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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

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Student blogs


Toronto, Canada
The Individual in the Social World
Summer College 2012
Hi, I'm Kyleen and I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where I have just completed my junior year at Earl Haig Secondary School. This summer, I am taking The Individual in the Social World. I am really excited to study psychology because I have always wondered why people are the way they are. I'm a lover of good food, so it comes as no surprise that I love to bake and cook.

In my spare time, I enjoy reading, writing, photography, and blogging. As an active member of the school community, I am involved with many clubs and teams, such as the school newspaper, Social Committee, and the Dragon Boat team. Currently, I am on a mission to consume the world's best croissants. I've worked my way through many of the cafes in Toronto and I can't wait to comb through the bakeries in Ithaca.

I don't know how other school systems operate, but in Toronto, school doesn't end until the twenty-ninth. Right now, I'm scrambling to cram six courses worth of material into my head for six different final exams and I'm not going to lie: it's not fun. I'm three down, and three to go, with my last exam—biology—two days before I go to Cornell.

Between studying and stress-induced comfort eating, preparing for Cornell Summer College has taken a seat on the back burner. All I've done so far is pull out my largest black Heys suitcase and throw a couple of towels in.

It's kind of surreal to think that in one week I'll be four hundred kilometers and five hours away from home. Whenever my mind begins to wander as I stare blankly at my math formulas/chemistry textbook/French cahier/biology drawings/accounting worksheets/history notes, I find myself drifting up, up, and away to the faraway land that is Ithaca. I get lost in my memories of Waffle Frolic, a gastronomical waffle place my family and I frequented when we visited Ithaca in March. I close my eyes and daydream about Cornell's gorgeous campus and those three glorious weeks away from home.

Needless to say, I can't wait to set foot on campus and meet all the other CUSC students. Bringing people from so many different places together is almost like a psychology experiment in itself. I imagine it will be like the first day of freshman year—the slightest bit awkward, but buzzing with energy and possibility.

Here at Cornell, time never stands still. In my one week here, I experienced more than I'd ever thought possible. Each morning, I awake at 8:45 a.m., brush my teeth and get changed. Then I eat a quick breakfast consisting of a granola bar, a banana, and some peanut butter in my dorm room and head to my 10 a.m., psychology class. Cornell is a really large university, a fact that becomes inherently evident when you have to walk twenty minutes to class. But I love every minute of it anyways (partially because I imagine that my calves will be very toned after three weeks of intense uphill walking).

After the lecture with Professor Gilovich, we split up into smaller discussion groups with the teaching assistants and review the concepts covered in class. By the time class breaks for lunch, I'm starving. I grab lunch at Trillium and then go to a library to study. Not only are the libraries air-conditioned, but they're also devoid of dorm-related distractions (i.e. a random dorm mate dropping by to ask to go to dinner/Collegetown/Target/the slope/Balch together).

Besides the additional biweekly seminar, I spend the rest of my time outside of class. Some days, I hang out with my friend in the bright, airy architecture studio or study on the slope. My favourite room so far, is the A.D. White room at Uris library. From the plush, red carpet covering the floor, to the ornate railings and tiered book shelves, breathtaking is the only word I can think of to describe it. In fact, while I was studying there one day, a couple who were getting married at Cornell came into the room (decked out in a tuxedo and an elaborate white dress) to take wedding photos.

On learning that Cornell recommends bringing a bike to campus, my brother and father excitedly tossed my bike in the trunk of the minivan which we drove to Cornell. Naturally, I felt compelled to actually use my bike to explore campus. On Sunday morning, I finally got around to biking around Cornell. Honestly, I'm not much of a biker (or an athlete), but after a short stint around Beebe Lake, I wished I was. It's amazing how Cornell will change you.

The first thing I noticed when I got to Cornell was how easy it was to make new friends. It was like freshman year, but more awkward because no one knew anyone else. Yet, in a way, it was also less awkward because everyone was trying to make friends. The atmosphere here is amazing. Within a couple hours, I'd met people from all over the United States and the world—it doesn’t get much more international than that. Every day, I meet amazing people, high school students just like me, who can't wait to explore the world and all that Cornell University has to offer.

Febreze—for all the nights we eat takeout food, for all the sweaty socks we kick underneath the bed, for all the dirty shoes littering the floor. All I can say after two weeks of living college-dorm-style is that air freshener is absolutely crucial. My roommate Jay and I generally keep our room pretty clean, but it doesn't matter how spotless the floor is if it smells like last night's takeout.

Besides eating takeout food, this week, I: consumed an overly greasy (and completely overrated) Auntie Anne's Pretzel (because we don't have Auntie Anne's in Canada); cleaned out my wallet at Ithaca Mall (except nine dollars); watched fireworks on a random Monday night (or rather, tried to catch glimpses of fireworks through silhouetted tree forms); ordered takeout from the same Japanese restaurant two nights in a row (I think the delivery guy recognizes us—no big deal); went to a highlighter dance party (for about half an hour before I nearly passed out from the stench of sweaty bodies); wrote an awesome paper about resisting social influence (while allowing myself to be peer pressured into going to the highlighter dance instead of finishing up writing my paper); climbed a tree in the arts quad (which is kind of a big deal because I have an irrational fear of heights); learned how to (kind of) do the polonaise (it was a lot more fun watching you do it, P); rolled down the slope at night (twice); bussed all the way to Buttermilk Falls (only to return to campus immediately after setting foot in the park because of heat exhaustion); ate waffles drenched in maple syrup and melted butter at literally every meal (because I enjoy making waffles too much); and feasted on Insomnia cookies (and subsequently suffered from a mini heart attack due to deliciousness).

It's been an insane week, but I loved every minute of it.

For three weeks of my life, I survived on cafeteria food. For three weeks of my life, I shared a bathroom with several dozen other girls. For three weeks of my life, I slept in a strange bed in a strange room with a strange girl from NYC, a total stranger who has become one of my closest friends. For three weeks, I moved away from my parents, brothers and friends. For three weeks of my life, I lived the college life in beautiful Ithaca. For three weeks of my life, I was a Cornellian.

On my last night at Cornell, my friends Annie, Yu Ya, my roommate Jay, and I gathered at Robert Purcell after the talent show to enjoy our last meal. It was one of those dinners, the ones that seem to last hours in a happy haze. I was excited that I was finally done with school for the summer (if we don't count studying for the SATs and filling out college applications), but nostalgia filled me. I couldn't believe that I was leaving.

For all you potential Summer College students out there, here are some of the things I wish I knew before I went to Cornell:

That Ithaca is extremely hot and humid most of the time. My summer staples were shorts, tank tops and tee-shirts, and Birkenstock sandals. (I wanted to kick myself for packing so many cardigans, long-sleeved shirts, and shoes.) The only time you would need a sweater is when you're studying in the library or air-conditioned lounge.

That my ear piercings would get infected while I was at Cornell and that I would have to pay $75 at Gannett for a little tube of antibiotic cream that I could have otherwise gotten for free back home in Canada. (Shout out to my fellow Canadians: healthcare is expensive in the United States.)

That sleep is precious when you live in such close quarters with several dozen other people. Bring ear plugs and that sleeping blindfold to combat your roommate's snoring and the bright sunlight that pours through the curtains.

That I would develop a love-hate relationship with the waffle machine at Robert Purcell. I love fresh, crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the inside waffles, doused with a liberal pad of butter and drenched in syrup, and so having access to a waffle machine (that I didn't have to clean) was a plus for me. On the flipside, eating two waffles everyday for three weeks was not good for my waistline. (Extra tip: stir a couple tablespoons of milk into a ladleful of waffle batter before cooking, and cook the waffle for twice the recommended time for crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the inside waffles.) Also, there's a really good waffle place called Waffle Frolic in Ithaca Commons. (I'm going through waffle withdrawal right now.)

It's kind of strange to imagine that those three weeks of my life are gone, behind me, just a mere memory. I have the photos, the dirty laundry, and the Birkenstock tan to prove my time at Cornell, (not to mention my newfound knowledge of psychology) but somehow, I'm not really sure that I ever went or ever left. I loved my time at Cornell. I met some amazing people from all over the world that I would never have met otherwise. I made friends that I can't wait to visit. (NYC in August maybe? Biking in Europe next summer?) I learned how to live with other people and how to be alone.