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LEE | A Non-American’s American Dream

Prior to coming to the United States for university, I regarded the American Dream as a far-fetched ideal that had little to do with my personal life. Taking part in Ellis Island role-play simulations in middle school and reading about Willy Loman’s despairs in Death of a Salesman made me aware of the disillusionment associated with the so-called land of opportunity. While I was able to appreciate the sentiments and discussions that revolved around this ideology that has shaped much of the U.S., I saw it as a distant concept as a non-immigrant foreign student expecting to leave the country after my student visa expires. But over the past two and a half years, I, too, have developed my own American Dream. Lively discussions across campus about social mobility and success have ignited a desire to work hard to improve my circumstances, who I am and who I strive to become.

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LEE | Put Students First

Cornell prides itself in being one of the best research universities in the world. The depth and breadth of research endeavors are true to Ezra Cornell’s founding mission of “any person … any study,” and its faculty are some of the most renowned scholars in their field. Yet, the emphasis placed on scholarly activities often come at the expense of student learning and experience. Around this time every semester, I am shocked at the number of Ivy League professors who put so little effort into their syllabi that they forget to change even the term of the course from Fall 2018 to Spring 2019. It is no secret that the setup of a research university enables faculty members to thrive so long as they are actively involved in their research interests and advisement of graduate students under their direct supervision.

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LEE | Growing Up While Growing Old

As we near the end of the fall semester and get into the mood for final exams and projects, we also prepare to greet a new year in hopes for better times to come. While the below-freezing weather or piling-up work are nowhere near festive, the lingering spirit of Thanksgiving along with holiday decorations and Christmas songs played in stores convey just the right amount of cheerfulness we need to pull through the few more tasks to be completed for the year to culminate. 2018 may have been a pleasant year for some, disheartening for others. But as we contemplate all the different events that have taken place within the last 12 months or so, we realize how far we’ve come to be who we are at this point in time. And whether we like it or not, we are growing up as we grow older each year.

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LEE | Immigrant Nation

A little over two years since coming to Cornell, I have grown accustomed to living in the United States and find myself having adopted several minute but quintessentially American traits. I now use slang or shorthand like “legit” or “lmk” without thinking about it, engage in small talk with waiters and walk around in the rain without an umbrella. These were all strikingly different aspects of American language and culture despite my 10+ years of being educated in international schools that follow the American curriculum. Although I wouldn’t consider myself American, I have adjusted to living in the U.S. and do my part living here as a non-citizen. Academically and culturally, I provide an alternate perspective for my peers who have never travelled outside of the country.

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LEE | A Case for Open Dialogue

One of the biggest culture shocks I faced coming to the United States was learning the term “political correctness.” I found it paradoxical that in this so-called land of the free people would euphemize and avoid using certain expressions out of a fear of upsetting others. I expected to be able to think critically and engage in open dialogue upon my arrival at Cornell. Yet, I could not help but feel as though many of my peers and professors attempted to protect me from what I could never fully be protected of. We condemn the numerous accounts of bias and hate speech that have taken place across campus and around the world. But we tend to forget that such actions stem from within our very own community.

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LEE | Making Cornell A Place to Call Home

The other day, I watched the first episode of Reply 1994, a Korean television series that features students from various provinces who live together in a boarding house to attend college in Seoul. The first episode, titled “Seoul Person,” explores the sentiments anyone can feel about moving away from their hometown to a new city. I could resonate with so many of the scenes, and I’m certain anyone who has experienced moving to a new place or opening up a new chapter of their life would feel the same. Just as one of the main characters felt lost trying to walk in between all of the people hurriedly strolling inside Seoul Station, I had felt misplaced inside Port Authority Bus Terminal two years ago when I first embarked on my journey to Cornell. Knowing that I wasn’t too good with directions, I went over how to get from JFK Airport to Cornell’s North Campus again and again before even arriving at the United States of America.

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LEE | Beyond Our Bubble

“Open up your eyes, Sarafina!“

You know those phrases that just stay in your mind forever? This one from the 1992 film Sarafina! has lingered in my mind ever since I watched the film during my seventh grade social studies unit on apartheid. A supporting character tells the main character Sarafina to “open up [her] eyes” — look beyond immediate troubles and witness the change that is taking place around her. Sarafina initially remained silent, until this turning point made her realize that she too needed to join fellow students and use her voice to stand up against racial discrimination.

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LEE | You Belong Here

Almost a month into the fall semester, many students like myself probably find themselves questioning how they had been accepted here or whether Cornell is the right place for them. To anyone doubting themselves or feeling alienated, I want to tell you that you are not alone. Thousands of Cornellians who have also walked along the Arts Quad know what it’s like to feel lost on this large campus. Walking home from Uris Library at 3 a.m. or watching the sun set on Libe Slope, we have all been worn out at some point. It’s okay to feel hopeless.

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LEE | The Tipping Point: How Gratuities Perpetuate Abuse in the Restaurant Industry

Many aspects of American culture are admirable, but there are also quite a few things that I find odd. For instance, why does the United States use Fahrenheit or miles instead of Celsius or kilometers like almost every other country around the world? Why are there such huge gaps in between toilet stalls? Why do Americans expect waiters to constantly stop by asking if they need anything? More importantly, why are customers obligated to leave an additional tip on top of the cost of the meal itself — one that constitutes a hefty 15 to 20 percent of their bill?

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LEE | Learning to Accept My Asian Identity

Prior to moving to Dubai, UAE in the middle of High School, I never really thought about what it means to be Asian. Even though the 325 million Americans tend to place the 4.4 billion people on the Asian continent altogether under one group as “Asians,” I could clearly sense that I was an East Asian minority in a country where the vast majority of the people were Middle Eastern or South Asian. I’ve also naturally been in a part of an international community throughout most of my life and was never forced to regard myself as different. Yes, I thought that I was international in that I strive to be a global citizen, but not in the sense of being foreign or someone “other” than the majority. Here in the U.S., I have become increasingly exposed to the different identities one can embrace.