Cole DeVoy: 'I never thought that I would become a 'language person.''

April 24, 2017

Cole DeVoy

China and Asia-Pacific Studies

El Centro, CA

Why did you choose Cornell?

I first stumbled onto Ho Plaza almost by accident, after a chance email led my family and me to take a detour in our "East Coast college tour" to come visit. It was well above 90 degrees by the time we arrived (and humid, to boot), but the reception we received and our interactions with the folks on campus gave each of us the funny feeling that Cornell might be the right "fit" (at least, it would have were we living in a college admissions guidebook). After doing a bit more research into the College of Arts & Sciences' wide range of academic offerings, and eventually becoming fascinated by the unique structure of the China and Asia-Pacific Studies program, I came around to concluding that that earlier intuition couldn't have been too far off the mark — and not a day has gone by since then that I've doubted my choice.

How did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?

I never thought that I would become a "language person." I had heard maybe two sentences of Mandarin Chinese up until my first year at Cornell. Sure, I had dear friends back home who spoke Cantonese with their parents, but my exposure to China's official language had until August 2013 been limited almost entirely to the episode of "30 Rock" where Kenneth attends the Beijing Olympics. Needless to say, I was more nervous than not when I walked into my first Beginning Mandarin I section. After about a week, and in spite of my garbled tones, I was hooked — not only on Mandarin, but on the entire process of learning to communicate with new people, their ideas, and their cultures, all in their own words. Over the following years, I've tried my hand at Khmer and, now in my very last semester, Arabic, and I've loved every second of it.

What are your plans for next year; where do you see yourself in 10 years?

This coming fall, I'll be headed to Taiwan as an English teaching assistant through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program — something that would've been beyond impossible for me were it not for the love, guidance and support I've received from my family and from my friends and advisors here at Cornell. I lack foresight to the extent that I couldn't tell you what I'll be eating for lunch tomorrow, let alone what I'll be doing in 10 years, but I certainly hope it'll be something happy.

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