Sunday, July 18, 2010

I'm Back on the Beaten Path

The tables have turned and I feel like I’m in a foreign place now that I’m home. Cornell had become my home after three wonderful weeks there. I knew the lay of the land (on the North and Central Campuses anyway) and Donlon had become my house. I had fallen into a niche at Cornell that it will be difficult to get out of. No more will I have Jim just three doors down, or Jordan at the end of the hall. I won’t be able to barge into Chris’ room only to find out that Forrest is the only one home. So many things that I used to take for granted are no longer applicable to my life. I shall miss my Cornell life dearly and hope to return one day, whether I am enrolled there or just visiting.

My experience has taught me so much. I think that the number one thing that I’ve learned is perseverance. Whether I was in an airport for nearly a day or trying to read and comprehend John Stuart Mill, I just kept telling myself to persevere and keep working. This was especially important. I needed to make reading my number one priority. Even though it was hard sometimes, I still did it so that I could be prepared for the next day of Prof. K’s class. Perseverance also has social applications. You can’t just introduce yourself to someone and then say that you know them. You have to keep interacting with people and spend time getting to know them on the inside. For example, I spent a countless amounts of time with Jordan and Kelsey and we became excellent friends. I was in Jordan and Andrew’s room so much I felt like their roommate! I think that even though I didn’t meet a lot of new people, I got a better experience because I really got to know them. The connections you make with people are really what make the experience and I’m really glad I connected with all of the people I met

I’ve also learned the valuable skill of time management. College work takes a long time to complete and you can’t always just sit down and do it. I learned that you need to take breaks about every hour. I would always cherish the twenty minute breaks I took with Andrew Woo and Jordan to play Frisbee. I was able to clear my head and get some much-needed exercise at the same time. A good balance of work and fun is a necessity if one is to succeed in a college course. If I didn’t find a balance, I’m sure I would have gone insane.

I heard this a lot before we left, but I didn’t realize how serious the statement actually was: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If I hadn’t asked for help from my TA, Simon, I would not have understood a lot of what I needed to know for the exams. I spent a lot of time at office hours, whether it was to ask a question about a paper or just to shoot the breeze with Simon. That is one thing that I would stress a lot to any future Freedom and Justice scholars: take advantage of office hours. Another part of asking for help is studying in groups. We did this before we left and during the course; therefore, we already knew how to work in a group efficiently (that was a subtle Plato joke for those of you who didn’t take the course). I’m really glad I had Simon as a TA because he was helpful, but he left it up to you to figure out the answer(s) to your question(s).

I definitely feel like I have grown as a person. Three weeks away from your parents can do wonders for a feeling of independence. Being on your own (for the most part) really makes you face obstacles in a new way. These obstacles are mostly decision-related, but it still gives you a feeling of freedom nonetheless. If something were to have happened, I would have had to take full responsibility and that really makes you rethink the decisions you make. Plus, being in a dorm by yourself at night gives you a lot of time to think about who you really are and what you want to make of yourself in the coming weeks and even the coming years. That was the case for me anyway.

I would like to thank our wonderful chaperone, Ms. Kaplan, for making this excursion that much more informational and fun. She made the effort to be involved in our experience, even when we were not outside the classroom. She was always in the back of Prof. K’s lecture hall, learning with us and being a part of everyone’s Cornell experience. The weekends were especially fun. I was readily accepted into “Team Kaplan” and the fun began immediately. Whether we were having karaoke sessions, discussing Prof. K’s lectures, or listening to what Ms. Kaplan’s day was like, it was always fun in Ms. Kaplan’s car. She really made this experience unique and fun and it certainly would not have been the same without her. For all that she has done (and put up with) for the last three and a half weeks, I can never repay you Ms. Kaplan. Thank you.

I would also like to extend my thanks to Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Don and all of the sponsors of the ILC. All of you have given my peers and I the opportunity of a lifetime. I can certainly say that I never would have had the chance to learn all that I have and meet the people that I have come to know like family. I need to thank Mr. Ramsey especially because when I was an alternate in the program, I would always hear from Ms. Kaplan that “Charles is working on it.” He fought for me to have the chance to go to Cornell this summer every step of the way and I can never thank him enough. Mr. Ramsey’s support has never ceased, whether it was in getting us our materials or paying for dinner so that we could meet with a college admissions officer. I was also fortunate enough to be able to “roll with Ramsey” from Hartford, Connecticut to Syracuse, New York. We had a lot to talk about on the ride over and Mr. Ramsey always made it interesting. I also need to thank all of the sponsors who have given my peers and I the chance to attend the prestigious Cornell University. I certainly plan on “paying this forward.” This experience was priceless (to say the least) and I would certainly never have been able to have these experiences without all of your support. Thank you all.

My short-lived college experience has left me wanting more. My life at Cornell has made me regret having to return to my old life at school because I know that high school can never live up to the standards of the fine educational institution that is Cornell University. I’m back on the beaten path of my home life now and things seem much more normal now. These three weeks at Cornell have really helped me ascertain what direction I would like my life to take. I know a little bit more about what I want out of a college curriculum, a college environment and the kind of people I want to be surrounded by. This experience has changed my life and I certainly hope others will have the same opportunity I had. Thank you Ivy League Connection for all that you have done for me. Cornell Summer College is behind me, my future is ahead of me and I’m signing off.


  1. I am very proud of you, Alex. And I can't wait for you to go to college and let me know the direction of your life. Thanks for letting me in on a part of it.
    Ms. K

  2. Hi Alex! It has been great getting to know you better over these three weeks as a close friend and I can't wait to see you at debate camp.