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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

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Student blogs


Esher, England
History and Politics of the Modern Middle East
Summer College 2016

Hello! My name is Abigail and I'll be a senior next year at ACS Cobham International School. I was born in New York, but I have lived in London, England for the past decade. I am very excited to rediscover New York! I am taking the History of the Modern Middle East program at Cornell but am hoping to study philosophy and theology at university in England. Outside of school, I compete internationally in karate and last year went to Japan for the world championships. I am very excited to be going to Cornell over the summer and learn about Middle Eastern history!


This is my first week at Cornell, and, although it takes me a while to work out where all of the different buildings are on campus, I settle in quickly. Everyone here is very friendly and I quickly meet lots of new people. I was a little concerned about having a roommate but she is very nice.

The class I am taking, the History of the Middle East, is fascinating. This week we discussed the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the beginnings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which continues to dominate global politics to this day. We learned about the rise of nationalism among the various peoples occupying the Middle East: from Jews to Arabs to Turks. We also learned about the struggle of these peoples for independence from the long-established colonial rule. There is a lot of reading to do and a handful of essays so I am definitely busy in the evenings!

It is very hot and humid here, but there is a cafe next to my classroom so I am sorted on iced drinks! The dorm rooms can be hot but I fall asleep quickly; my days are very busy!

The weekend was full of activities as well: my friends and I went to the Ithaca Farmers’ Market where the food was delicious and went to Collegetown a few times. I also enjoyed wandering the campus which is beautiful, what with all of the gorges. I had a tour of the Johnson Museum with several other people where there are several lesser known pieces of art from very famous artists such as Andy Warhol. The museum offers a chance to admire a view of Cornell; on the top floor you can see all of Ithaca.

I have made lots of new friends and learned so many new things. I am looking forward to next week!


I am just about to start my final week at Cornell and I am very surprised at how quickly this course has gone. I've been at Cornell for over two weeks but it feels like less than one.

This week most of my time is spent writing essays for my class on the Middle East. The material we are covering, such as the Six Day War and President Nasser of Egypt, is very interesting but also difficult. Just as I finish one essay there is another we have to do. We have a test coming up next week so I've had to spend much of my weekend studying.

Having a class that does not start until 10 a.m. is nice because it means I am able to sleep in more than most people whose classes start at 9 a.m. I end up doing a lot of work even before I have breakfast because I have time in the morning!

However, it hasn't been all work: this week has been very hot so I spent some time at the Helen Newman pool to cool down. I also get the chance to go to the Harriet Tubman Home and Museum in Auburn, NY and the Women's Rights National Park in Seneca Falls. It was so fantastic to see Harriet Tubman's home and learn about everything she accomplished for the abolitionist movement. It was strange to think that she lived less than an hour away from campus.

I am definitely looking forward to next week but I cannot believe it is the last!


I can't believe my time at Cornell is over. It was so easy to adapt to life at Cornell that I was thrown when I came back to England and had to adjust to my regular life! I had been nervous before the program, but once I arrived on campus I had no issue settling into classes and dorm life. I was surprised at how easy the transition was into university life, but I think the number of interesting people I met at the program certainly helped.

I can't speak for the other courses, but my course was fascinating and my professor was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the subject. We learnt about the most recent one hundred years of Middle Eastern history and in the final few classes we debated the problems facing the Middle East today and how to resolve them. The course was definitely intense: at one point we were writing an essay every other day, but the material was so fascinating the workload did not seem too bad!

I really enjoyed my time at Cornell, and would definitely recommend it to anybody else thinking of taking the program. The course and the professors are very interesting, and the campus is beautiful. I was so glad to see some sun after a rainy summer in England. If you are looking for something to do over the summer, you could do much worse than a summer at Cornell