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Why I like the Common Text (or some thoughts on Cornell being pretty awesome)

Guest Blogger: Felix Amanor-Boadu ’16.
To get you started with exploring the Common Text, Felix–a PA with NSO 2015, member of the senior class, scholar, performer, and all around awesome Cornellian gives some insight on why the Common Text–and Cornell–are pretty awesome. 

I came to Cornell full of ideas about who I was, what I wanted to do, and how I was going to spend my time here. Here I was, this weirdo moving from one part of the Midwest to another, to attend a college entirely unlike any I’d heard of before. All my notions of what Cornell was going to be like were based on my perceptions, and the beauty of perception is that it doesn’t describe things we *know*, only things we think. So now, after three years at Cornell, a lot of my original ideas have changed–and a lot haven’t.

This year’s common text, a Ted Radio Hour based on playing with perceptions, has definitely been my favorite so far. The speakers’ discussions about perception: how you look at yourself, how others look at you and how you look at others, relate deeply not just to NSO, or your first year, but to the entire Cornell experience, and I’m betting (hoping) even beyond that. Let’s take for a start, the use of a radio hour as a common text — I heard text, and thought, “Great, another thing I have to read,” but instead, it was a series of interviews and videos. That sure challenged my perceptions of what a common text could be. Second, the radio hour format, in juxtaposing all the different voices, offers many unique perspectives on the topic. Honestly, it reminded me of being in any discussion-based class at Cornell.

Here, you can find yourself in small classes with students from across all departments, each of them bringing something different to the discussion. It makes for a lively learning environment with connections you’d never make in a more rigid structure. Some of the most fun I’ve had was doing leaps across the gym floor with Econ majors in THE 281 Dance Workshop, or hearing about the diverse range of projects students used mathematical principles to create in MAT 110 Great Mathematical Ideas. We all learn to talk in the languages of different disciplines, and connect across them, a little like Maz Jobrani’s experience of unexpected accents.

One of the big things that drew me to Cornell was the incredible range of other weirdos who managed to find their way here, too, to  #workyourquirk. These students were from all over the world and had their own unique hobbies and interests. Just like me, they found something great about Cornell. And even though we had that in common, there was no guarantee that we would share anything else. This is a space where we’re free to not only figure out who we are, but then, be that person. No need to “rob each other of beauty of our differences” like Jamila Lyiscott warns us. I’ve learned so much in the classroom, and just as much from other students whose experiences differed in one way or another, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

Thanks to Felix for such great insight into the Common Text and Cornell quirk! The Common Text assignment is a great introduction to thinking about Cornell’s liberal arts experience and emphasis on writing and intercultural literacy. Seeing the word “assignment” in the middle of the summer may seem daunting, but don’t stress about it! The Common Text is a tool to consider your own ideas and prepare for some conversations during NSO and on campus. 

Incoming Students: the assignment for the Common Text became available a few weeks ago; don’t forget to cross it off of your checklist! Check out the full assignment here, but as reminders of what to do: Download or watch the TED talk radio hour ‘Playing With Perceptions’, reflect on the discussion with the given prompts, and respond with a 400-500 word essay or 3-5 minute response to one of these prompts. Be sure to reference examples from the TED talks in your response. Email your response to no later than August 15.