CHONG | Popping the Cornell Bubble

For the first time this semester, I will be returning home for this Thanksgiving Break. It’s a surreal experience for me: the thought of leaving our Ithaca bubble when this life has been all that I have known for the past couple of months is strange. Cornell has developed a reputation of being quite isolated; most students do not own cars and rely on public transportation to travel across Tompkins County. Outside of Tompkins County, there are miles and miles of land that surround us. Personally, I don’t mind that Cornell is more isolated than other universities. The small number of restaurants and cafes in Collegetown guarantees you’ll find a familiar face in each one, and the thought of being in a bubble filled with friends and acquaintances is a comforting one.

Still, it has been a strange reality that I have been living here. It feels as if I have one foot out in the real world and another foot in the reality we know to be the “Cornell experience.” I have felt very disconnected from the rest of the world and have only concerned myself with matters related to Cornell or Ithaca. Even the most recent election season has felt very distant to me, despite the best efforts of Cornell students to encourage each other to vote. It is as if I have entered a simulation game where I play the character of a college student, where the bosses to defeat are prelims and copious amounts of homework.

All of a sudden, a golden ticket has presented itself to me. Now that an opportunity to leave has fallen into my lap, it feels as if I am exiting the simulation and reentering the real world. Now, I feel that I am standing at the crossroads of the two places I consider home: Cornell and my hometown. Both feel like fragile entities that can fall apart at any moment. I have started to establish a new home in Ithaca and the distance away from my hometown has left me in a limbo state where it’s easy to feel lost. My time away from my hometown has helped me to build an identity that isn’t based on old childhood familiarities but instead on new experiences that I have been fortunate enough to have.

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