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What Does It Feel Like to Attend Cornell?

Posted: 08/20/2012 1:44 pm

This question originally appeared on Quora.
2012-08-20-esowers1.jpeg
By Elizabeth Sowers, Current Cornell Student

Attending Cornell, I suspect, is much like attending other high-ranking universities - a large amount of work, intermittent periods of quiet and intensity around exam times, and an environment of a diverse group of people who are all striving to the same high-standard that you are being held to. So, in terms of feelings: stressful.

What I feel makes attending Cornell feel different from attending other universities are the following:

  • The physical environment: It's been said, Ithaca is Gorges. If you don't know what that means, there are gorges (waterfalls) running throughout the campus. I walked across one everyday of my freshman year in order to get to class. Sometimes, I took it for granted and didn't give it a second glance, but every once in a while, you'll catch someone staring at the water and it reminds you - you're in a beautiful place. The terrain of Ithaca is very humbling in its beauty. That's definitely a "Cornell" feeling."
  • The atmosphere: While you do walk around and see the "typical" Northeastern style - collared shirts, white pants, sweaters around the neck - it's easy to forget that you're in a privileged community at Cornell. You go to class every day, and you have to walk, up a slope, if you're an West Campus resident. You have to deal with insane workloads and deadlines that are definitely not made to make you feel pampered. There's no mall, no department store. Luxury may not be lacking on campus, but it's not readily available. Life at Cornell is not one of rest and relaxation. Cornell pushes you - whether you're just walking to class or actually taking a final. Because of this, I feel like Cornell makes me feel deserving, because I work for what I get and everyone else does too. Nothing is handed over to you, and that's actually quite nice in hindsight.
  • Unfortunately, sometimes you can also feel isolated at Cornell, but only if you make it so. It's huge university with so many people to meet, but it is in the middle of New York's vast upstate countryside. If you don't take the time to be outgoing, you might feel lost and alone. Big city kids can adjust to life in Ithaca, but sometimes, it's just not the right fit. On the flip side of that, being in the middle of nowhere forces you to take advantage of the people around you. Cornell's immense size and endless opportunities to meet new people can make one feel eternally included. There is an endless supply of new friends ready to be made. Even off campus, I've ran into Cornell people everywhere I go, and that's a really great experience.

So how does it feel to attend Cornell over all? I generally feel grateful. You're at a world-class university with stunning landscapes and intellectual inhabitants. It's an opportunity of a lifetime.

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