April 30, 2023

CHASEN | An Unexpected Outlet

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Over the course of my time here in Ithaca, I have seen how Cornell provides so many opportunities to pursue your passions, both inside and outside the classroom. Yet, I have also seen the ways we can feel shoehorned into taking specific classes, pursuing certain courses of study or applying for certain clubs solely for perceived professional benefits. 

As I have argued throughout this column, I believe it is critically important to have an outlet where one can have fun and pursue a passion just for the sake of it. It can be an outlet for your creativity or a place to reconnect with old friends while making new ones. In the end, having an outlet for our joys and frustrations is what keeps us sane.

Furthermore, I believe it is especially important to keep your outlets away from your chosen college or field of study. It allows for a change of pace that I believe is necessary to return to academics with the energy and purpose required of us here at Cornell. 

Lastly, when it comes to your outlet, I’d encourage you to expect the unexpected. Your outlet doesn’t have to be the first club you join, or even the second or third. It can be something you find right away, or something that switches throughout your four years in Ithaca.

I was fortunate that one of my outlets came to me relatively quickly, and unexpectedly, as a freshman. At the suggestion of someone I had met in a different club, I showed up for the first time to a Cornell International Affairs Society meeting, despite knowing no one there and having never participated in Model UN in high school. Yet, I stayed because I quickly realized that unlike many clubs on campus, CIAS was not about how much experience you had or what was on your resume. It was about building community and utilizing Model UN as a creative outlet for any topic members might want to engage with.

As a result, I stayed involved in CIAS through my four years, even through the pandemic, because that community was so strong. I helped run our collegiate Model UN conference, the Cornell International Affairs Conference, first as Director of Finance and later as Chief of Staff. And last weekend, I participated in a Model UN conference for the final time at the conference we put on for high schoolers around the world, the Cornell Model United Nations Conference

Throughout my time in CIAS, the most important and unexpected thing I have learned is how to use creativity as an outlet. During my two times as Crisis Director at CMUNC, when I plotted a direction for a committee that may or may not be related to the UN, I have learned to better respond on my feet and adjust on the fly to the direction delegates wanted to take the committee. This has led to truly unexpected outcomes. When I ran a committee on the administration of President John F. Kennedy at last week’s conference, we were all charged with creating an alternate history of the 1960s. This led to delegates running for president as Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali becoming the first man on the moon. 

I say all of this not to endorse CIAS as an organization, or tell you what organizations to join as a freshman or sophomore, but to emphasize how important it is to have your community. As a student in the Dyson School, I would have never expected to get so involved in Model UN. But I stayed because of the people I met and the lifelong friendships I made. Whether directly or indirectly, my college experience would have been completely different without CIAS, and the people I lived with and engaged with on a daily basis.

So, I ask you to keep an open mind, because your outlet can come from so many different places on this campus. There are so many amazing people doing so many different things, so there is bound to be something for everyone. And once you find your outlet, it will change your college experience forever.

Isaac Chasen is a senior in the Dyson School. He can be reached at [email protected]. Cut to the Chase runs every other Sunday this semester.