Turning Winter to Summer in Ithaca

I was told an anecdote about Cornell when I first came here. People say there are four seasons in Ithaca: Orientation week, pre-winter, winter, and post-winter. By now I think I understand what they mean. Ithaca is gorgeous, and Cornell is definitely the most beautiful school that I have ever seen. The days before school started were relaxed and fun, filled with furniture shopping, campus walking, pictures taking and of course, food tasting.

summer in ithacaFor that week of orientation we enjoyed a beautiful Ithaca summer.

Then school started. And no matter how you wish you could just enjoy the weather and have fun, times flies. And I can’t believe right now 1/3 of the semester has already passed.

For most Chinese students who take undergraduate study in China, graduate study in America will be a challenge. You can no longer be fine skipping classes, partying or dating and cramming the night before finals. And college life here in the U.S. is not about Justin Bieber and ice cream as you might think.

Instead, every day here is like the day right before finals. You have A LOT of homework. Such a lot that you finally realize why the noun “homework” is uncountable :).

I was not prepared at all. I quickly got overwhelmed by the homework that can never be finished (it just kept coming), stressed out from the day-to-day full schedule, upset about the fact that I was so busy, and eventually so lonely since I barely had time to make friends and enjoy life.

And on top of all that, I was extremely homesick.

Oh, I have to mention there were a couple of days at the beginning of September when it was around 4°C and it kept raining – perfect for an already gloomy mood.

There you go – winter came after orientation week, just as they predicted; not only for Ithaca, but also for me.

But after spending the first three weeks being unadapted and struggling, I am getting more and more comfortable now. Here is a small tip to whoever wants to study in the U.S.: please don’t be afraid to ask your classmates to study with you—sitting alone in library for a long time is depressing, and group work on your homework is efficient and fun (go get brunch before studying together or go to parties after homework is done; you will make good friends as well).

Jumping out of your comfort zone is always easier said than done—I have to confess that most of my group study buddies are Chinese, but I know whoever is reading this blog will do better than me :).

Here are some other things that helped improve my experience:

summer happy things collage–Try a different restaurant in your area once a week–this is so helpful—not only do you try food, you also have something to look forward to during the long week, which makes the week feel shorter.

–Get an on-campus dining part-time job!! Oh my, I have to say this plays a huge role in my current happy situation. I love food, and interactions with people give me excitement. Bonus, you get to learn the names of foods really fast.

–Go hiking on the weekend. You might be just food-loving and also lazy like me, who only take in calories but never ever wants to go to the gym to burn them. Hiking is a good opportunity to take in fresh air, get some relaxation after a stressful week, get exercise and make new friends.

And if weather affects emotion, well, it also goes the other way. When I was happy that I had finally found the right track, the sun came out almost every day for the rest of September.

So when you think winter has come, don’t rush to get yourself layered and closed. Please wait up; the sun comes out eventually.


  1. Oh no, I do not work on daily basis, I work 2 shifts per week, 4 hours per shift, which means I work 8 hours per week. It doesn’t bother much and you know what, I wish I could work more!!That really is my favorite part of the weekdays:)

  2. “You don’t want to do your homework alone since it counts as part of your final score (you always want to make sure you got the right answer right?)”

    Absolutely right!!!Especially in engineering in which you are always wondering if you’ve done correctly the calculations!!!Thanks a lot for the information,it definitely helped me.As Ms.Stahl pointed out the amount of time you can work depends on your type of visa,so I guess it’s very important the type of visa you’re gonna be granted.Working seems fine as long you have adequate time to study and make your assignments!!!:)So,if you get a part-time job,how many hours will you be working daily??Like 2?

  3. Hi Vangelis!! So glad that you like it:)
    Yes, it is common practice to study in group in the US. Not only students do that, teachers encourage you to do that as well. You don’t want to do your homework alone since it counts as part of your final score (you always want to make sure you got the right answer right?).
    And the part-time job! I do not think it is illegal to get a part-time job while having fellowship. I mean I have certain amount of fellowship (obviously far not enough), and when I applied for the part-time job, they didn’t ask me if I had scholarship or fellowship. Well, it might depend on universities, but you can always ask right?:))But I believe that whether you have scholarship or not, you can always apply for a TA position, it offers you good stipend.
    Hope that helps!:)

  4. “please don’t be afraid to ask your classmates to study with you”

    Is this common practice for students in the US?Here in Greece me and my buddies constantly go to libraries and study all together and I was always wondering if this happens in the US too!!By the way great post!!!One other thing I wanted to ask is if it is legal to get a part-time job especially if you have a scholarship or a fellowship (I have read that some universities don’t allow you to have a part-time job while you’re studying there).

    1. As far as getting a part-time job, your F-1 visa restricts how much you can work and at what sort of job. In general you’ll be allowed to work up to 20 hours a week when school is in session (unless work experience is part of your course of study). For your first year you can only work on campus. After that you can apply for authorization to work off campus, either for reasons of economic hardship or to gain experience in your field of study (called OPT or CPT).

      1. Hi, Jessica! Great comment, but I want to make sure that students know it’s not easy to get permission to do off-campus work on economic hardship! It’s reserved for students with real emergencies that come as a surprise.

        I’m an international student adviser at a university, and this is a confusing point for lots of students!

        1. Yeah, that’s a really good point Megan. Thanks for chiming in. What about CPT and OPT – do most students get approved for those?

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