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.


LEE | Embracing What We Have: Retain Distinct Colleges

I really complain a lot about Cornell. I talk everyday about how much more appreciative I’d be of this place if only it were 70 degrees all year long. I think about all the opportunities Ithaca would have if it were within a two or three hour drive from a major city. I relentlessly criticize Cornell’s lack of scholastic focus and corporate culture that streamlines students from info session to info session to job. As much as I find fault with many facets of this university, I do love the place for what it is.


LEE | A Note to Soon-to-Be Freshmen

This semester seems to have gone by faster than I would have ever imagined. The last day of classes is in a month and before I even know it, I will be done with half of my college career. It only seems like a couple of months ago that I received my acceptance letter from Cornell and was frantically searching through Youtube videos to see what Cornell’s campus and dorms look like. While the plethora of videos and pamphlets provided a basic sense of what Cornell University is like — its stunning gorges, amazing dining hall food, diverse student population, freezing cold winters — very few described the student experience. I didn’t know what to expect from the high school-to-university transition or how students discover themselves through Cornell’s often academically and socially overwhelming climate.


LEE | The Ideal Woman

The #MeToo movement and Women’s History Month have prompted me to reflect a lot upon what it means to be a woman. Hearing stories about how many people of my gender had been discriminated against, harassed, assaulted for being born with two X chromosomes sparked anger from deep within my heart. I wasn’t necessarily shocked. I mean, a lot of these accounts are what women actually face on a daily basis. I can still recall the exact moment in ninth grade when a man pushed his front up against my butt in a subway car, as well as how shaken I was as I told him to move over.


LEE | Home Safe Home

There are many aspects to “adulting” that I’ve learned over the past two years since my acceptance to Cornell. I applied for a student visa and traveled alone on a plane for the first time, set up and started managing my own bank account, signed my first housing contract with a landlord, got my first paid job, began to shop for groceries and cook regularly — the list could go on. I thought that achieving such milestones allowed me to become one step closer to adulthood, that I had done a pretty good job of making it through these rites of passage. I was completely wrong. One thing that I had discarded was a sense of concern for safety.


LEE | Sickness and Stress

2018 was going to be my year. This semester would be one where I would finally expand my network, get good grades, find an internship and just feel great about myself. I returned from a de-stressed break a week before school started to get over the jet lag and prepare for the upcoming semester, by planning out classes to take and striving to become a morning person. As the start of the semester approached, I began to feel tired and I developed a tickle in my throat. I was awfully exhausted on the first day of classes and had to drag myself to Cornell Health only to find that I had a fever of over 100 degrees.


LEE | Allowing Me to Be Me

Thinking this would pretty much be the last break I get to spend without being too fixated on academics or career-related activities, I had a very unproductive break. I had vowed to start prepping for next semester and to exercise more, but neither materialized as expected. But as unproductive as it was, I actually had quite a fulfilling break. For the first time, I had the chance to explore my hometown, Seoul, without being preoccupied with some sort of task like frantically trying to memorize SAT vocabulary. I also stepped out of my comfort zone going out of my way to get to know and meet new people.

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LEE | The Average Cornellian

I recently came upon my high school’s new Facebook page and browsed through to see how much has changed in the year and a half since I left. The administration had finally given into students and parents’ wishes for improved facilities because really, the ceilings should not have leaked  every time it rained. Along with the irritation I felt wishing such changes were implemented back when I was there, I spent a lot of time thinking about how much my own life has changed since I graduated. Like many other students here, I was the student with great extracurricular activities and good academic standing. I had big dreams before embarking on my Cornell journey.

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LEE | Why is Cornell So Bland?

Two weeks ago, my friend who attends Princeton visited Cornell to see me and another friend. It was during the middle of a busy week of prelims and quizzes, so I didn’t expect to be able to show her much. I mean what is there really to show around campus and in Ithaca other than natural scenery, the A.D. White Library and perhaps the Commons? What’s worse, the weather was forecasted to rain all week as per usual, and we were supposed to get our first semi-winter weather at around 40 degrees. As rain poured down heavier than I had seen in weeks, I thought to myself, “Why oh why did I invite her all the way here to take a two-hour train ride and a five-hour bus ride, only to see pretty much nothing in bad weather?”  Even my friends were surprised at the fact that someone would come all the way to Cornell just to see their friend.

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LEE | The ‘Labor’ in Industrial and Labor Relations

“This system of inherent modern day slavery was sure to have no end without fundamental solutions. This realization is what inspired me to pursue the study of the world of work to achieve my lifelong goal of improving the lives of others.”

This is a phrase from my ILR writing supplement for the Common App, submitted two years ago on this day. I stumbled upon this document last week searching for Common App materials that could be of any help for a current high school senior writing her essay. Rereading what had gotten me to this place, this utterly idiosyncratic school called ILR, I was nothing short of shocked. Surprised at how passionate I was, stunned by how much my interests have changed within such a short span of time.