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.
On the evening of June 21, I joined thousands of other first-year Cornellians in a battle to access the crowded housing portal to see our housing assignments. After finally getting access, many of us flooded Discord chatrooms with messages along the lines of “What is a Hu Shih?” upon winning the lottery for a brand-new air-conditioned room.
Once all the dust had settled, questions like the one mentioned earlier remained in our heads. Though I will be a fellow Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall resident myself, I also wondered about the origin of the name “Hu Shih Hall,” the building adjacent to mine. The answer was easy to find. After just some simple Google searching, I quickly learned the significance of Hu as an individual and realized how fitting (and even overdue) it was to name one of Cornell’s over 600 buildings after Hu Shih 1914.
According to Cornell’s official news release, the buildings of the North Campus Residential Expansion were named after “deceased Cornellians with inspirational, groundbreaking careers and who reflected the history of Cornell’s diversity.” This is so true for Hu — so true to the extent that it actually surprised me to learn that Hu Shih Hall is the first building on campus to be named after an international alumnus/alumna, and also the first to be named after an individual of Asian descent.
I fumble with my keys and phone as I bundle through my building’s never-quite-closed front door to begin my daily trudge up what my roommate spitefully calls “the Himalayas.” Unsure if I’ve already missed my Mom’s drive to work — or if she’s running a little late like I am — I tap through my phone and hit her name. Cutting across an intersection with no cars yet still full of potholes, I hear the dial tone cut out and a familiar voice greets me with a stressed, but warm, “Good morning.”
I didn’t use to call my Mom while heading to class in the morning. It took me until a couple of weeks ago to realize that my daily climb this semester coincided with her daily commute. Unfortunately, it took me much longer than a couple of weeks in college to want to call home at all. For a long time at the start of freshman year, my family and family friends played a one-sided game of phone tag with me, with them always trying to get me on the phone while I avoided their calls like a distant deadline. In the past year or so, though, I’ve not only started to make those calls myself instead of avoiding them, but I’ve realized that they’re a harbinger of my overall relationship with Cornell.
A man seated at a nearby table during a Monday night chess tournament in my hometown spots my Big Red t-shirt and approaches me. With a finger aimed at my chest, he tells me through a crooked grin that he’s a Cornell alumnus. I tell him I’m thinking about a physics major, which is received by what appears to be a nod of approval as he quickly chimes that he was an engineer here. He proceeds to angle his shoulders parallel to mine, slip his phone out of his pocket, and swipes through his decades-old pictures as a Cornell student. I had barely told him my name, yet we were already peering into what appeared to be some of the best days of his life: him between two others holding drinks.