A Day in the Life of a Cornell Engineer

I don’t know if there’s such thing as a typical day, as they’re always changing. Even regularly scheduled events get moved around and rescheduled, or canceled outright, so you never really know what to expect. The past couple of semesters have also been completely different and unpredictable thanks to the pandemic. This semester I happen to be on campus, after spending the previous two and a half semesters online. As a sophomore, it also happens to be the first time I get to witness spring on campus.

That being said, most weekdays I wake up at 8 a.m. and roll out of bed to turn off my obnoxious, yet very necessary alarm. I then take a shower, get dressed, check the weather and generally just get ready for the day before heading off to breakfast around 8:45 a.m. I tend to eat breakfast quickly while listening to my latest podcast episode, then trek up the hill from west campus cutting across Ho Plaza to find a seat in the Duffield atrium. I try to join my classes and do a lot of my work from buildings on campus, usually Duffield or one of the other engineering buildings, as I feel I’m in a more productive environment compared to my dorm room. Plus this helps keep me a little active instead of just sitting in my room all day.

My classes start around 9:40 a.m. on Zoom, and continue till about 1 p.m. In this time I’m usually just taking notes or doing problems in a discussion section. At this point I usually have an hour and a half or so for lunch and getting some work done before another class at 2:40 p.m. After that class, I have a couple hours that gets used differently depending on the day. Usually I have a meeting or two for various clubs and project teams, these vary in length, but usually aren’t any longer than an hour. Any time in between meetings, or if I don’t have any, I am getting more work done, usually trying to finish whatever I had started earlier if I hadn’t finished it yet.

This is the point in the day where my schedule also becomes much less predictable. Most days after I finished my meetings and was happy with where my work was I head back over to west to grab some dinner and take an hour or so to relax and not focus on school work. My dinner break wraps up anywhere between 7:30 p.m .and 9:00 p.m. depending on what I have that day.

After my dinner break I usually get back to work either doing readings or working on other problem sets. If I’m working with someone on a problem set or a project we often schedule it for the evening, which is one of the biggest influences on that day’s schedule. If I’m working on my own,  I’ll usually just stay in my dorm and finish my work, then take the rest of the night to relax and talk to people before heading to bed anytime between midnight and 2 a.m.

Though my days often feel (and are) long, I try to intersperse small breaks between classes and work to break things up. I also try to work with people as much as possible both because online classes have much less opportunity to socialize and meet people, and it also makes getting work done more fun when you can chat with someone or bounce ideas off them.

—Elias, operations research and engineering