Floods, famine, power-hungry villains, war . . . all the makings of an apocalypse movie. Except, this isn’t fiction; it’s the narrative that environment and sustainability and other majors can begin to feel is unavoidable when faced with teachings about the dangers of climate change on a near daily basis.
As lectures come to a close and finals creep around the corner, many of us are preparing excitedly for what is likely our last social event of the semester: formal. Amidst the quest to find a sickening dress and killer shoes, I remind myself that there is yet another item left on my checklist: the quest to find a date. Formal, for me, is yet another opportunity to stress endlessly about my lack of a love life. A friend of mine recently relayed to me a piece of advice she had once offered: If you’re not using formal to scheme your crush, you’re doing it wrong. Seeing as I’ve brought a friend to every social event in the last two years, I guess I’ve been doing it wrong.
Pride fueled my strut out of Morrill 111. With a finished problem set in hand and bags under my eyes, I had just pulled off my first homework all-nighter. I celebrated the occasion with a hike down the Slope and a West campus breakfast. After all, while my fellow classmates slept, I worked. Impressed and gratified for completing this seemingly underground Cornellian rite of passage, I would heroically describe my feat barely fighting back a smile — only to resign to collapsing eyelids later that morning.
Oh boy, it’s that time of year! The familiar cacophony of sniffles and coughs echoes throughout each lecture hall, derailing my focus as I attempt to complete my 427th level of Candy Crush. Most of my floormates, who can typically be found occupying the lounge at 1 a.m. with CTB and chemistry textbooks, are now cooped up in their rooms, waiting for their illnesses to subside. Cornell University — filled to the brim with bustling, sleep-deprived students — has warped into a Petri dish of sickness and disease. But that’s not even the worst of it.
I once sat in on a college info session, where a stereotype named Jessica gushed about her love for the musicals she’d produced at her university. I don’t remember her major; I don’t remember the others who’d spoken on the panel; I don’t even remember the university where this took place. But I remember Jessica’s presumed willingness to die for her college, and the musically inclined students she led. I remember the life in her eyes when she described the fulfillment student leadership awarded her. It was a true college love story, which inspired and nauseated me simultaneously.
In the calm and quiet lecture halls and auditoriums, coughing fits exploded in 10-minute intervals. The sneezing and sniffles drowned out the professor’s voice. The unscrewing of water bottle caps echoed in my ears. Crumpled tissues overflowed the dorm trash bins. And before I knew it, I, too, was becoming a musician in this symphony.
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.
I’ve been waking up these past few days with the same strange, rare feeling — I am at Cornell and feeling motivated.
I call it the “beginning-of-the-semester high.” Anyone who is a human and studies at Cornell knows what it is: that feeling at the beginning of every semester when everything still feels possible, productive and hopeful. I’ve seen my friends (and myself) suddenly have the urge to make an omelet for breakfast and spend more than 20 seconds picking out the day’s outfit, then take the longer, more nature-filled route to the first lecture. Time and time again, I hear friends setting goals around this time of the semester, saying things like “I’ll go to class more often” or “I’ll coordinate chores with my housemates” or “I’ll try to cook more this semester.”
It’s strange how there’s a period of time when we suddenly feel like our lives are put together. Maybe it’s the freshness of a new beginning, or the promise of a rare week with no tests, but something in the air is different. Whatever it is, I like it.
It’s a Sunday morning and you’re hiking by Taughannock when suddenly you’re confronted by an eight foot grizzly bear. Before you can form a coherent thought, you find yourself fleeing back towards campus. This instinctual response, aptly named the fight-or-flight response, is triggered by a hormone released in situations of stress or danger: norepinephrine. A lesser known function of norepinephrine is currently being explored by Prof. Christiane Linster, neurobiology and behavior. Linster used behavior, electrophysiology, and computational modeling to research how modulation of norepinephrine affects the olfactory system, the sensory system used for smelling.