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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

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Student blogs


Gill, MA
On Camera
Summer College 2007
I'm Brooke. When I was very young, my four-person family lived in Sydney, Australia. We moved when I was three to an international oil compound in Saudi Arabia. I grew up going to school with kids from all over, mostly from different countries in the Middle East. On my compound, it's customary to send kids out to boarding school after eighth or ninth grade. So now, I spend three quarters of the year at Northfield Mount Hermon, a boarding school in Western Massachusetts. NMH has become my second home, and I will be devastated when I have to leave next year! Being at NMH has really opened my eyes to the wonderful world of writing. I intern at a local newspaper in Greenfield, MA when I'm at school, and I'm the news editor of the school newspaper as well as student editor of our Center for International Education's (CIE) newsletter. I work as a stringer for CosmoGirl! magazine, which means I regularly send the CG! editors ideas, offer input on stories and report on things going on around me. I also do a lot of work with the CIE, including running the NMH International Students Association. Really, though, I just love to write. That's why I'll be taking "On Camera: Studies in Film Analysis" this summer at Cornell! I thought the course looked fascinating, since it was a mishmash of a field I know very well (writing) and a field I'd love to know more about (film). Oftentimes, when I watch a film, I feel like I just don't "get" the deeper, inner meaning the filmmaker is attempting to portray. Hopefully I will by the end of Summer College!

Who knew college life would involve so much walking? Someone should've told me about the fabled "Cornell calves" before I applied (just kidding!). It's easier to withstand the walking as you're walking across the fabled footbridge, though, because waterfalls are so terribly scenic. All in all, I've had a fruitful week. It was hard to adjust, in many ways, since I'm so used to my boarding school being run in different ways. Also, there are so many people here that it's impossible to know everyone--something I find both exciting and a little intimidating. I've met a number of kids who've said, "Hey, you're on the summer college website!" which is always funny.

I really enjoy my film analysis class. We've viewed "Thelma and Louise," and "Fight Club," so far. "Fight Club" is one of my all-time favorite movies--thus, I'm not groaning horribly loud about the four-page paper I have to construct on it this weekend. We just finished our essay on "Thelma and Louise," and my paper was two pages over the assigned length (I think I'm long-winded)! I really benefit from the discussion sections we have in the afternoons--hearing what my fellow classmates have to say and coming to consensus on difficult topics that arise in the films we view is just really interesting.

One thing I've been fascinated about films is how much the viewer can derive from just one freeze-frame shot. I'm learning lots of film terms to assist me in sounding more intelligent, and my professor (Lynda Bogel) and TA (Mickey Casad) are both really great. I find their senses of humor and thorough knowledge truly refreshing.

I've come to look forward to my daily iced chai tea I get from the café in Olin Library. Additionally, I enjoy my breakfasts (where I scarf nearly 40 croissants; they are so delicious) and dinners in Appel, and eating lunch in Trillium is... an experience. There, you have less variety, I think, and you have to stick to the eight dollar meal plan. I'm always drastically over or under, which is frustrating! However, they have cute little pizzas in miniature pizza boxes, which makes up for everything.

This week I've had so little time to explore the campus as well as Ithaca because I've been finishing up group projects, so I hope next week I can have some adventures of sorts.

I've had so much free time as of late--I feel like I've barely had class--with the weekend and the fourth of July, that is! We did, however, watch three more films: "Crash," "His Girl Friday," and "The Philadelphia Story," (though the last was a replacement for the guest speaker we originally had scheduled). "Crash," certainly sparked a lot of controversial conversation in my discussion group, and it was really interesting to work through analyzing such a complex movie. Both "His Girl Friday," and "The Philadelphia Story," are old, black-and-white Cary Grant films. (He's incredibly suave in both, naturally.) I haven't watched many old movies, so that was an experience.

My Fourth of July was, well, rainy. It's my first American Fourth of July--my previous sixteen have been celebrated in overseas countries (first Australia, then Saudi Arabia). Still, I managed to take advantage of the day off I had--starting with finally getting my laundry done! My friends and I played a couple of board games, because board games + rainy days = obvious. Then, my friend Courtney and I went to the fair that was displaced to inside Donlon. I stuffed my face with delicious, self-iced sugar cookies and cotton candy. I won a Cornell water bottle because I OWNED the throw-these-bean-bags-at-these-action-figures game. I guess my copious years of softball finally paid off, huh?

I've also had a chance to explore more. Our TAs took us on a zombie field trip down to the cemetery, which they claimed had something to do with screenwriting, but I'm pretty sure it was just because Jen really likes zombies. It wasn't too bad of a walk, and the cemetery itself was pretty interesting--I've never seen a graveyard so hilly! Afterward, I went to Collegetown with some of the girls in my class. I had the most ingenious concoction ever at Collegetown Bagels--a cheesecake brownie. Cheesecake AND a brownie? I was so sold. It was cruel of Collegetown Bagels to make the whole world gain five pounds by creating that product.

I also had a chance to go swimming at Buttermilk Falls, and went to the Pyramid Mall movie theater, where I saw "Transformers," which was hilarious, even when it wasn't supposed to be. And, funnily enough, I have no homework yet again--what should I do with myself?

Wow—my time at Cornell was fun and all, but I didn't realize what a great time I had until I was hugging all the great friends I've made here goodbye. It's sad to think that these awesome people will never be in the same place together again, however, I'm happy that I've had the experiences in the first place!

In my class, we finished up by watching Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," as well as "Aliens." I loved "Psycho," which was my first Hitchcock film! Its main murder sequence as well as the score that runs through it have become iconic, though, so it was reminiscent of several scenes I remember from pop culture. I enjoyed dissecting it in my discussion section; however, the open-ended essays we were assigned were a challenge! I slaved away, just to find a topic worth writing about. On the other hand, I found "Aliens" to be a bit of a bore. I try to stay away from mindless action movies; and it was just that! One of the TAs brought us popcorn and sodas, though, which was a nice touch.

On Thursday we had a fascinating screenwriting workshop with Nick Sagan, professor at Cornell and rather famous screenwriter/novelist. We acted out each other's screenplays, which was hilarious, actually. On Friday, my professor brought us DVDs and film analysis books to choose from, as well as bags of candy—which was really generous of her. I chose the newer version of "Lolita," and "An Eye for Hitchcock," which should be interesting, now that I've got my foot in the Hitchcock door, if you will. It was hard to say goodbye to my professor and TA—as well as to the kids in my class! They were a funny bunch.

I also had a good time outside of the classroom—with numerous trips to Collegetown and the Commons, as well as the '80s dance held on Saturday night. My friend Courtney and I picked up some key '80s items at the mall beforehand (as well some of the sale items we couldn't stray away from). As one of the Jameson ladies said, we "really went all-out." My favorite part of my '80s outfit was the rainbow star earrings—"totally tubular!" Not just the preparation was fun; but I also had a good time dancing to a wide variety of music.

On our last day, a few of my friends and I went exploring the campus. Every time I walk out of my dorm, I find somewhere I've never been before—it's such an enormous place. That night, we went to the talent show, which was, truthfully, rather painful. I dislike talent shows on the whole, really—I always feel ridiculously embarrassed for the kids who aren't really that talented. Oh well!

Three weeks seems too short! Just as soon as I felt like I really fit in, it was time to pack my bags. Regardless, thanks for all the good times, everybody!

Cornell was such an experience—positive, for the most part, but certainly an "experience." Looking back on it now, the people are so vivid. I met some really great individuals, and despite the fact that I knew them only for three weeks, I miss some of them!

I also miss breakfasts in Appel—especially the abundance of Nutella. I haven't gotten my grade for my course yet, so who knows whether I ended up liking it or not, because it's all about grades, right? Just kidding! My professor and TA are just a few of the people I'd like to see again, and the class was great. Now I have something intelligent to say about films.

It was hard to adjust to summer college, at first. Mostly, I think, because I'm so used to boarding school life—living in a dorm, away from home, et cetera—and the girls around me living in Jameson weren't. While everyone was excited to have sleepovers, I was getting every extra wink of sleep I possibly could. But I got over that, once I really got to know the people around me. I came out of Cornell with some good stories, though, and that's what matters, I think.