Coming back to Ithaca

For many Cornell students, one of the most distinctive aspects about Cornell is its location. Ithaca gets the reputation of being a “college town.” This is true enough, given that much of Ithaca outside of Cornell is made up of vast fields and open farms. The farther out one drives from Cornell campus, the more remote the surroundings become. Cattle farms and looming silos replace the familiar brick buildings and clock tower that Cornell students see every day. 

Ithaca is any nature lover’s dream. Its flowing waterfalls and rugged gorges provide endless opportunities for hiking and exploration. Cornell itself is built into the surrounding greenery; I personally love walking among the trees on my way to class. What often goes unnoticed about Ithaca is its amazing sense of community. It is so much more than Cornell and waterfalls (though both are pretty spectacular!). 

My cousin completed her Ph.D. from Cornell in 2007, and her husband has been a researcher here since 2001. I spent every summer in Ithaca starting at the age of five. Ithaca was very much my yearly escape, and every summer brought with it new memories and adventures. From picking strawberries at Indian Creek Farm to splashing in Flat Rock, there was no shortage of activities. My family lived in Hasbrouck for many of those summers, and what stood out to me the most about the community was how welcoming people were. I never felt like a visitor; I made fast friendships every summer — friendships that never felt temporary. Hasbrouck is meant to house grad students with small families, many of them international. In community spaces, one can hear all types of languages being spoken. People from different walks of life come together under their shared experience of living in a tiny town called Ithaca, a tiny town that makes home feel less distant because of its loving community. Some of my brightest memories are the ferry rides at the weekly farmer’s market, getting basketfuls of books from the public library and roaming the little boutiques in the commons. 

When it came time to apply for college, Cornell actually wasn’t at the top of my list. I took one glance at the acceptance rate and felt my confidence dwindle. The reason I applied at all was really for the sake of closure; there was no way I could spend summer after summer in Ithaca and not apply to the most well-known university in the town. When I received my acceptance, I knew in my gut that I couldn’t go to any other school. I longed to go back to my summer escape, but now with a real sense of purpose. When I stepped on campus, I felt like I was returning home. Cornell is itself a microcosm for Ithaca, in that students from all over the world are unified by their shared college experience. Students form tight-knit communities by joining clubs, or even just by sitting by the same people in lecture every week. I feel accepted at Cornell, the same way I did each summer I spent in Ithaca. We are truly lucky to attend a university located in a city like Ithaca. Its small size may feel isolating, but it is a vibrant town whose community is built on diversity and tolerance. 

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 Waterfall along the gorge trail