Campus Life at Cornell — A Real Student’s Story
This article is a first-person account from Moriah Adeghe, a Cornell student and CollegeVine livestreamer, mentor, and contributor. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
Are you dreaming about going to Cornell University? This Ivy League school is a great choice for students interested in various subjects, but perhaps you’re not quite sure what life there will actually be like. College is more than just classes, after all. Where will you live? What will you eat? What’s the area around the school like? In this article, a Cornell student answers those questions based on her own experiences.
Becoming an RA
If you’re an RA, the benefits are clear: your room and board are covered by Cornell. If you’re already receiving financial aid, they’ll reduce your total grant to make up for this.
Cornell was already paying for my room and board as part of my financial aid package, so I wouldn’t have gotten the $15,000 for being an RA. They would have just deducted this from my total aid.
If that’s not the case for you and you’re paying in full for room and board, you might want to consider being an RA. It could benefit you quite a bit. You’ll get free housing and a free meal plan too. You’ll also have a single room—this is definitely an added perk and something that many students want.
I wasn’t in a single room during my freshman year. In fact, I was in a forced triple, so I had two roommates. There were three of us in a room made for two people, so my freshman dorm experience was a bit cramped. It ended up being fine, though. It’s just nine months of your life—you might not look forward to sharing a room, but you’ll make it through.
There are a few single rooms, but they’re few and far between with freshmen. Truthfully, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s actually great to have roommates and to be able to make friends through them. If you really want your personal space and you know that’s something that you value, you can request a single dorm room. It’s not guaranteed at all, though, so be prepared for that.
The dorms have shared bathrooms too. The condition of the dorms was fine; mine was less than ideal, but I managed. They actually now have many new dorms that were being built when I was a senior. This year’s current freshmen are living in those new dorms, and from what I hear, they’re amazing.
I’m vegan, so I don’t eat meat, dairy, eggs, or anything like that. Cornell does have vegan and vegetarian options for those of us who have food restrictions, and they make it clear what’s vegan and what’s not.
As far as allergies go, there are allergy warnings on every food item that’s being served. If the food is buffet style, it will say, “white rice, no allergens,” or something like that. It will tell you specifically what allergens are in the food—with pizza, for example, it will say that it contains gluten, milk, etc. If you’re struggling to find something that fits your dietary restrictions, you can let the chefs know and they’ll make something for you.
There are 10 all-you-can-eat dining halls, and there are also 19 cafes, eateries, and food carts. At the all-you-can-eat spots, you use a meal swipe. At the other places, you’ll use BRBs, or Big Red Books. The food is priced at a certain point—$8, for example—and you’ll pay that.
I thought the dining was really good. Mac’s and Terrace in the hotel school is great. That’s one of the eateries, not a dining hall. We also have a few food courts. Trillium was one of my favorites—they do things like burgers and impossible burgers, and they have ramen stations, pasta stations, quesadilla stations, and more.
I think that the university dining halls are ranked high on lists comparing university food. We might even be third in the nation, depending on where you look. My options were limited as a vegan, but I would truthfully say that the dining halls are good, and I enjoyed my food experience overall.
Ithaca and the Surrounding Area
I was born and currently live in New York City, though I spent most of my life living in the suburbs. Cornell has a “middle-of-nowhere” stereotype, and Ithaca is out in upstate New York, of course. But the town was a great place to spend my college years.
I knew all my life that I wanted to end up back in New York City after my college graduation. But now that I’ve gone to Cornell, I couldn’t imagine going to school in the city. I think that Ithaca is an amazing place, and I often miss it. A college town is great, and living in one is an amazing experience. It’s also just four years; if you want to live in a big city, you have your entire life to do so.
I’m not a super outdoorsy person, but I loved the nature and the views around Ithaca. If you’re visiting, you should check out the downtown area, where they have all the nice restaurants and cool shops. Depending on the time of year when you’re visiting, you might not be able to do too much stuff outside. If you can get out there, though, you should go on a hike and try to see all the beautiful scenery Ithaca has to offer.
The restaurants in town are great too. There were a few American food restaurants and good Thai food—I love Thai. It’s worth looking around downtown Ithaca; it can be a fun place!
You should plan on visiting the campus. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were doing self-guided tours, and if you can take one of those, you definitely should. But it would also be helpful to have someone guiding you around. In any case, I recommend looking around the campus. It’s a huge place, and you probably won’t be able to see everything offered during a single visit.