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College of Arts and Sciences

Alejandro Rodriguez: 'Surround yourself with friends who will laugh and cry with you.'

April 28, 2017

Alejandro Rodriguez

Biological Sciences

Hialeah, FL

Why did you choose Cornell?

I made up my mind to go to Cornell after visiting for diversity hosting. My hosts showed me around the usual campus spots like Uris Library and Willard Straight. I even visited some classes that I would take years later like organic chemistry and physics. Admittedly, I was instantly drawn in to Ithaca’s natural beauty and the Arts Quad’s neo-gothic architecture. However, what really convinced me was getting to talk with my hosts and hear about their experiences. They did not sugarcoat it: Cornell was a tough, competitive place. Yet my hosts still felt like this was the best place for them, because of the unique opportunities Cornell gave them to pursue their passions. They were convinced that “if you succeed here, you can make it anywhere.” Seeing that Cornell was going to be a place that pushed me, challenged me to explore and grow intellectually, convinced me that this was where I wanted to spend the next four years.

What accomplishments/activities are you most proud of while at Cornell?

I am proud of my experience as an undergraduate researcher and getting to work towards a senior thesis. I started working in the Vogt lab my sophomore year, Spring 2014. I am thankful for the opportunity I have had to learn under the mentorship of Dr. Volker Vogt, Dr. Rob Dick and Yi Wen. It has been experience where I have felt a lot of personal growth. I have learned a great deal in terms of lab techniques, but also in terms of how to approach my work — and all scientific work — with an inquisitive spirit and a critical mind. I am also grateful that I got to work as a program assistant for the Prefreshman Summer Program. For many, this is the first glimpse of how challenging and how rewarding their education at Cornell will be. It was humbling and rewarding helping students navigate those first few months of college. Since then, I have gotten to watch many of those students grow and be successful in many areas across campus. Knowing that I got to play at least a small part in the beginning of their college careers is a special feeling.

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

Surround yourself with friends who will laugh and cry with you. Find friends who will reach out and embrace you when you most need it, and for whom you’d do the same. It is easy to get tunnel vision when you are focused on keeping your GPA at a certain range, or landing that sought-after internship, but Cornell can also be a place of lifelong friendships. Foster your relationships and support one another. That way, even when you doubt yourself or feel uncertain, your friends will be there to remind you of your strengths and worth and help lift you up again.