Every winter, spring and summer break, Cornellians can be found around the world volunteering their time to communities abroad. Most students perform marvelous achievements, acts of good and return to campus refreshed to take on the next semester. Yet, at the moment of return, the coming home to Ithaca, we are forced to ask ourselves if our work was truly in the spirit of service and cross cultural exchange. This winter break my co-writer, a Cornell Traditions Fellow in the school of Hotel Administration, explored the complexity of cross-cultural volunteerism with the organization Unearth the World, a nonprofit that prides itself on its mission to provide both opportunities for service and authentic cultural immersion. In the spirit of service-based learning, we had been sent articles to prepare us for our excursions, ranging from country ‘quick facts’ to the importance of ethical photography.
Like people, there are tourist traps of all types, colors, shapes and sizes.
For example, a restaurant that is sparsely populated with native speakers but that also touts a near-perfectly translated English menu is a sure low-grade tourist trap. If you have just ordered “crude ham with broiled cheese and salad green,” you will be paying too much for that croque monsieur, monsieur.
With its sweeping hills and unique architecture, Cornell offers a great deal of beauty for its students. But is that beauty enough to turn Cornell into a tourist destination? In The New York Times Travel Section from Mar. 1, Jane Margolies praised the Ithaca campus as one of five campuses that “have become popular tourist draws for their cultural offerings.”
Ithaca, as the urban capital of the Finger Lakes, is a common stop on journeys to the various vineyards and other local attractions for New York City residents, according to The Times. Cornell, as the largest attraction in the city, draws a large number of those visitors.