There are days when I still feel uncertain if I belong here and days when I desperately miss home. But there are other days filled with laughter with friends and late-night Nasties runs that fill my heart.

If there is anything I learned from my first semester, it is to stop expecting the perfect college experience and embrace the little bumps in the road. I entered college with a specific image of how my first semester will go, and I’m proud to say that I experienced something completely different. Instead, I got something perhaps even better, something that I didn’t know that I needed until I received it. My growth has been directly from the experiences at I have faced at Cornell and I wouldn’t change that for anything. 

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.