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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

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Student blogs


Cherry Valley, NY
Veterinary Medicine: Conservation Medicine
Summer College 2011
Hello! My name is Emily and I live in Cherry Valley, a little town in rural New York. I just completed my junior year of high school and believe it or not I am very excited to spend some more time in school at Cornell University this summer! I have always had a deep love and respect for animals and the preservation of the natural world so I decided to attend the new program Conservation Medicine: A Veterinary Perspective. I work in our family business, Mossy Creek Boarding Kennel, and my passion for animals has driven me to volunteer countless times at the local veterinarian clinic. I also have a strong admiration for nature and enjoy high adventure activities such as skiing, kayaking, backpacking and trail running. Before attending Summer College I am actually spending a week canoeing and camping along the coast of Maine with my scout group. I can’t wait for the end of finals and the beginning of summer because I am absolutely thrilled to be spending three weeks at Cornell working and learning in the subject field that I love.

Wow, I cannot believe what I have been looking forward to all spring is only a week away! The summer seems like it has just started but the days have flown by and already it is almost mid July. I have been so busy the last few weeks after exams ended that I have not really had a chance to think about Summer College, but now that it has finally drawn near it seems to be all I can think about. My feelings are hard to put into words, of course I am immensely excited for the upcoming three weeks but I also have that soft hum of nervousness. 'What is it going to be like? How am I going to find my classes? Who am I rooming with?' Many panicky questions like these have been buzzing around in my head for the past few days, but fortunately I have two older brothers who attend college and are very helpful in reassuring me that you fall into the routine of things very quickly. It is going to be really interesting how different life at Cornell will be than high school, after this summer I am not sure if I will want to go back for my senior year.

Not only do I have a mixture of anticipation and nerves but I also have that confusion and anxiety that comes with packing. To tell you the truth, even though it is a week away and this week is a very busy week, I haven't even started to pack. I have no clue where to begin! I have to come up with some way to put all three of my beloved cats into my suitcase and still have room for all of my other belongings. I just hope my roommate does not have cat allergies. I plan to spend the next few days gathering up what I will need and hopefully in the process I will not forget anything. As the days quickly pass I am getting more and more anxious to make that drive to Ithaca and finally be able to dive into the classes and of course get a chance to try Cornell's famous ice cream.

Summer College is now a third of the way complete, and it is hard to believe that it was only a week ago that I arrived to the chaos of moving in. Between class and the scheduled events every night on campus, this week has been very enjoyable. The opening day went by quickly and smoothly. I met my roommate, attended the Welcome Program, and then met my professors. That evening there was an ice cream social, where I had the chance to meet many new people from all around the world.

I really enjoy my classes, which are interesting and a lot of fun. My schedule consists of lecture in the morning from 9:00 till 12:00 and then lab in the afternoon from 1:00 till 3:00. My professors are wonderful and very willing to answer questions and talk in detail about any area of conservation medicine you are interested in. We have already visited the Lab of Ornithology and also practiced radio telemetry by trying to find tracking collars that our professors hid outside. For lectures we have had many guest speakers who have talked on such subjects as veterinary medicine, animal morphology, endangered species, biodiversity, and ecosystem services, all of which have been very interesting and have given me insight into different aspects of conservation medicine.

Outside of class I have kept busy exploring the campus and attending events such as lectures and movie nights. There has been a heat wave this week, with temperatures every day in the high nineties, so after class I tend to sit in the air-conditioned library to complete my homework, and then I usually spend an hour or so walking the trails around the beautiful gorges. Saturday I went down to the huge farmers market on the Cayuga Lake inlet with one of our professors and several of my fellow classmates. It was a lot of fun because there were so many vendors selling homemade goods, farm produce, and foods from different cultures, such as Cambodian, Sri Lankan, and Chinese. My roommate and I also attended the “Wet and Wild Water Wars,” which was a fun way to cool down, and in the evening we walked to Collegetown to purchase bubble tea.

So far life at Cornell has been very exciting, and I am eager to see what the next two weeks have in store for me.

Well, my second week is coming to a close and what a fun week it was. I can hardly believe that we only have seven days left. Class was extremely interesting; we went over topics ranging from herpetology to rhinos to my favorite, parasites! We have had a variety of different labs, including visiting the Bee Lab and going to the observation room of the Pathology Laboratory. At the Cornell Bee Lab we got to stick our hands into a docile swarm of honey bees and we also observed the insects doing their famous waggle dance. One of the days we learned about herps (amphibians and reptiles) and we even got to handle live snakes and lizards. I also learned the interesting fact that birds are considered reptiles. Well as you can see classes have been great but in addition to class work I have had a very busy week exploring life on campus.

I spend my free time studying in the library, exploring campus, running and hanging out with my new friends. One day I went down to the Commons in Ithaca and walked around the shops and ate dinner out in one of the many restaurants. I have also attended the events organized by the RA’s such as Jewish food night and karaoke night. After eating Jewish food a group of friends and I decided to walk down to the clock tower and roll down the massive slope, we then ran back just in time to make nightly check in at 11 o'clock. It is very easy to find something fun to do every night.

This weekend, since I finished my final project, I plan on relaxing and exploring the trails of campus and then maybe later attending the Black and White Mixer Party in the formal lounge. It is a dance put on to give students from both Mary Donlon Hall and Balch Hall the chance to meet and socialize. On Sunday, my roommate and I plan on checking out the local mall and then going to the free movie cinema on campus. I am excited to see what this week holds for me but I am also a bit depressed knowing that soon I will have to part with everyone and leave Cornell.

I am overwhelmed with sadness now that Summer College has ended and I had to say goodbye to all of my new friends and professors. I cannot fully express how wonderful my experience at Cornell was. It feels odd to wake up in the morning and not head out to the dining hall for breakfast and then walk across campus to my class. It is amazing how quickly three weeks can go by when you are enjoying yourself.

My last week of class flew by in a rush between preparing for our final presentation and trying to squeeze in multiple fun activities in the evening. Conservation Medicine overall was an incredible course. I loved both the professor, Dr. Radcliffe, and the teaching assistant, Dr. Shultz; they taught me so much and they were always happy to stay after and discuss any areas of interest. They definitely made the course what it was, with their enthusiasm for the topic and their interesting experiences and studies. The past three weeks have really opened my eyes to the declining state of our world and to that fact that it is our responsibility as humans to take a stand if we want a healthy planet for our children. I am sure my family and friends are starting to get annoyed with my constant jabbering about the biodiversity of Earth and the different threats to our ecosystems. But I am now confident in the field I want to pursue and I am overly excited to further my education in veterinary medicine.

Finals, although frightening, were actually a lot of fun and very interesting. Instead of taking a huge test on every trifling detail of the course or writing an essay long enough to be published, our professors assigned us to groups to make a PowerPoint presentation on an endangered species. My group decided to research the Vaquita, a remarkable species of porpoise that I had no clue even existed until this project. I am very happy to say that everyone did a great job presenting and that I learned a lot from my fellow classmates.

Besides wrapping up class work, I have also had a full week trying to fit as many activities into my evenings as possible. To name just a few, I went with friends to the sociology building to view the collection of brains, I learned how to play the card game mafia, I watched my first Japanese anime in the Donlon TV lounge, and I attended another tasty ice cream social. Friday evening was a blast since everyone was relieved because finals were finally over. My roommate and I ordered Japanese food and had a picnic on the lawn and then we walked the 161 steps of the clock tower to watch the chime masters perform a concert and to see an amazing view of the campus. Afterwards we attended an end of the program Hawaiian themed dance and said our gloomy goodbyes to a lot of our friends. It was a really pleasurable way to hang out with everyone one last time.

Although I wish I was still at Cornell, I am just grateful that I had the chance to have such a memorable experience. I will remember all that I have learned this summer and will use it in the future where ever life takes me. I would like to thank everyone who has made this opportunity possible and wish all of my friends good luck in whatever course they decide to follow. Also, I would truly recommend Conservation Medicine to anyone who is interested in veterinary medicine or environmental sciences.