The first time I visited Cornell University I knew I wanted to study there.
I loved it: the gorges, the greenery, the smart students, the pedestrian-friendly campus, and the size.
I didn’t want to be at a small school where people would know too much about me. I wanted to be somewhere where I could pursue my sundry interests (cell evolution, Freud’s theories, Sembene Ousmane’s novels), take horseback riding for gym class, and never run out of options. I also loved that Cornell was the only Ivy League school that has four state-supported colleges and that lots of students came from New York City with their stylish shoes and fast talking. It felt less snobby to me than a purely private university.
Cornell was as amazing as I expected. I loved my three years in Ithaca (I spent my junior year abroad), appreciated the diversity at the school, and got an outstanding education.
Twenty-two years later, our family is spending the week in Ithaca. We’re at Cornell camp — an innovative program that combines summer camp for kids with summer programs for grown-ups. We’re staying in the dorms (they’re overairconditioned and the blinds don’t close all the way, my two major complaints), eating on the meal plan (danger alert: dessert options at every meal), and studying.
My 12 (“almost 13, Mom”)-year-old is taking horseback riding.
My 11-year-old is studying cartooning, which she likes so much that even though she was sick today she did not want to miss a second.
And my 8-year-old, who is the happiest of us all, is learning about architecture, spending his afternoons and evenings playing sports, and going back for seconds every night at the ice cream bar.
Our toddler is still too young to attend camp so she and I are tooling around Ithaca, checking out the playgrounds, exploring the suspension bridges, and having coffee with old friends. We get to see everyone at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Yesterday evening James stayed at the dorm while our son enjoyed the evening camp, Athena read her book in her dorm room, and Hesperus and I went to hear a lecture by a Cornell professor, Sahara Byrne, about how social media influences every aspect of our lives, starting before we’re born (Beyoncé’s baby sending out tweets) and continuing after we’re gone (Facebook memorial pages, new technology that will allow us to send messages to our as-yet-unborn great great grandchildren).
“This is going to be so boring Mo-om,” my 12-year-old (who had wanted to come) complained.
The lecture began. It was totally interactive, all about research on tweens and teens, and Hesperus was mesmerized.
“Boring?” I asked her when it ended.
“No, it was awesome.”
“She teaches classes about this stuff at Cornell.”
“I want to take a class with her!”
That, of course, is my secret hope — that at least one of our kids will want to go to Cornell, get accepted here, and have as good a college experience as I did.
Etani wants to stay two weeks (our next stop: to visit James’s family in Buffalo). We’re already talking about coming back next year. Want to come?