'I've realized that no idea or dream is too big.'

Syrielle Clement

Port-au-Prince, Haiti/South Fla.

Why did you choose Cornell?

I transferred to Cornell in my junior year of undergrad. While I arrived here later than most, it is one of the best decisions I've made. I came to Cornell with the hopes of being surrounded by

person sitting on bench inside

bright students and professors who push me to be a better version of myself daily. In my two years here, I've found more than that. I've immersed myself in an active Black community with peers who push me to be better and with professors who inspire me to find joy in the pursuit of knowledge. The best quality of those around me is their ability to go beyond simply questioning why things are the way they are, and taking real steps to finding those answers. Most importantly, I've realized that no idea or dream is too big. My favorite thing about Cornell is that everyone here has ambitious goals for themselves, and it inspires you to hold yourself to the same standard.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?

Spring at Cornell is always particularly memorable for me. As a Floridian, I finally understand the excitement over 60 degree weather after a harsh winter. Ithaca's unpredictable weather leaves you uncertain as to how long a warm weather streak will last. It makes me grateful for every moment where I pick up a light cardigan instead of my winter parka. When the sun is out, you'll find me on the slope with my friends (and occasionally up the clock tower). Though I cannot explain why this is, the weight of my academic responsibilities feels much lighter on the slope. I can escape the stress and demands of being a Cornell student and enjoy a warm day with my friends. In those moments, I realize how lucky we are to be attending college in a place as beautiful as this. I'll never get over how beautiful our scenery is and think I'm most mindful of this in the spring time. The end of the semester tends to be full of concerts and events held by student organizations. Though this can be difficult to manage with studying for finals, I'm glad that these activities leave us with a great ending to the semester.

How have your beliefs or perspectives changed since you first arrived at Cornell?

I've discovered that I am OK following a non-traditional path. In fact, I prefer that. From the

person outside in the south

moment I began applying to colleges I've always been asked, "What are you going to be? What are your plans for the future?" As a young adult, I felt an immense pressure to have an answer to these questions. For a long time, my answer was that I was going to be a lawyer. I relished in the validation from my peers and families' affirming glancing that I was going to enter a prestigious occupation. After my first legal internship, I quickly realized that I wanted more out of a career. I had spent so long being tied to the idea that I would be a lawyer after I graduate that once I let go of that aspiration, I felt really lost. During my first fall at Cornell, I recall attending club fest and not feeling an urge to join any pre-professional organizations. My friends eagerly rushed professional fraternities and often questioned why I was not doing the same. This was undoubtedly a challenging time as I lacked a sense of direction, but I'm grateful that I went through this early on. I now had the freedom to explore various professions and let my curiosity guide me. As I joined identity-based clubs, I learned that I was motivated by social impact, not a specific career. My on-campus involvement has shown me that I find great joy in supporting marginalized groups; it's led me to create an online beauty directory for hard-to-find services in Ithaca, and informed my writing where I focus on covering race-related issues both with freelance work and at the Cornell Daily Sun. There is an uncertainty that comes with going down the path less traveled, but I find solace in knowing that I am working in alignment with my purpose.

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?

The impressive student body at Cornell is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you're surrounded by America's brightest and feel inspired to fulfill your ultimate potential because of them. On the other, you can't help but compare your accomplishments to theirs. To incoming first-year students, I beg you to not compare yourself to others. As the saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy. I didn't understand the weight of this phrase until I got to Cornell. Any major accomplishment that you achieve can and will be brought down if you look at it relative to what others have done. I urge you to stick to your own path. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is who you were yesterday. The most interesting and genuine version of yourself will shine through when you focus on your own aspirations.


Every year, our faculty nominate graduating Arts & Sciences students to be featured as part of our Extraordinary Journeys series. Read more about the Class of 2023.

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		Syrielle Clement