East Hill Notes: New student shares experience at Cornell


On Aug. 22, I arrived – overwhelmed and confused – to the place I will call home for the next three years. A transfer student from California, I had never visited Cornell, let alone upstate New York, until move-in day.

I’ve never seen snow outside of the movies, and my previous college was about the size of the Arts Quad. So, at a minimum, I knew this experience would be an adventure - at worse, an utter, absolute failure.

It has been two months and change since I arrived. I’ve gone through prelims, papers and projects galore. I’ve made friends inside and outside my major, within all years and from many places. I’ve gotten to know my professors and learned valuable skills. It’s been well and truly an amazing time, including Apple Fest.

However, there have been hard times as well. Going from community college to Cornell is a massive jump – everything has been scaled up: difficulty, community, intensity, etc. Taking my first prelim was like getting hit by a train: confusing, scary and painful regardless of the outcome.

Finally, the greatest challenge of all off-campus college students: living independently. I wish I had taken a course on cooking before I left home, and my current diet of dining hall food, mac and cheese and microwave meals might be more vibrant. Furthermore, living off-campus was probably not the best decision at first - easing into the Cornell community may have been quicker had I lived nearer to other undergrads.

Regardless, I can say with honesty that I love living in Ithaca and living in Cornell. Ithaca is a beautiful place. Especially having come from urban Los Angeles, I had never seen so much green in my life, and the transfer from summer to autumn has been an absolutely magical experience.

Although I’m not looking forward to snow – as previously mentioned, a lot of first-time experiences – I can’t wait to see Ithaca and Cornell bedecked in white.

In considering all these experiences, I remember my French teacher in high school. Ithaca born and a graduate of SUNY Cortland and Hunter College, I would listen to his stories of this described “quirky community” far east of California. During one such story, he mentioned “Ithaca is Gorges” and I had absolutely no clue what that phrase meant. Now I do.

Oliver Eccelston is a native of Burbank, California, a sophomore at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and an intern in the University’s Office of Community Relations, where he also engages with the International Town & Gown Association.


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