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College of Arts and Sciences

Kunal Budhiraja:'I took Portuguese on a whim, but quickly began to enjoy it'

May 9, 2020

Kunal Budhiraja​
Sociology
Katy, TX

What are the most valuable skills you gained from your Arts & Sciences education?

The most valuable skill I gained from my Arts & Sciences education was the ability to question. I love researching the hypotheticals, and the Arts & Sciences curriculum really reinforces this trait. We live in a society today that is measured by 140-character tweets and click-bait headlines, but the A&S education quickly, and early, emphasizes the idea of reaching conclusions through a personal formulation of ideas rather than simply taking things at face-value.

What was your favorite class and why?

I initially approached the A&S language requirement haphazardly. My first semester I took Professor Oliveira's Elementary Brazilian Portuguese on a whim, but I quickly began to enjoy it. Because our class met everyday and was small by nature, we grew in linguistic competence and grew to like each other. When the semester was over, our small cohort realized that we had not only become fond of each other but also the professor and the language, so we all decided to take the next sequence of the class together the next semester. This ended up happening four more times. We not only ended up exceeding the A&S language requirements, but also maxing out on all of the Portuguese classes offered at Cornell altogether.

kunal budhiraja by a fountain
What is your main extracurricular activity and why is it important to you?

Being an athlete on the Varsity Polo Team at Cornell was an amazing experience. The sport is, at first glance, quite daunting and challenging, but having a close-knit set of teammates really makes all the difference in the world. I think the experience was also transformative because by nature you are dealing with live animals that have feelings and emotions of their own, and interacting with them, especially in light of how demanding college can be at times, was a welcome emotional release. Through it all, the friendships and experiences I had while on the team really extended far beyond the barn, and is something I will never forget!

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?

I am most proud of the relationships I have formed with both classmates and professors. In the process of discovering what my interests are, I've had the opportunity to meet students who are so different from me yet so like-minded and also to engage with faculty who are collectively at the top of their field. In short, and in retrospect, I am proud that I went out of my way to foster these relationships because I know they will last a lifetime.

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

Take advantage of Cornell's variety and breadth by experimenting with classes across departments. With this same mindset, always be open to trying out new activities and clubs as well. While you'll undoubtedly be coming into Cornell with a refined sense of interest that's been developed over the years, don't be scared to try something new. Even if you have the slightest interest in a certain class or club, try it out, because Cornell always has a knack of surprising you!

 kunal budhiraja

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