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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

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Student blogs


Exeter, NH
Inspiring Leadership
Summer College 2014
Hello! My name is Sabrina and I'm from Exeter, New Hampshire, and I'll be a senior next year at Phillips Exeter Academy. At my school, I act in plays and musicals, run an a cappella group, am a head tour guide, and am president of my school's community service organization, ESSO. I also enjoy weekly gatherings with my school's Jewish community, and on the weekends I write and record my own songs. I'm fascinated by Chinese culture, and have been studying the language for three years. After my time at Cornell, I'll be heading back to China for the third time, in order to study advanced Mandarin at Fudan University in Shanghai.

This summer, I'm attending the Inspiring Leadership program in an attempt to tie together all of my interests: leadership, communication, and community service. I can't wait gain new insights and make new friends.


My first week at Cornell has been absolutely amazing. The first night we arrived, we had a program-wide ice cream social, which is where I met many of my friends. During the next week, every person I saw smiled, said hello, and welcomed new people to sit with them. The friendly atmosphere has led me to form many unexpected bonds with people. Now, every night after I finish my homework, I can play frisbee, watch movies, read books, and listen to music in the company of like-minded individuals.

My course, Inspiring Leadership, is exactly what it set out to be: inspiring. Every day I'm listening to guest lectures, discussing among my peers, or discovering things about myself. For example, a couple days ago we had a guest speaker talk about listening as a way to improve all of our relationships and interactions with people. She talked about three levels of listening, one being the least engaged, and three being the most. That night, as I worked on a journal entry, I practiced listening at the third level to my friends around me.

Everything else about Cornell is an added privilege; the food is delicious, the campus is blooming and beautiful, and my dorm is lovely. I'm living in North Balch Hall and the common room(s) have chandeliers, pianos, and most importantly, air conditioning. It becomes sweltering outside every day around noon, but there is always somewhere to retreat to and cool off. Wherever you go, there's trees, flowers, and sunshine. I'll be sad when I have to leave this place.


Hi Everybody! What an amazing week I've had at Cornell. Yesterday, Lt. Col. Wiggers, a friend of my professor, came to talk to us about leadership in the military, and how it can apply to other facets of our life. He sprinted into the room, telling us that the next two hours were going to be "en fuego!", or "on fire." He discussed moments from Iraq, when he was supporting a group of Sunni soldiers against the Shi'ite. He explained the great complexities of supporting someone, but not leading them, and how he made sure to never overstep his bounds. Every time someone in the audience yawned or started to look sleepy, we'd all have to get up and do ten jumping jacks. It was the most fun I've ever had while learning from a lecture.

That night, my friends and I went to a restaurant called The Nines. We'd been all over Collegetown before—to Insomnia Cookies, Collegetown Bagels, Stella's, you name it—but decided to try something new. The night before, we had also come to The Nines, and found out that there was an open mic night the following day. Naturally, we came back with a guitar. My friend Will and I performed on stage in front of the members of the restaurant, singing "Cough Syrup" by Young the Giant. Everyone was so supportive and I was so excited to have shared that experience with my friends. After we sang, we walked to Insomnia and got warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookies to commemorate the night. We took pictures on the bridge and played guitar and sang all the way back to our dorms. That night remains as my favorite memory at Cornell.

Today, my Inspiring Leadership classmates and I went to the Hoffman Challenge Course, an outdoor ropes course, 50 feet up in the air! We started by getting into groups of eleven, and each group had to do three separate challenges on the ground. The first challenge was getting to the other side of a "lava field" by using planks of wood across cinder blocks. The planks were heavy, awkward to hold, and they barely reached the cinder blocks when perpendicular. On top of that, we started with three planks, but midway through the process lost one because it fell into the "lava." We struggled for half an hour, passing the planks back and forth while wobbling on tiny platforms. Eventually, through some intense teamwork and leadership, we got everyone over to the other side. We did a few more exercises on the ground like that, and then took our tasks into the air. Strapped into harnesses, we went through a dozen obstacle courses while up very, very high. I felt like we were all on the show "Wipeout," though none of us fully did, thankfully. We had an hour and a half left of the course, when it started pouring. I thought we were going to go home early, but we ended up finishing the aerial obstacle course in the pouring rain. We all laughed and said we felt like Mulan.

Graduation and goodbyes will be happening in a few days. I never thought I would be so sad to leave this place.


It's hard to think my time at Cornell is up. The friends I have made, the cool places on campus I've discovered, and the class time I've spent learning, are more dear to me than I would have ever imagined.

There is no doubt, like any place, that the people make the experience, and Cornell was no different. Every day, Patrick, Matteo, Veronica, Sam, Tom, Casey, Will, Texas, and I would find one another, after our classes ended. Sometimes we'd meet on the quad and play frisbee, or lay out in the sun and listen to music, or crawl into the hammock that Texas brought. Other times, we'd meet in the library to work on our papers, read, or just distract one another. At night, we'd be in Donlon or Balch (sometimes ferrying between the two) to watch movies or play cards or have 9-person dance parties. I've come away with a wealth of memories from friends spread out all over the world. Cornell provided me with a quintessential summer experience that I'll never forget.