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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

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Student blogs


Beijing, China
The Business World
Summer College 2010
Ahoy, my name is Simon and I just completed my junior year in the International School of Beijing. I was born in Finland but moved to Beijing, China with my family shortly after I turned three. Though it’s unfortunate I have been unable to retain the Finnish language, living in one the most dynamic and prolific cities has truly been a worthwhile and delightful experience. I will be attending the Business World program in the Cornell Summer College of 2010.

Outside of class, I am actively involved in the Model United Nations program in ISB. This year, I had the honor of being selected as a student officer for the current largest international MUN conference, The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN). I will also be serving as the Under Secretary General of next year’s THIMUN affiliated BEIMUN conference.

As part of the community, I am part of the Habitat for Humanity board in my school and regularly participate in HFH hosted charity events. I have also co-founded La Viva, a Red Cross affiliated charity organization dedicated to helping rural schools in the province of Jilin.

I’ve always shown a keen interest in business and finance. These areas of study provide versatile and flexible career paths that seem to suit me as an individual, so I hope to gain a greater understanding of “The Business World” during my stay. Cornell itself has always appealed to me as the university that fostered one of my favorite writers, E.B. White (though I profess this appeal also extends to the fantastic dining and housing services of the college). Ultimately, I hope my upcoming experiences in the program and in the college will show me who I am as an individual, as a student of business, and as a prospective applicant to Cornell University.

How Ferdinand Magellan packed for his voyage around the world is truly beyond me; I have enough difficulty with a three-week stay and a ten-hour flight. But it’s a rather entertaining image: Christopher Columbus or Vasco da Gama pacing up and down, undecided as to whether the blue or red tunic would be more appropriate for his travels to distant lands. Of course, I don’t expect to uncover new continents and uncharted soil during my stay at Cornell, but I do anticipate three weeks of personal, social, and academic discovery (that and the next five days packing, but I’m perfectly content with wrapping myself in denial until tomorrow). I confess to having high hopes for this study experience—to meet new people, experience the Cornell campus, and, perhaps most of all, discover who I am as a student studying in the rigorous academic environment of Cornell.

The university has long been at the top of my list of dream schools. Both of my favorite writers, E. B. White and Kurt Vonnegut, cultivated their talents on the very campus where I will be studying next week. Of course, I do look forward to tasting the renowned Cornell ice cream, as well as witnessing the splendor of a waterfall in the very heart of campus. I also spent last week completing a series of lectures on the Model United Nations for local schools here in Beijing, and it’s comforting to know that I’ll finally be in the class and not facing it—I’ve found that the scrutiny of a hundred students is a much harder burden to bear than any test or exam.

One of my greatest fears for this trip is actually the inevitable and impending horrors of jet lag. While many of you will be traveling across state borders, I’m halfway around the world in Beijing. There’s exactly twelve hours of time difference, so 12:00 p.m. here is 12:00 a.m. there—my present lunchtime will be my future midnight. As a (hopefully) preventative measure, I have been gradually transitioning to a nocturnal schedule, sleeping and waking as late as possible every day. I’d really rather avoid collapsing into my ice cream the first day there.

Arriving early is always a strange matter. It is the awkward, surreal moment right before dawn breaks, and the tense, anticipatory ambience just before the first drop of rain. It was in this hollow yet potent state that Mary Donlon Hall appeared before me for the first time. I arrived two days early in a state of drugged indifference (I am from Beijing, and so not yet well versed in US laws on minors smoking jetlag), and even in my stupor I could tell I had arrived at the wrong time. Many of the previous three-week summer program students had left already, and those left behind were soaked in the tears of farewell. Naturally, I was the victim of many dirty looks—who was I to intrude upon their moment of melancholy? Who was I to enjoy the next three weeks at Cornell, when they had but hours left to stay? It seems while most arrive to a dorm of bustling activity and eager new students, I came to find a scene of anguish and emptiness.

I spent the entirety of my second day touring the campus, as the dorms were being vacuumed of dirt (and the sorrow of its previous occupants) to ready rooms for the next day’s new arrivals. I found quickly that Cornell University is rather (extremely) large, and one is easily lost without a map. But people are generally nice and willing to give directions. On the way back from Ithaca Mall, I missed my stop and grew anxious—the sun had disappeared quickly and clouds were rumbling in the distance. I became certain that I would die, struck by lightning in the deserted roads of a summer campus (this is funny because I am short, and I presume even a dropped penny would act as a better lightning rod). Fortunately, an undergraduate student kindly offered to walk me back, and I returned with the same number of electrons I had left with. A physics student might tell me that the electrons merely pass through me, but I am a business student.

The opening day was rather different for me. I had unpacked and settled in already, so I spent most of the day watching people hauling luggage up and down. Students wanted to mingle, but parents lingered, and the situation became awkward as students became impatient and parents started to fret.

It seems international students are less and less a minority. Over the years, the world has become increasingly globalized and we’ve all seen a fair share of foreigners. People no longer widen their eyes in amazement when told I am from Beijing, but nod politely in understanding. I find that I am no longer a rarity of Komodo dragon status, but a semblance of the uncommon panda—you’ve seen me before, but I’m a black and white bear that eats bamboo. You look at me anyway. I am ambivalent to the change. The Komodo dragon is almost extinct, but the panda will live on.

I have grown accustomed to my schedule now, but it has by no means become routine. There are so many events and activities here that choosing to study is always a desperate struggle. I do, however, enjoy my classes. Professor Taylor has an interesting way of blending conversation and lecture, and I often find small anecdotes about Japan in my notes—it becomes very difficult to differentiate the two.

I was walking to class yesterday when I was ambushed by a rainstorm. I managed a few moments of resistance as I fumbled with my umbrella and opened a feeble line of defense. I quickly abandoned the futile effort and opted instead to make a mad dash for safe haven. I made at most five steps before becoming thoroughly soaked and deciding there was no point in running. I was wet from head to toe anyway. It must have been an entertaining image, a soaked and dripping boy walking calmly through the rain with a half opened umbrella in his hand. Thankfully, the rain stopped quickly and I modestly dried myself in the sun. I imagine this is what my summer experience will be like. My three weeks here will quickly and suddenly drench me with knowledge, friendship, and laughter. But as the days dry away, the vapors of my experience will have returned to the clouds, and will one day fall upon yet another unassuming victim. Though memories fade, the wet coldness of my boxers and the sodden weight of my shoes will linger—a summer here is not so easily dried as a wet t-shirt in the sun. In return, my wet shoes will make their own mark on the cement roads as I rush to change my clothes. The footprints will linger briefly, then disappear as I am forgotten.