Cornell: The view from new heights

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By Emily Shertzer, senior at Cornell University

Graduated 2012 from ‘Stoga

Quad Commentary is a series of letters from ‘Stoga alumni describing their college experiences. 

Cornell is large, with an undergraduate population seven times larger than Conestoga’s student population, and this isn’t even counting the many graduate students and staff! Therefore, I found early in my time here that it is essential to find my own niche within the school.

For me, that niche was in outdoor education. Other students find their group through clubs, sports teams, music, and/or Greek life. I got involved in outdoor education when I participated in a backpacking pre-orientation trip just before the start my freshman year. The program allows students to meet other freshmen in smaller groups before the school year starts. I enjoyed the people so much that I got involved in teaching outdoor education classes, mostly rock climbing, to Cornell students during the year. I also live in a house with five other climbing instructors, and I now lead the same pre-orientation trips that I went on my freshman year.

In high school I was involved in the music department, playing oboe in the orchestra and wind ensemble, and xylophone in the marching band. Luckily, I have been able to find time to continue music in college through the Cornell Symphony Orchestra. There are many opportunities to continue music, or whatever else you are passionate about, in college – sports, art, etc. One difference that I found in college as compared to high school, though, was that I had to specialize; I don’t have time to participate in all of the clubs that I did in high school.

Now, music and rock climbing are my two focuses outside of classes. This allows me to put my energy into the things that I enjoy the most, rather than spread my energy across many different clubs. On average, students here are involved in just two to three organizations.

College is a huge transition from high school. It’s all up to you to get your work done, go to classes, reach out for help when you need it and live independently. Although the transition can seem scary at first, it’s a very exciting and positive time, and is definitely something to look forward to.