BackgroundInterview Date:June 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public school in the Midwest with a graduating class of 800 students. It wasn’t common for people to go to the East Coast from my high school. People wanted to go somewhere in-state.
Major: Biological Sciences
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in a sorority and I was an athlete for a while. I’m interested in joining an acapella group this year. I also do a lot of outdoor hiking.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
Usually there were chapters in the textbook that you were supposed to be reading along with the lectures. Then usually for the Biological Sciences classes you would have a lab that week, so you would have some sort of homework due for the lab. It wasn’t very intense, it was usually a short introduction to it. For Chemistry, we had the most work. We had two lectures a week and then also a little discussion course you could go to, then we also had labs every week for like three or four hours. Those lab reports could take a very long time to complete and there was one every week. That was definitely the most time-consuming course.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
For Biological Sciences, I thought they did a really good job with the classes. I loved my professors.
Can you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I would say for certain classes it’s more competitive. For Chemistry classes, it was pretty [competitive] because they’re full of pre-meds and everyone is determined to get the best grade. That does get a little bit competitive, especially because we’re all scrapping over the same resources and waiting for tutors, so that was a little bit of a less friendly environment. In Biological Sciences, I felt that everyone was trying to help each other which was really nice.
How accessible have your professors been?
My professors haven’t been very accessible. In those huge lecture hall [classes] they hold office hours, but when you go to the office hours there are a lot of people there so it is a little bit intimidating to try to meet with them. I did find that when I put in the effort to go meet with one of them for Biological Sciences, he was really helpful and willing to talk to me for an hour one on one.
What was your favorite class last year?
Comparative Physiology just because the professors were so awesome and I felt like I was a little more familiar with the material going in which was a lot better.
What was your least favorite class last year?
Chemistry just because it was really hard and I’m not that interested in it.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus? What was your favorite?
Freshman: Mary Donlon Hall with one roommate
Sophomore: I’m going to be living in my sorority house and I’m going to have one roommate.
Can you describe the level of safety you experienced on and around campus?
I feel pretty safe around campus, during the day especially. I’ve never felt like it was a dangerous place or anything like that. At night I would walk with other people. We have the Blue Light System, but like I would not trust it. One night I was at the library late and there was this kind of creepy character and he ended up following me home and I ran, I didn’t want to stop at the blue light because I thought it was pointless. That’s only happened one time and I’ve never felt threatened at Cornell prior to that or after that, so I think it was kind of a freak incident.
How was transitioning from your hometown to Ithaca, NY?
It actually wasn’t too bad. It’s similar weather-wise, especially in the winter. I was used to the cold and the ice. It is really cloudy in Ithaca and it rains a lot. I felt like I was missing some sunlight, even in the spring I was shocked at how gloomy it was. Other than that, it is beautiful. There are natural gorges running through it and lots of beautiful sites to see and hiking.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Viva, it’s in [Ithaca] Commons. It’s a Mexican restaurant that’s a border between a fancy place and a really casual place. You can go there for any occasion.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
The Arboretum, it’s technically on campus but it’s pretty secluded. I have never seen another student there. I like to run there. There is a really nice overlook where you can look out over all of the Arboretum at the trees and you can see the Lake and campus.
Pros and Cons of being in Ithaca, NY?
Pros: (1) It’s kind of a quirky place. I feel that it’s different than a lot of other college campuses and that makes it feel special.
(2) The [Ithaca] Commons has its own little culture to it, and there are a lot of events going on there.
(3) How beautiful it is there.
(4) I like how we’re not surrounded by another college. There is Ithaca College, but you rarely run into those people. I feel like it forces us into this community and we do have that sense of community at Cornell. The people you meet are the people you go to school with.
Cons: (1) The weather. It does rain a lot.
(2) It is really hilly.
(3) Getting there is a little tricky. Ithaca airport is more expensive and the next option would be Syracuse which is a pretty far bus ride away. When I travel and come into Syracuse, it’s a full day of travel, which is not desirable.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I really like going out with my friends. I think it’s a fun way to let off some steam from studying so hard. I think it’s a big part of Cornell, but it doesn’t have to be if you don’t want it to be. I have lots of friends who I got along with just as well as the people that I’d be going out with, but they didn’t go out. It’s a mix, and you see both sides of it everywhere there which is kind of cool.
What nights of the week do you regularly go out?
On weekends I went to frat parties. There was never a lack of places to go on a weekend. On weeknights there are a few bars that people go to. So, there were certain events going on if you felt like you could handle going out on a weeknight. I didn’t go to very many weeknight events just because I tend to have early classes with my course schedule.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
As an incoming freshman, it was a mysterious thing that was kind of a treat to be able to get into one of these parties. It was a lot of wandering around in Collegetown and trying to find your way to one of them and not really know what was going on just because we were so new. After rushing second semester, everything opens up and you get to know people that are in them. It becomes more of a really fun social event where you can see a lot of your friends out.
How happy are you with the nightlife? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m really happy with it. It’s not as big as a really large university’s [nightlife], but I think it’s the perfect amount. There is always something to do even though we’re not in a big city and we’re not surrounded by lots of bars. There’s always something going on, and there’s other stuff going on other than the nightlife too.
How did you meet your closest friends?
We were put next to each other in our dorm, which was awesome. We all lived in this little corner. We did everything together. We went to a Shabbat dinner together right off the bat, which was really fun. I was never worried that I would not have anything to do at night because every time I would go back to my dorm I would be surrounded by my friends.
How would you describe the social scene?
The social scene, in my experience, is more party-oriented. Going out is a big part of being social. There are a lot of date nights that happen for almost every organization, like acapella groups, sports teams, and really everybody. That usually involves some sort of drinking or going to a place where that’s the activity. I know there are some people who choose not to drink and they are just as involved and included and that’s awesome. There are clubs where there is a form of community around activities other than going out. For example, Outdoor Odyssey is a community at Cornell that’s more into camping, hiking, and stuff like that.
To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
In comparison to where I grew up, they are more accepted than I’ve ever seen or been used to. It’s really great and I really appreciate that about being at Cornell and being on the East Coast in general. I do feel like they can improve it. Greek life is a pretty White culture still and I would love to see it branch out. Hopefully, I can try to get my sorority in the future to be more welcoming. In general, I felt Cornell was pretty welcoming to everyone.
How would you describe the student body?
We’re pretty large and spread out. We’re a little bit divided on what our schools are and what our majors are. There are stereotypes that go with every major, like the pre-meds you’ll just see in the library along with the engineers and the computer science people. Our student body comes together when we have large events, like Slope Day.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Cornell before entering as a freshman?
I wish I would have known how demanding the classes were going to be because I would have definitely spent some time learning chemistry before coming in. I felt very behind in comparison to my classmates because everyone else seemed to take AP Chemistry and I didn’t.
What is something that a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
They might miss how far it is to walk from where you’re going to live as a freshman to some of the buildings. I think that could be a little deceiving, I don’t know if they bring them all the way over to where some of the freshmen live on the tour. Then check out the dorms, I would say some freshmen have a better experience than others because they were put in a dorm that’s more social than others.
What is something that we haven’t touched on that a person from a less represented area should know?
There’s a lot of people that come from New York City and it’s really overwhelming at first because it feels like everyone either already knows each other, knows of each other and has similar friends, or has participated in this totally other culture than what you’re used to their entire life. They bond over that and they can spend hours talking about the subway. At first, it gets really old and you feel a bit left out when they start going on about how they live in the city, but it does wear off eventually and just stick through it. It was discouraging to feel like I didn’t have this bond with people just because there are a lot of people from New York City or the East Coast. [About 31% of the Class of 2022 is from New York and 19% is from the Mid-Atlantic.]
Reasons to attend Cornell:
1) You’re getting an amazing education.
2) You’re going to make connections that you couldn’t at another school with the alumni opportunities that there are at Cornell.
3) Phenomenal professors and resources.
Reasons to not attend Cornell:
1) The schoolwork is really hard. You need to go in saying I’m serious about this and I’m going to buckle down and try not to get discouraged.
2) Definitely the weather.
3) Traveling there is expensive and a little bit difficult.