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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

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Student blogs


Houston, TX
Biological Research and the Health Professions
Summer College 2012
Hello, my name is Nico, and I've just completed my junior year at the Woodlands High School in Houston, Texas. I'm originally from Venezuela, but I've had the pleasure of living abroad my entire life in three continents and three states. I like to row and I'm currently a member of the Rowing Club of the Woodlands. I also love playing guitar.

For a while I've been focusing my academic interests in science following my decision to study medicine. I'm not sure whether I'd like to do research or practice as a physician, as I find both options equally interesting at this stage. This summer I will be participating in the Biological Research and Health Professions program and will be taking two additional biology related courses. I can't wait to move into my dorm at Cornell and I'm slowly but surely counting down the days until June 23rd.

In less than a week I'll be spending my first night at Cornell. I'm glad to have made it through junior year in one piece. Although summer's just begun, I can't wait to get back into the classroom as strange as that may sound. Lately, I've been thinking about what my six weeks at Cornell will be like. I've never been on my own for more than four weeks, so naturally I'm little nervous. As for packing, it's a work in progress. I've printed out a list of essentials which hopefully shouldn't take too long to run through.

I've never been to Ithaca before, but I have family in Upstate New York so I'm pretty familiar with the scenery. It's beautiful up there, especially in the winter. It'll be a nice switch from Texas, though it's too bad I won't be seeing any snow. I'm desperately looking forward to starting my courses at Cornell. Last night I happened to notice that my Evolutionary Biology class is from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. It should be a fun six weeks.

This place is incredible. It's everything I could ever ask for; good food, friendly people, nice weather (in the summer), and an environment where, after only a week, I feel comfortable and at home. I've been busy these past seven days, making friends, exploring the campus, and studying into the early morning hours, but it has so far been a great experience.

At first, I was disappointed to discover that I would be living in a single dorm for the next six weeks. I soon learned the value of a quiet place to study that doesn't involve walking ten minutes to the nearest library. Despite the single dorm, making friends has not been difficult. The people here are uncommonly friendly and I've even bumped into some old friends from where I last lived. It's unfortunate I'm only one of twenty five in the Explorations in Bio Research program, but then again it allows for a more personalized learning experience.

As for my classes, they have all been stimulating and enjoyable. I was surprised to see that there are no more than twenty students in nearly all my courses. I was especially impressed by Evolutionary Biology. I expected straightforward three-hour lectures on evolution, but was instead rewarded with deep, philosophical discussions on our individual perceptions of reality. And games. My professor, Dr. MacNeill, is a wily, energetic older man whose lectures are engaging and thought provoking, which makes up for the 6:00-9:00 p.m. time slot. It has so far been my favorite class, although Comparative Physiology is not far behind. It follows a more typical schedule, but both classes are still vastly different from anything I've encountered in high school. As expected, they're fairly fast paced, which means long nights and grueling mornings. Nonetheless, my first week has been spectacular, and I'm looking forward to many more.

These past two weeks have seemed to just fly by. I'm already studying for my first prelim in Comparative Physiology and have just about finished my first paper for Evolutionary Biology. Both classes have been keeping me tremendously busy, although it's not all bad. I found that dissecting Darwin's theory of evolution in a five page paper turned out to be a fun, thoughtful, albeit exhaustive, experience, though I'm still a little nervous about turning in my first paper to a college professor.

While not studying or working, I've been out and about with friends, exploring and discovering new areas on Cornell's beautiful Ithaca campus. There's a great cafe/soda bar in Collegetown called Stella's that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting the area. They serve some very neat custom sodas there. This week we also celebrated America's 236th birthday, which was accompanied by a friendly outdoor barbeque and some pretty spectacular fireworks in the evening. It was an inspiring event, and I was glad to have celebrated it at Cornell.

In addition, I've concluded that I desperately need a bike. This campus is enormous and since all of my classes are about a twenty minute walk from my dorm, I need a quicker mode of transportation. There are some scenic shortcuts I can take, but these require trekking uphill and I tend to find myself sweating by the time I reach class. I've also come to regret the decision of not bringing my guitar. I ache every time I hear a song I could play along to, but luckily I have some friends who brought theirs along. I'm happy to say it's been a marvelous experience so far, and I can't wait to see what's next.

All my three-week friends have left me. It was sad seeing them go, as I'd felt I'd established some close relationships in the time that they were here, although I'm sure we'll be keeping in touch. Fortunately, I am glad to report that the new rotation of three-weekers is very friendly. They remind me of my self, only twenty-one days earlier. One in particular looks like a lumberjack straight out of Appalachia and has one of the most luscious, dignified beards I've ever seen. He is particularly cheerful.

Work, as usual, has been keeping me busy these past few days with deadlines and prelims looming around the corner. Luckily, Summer College has presented its students with a variety of trips and outdoor excursions which are great outlets for fun and stress relief. I missed the Canada trip deadline, but plan on going to Treman Falls this weekend. It should be an adventure/action-packed weekend!

Only two weeks left and I feel like I've been here for just a fraction of that. The past couple of days have been spent in preparation for my second prelim which I took today. I was surprised and delighted to find the anxiety that had once accompanied the ordeal seemed to nearly disappear this time around, which made taking the test much easier. I walked out of the classroom with a welcomed feeling of accomplishment.

I also had the opportunity to visit Treman State Park this past weekend. This outdoor excursion was some of the most fun I've had these past four weeks. My friends and I stumbled upon this beautiful waterfall with a swimming area underneath that we happily took full advantage of. Getting such a direct taste of nature was almost therapeutic.

As for my studies, I'm currently working on the final essay for my Evolutionary Biology class. Although I'm glad it's the last one I'll be writing, it's sad that the class will be coming to an end next Wednesday, a week before all my other courses. As I've said before, it's been my favorite course this entire summer and I'm grateful to have been a part of it.

As this program nears its end, I'll have to start preparing myself for a shift back into my "regular" routine at home. Although I can't wait to get my hands back on my guitar, I have a feeling I'm going to miss Cornell.

This weekend, Balch Hall received what many would consider some serious reprimands, depending on how attached you were to the air conditioned lounge. Both public lounges in Balch were shut down because of apparent misuse, so my friends and I have had to relocate working spaces. Some ruffians somehow managed to break a sofa, damage a table, and shatter a chandelier. We've tried doing work in Appel Commons, RPCC, and even outdoors, but nothing beats the thermal protection and comfort offered to us by the air conditioned Unit One lounge we had all come to know and love. It's been an unfortunate, sweaty damper, but not all is bad. I've discovered that I tend to be more productive when isolated from the rest of the world, studying and working away in my single dorm. This will prove to be especially important in the coming week as I have a final to prepare for. My last Evolutionary Biology and Bio Explorations classes will be this week, which puts the end of this program into perspective. It's odd to think that in seven days, I'll be back home. Hopefully, I'll be able to make the best of my remaining time here.

It's hard to believe that I'm already home. Although I'm glad to be back in Texas, everything seems rather unfamiliar after spending all that time in beautiful, green Ithaca. I can't help but feel nostalgic when surrounded by old friends just after meeting so many wonderful people. I miss them dearly, but I know we'll keep in touch.

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to experience college an entire year in advance. I discovered a great deal about myself these past six weeks while studying at Cornell, like my newfound interest in evolution. While I'll miss Dr. MacNeill and his entertaining lectures, I take comfort in the fact that his class helped me attain a more informed perspective on the history of the subject and its implications. I've also learned that good friendships can be forged in a matter of weeks. I don't think I'll lose contact with the friends I made here anytime soon.

As life begins to normalize, I find myself being buried beneath mountains of work. College applications, summer reading, and job seeking have all taken priority as I try to sort out some sort of workable schedule for the remainder of the summer. School starts in just over two weeks and my two summer reading assignments lay in pristine condition, untouched on my table. Although I can't say I'm thrilled about the reading, I am looking forward to being a senior in high school and all the perks that entails. It also means I'm one step closer to starting college. As that time draws near, I won't forget the time spent at Cornell this summer and I hope to be there again next fall!