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From Colombia to Cornell

Students taking a study break in Gates Hall cafe
Every Experience Was Significant

Cornell is a place for everybody. Here you’ll be welcomed no matter where you came from.

Why did you choose to study at Cornell University?

Well, I won a scholarship given by the Colombian government as part of the Nexo Global Program, and there was the possibility to choose only between Cornell University and Purdue University. My area of study is electrical engineering, so I researched both universities to figure out which was better known in this area, and it turned out to be Cornell.

A few days later I realized that Professor Carlos E. Murillo Sánchez, who was going to become my advisor in Colombia, had studied for his PhD at Cornell—this motivated me even more.

Sergio near McGraw clock tower on Cornell's central campusDescribe a typical day for you on the Cornell campus.

What I did at Cornell was focused in research. So I spent all day in the office or studying or running experiments.

My friend and I from Colombia had lunch at the dining rooms, checking every day what every dining spot offered and deciding based on that. Our favorite was Risley Hall, so we usually met there around noon and spent an hour for lunch. After that we went back to work until 5 or 6 p.m. At nights I normally went to the gym, until 7 or 8 p.m. and then went home—I lived off-campus, on Maple Ave. 

What was something surprising that you saw, learned, or experienced at Cornell?

I experienced a lot of surprising things, from little experiences like getting to know snow, or skiing (one of the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done), to more significant experiences like knowing a lot of different people and cultures from all around the world.

From the academic perspective, I learned how the big universities support graduate students during their master or PhD work. I worked in Elilyan Bitar’s research group, I joined a group of three students, each of us from a different country: Greece, China, Iran, and Colombia.

It’s incredible the amount of resources of every kind that universities like Cornell can offer. I had access to a lot of databases, biographic platforms, interesting courses, and also collaboration with other big universities.

During the six months that I spent at Cornell, our department offered more than 10 conferences given by professors either from Cornell or universities like MIT, Princeton, and so on. This allowed me to discover different points of view about topics, and different ways to conduct research.

Now I have a much larger vision of studying in a postgraduate program in a huge university like Cornell.

I also learned a lot about American culture, I could visit important cities in the U.S., like New York, Washington, and Boston.

Students walking on campus during a snow storm

What’s one of the best things you experienced at Cornell?

I think about Cornell as a whole experience. I had a lot of good moments: the concert at the top of the McGraw Tower, the hockey games, hanging out at Collegetown Bagels, and a lot more.

But if I sum every one of those little experiences into a whole for the six months I lived there, I have to say that collectively this was the most incredible experience in my life. I hope I can come back soon to Cornell, at least to visit the campus and see the friends a have there, but even better if it can be to study my PhD.

How do you expect your Cornell experience will affect your future?

After my six months at Cornell, I returned to Colombia and immediately joined my advisor‘s research group. When I finished my undergrad, I decided to continue to a master program, mostly motivated by the experience in Cornell. I’m currently doing my first year, and I still working on topics related to what I did in the U.S.

Now that I have a real experience of what it’s like studying abroad, I want to pursue a PhD in the United States, maybe at Cornell. I am still figuring out the details.

What advice would you give other international students who are thinking about studying at Cornell?

Cornell is a place for everybody. You’ll be welcomed no matter where you came from. At Cornell you can find all kinds of activities, from crossfit training groups to juggling groups.

The campus is beautiful during all the year, every season has its charm. During winter, it’s possible to go to ski or watch hockey matches, and during summer you can go the waterfalls and spend a good time with friends. There are a lot of different sports to practice, clubs to join, or land activities to do.

Also there are many resources to use: big libraries with all kinds of bibliographies, a large variety of courses, restaurants with different food for every taste, cultural activities and sports for every person around the world.

Ithaca is also a nice place to live—a small town, mostly calm, but not boring, where people practice water-sports and enjoy the nearby forests.


Visiting International Students
United States
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