Near Eastern Studies, French
What are the most valuable skills you gained from your Arts & Sciences education?
My time at the College of Arts & Sciences has taught me the power of curiosity, and how to not be afraid to allow it to lead me. For instance, I am a Near Eastern studies major in my fourth semester of studying Arabic. When I first considered choosing this major and language, I hesitated due to my lack of experience in the area. Indeed, part of what attracted me to these areas of study was my lack of knowledge and desire to learn more. However, the point of an undergraduate degree is not to learn everything there is to know about your chosen area of study, it is to explore. Moreover, it is not a waste of time to “start from scratch” with a new skill as I did with Arabic.
What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?
I remember coming in as a freshman, I made a list of goals for college. I don’t remember much from the list, or where it ended up, but I remember one item: “become a better global citizen.” Now this is a rather vague, cheesy, lofty aspiration. However, it truly has helped guide me through many decisions during my college career. And I am proud to say that I feel I have accomplished it: I lived in Paris for two and half months until the coronavirus brought that to an end, I volunteered with recent immigrants while in Paris and was able to help teach them French, as well as converse with arabophones in (admittedly basic) Arabic and I have gained a broader and deeper understanding of different cultures around the world. Conversely, and perhaps most importantly, I have learned the boundaries of my own knowledge and experience, and have grown in empathy. The work is never finished, but I am proud of the progress I have made.
How have your beliefs or perspectives changed since you first arrived at Cornell? What have you discovered about yourself?
Ironically, moving away from home taught me a lot about where I came from. This is by no means surprising; it’s a well-known phenomenon that distance offers perspective. Nevertheless, my time at Cornell has definitely taught me the importance of removing myself from my familiar place of origin in order to grow, and also to realize the strengths that my roots have given me already. For example: I grew up on a farm in rural Virginia, surrounded by nature, wildlife, and animals. Since coming here, I’ve realized the value of the knowledge and skills that this upbringing offered me — in terms of practical environmental knowledge, as well as environmental empathy.
Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?
The answer is simple: my friends. The relationships I have formed with my peers are the single best thing that Cornell has offered me — it truly is an amazing community that brings together some of the smartest, kindest, most creative people you will ever meet. It is an honor to be part of such a driven and inspiring community. Seeing my friends regularly will probably be the thing I miss the most after graduation, but I am confident that we will be able to maintain the bonds we’ve formed here. I can’t wait to see where we all go and the amazing things we’ll accomplish.
If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?
Don’t be afraid to take upper level classes! In my first year or so here, I was intimidated by classes that I saw as geared toward upperclassmen or specialists. However, if there’s a topic that interests you, there’s absolutely no harm in signing up for it. The worst that will happen is you go to the first class, realize it will be too much for you, and drop it. However this has not been my experience — I’ve found that more specialized classes, particularly in the humanities, tend to be on topics for which the professors are the most passionate, and that they tend to attract people who are truly interested in the subject matter, thus fostering more engaging and fruitful discussions.
Every year, our faculty nominate graduating Arts & Sciences students to be featured as part of our Extraordinary Journeys series. Read more about the Class of 2021.