In writing this, I must first acknowledge the self-imposed pressure I’ve subjected myself to in order to guarantee a particularly unique first column of the semester. Instead, I’ve decided to keep things simple and orient this column as a recap of my summer addressing the thoughts that have surfaced as the fall 2023 semester begins.
It’s my sophomore year as an ILR student and it’s no surprise that I’m returning with an arsenal of summer reflections and mixed emotions.
I spent eight weeks of my summer in Buffalo, NY as a High Road fellow working for a non-profit known as Partnership for the Public Good that focuses on improving its communities through three main pillars: research on democratic organzations nationally, evaluating the efficacy of experimental models of the law and civic engagement writ large. This was my first experience working a 9 to 5 while commuting and working in a physical office space — it was all new to me. Previous internships I’d held used hybrid structures or were exclusively remote, so this took significant adjustment.
Everyday was a challenge in an unfamiliar city where I was learning to live on my own outside of my usual college campus environment; I had to learn to make compromises and clearly communicate with roommates on setting boundaries. Cooking for myself and making sure I was well-fed was a behemoth of its own, but I found a new passion for culinology that I didn’t know lived inside of me.
I walked away from this summer with an understanding that there will always be a lesson to be learned and experience to be reminded of — I definitely am leaving with a newfound sense of empathy for those around me. My intention going into the experience was to open my eyes to injustice in ways I’d previously never explored. It has become especially clear to me in these eight weeks that there is indeed a difference between learning about injustice in class and seeing it happen around you firsthand. I had the opportunity to listen in on industry professionals who outlined their experiences with community organizing. I was moved as I listened to stories of hardship. Going forward, it will be hard not to think back to my time as a fellow.
Returning from Buffalo, NY back to my comforting suburb of New Jersey felt like a treat. I was overwhelmed with a foreign sense of appreciation for the comforting and quaint town I live in, which helped me to realize that it will be hard to leave this place again. These thoughts are not out of the norm for me; I tend to feel this way when I’m gone for extended periods of time. I’m lucky to have fond memories of home, and it’s something I’ll never take for granted.
The last three weeks of my summer were simply wonderful, filled with strolls on the town as I walked to a Korean owned local bakery known as La Tabatíere owned by Jong Hun Wan, a pastry chef with a knack for French pastries baked to perfection. It’s a must-try spot if you’re someone who appreciates classic French pastries with East Asian inspired flavors, such as the mouth-watering black sesame kouign-amann — I haven’t stopped thinking about it since the very last bite I took of it, only two weeks before arriving in Ithaca. It’s memories like these that make it hard to work through my feelings of attachment for the summer as the semester is in full swing. It’s not easy switching gears.
I’m slowly rediscovering my passion for learning. For a very long time it felt redundant and unexciting. Previously, I would describe myself as a passionate learner, someone who was always eager to learn and keep doing it until exhaustion. I still believe I’m that person, but I’m having to relearn it as I navigate through new courses, assignments and peers whose faces I’ve never seen before.
I can’t help but admit to feelings of relief and belonging that have revisited me as I make my way to lectures and explore topics that I’m passionate about. The speaker to audience relationship between professor and student is so important to remain aware of, or the speaker runs the risk of fostering a disconnect that acts as a subsequent barrier for learning. After successfully completing the first week of classes I can speak with certainty of my sheer zeal for learning. Exposure to new information and the very prospect of being a student is so unbelievably fulfilling. I find myself often asking the questions: Where will I be when I’m no longer working toward the next assignment? What will be the next hurdle to overcome?
That said, I’m excited for the end of a season both metaphorically and literally, diving head first into the fall. It’s an understatement for me to say that I’m ready for the fall. This fall I can be found spending hubris amounts of money on pumpkin spice lattes, smelling the aroma of dry leaves or excessively layering my attire — just for the fall vibes, of course.
It’s hard to believe I’ve already completed my first-year at Cornell. The end of a season doesn’t only entail leaving memories behind, but also creating new ones. This time around, as I rediscover my love for learning I’m spending more time with those who share involvement in student-run organizations like Phi Alpha Delta and the Cornell Wardrobe. Unlike last year, I’m able to discern my first and second years apart because this time I’m revisiting my involvements rather than looking for new ones. It feels nice to come back to these things, as if they’ve been waiting for me the whole time — from the moment I left campus to the moment I’ve come back.
To first-years who might be having trouble finding their place on campus: Make an effort to put yourself out there and don’t succumb to the notorious imposter syndrome that many Cornellians suffer from. You are worthy of your achievements and you will continue to find success so long as you remain your authentic self.
Most importantly, don’t rush anything, take your time and move at your own pace, as opposed to trying to match the pace of those who surround you.
Adam Senzon is a second-year student in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations. His fortnightly column My Two-Sents covers a plethora of topics ranging from advice on navigating life challenges, to more complex topics of injustice within the law, labor and sustainability. He can be reached at [email protected]
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