Yliana Velazquez: 'I’m going to miss being (literally) so close to so many students and brilliant minds.'

April 24, 2017

Yliana Velazquez

American Studies

Chicago, IL

What is your main extracurricular activity--why is it important to you?

My main extracurricular activities revolve around Cornell’s outdoor community, through Cornell Outing Club and Outdoor Odyssey. Growing up in Chicago, I did not have the access or opportunities to connect with the outdoors. My freshman year at Cornell, I journeyed on my first backpacking trip in the Adirondacks — in the winter. It was an incredible experience, and after braving the winter, I knew I could brave the outdoors anytime, anywhere. The hills, gorges and waterfalls of Ithaca offer me an entirely different landscape than I’m used to. Getting involved with these clubs has given me a community to share this passion, and provides the space to bring newcomers into the outdoors as had been done for me. I love leading trips and introducing people to experiencing the outdoors in its most natural forms. Backpacking has become one of my favorite pastimes, a development I can attribute to my experiences with Cornell and Ithaca.

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?

Education is what you make of it, and is molded by the different perspectives brought into discourse within and outside of the classroom. My community at home and my family have played a significant role in this. They have molded the different perspectives I’ve brought into the classroom and have shaped my understanding of societal dynamics. The people that I’ve met along the way have also added dynamism in the way I approach arguments and the confidence I’m able to build in my perspectives. Making connections with the people who have empowered me and contributed to my intellectual development influences what I take from my education in the classroom, and what I bring to it.

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

I didn’t feel like I was a very political person before coming to Cornell. My perspective of politics was cynical and underdeveloped. Courses at Cornell and discourse with my peers have evolved my position, argumentation and involvement with political dynamics in our society. My time at Cornell awarded me the resources to develop a strong political position in relation to any topic; people’s material realities, which shape perspectives and positions, are created by the historical socio-political processes that precede it and the cultural context that shapes communities. Because of that, politics is inescapable. I’ve grown to recognize the privilege in my education, and my responsibility to spread and continue to develop the knowledge I’ve gained here.

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?

Being at Cornell is an immense resource. You’re congregated in a space with some of the most prominent experts in academic fields, with some of the most brilliant minds, and surrounded by the privilege of exclusive library resources. I didn’t realize until much later the abundance of resources offered here. Take advantage of them! One of the things I’m going to miss the most is being (literally) so close to so many students and brilliant minds. It’s easy to make connections with so many people congregated within one institution, so do it. The people who you surround yourself with during these critical educational years will have a significant role in the way you choose to develop and what you take away from your time here.

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