By Barbara Esuoso
As a senior undergraduate at Cornell University, I reflect on my time on campus and in the City of Ithaca with gratitude.
It is thanks to peers, professors, and long-time Ithaca residents who have served as friends, mentors, co-workers, and supervisors that I have been able to call Ithaca home.
When I first arrived in Ithaca from my Minnesota hometown three years ago, I didn’t know what to expect.
I was pleasantly surprised to be surrounded by not only a vast college campus, but also a nature-filled city, very similar to the green spaces that I grew up with. Hiking through the gorges and state parks, and strolling through the Ithaca Commons, have become favorite pastimes, even with the hilly terrain!
Other than the diverse nature and weather - (April snow? really?) - two experiences have helped me understand that my time at Cornell has not just been as a college student, but as a community resident, too.
As a student worker I have had the opportunity to work in various offices, from Athletics Communications to the Cornell Law School, and now as a great capstone experience, in Cornell’s Office of Community Relations. It is interesting to see the work of my colleagues Katelynne Brill, Penny Givin, Susan Riley, Gary Stewart, and Kate Supron assisting in fostering dialogue and enhancing connections between Cornell and the greater Tompkins County community.
The team has almost 90 years of Cornell experience, and the majority grew up in the Finger Lakes. They have told me stories about how the area has developed over the years, recommended great restaurants and community events, and shared what life is like in Ithaca and environs, from their perspective. These inputs have been a welcoming way of sharing the community with college students like myself, and others.
As I look back, I am grateful for my experiences both working for Cornell and volunteering in the local community. The latter have run the gamut from directing runners at a Tough Turtle 5k put together by the Ithaca Children’s Garden, serving food and loading dishes at the Loaves & Fishes food kitchen, and hanging out with kids at the annual Halloween gathering at Southside Community Center. I have been presented opportunities and taken advantage of them to get away from Cornell’s campus for a while and spend time with members of the Ithaca community. These experiences stand as some of my favorites during my time at Cornell.
What has also defined my time as a community resident has been my academic research. I am a Government major, with a specific interest in urban economic development and geography. This past spring, I took on a research project in which I studied Ithaca residents’ equity in access to communal spaces via Tompkins County Area Transit (TCAT), our central and essential transportation service. This led me to interview various community residents, attend a workshop at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, and study the geography of the greater Ithaca area, from the Triphammer Mall to the Southside and everything in between.
In studying these spaces, I was continually reminded of my time volunteering in the community, while again, truly relishing those experiences.
In a nutshell, as I begin my senior year, I feel like hilly Ithaca has become not just a “home away from home,” but really a home in itself.
Barbara Esuoso is a senior Government major in the College of Arts & Sciences at Cornell University. Upon graduation in May 2019, she hopes to take a gap year before attending law school. East Hill Notes are published the second and fourth Mondays of each month in Tompkins Weekly.
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