So this is how it ends. Not in the blistering heat on Schoellkopf field surrounded by all the people we love, but alone in our bedrooms amidst a global pandemic watching a nearly hour-late Swae Lee gyrate through our computer screens on funds we never asked to be spent, following some fighting kangaroos. Things could be better. This is not what I expected. Then again, so little of college turned out as expected.
Correction: A previous version of this column made incorrect claims about Dan Schneider. The article has been updated. In the pilot of Victorious, the titular character, Tori, is thrust onto stage at a showcase for a performing arts high school she does not attend by a guidance counselor who does not know her and has literally no incentive to do so. As the spotlight hits Tori, she looks fearful and timid, although she’s probably pissed because all she was trying to do was support her comedically untalented sister, Trina. And she would have never come had she known that Trina would be unable to perform and despite flat-out refusing to sing in Trina’s place and trying to run away, she would be physically restrained and forced on stage by a guidance counselor who, based on his judgment in their brief encounter, should not be giving guidance to anyone.
For the uninitiated, EAS 1540: Introduction to Oceanography is Prof. Bruce Monger’s, earth and atmospheric sciences, 1000-level introductory science course of over a thousand students, #8 on Cornell’s 161 and an easy A for the scientifically challenged trying to fulfill distribution requirements. No one takes Oceans as a senior because their career path took a turn for the nautical or because of a deep, latent love for the sea, especially not an ILRie who barely survived high school biology. So how did I find myself doing Oceans homework on a Friday night, crying about the environment? My first semester at Cornell, I joined the University Assembly, where I sat next to Prof. Robert Howarth, ecology and evolutionary biology. To freshman Sarah, this was nothing short of insane, because I had cited his research on methane in a high school debate case just a few months prior, and now we were discussing the implications of Cornell’s 2035 Climate Neutrality Plan.
Oh no! Your cool, sleek, highly addictive flash drive of fun has gotten a generation hooked on nicotine and one step closer to death. And now everyone, including Walmart, the President, New York State and China, is sick of your shit. Who would have thought? Certainly not you, who launched the Juul with a “patently youth-oriented” campaign with young models and influencers in a social media frenzy.
Hello, Josh. You thought I would let you smoothly transition to campus, uscathed by the burden of a strange, washed-up older sister? Or that I wouldn’t use the first line of my first column of my senior year to grant you the public embarrassment of your name printed in The Sun for all of campus to see? You really thought. Welcome to Cornell, my dearest brother.
When I was in elementary school, my mom tried to pack me Korean food for lunch. The ensuing judgemental glances and whispers about my “stinky food” in the cafeteria prompted me to march home and shut that down. From then on, I brought white lunches to school and ate Korean dinners at home. Growing up Asian in a primarily white town, I was surrounded by people whose understanding of my culture was limited to math, tiger parents and Kim Jong-il. In order to fit in, I suppressed the parts of my identity that made me different and I never really gave it much thought until joining a Facebook group called Subtle Asian Traits.
This past summer, I worked for Jeff Sessions in the Justice Department and exited the comfort of my liberal bubble for the first time in my life. Working with members of the Trump administration forced me to grapple with my prejudice as I really engaged with the other party. While it didn’t actually change my views, it helped me better understand the perspectives of people who cared just as much about the well being of people in this country and people who decided to dedicate their lives in pursuit of that cause. On this campus, we are so quick to write off someone based on party and so disinclined to actually listen and engage. The issue of free speech on college campuses arose in the 1960s when it was the students who pushed administrators for greater rights.
Welcome to Cornell, little lady! It wasn’t so long ago when we met sharing a hotel room at high school debate states as your freshman self pressed me with questions about public speaking and research tips. Throughout the next few years, as your questions shifted from debate strategies to boy drama to high school classes to college applications to Cornell course selection, I have been lucky enough to watch you grow as your debate mom, and I can’t be more proud of all you’ve accomplished. Although I’m going to have to respectfully decline your real mom’s offer to pay me to babysit you here, I wish you the most incredible Cornell experience and hope to impart some washed up upperclassman insight. When I arrived in my Donlon dorm, I was ready for college to be everything modern media and peppy tour guides nationwide promised it would be: transformative, enlightening and the best time of my young life.
Last week, in a moment of hunger and desperation, I went to Okenshields. Like most members of our campus, I had written-off this meme of a dining hall. Thanks to my pecuniary-minded friend, Gabe, I put some faith in “A Night of Chocolate and Intuitive Eating.” [For those who know what “intuitive eating” means, I would love some clarification because nothing about Okes is intuitive]. For the uninitiated, Okenshields is a medieval-style dining hall at the heart of campus named after a Lord of the Rings dwarf, guarded by the happiest man at Cornell, filled with gothic chandeliers boasting an sundry assortment of salad, grains and Asian food with walls covered in black and white photos of Cornell’s history and 2000s throwbacks booming from the ceiling. And they take swipes.