What a Surprise: My Cornell Life

A photo of Cornell Engineering student, TseTse in a labIf three years ago, you told me that I would be writing a blog about my experience at Cornell, the first thing that would surprise me is that I’m writing a blog. The second thing, however, would be that I attended Cornell. I chose Cornell simply because I thought it was one of the best engineering schools with the best combination of prestige and education. I turned out to be right. What I did not know nor think of, was what living at Cornell would be like. I can proudly tell you that I have loved my experience here and will miss it when I graduate next year. To help you, now that you are where I was a few years ago, I can describe to you my daily life at Cornell.

As you know, after classes, at some point comes studying. Because of the size of the College of Engineering, finding and making a study spot your own is no trouble. There are standard locations like the libraries (which are immense) but there’s so much more. Take the infamous Duffield atrium, for instance. With its open tables, lounge chairs, and alcoves covered with whiteboards on all its sides it’s the “go-to” spot for engineers to get together in small groups and study. If a more quiet place is what you want, then there are the classrooms across the Engineering Quad that, when empty, are great places to study. Even after three years, there are still study places that my friends use, but that I’m not aware of. The point is that the College of Engineering has a ton of buildings – it’s the biggest engineering program in the Ivy League – and there’s always a new study place for you to find.  You can typically find me in the elctrical and computer engineering building, Philips Hall, on the second floor.

However, studying is not all I do. For me, I spend my time outside classes with my project team, Solar Boat. I am part of the mechanical drivetrain sub-team where I use 3D design software (Solid Works) to design the boat and do machining at the machine shop. From my project team, I learn a lot of skills that I never really associated with engineering – we are a team and it takes inter-personal teamwork to build the boat! And this is from the perspective from an electrical and computer engineer. I have learned concepts and skills from being on the Solar Boat team that are not fully a part of the classes I’m taking to complete my major. At Cornell Engineering, you’re not pigeon-holed by your major. The biggest takeaway for me from being on the Solar Boat team is that it provided opportunities to work on a very real engineering project within several subteams. At Cornell, you have opportunities to experience real-world settings alongside the classes within your major before entering the real world. But let’s say project teams are not your cup of tea although you still want to do something related to engineering. My answer is research. Cornell Engineering research ranges from tree growth optimization to bio-imaging to designing more efficient and less environmentally toxic batteriesIf you’re worried about finding a research opportunity, you shouldn’t be. The Cornell Engineering faculty bring undergraduates into their research labs and programs. I’m currently doing research in electrical engineering and all I had to do to open that door was email a faculty member.

It’s not all classes, project teams and research. Cornell Engineering has much more to offer. In fact, I think that you’ll learn as much from the fun side of Cornell as you will from the academic side. Denice Cassaro will update you weekly on the events at Cornell such as Willy Wonka Night or performances by the dance groups in the annual Pao Bhangra event. Hungry late at night? There’s a university-wide group chat with constant updates on where free food is located (with over 4,000 members and growing). Want to gain professional networking skills? Talks and seminars are hosted monthly ranging from how to dress professionally to resume critiques and building your own elevator pitch. Want a good laugh, to see something interesting or to think deeply and provocatively about a topic? Cornell invites speakers and performers to come to campus throughout the year from the most intellectually stimulating to the most entertaining (my favorite was hearing from the creators of Rick and Morty). There is so much more and this post is just a small snippet of what Cornell has to offer. I would need another 20 pages to cover it all. I can promise you that choosing Cornell will open an entirely new world for you and that you will love your four years here as much as I have.
—Tse Tse ’21, electrical and computer engineering