“Ithaca is Gorges” The message is ubiquitous as bold white text on green tshirts. And it is. But to me, Ithaca is a great number of things.
- Ithaca is Gorges.
Ithaca is literally gorges – gorges that were carved out over 2000 years by glaciers migrating south from Canada. I’ve been able to enjoy some of the grandest gorges and waterfalls while grilling and hiking at the numerous local state parks: Buttermilk, Taughannock, Treman. But often, I didn’t even have to go that far; as a Cornell freshman living on North Campus, I walked across waterfalls every morning to get to class. Ithaca Falls is right behind Ithaca High School, and on more than one occasion my 9th grade English class took an unofficial field trip to sit outdoors and write about our “sense of place” with nature as our inspiration.
Ithaca is also other types of gorgeous. There are the (in my opinion, much under-appreciated) flower garden and arboretum of the Cornell Plantations, and the Lab of Ornithology with its labyrinth of woodchipped running trails. Every fall, the leaves turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red. And every winter, the snow carpets the ground with a layer of glistening white.
- Ithaca is Community.
I like to describe Ithaca as large enough that not everyone knows everyone’s business, but small enough to run into at least one friend or acquaintances while shopping at Wegmans. Ithacans are some of the friendliest and community-oriented people I have met. Growing up, one of my neighbors would organize Christmas caroling and a cookie swap every holiday season. When my father started attending church, some other members installed a ramp so that my father’s wheelchair could more easily move up the front steps.
Ithaca also loves reasons for its community members to come together and celebrate. Each year, there are a number of festivals held in the Ithaca Commons: the Ithaca Festival with its quirky parade and global food, the Chili Festival with its chili cook-off, the Apple Festival with local cider, donuts, and pies. Every year I look forward to eating fried dough and kettle corn, and shopping for handmade jewelry.
- Ithaca is Ideas.
In general, Ithaca is socially and politically liberal and progressive. Ithaca is eco-friendly, with recycling and compost bins at almost every eatery. Ithaca teaches tolerance, with open discussion of world religions in school, and rainbow signs declaring LGBT-friendliness on many car bumpers and in many doorways. Comprehensive sex-education is taught in school. As is the theory of evolution.
Cornell University and Ithaca College are also great intellectual hubs, attracting a diverse body of students, as well as numerous well-known performers, guest speakers and lecturers. Through Cornell, I’ve heard journalist Helen Thomas speak about the importance of the free press in democracy. I’ve heard musician John Legend talk about the impact of a good education, and follow his talk with an amazing live performance. I’ve heard Comedy Central’s TV show host Jon Stewart crack jokes about presidential candidates and Ithaca’s notoriously cold winters all in one breath.
- Ithaca is Cornell.
My story in Ithaca ends with my four years of undergraduate education at Cornell University. And what an amazing four years it’s been. Not only have I received a first-rate education, but I’ve learned countless life lessons and met countless people who have changed my life – the kind of experiences you can’t pay for. I’ve been part of countless families – Alpha Chi Sigma, the chemistry major, the Aye lab, the Totoro Cave, and many more without names. I’ve exchanged ideas with people of all ages from all parts of the world. I learned that Canadians put gravy and cheese curds on their fries and call it poutine. I learned that in Britain they call flashlights torches. I’ve learned that the best way to learn organic chemistry is to teach it, and that Manndible Cafe serves the best burritos on campus.
Especially dear to me are Baker Laboratory (the chemistry building aka second home) and my experiences as a chemistry major. As a chemistry student at Cornell, I’ve learned the meaning of challenges and hard work, but also of how it feels to succeed. I’ve been taught and mentored by some of the greatest in the field, and have worked and studied alongside many who I am proud to call both great scientists and great fiends. But most importantly, my chemistry education in Baker Laboratory is what had led me to realize just how much I love chemistry – just how exciting modern chemistry research can be, and how it feels to have pride as a chemist.
I love many things about Ithaca. It is the place of my birth, and I will always consider it to be my home. I feel very fortunate to have grow up in this town, and my life has been made much richer from it.