As the Class of 2021 exits their final Zoom classes and bids farewell to their favorite spots on campus, seniors reflect on an unusual last year while looking ahead to their next chapter –– one marked by increased competition as COVID restrictions ease.
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.
As I look toward the semester ahead and consider how I should spend my last semester at Cornell, I realize how much has changed over the past three years of my time here. Most notably, so many on- and off-campus premises continue to be newly established or demolished that I may not even recognize Cornell three years from now. Renovations in Rand Hall have finally been completed almost three years after a car crashed into the building during my freshman year. Long-time Collegetown restaurants such as Aladdin’s have gone out of business and new apartment complexes are constantly under construction. Personally, I have stretched myself far and wide to adjust to new situations as they arise.
The first day of my last year at Cornell began with me co-leading a tour of first-years around campus. To be totally honest, I thought it was a pretty dreadful idea for me to be the co-lead for the tour, mostly because I have a rather unpopular opinion of the comings and goings around campus. Duffield Hall? Best place on campus in my eyes. My engineering friends think it’s a miserable wreck of a place that sucks the soul out of them, but I think it’s a quirky cross between the glassy exterior you find in extravagant skyscrapers, and the plush interior of stylish hotels.
Well, we made it. We have at long last reached the end of the road. It was a tough journey, certainly not one for the faint of heart, but despite all the pain, I believe it was worth it. This right here is my last column. As I sit write, I have to admit I’m glad I decided to go to Olin to do this because I can already feel the emotions that would no doubt have poured out in the form of tears if I wasn’t in a public place.
My senior year of college has been a whole lot of “lasts” that happened without me even realizing them. I slammed down my pencil and released a big sigh as I submitted my last prelim without noting it was my last. My last Ithaca snow — dreadfully late into spring — fell onto my unsuspecting head without any consideration for how this would never happen again. When would be my last time crying in office hours? My last all-nighter, making ramen and a soft-boiled egg at 3:00 a.m.?
A year ago, I promised myself that my last semester at Cornell would be chill. Every time I sat in the physics learning center staring blankly at yet another problem about a skydiver jumping out of a plane, I would calm my inner rage and frustration by assuring myself that I would get a nice, well-deserved break to round off my senior year. I had heard one too many stories about students taking just 12 credits in their last semester, most of which were an assortment of “comically easy” classes that one could “get an A+ in by only attending the final” (I’m quoting directly from RateMyProfessor here). I couldn’t wait to answer the notorious “how is your semester going?” question honestly, and maybe even remember what it felt like to not be perpetually tired. Well, that didn’t work out at all.
We had four hours on the road before we had to officially call ourselves final semester seniors. The road was a safe haven — if you didn’t look at the hills of snow everywhere, spindly trees and the depressingly gray sky. Still, we were safe. “Would your freshman year self have thought you would be where you are now?”
I let that question linger in the car for a while my friend and I both thought about it. I could feel that we were both rewinding ourselves back to the first day we stepped into our respective dorms. Me, sweaty and wearing my sister’s striped T-shirt.