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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

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Student blogs


New York City
Democracy and Its Discontents
Genius and Madness in Literature
Summer College 2009
Hi everybody! My name is Jason and I’m a rising senior at the Horace Mann School in New York City. I write for my school’s political magazine and debate on the Model UN team. I like to read, write, and watch as many movies as time will allow. At Cornell, I’ll be taking Genius and Madness in Literature during the first session and Democracy and its Discontents during the second. I leave for Ithaca in a few days and as the start of Summer College gets closer, I am becoming more and more excited. It’s going to be great making new friends and taking interesting courses taught by real Cornell professors. I hope to see everyone soon!
Hey all! It has been exactly a week since I arrived at Summer College and I must say I’ve loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, the first two days were marred by terrible rain, but the time spent inside forced me to meet more people than I may have otherwise done. The kids here are great; I don’t think I’ve ever been in an environment with so many countries represented. My roommate is from Mexico, and I have made friends from as far away as China. Cornell is such an amazing place; the campus is absolutely gorgeous. I’m starting to learn my way around, but there is just so much here that one could always find a new place to explore.

My class is really interesting. It’s a literature class, so naturally I have been assigned a lot of reading, but my professor has done a phenomenal job of choosing interesting texts. One thing that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by is the intimacy of the class. I came with the misconception that class would be held in a giant, stadium-like lecture hall and that I would never get to speak, only take notes. Oh man was I wrong. We sit at a round table and the class is held in seminar style. There is very little lecturing; much of the class is a debate about the text we read the night before.

Most days after class ends, assuming the weather is favorable, I find a grassy place on Cornell’s vast campus to do my reading. Once I finish (or decide to put it on hold) I meet up with some of my friends and we play basketball in the gym, which is only 30-second walk from our dorm. Nights are nothing special; I usually go to Collegetown, the little village on Cornell’s campus, for dinner with friends, and then go back to the dorm to hang out or watch a movie. It’s been a great week, and I’m looking forward to another five.

Wow, all I can say is wow. I cannot believe how fast everything has gone by. Tomorrow is the first day of my last week of Genius and Madness. Despite the fact that I’m here for anther four weeks, many of my friends are leaving Friday or Saturday, and so the mood is becoming more somber as the time to say goodbye approaches.

This past week has been absolutely phenomenal. It is Fourth of July weekend, so festivities have been ramped up. Ithaca has a weird tradition; rather than celebrating Independence Day on the Fourth of July as is customary, it is celebrated on July 2nd, the day the Declaration of Independence was signed but not yet ratified. Because of this, classes were cancelled Friday, extending our weekend. Thursday night there were fireworks. Though the occasion was social and relaxing, the actual fireworks, I must admit, were rather lame. Friday night there was a dance, which was a great time; and Saturday there was a carnival during the day, and a toga party at night. All in all, a great weekend.

The workload has increased several-fold since the first week. Our readings have gotten longer and more complex. Wednesday we read Immanuel Kant, a philosopher considered among the most difficult to read even for philosophy students. Friday I handed in my second (and second to last) paper. It was on a story written by E.T.A. Hoffman about a crazy musician. Many would consider writing papers during the summer annoying or undesirable, but all the readings we do are so great that it’s always worth it in the end.

Until next week,


This weekend, first session ended and second session began. I won’t lie, it was not a fun transition. Saying goodbye to all the friends I had made was really sad. One might be surprised as to how well you can get to know people in a seemingly brief three weeks. Anyway, the first session people left Saturday, and Donlon Hall (where I reside) was virtually empty. My floor, which normally houses 84 people, had only 4 residents for the night. The second session people arrived Sunday morning while I was still asleep, so the day was livelier than the previous. I’m already starting to make new friends, so the future looks bright.

The weather has been surprisingly nice for the last week. During the first two weeks I was in Ithaca, it rained, quite literally, everyday. However, this week has been filled with lots of sunshine! The good weather makes the atmosphere much more pleasant; instead of running back to my dorm as fast as possible lest I look like I just showered, I can walk back at a leisurely pace and cut through the grass. My friends and I have tried to take full advantage of the sunshine, playing Frisbee or walking on the gorge-paths as much as possible.

Today I started my class for second session, “Democracy and its Discontents.” One thing that struck me was the size of the class. Whereas my other class was held in a small, intimate room, this class is held in a large lecture hall. However, after the professor’s lecture we were separated into smaller TA groups, which were more similar to my last class. Both my professor and my TA seem like nice, approachable, highly intelligent people. I’m looking forward to the next three weeks!

I’m currently beginning my fifth week at Summer College. This past weekend I returned home to New York City. Weekends here are usually quite enjoyable - sleeping late, relaxing, maybe a movie or a trip to the mall. Even so, I’ve been away from home for a long time and I felt a desire to see my parents and friends again. When I first got the idea to go home for a weekend, I had no clue how I would get there, but one of my RCAs informed me that Cornell runs its own bus service to New York several times daily. I did the research, booked the reservation, and was pleasantly surprised by the ease at which the whole system worked. The bus was very comfortable and more importantly, well-stocked with food. My plan worked without a hitch; I left Friday afternoon for New York and here I am Monday morning, sitting at a computer in Uris Library back at Cornell.

This morning I handed in my first paper for my second course - nothing too challenging, just a three page evaluation of the labor theories of a particular political philosopher. Our lectures have focused heavily on labor relations; before I began this course, I had never studied labor much, even when I studied industrialization in school, so my mind has really been opened. I’ve learned about so many labor leaders who have had such a tremendous impact on American development; it makes me feel ignorant for not having known about them previously. Well, needless to say, I’m really enjoying the class. Our nightly readings, though extensive, are very interesting. I feel smarter everyday…

Is it really the last week? Have six weeks gone by already? It’s a scary thought that two days from now I’ll be back home. My time at Summer College has gone by so quickly it’s mind-blowing. Just as with the end of first session, the mood is becoming more somber. Everybody is beginning to realize that in just a few short days, this reality we have been living in is going to end, and that we’re going to have to, once again, start getting ready for school.

In regards to my class, very little has change since my last post. We handed in another (slightly longer) paper on Monday; on Friday we had a midterm. There is only one obstacle left: the final. However, since the midterm was Friday, we will have only had four days of new material, so I don’t anticipate having to study too hard. My time at Summer College has truly been a great experience. These six weeks have given me a glimpse into the college life and when I arrive on campus (wherever that may be) a year from now as a freshman, I will know what to expect.

It’s been a month since I left Summer College, and I have been missing it more and more. I had such an amazing time that it makes me sad every time I think about how long it’s been since it ended and how I’ll never again have the same experience. I’ve kept in close contact with many of my friends, even the ones from first session who I haven’t seen in two months. Since many of my friends are from other countries, and phone contact is hard, I thank god everyday for AIM and Facebook.

Summer College was a phenomenal experience. In addition to the six college credits I received, I got a real taste of campus life. At Summer College, you’re treated like a college student. I slept in a dorm with a roommate and had the freedom to use the campus virtually as I wished. It was by no means a normal summer camp where counselors were constantly looking over our shoulders. In addition to the fun and games, I had many hours of work, from studying for tests to writing papers. For anyone who might be turned off by the significant workload, you shouldn’t let that scare you. All the work we did was extremely engaging and interesting. I learned a tremendous amount from each course, so it was all worth it in the end. I would highly recommend Summer College to any serious student who wants a real taste of college life.