Zelmira Carolina Rizo-Patron
What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?
My best memories at Cornell fall into two categories: being very happily alone with my thoughts and nature, or being warmly surrounded by my incredible friends (students, professors and employees). Walking from Collegetown onto campus for my 8 a.m. art classes, or just an early start to my day, is a very peaceful yet exciting moment, full of waking energy. In these moments, I feel very alive and awake, energized by the brisk morning air and breathtaking encounters with nature (frozen falls, flowers glazed with morning ice...a list that could go on forever) that are, without fail, accompanied by the confident strikes of the clock tower bells. I will miss watching sunsets on the slope accompanied by a new book, my journal or a group of friends. Serving soups, eating, reading, and talking with good friends and strangers-turned-friends at the Temple of Zeus are daily memories I highly treasure. One-on-one meetings/conversations with professors sharing their thoughts and encouraging mine are incredibly important to me, as well. I feel so lucky and happy to have these incredibly rich and energy-filled moments that have made Cornell truly feel like a home.
How did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?
I made a switch from the hard sciences to art, architecture and literature. What was previously a loved and consistent hobby gained more of my time and serious commitment. I have learned to be more open and have a wider perspective on my life and endeavors. I have also become very in-tune with myself and my passions and feel more present, confident and engaged with these. While it is important to stay committed and serious about one's academic work, it is as important and even more important to build and care for one's friendships, health and overall well-being. It is easy to forget about these in an intense campus environment but in the end, these are the people and conditions that will enable you to accomplish your endeavors and will share in their development and fruition.
If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?
Even if you think you are set on your major, especially as a freshman, take advantage of the incredible opportunity to access expertise in almost any study and explore. You might surprise yourself and change your trajectory or confirm and strengthen your choices while opening yourself up to new perspectives or practices that will give you an interesting edge in your field. Cornell has so much to offer in both depth and breadth for learning, and this learning is not limited to the classroom. I consider my community of friends one of the most important parts of my Cornell education. Challenge yourself to create independent studies to work closely with professors and personal academic endeavors. Study abroad if you can. The libraries, the Johnson museum, the rare books collection and archives, etc. are also great sources. They offer an incredible wealth of information that is easily overlooked in the hectic pace of student life. I have gained so much, probably most, from time invested outside of scheduled class-time.