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March 06, 2018


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10 Things I Learned Transferring to Cornell University

March 06, 2018


After two years at the Culinary Institute of America I graduated with a degree in baking and pastry. I love turning a bag of flour into a tray of hot, buttery, flaky croissants.

But I wasn’t done learning about the hospitality industry. I’m told there’s more to it than butter, chocolate, and sugar. I’m not sure why anyone would need more, but that’s what I was told when I met a Cornell University recruiter sitting at a table in the corner at career day at CIA. She talked, I listened, and the next thing I knew I was enrolled as a junior at an Ivy League university.

Cornell University School of Hotel Administration become my new home.

My first semester has been filled with challenges, but it has also opened my eyes, expanded my horizons, and exposed me to ideas and thinking I might have missed had I been done with formal education after getting my Associate’s degree.

Here are some of the important things I’ve learned:

1. There’s not really any ivy at this Ivy League university.

Cornell was built on a big hill in the middle of nowhere—Ithaca, New York. It’s known for a lot of things, like being really cold and far away from everything. It is not, however, known for actually having a lot of ivy growing in these arctic temperatures.

2. These people study all. the. time.

I come from a baking background. At culinary school, studying means practicing piping techniques or making a marzipan rose. When I finish “studying” I can lick my fingers. Cornell is an academically intense place. Hanging out with people who were all at the top of their class in high school has required me to up my game—these kids are smart. I’m no longer studying to be the best, but simply to survive. This is tough.

3. This is a whole new kind of cult.

Culinary school was most certainly its own cult. Knife-wielding, food-loving pyromaniacs are definitely their own group, but Cornell is something different. Ivy League schools join together to form this strange membership for the students attending. It’s exciting to be connected with so many interesting people doing interesting things.

4. Transferring is lonesome.

Freshmen come to school together and bond early. They quickly come to feel like they own the place. I came in as a junior without knowing anyone and without an instant network of classmates starting at the same time. I was lonely for the first couple of weeks. This big place is intimidating at the outset. Thankfully, I learned that in a university this big, there’s always somebody else who doesn’t know anybody else. I can make friends with that person and then we both know each other and I’m less lonely in that class. That’s definitely one perk of going to a massive school.

5. Fashion is a thing.

For two years I wore checkered pants, a chef’s jacket and a toque. The school provided our uniforms. We were also required to wear these orthopedic-looking, black non-slip shoes. There was very little posing for glamour selfies happening at CIA. At Cornell we get to pick our own outfits. It’s weirdly exhilarating, but also frustrating to have to decide what to wear each day.

6. There’s so much to do here!

Culinary school was cool, but small. We had a handful of clubs and things to do around town, but it was nothing like going to a big university. There are hundreds of clubs here and not enough hours in the day to do everything I want. From classes, to homework, and then a job, and clubs, sometimes sleep is forgotten because I don’t want to miss anything fun.

7. My connections have grown exponentially.

When I found out before I started at Cornell that there are around 20,000 undergraduates here, I couldn’t really imagine what going to a campus with that many people would be like. Now, what I have learned is that it creates this massive opportunity to network and meet alumni. Having a diverse student body and alumni network is one of the best things I could have ever asked for.

8. People just go about their day when it snows here?

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but also completely baffling. It snows several inches and people just keep going as if nothing is happening. I don’t understand. I’m from North Carolina. When it snows—everything stops. Everything should stop.

9. I can’t waste any time here.

I am a junior, so I only get two years here. I really like it here at Cornell, so sometimes that makes me sad. I’ve jumped into clubs and organizations because, since I have such a short time here, I can’t waste any of it. I’m rushing from one thing to the next trying to take it all in, get the full experience, and learn everything I can. My limited time here has made each moment even more precious.

10. I’m going to be able to give back even more.

I’ve always seen the possibilities for using food to change minds, open hearts, and make a difference. I believe there’s a direct pathway between the tummy and the brain. A chocolate croissant can change more than our body weight or cholesterol level—it can change someone’s heart. Now I’m seeing more opportunities for making change happen. My Cornell experience is opening up new possibilities, giving me new perspective, and showing me new ways to use my energy to make a difference.

Being a transfer student is challenging and exhilarating.

I loved my time at Culinary Institute of America. I’ll never forget the lessons I learned. But now, I’m all in at Cornell. It’s fantastic to be here and to have the chance to keep learning and growing. I’ve finished one semester, I’ve got three more to go, and I’m going to keep going full blast as I jam a four year experience into two years.

Cornell is exposing me to new things, new people, and new ideas. I’m certain they’ll help me going forward and I’m confident that this is the right place for me to be. It’s hard to know how this experience will impact going forward, but I’ve got a feeling there are more than croissants getting baked into my future.


This post was written by Point Honors Point Scholar Lane Rosen.

Lane is studying Hotel Administration at Cornell University. Lane plans to mix a passion for creating community with a passion for hospitality (and pastry) to make change in the world. Read more about Lane here.

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