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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

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Student blogs


Old Tappan, NJ
Biological Research and the Health Professions
Summer College 2014
Hi! My name is Zach and I'm a rising senior at Northern Valley Old Tappan in New Jersey. I am enrolled in the six-week Biological Research and the Health Professions program this summer, and I will be taking introductory courses in biology and psychology as well. I am very interested in going into the medical field, and I love learning about both the natural and social sciences.

In high school I take many honors classes, I'm the president of the Chinese Club and an officer of the Environmental Club, and I love playing tennis and doing anything active. I train for tennis throughout the year, and for the past seven years I have played jazz, rock, and classical guitar. I'm super excited to meet a bunch of awesome new people this summer at Cornell, and I can't wait to learn about the topics that fascinate me!


That first week flew by fast! Opening weekend was filled with meeting tons and tons of new people, figuring out classes, and mostly just enjoying the social scene of Cornell Summer College before classes started on Monday. Moving in was super easy, and everyone seemed to be very nice and always willing to meet new people. The icebreaker activities that were scheduled for the students were quite fun (for the most part), and by the end of that first weekend I already met a bunch of new friends to hang out with.

My Intro to Psychology class was the first class I had on Monday morning. The professor is fantastic, and it feels more like a relaxed discussion than a college lecture. I love discussing interesting psychological phenomena in that course, and the textbook readings are intriguing as well. Comparative Physiology (my Bio course) was a lot harder though. The professor is very friendly and willing to chat after class with anyone about anything—the college process, previous science courses, even the best local place to get coffee! We immediately delved into the complex material however, and keeping up with the course was a little tough to get used to. Two of the toughest things about the class are the quick note-taking skills that I had to formulate, and the necessity to recall a lot of former knowledge from chemistry and physics. But overall, the material is fascinating and Professor Booker is incredible!

Pretty much every day after my classes finish, I am able to gather up a group of friends to hang out with and explore what Cornell has to offer. There's so much to do in Ithaca, and we even went to the local mall to see a movie already. On campus, there are loads of quiet places to sit and study or just talk with friends, and the community center next to my dorm has a bunch of cool things to do. The USA was playing in the World Cup a few days ago, and pretty much every Summer College student was gathered around the TV there to watch it. It feels like I've already known most of the people for months, and yet there's so much more time until it's over. I just got back from a party that the staff threw the students at a local club, and I am probably just going to hang out with friends tomorrow. I'm looking forward to going to Buttermilk Falls next weekend and finally being able to swim in the gorges! See you guys later!


I can't believe we've been here for a month! The six weeks feel like they are flying by, and I've already met tons of interesting people and done so many things around Cornell's campus. My three-week friends left last weekend, and it was really sad to see them go, but now there are a bunch of new faces around that I have yet to meet.

My classes have gotten a lot harder as the weeks progress, and each exam seems to come really quickly. I just took my second Psychology prelim this week, and my final Biology test is next Wednesday (which reminds me, I need to start studying!). Even in just these short weeks, both classes have begun to feel very close-knit and it is a lot less stressful during the lectures to be around people that I'm so friendly with.

Despite how hard the classes are, I've figured out that a regular routine of reviewing notes and textbook readings seems to keep all of the information straight in my head. It also helps that most of the information that we are learning isn't just straight facts, but rather fascinating examples from the real world. This is especially true in Comparative Physiology, as almost all of the practice exams and problem sets apply previously learned knowledge to new situations to truly develop understanding of the human body.

In my Bio Explorations class, we have had some very diverse people come in to speak about their profession. One of my favorites was Dr. Robert Shaw, a physiologist who previously worked for NASA deciphering the complex medical problems of the human body in space. He tested us on what might happen to different organ systems when in weightlessness, and it was really fun to see his amazing base of biological knowledge. Another exciting activity was the neurophysiology lab, in which we dissected crayfish tails and messed around with action potentials firing through an exposed nerve.

I've tried to see as much of the beautiful Cornell campus as possible, and I have definitely found some peaceful, picturesque spots to hang out in, yet there is still so much to see! I took the bus to downtown Ithaca this weekend and walked around all of the different stores in the Commons. It takes a while to get used to the bus system, but when you do, there really are countless things to experience in Ithaca. Next weekend I'll be going to Niagara Falls, which should be an amazing experience, but right now I need to focus on next week's Biology exam!


There's only one week left and I can't believe I'll be leaving Cornell so soon! The classes are all winding down as we get prepared for finals, and I will be sure to board myself up in my room to study these last few days.

After these five weeks of living together, all of the people in my group of friends have become incredibly close-knit. It's as if they are my second family, and doing things with them around Ithaca has been the experience of a lifetime. Last night after a barbecue at Treman Falls we even ordered 100 cookies from Insomnia Cookies! They barely lasted five minutes… (That must be some sort of record.). Even though there's only one week left, it feels like I have so much more to do around Cornell's campus.

My classes have become much more interesting in the past few weeks, as I have been learning some overlapping material. I really enjoy seeing the similarities between psychology and biology, especially when it comes to examining the physiological changes that occur after a certain command comes from the brain. One of the things I found most fascinating was when I studied the physical aspects of the stress response in Bio, and at the same time I was also learning about the different cognitive aspects of that same adaptive response in Psych. Finding the connection between my two classes has really helped me to view each subject more broadly, utilizing the different perspectives of a biologist and psychologist to get an overall picture of what is truly happening between the body and mind.

I've noticed that the professors here are exceptionally friendly and intelligent. Yesterday I talked with my Bio professor for over an hour, just discussing the physiology of nutrition and the college admissions process. It was really helpful and I now know for sure that I want to be at a place where the professors both know their stuff and are very sociable. But for now, I need to go focus on my finals! Until next time!


I can't believe I'm sitting at my desk at home, writing to you from good old Jersey. Coming into the program, I thought that six weeks would seem like a lifetime, but now I just wish I could spend a few more days with all of my Summer College friends.

Taking undergraduate courses undoubtedly helped me in my college search, as I now have a very different outlook on what I want in a college. Now I'm more focused on the quality of the professors and the friendliness of the students, as I've come to learn that those are the two things that will truly enrich my college experience. Additionally, I've discovered that the best colleges for me are ones that place a strong emphasis on undergraduate research while also allowing for a lot of interdisciplinary synthesis of studies.

Looking back on all three of my classes, I can now say for sure that I want to focus on studying neuroscience in the future. I loved learning about the thought-provoking bases of human behavior from psychology in combination with the biological structure of the nervous system from physiology, and I am thankful that I was able to discover a topic that I am so captivated by. The opportunity to explore as many different topics as you like is definitely one of the biggest benefits of Cornell Summer College, and I highly recommend CUSC to any student who is unsure about what subjects they want to study in their future.

I'm going to sorely miss all of the friends I made at Cornell, and hopefully I'll be able to reunite with some of them in college. They were one of the best parts of my six weeks in Ithaca (maybe right behind the ice cream at RPCC). I'll miss all of the times we spent hanging out around a lounge in Jameson, ordering Insomnia Cookies at ungodly hours of the night, or just arguing about whether or not to go out for dinner. I'm really sad to leave Cornell after my time here--but for now I'm just happy to have air-conditioning again!

I hope my blog has been helpful to any prospective Summer College students, and I recommend CUSC for anyone looking to explore their intellectual interests and experience college life at Cornell. Good luck!