Benjamin Abeles: 'I’ll never forget the energy that I felt on my first day of class'

Benjamin Abeles

Italian & Government

Washington, DC

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

During my sophomore year, I was encouraged by my advisor to take an upper-level course on 16th century Italian literature, in which a number of my six classmates were PhD candidates. I was the youngest and least experienced student in the class, but through this challenge, I discovered my academic potential, and acquired the confidence to take on similar intellectual challenges.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?

I’ll never forget the energy that I felt on my first day of class. Cornell seemed like a city. There was a club or class for each one of my interests. It was in my hands to boil it down, figure out what I really wanted to do and then pursue it.

What do you value about your liberal arts education?

The intellectual rigor of an Arts & Sciences education is incredibly valuable. The requirements in place help to push you out of your comfort zone, to engage with subjects which you might not normally study and to challenge how you think. This interdisciplinary exercise, I believe, gives those with a liberal arts education an advantage outside of the university: whether it be in professional or personal life, the breadth of the liberal arts education will give you something to draw upon, or at least a new way to solve a problem. One great example is where the study of language can take you. At Cornell, I’ve mastered Italian so that I can use it in a professional business context; similarly, my sister, Liz Abeles ’18, an aspiring surgical oncologist, mastered Mandarin so that she could conduct medical sociology research in China to complement her study of cancer as a biological disease.

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 Benjamin Abeles