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From Venezuela to Cornell

Walking with friends on campus
Taking Flight in Cornell's Bio Labs

I was in the middle of my thesis writing process for my bachelor’s degree — I knew this program would give me a strong push toward learning new techniques and debating my methodology and findings with other students and professors. 

Why did you choose to study at Cornell University? 

I found out that the United States Embassy was offering a two-month, all-expenses-paid scholarship to Cornell University in a program called Ciencia America. The program gives students the chance to gain experience and improve their knowledge in top biology research labs. I got excited about all the opportunities I could have, all the professors I could meet and work with. At the time, I was in the middle of my thesis writing process for my bachelor’s degree—I knew this program would give me a strong push toward learning new techniques and debating methodology and findings with other students and professors. 

At Cornell I worked in David Winkler´s Lab, a wonderful place where birds are studied in almost all levels. I was in daily contact with Professor Winkler. We exchanged and debated ideas on various subjects, and I learned more than I could have imagined. I interacted with the lab students, two undergrads and two graduates. They taught me about birds, field techniques, identification techniques, morphological measurements, physiological measurements, and more. I also went with the professor and the lab members to their research field site.

My colleagues listened to my thesis ideas, helping me clarify some of them and adding other thoughts into my mind. There wasn´t a day in which I didn´t do something different, challenging, and fantastic. Despite that, all my days ended with kind of a family meal with my five Venezuelan friends who were also at Cornell studying in the program.

I think I hadn´t had so much fun in years.

Fernando Riero at Cornell University

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

I learned several new things that really caught my attention.

At the swallow field site, I had my first encounter working with nest or bird chicks—it was a marvelous learning experience.

An undergrad in the lab was using MRI techniques to study the nose-cavity anatomy and physiology of certain types of birds — seeing the results opened my mind to what the technology could show us.

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

The truly best thing I experienced was the human warmth. Professor Tim DeVoogd, our Cornell faculty host for the program, accepted us in such a fantastic way that we all acted as if we were actually a family (and I think we still are). He made our stay simply wonderful. Everyone made us feel welcomed and helped us to understand, learn and improve our abilities in the easiest way possible. We had never before been to the United States, and the fact that we had such a happy time gave us a really good opinion of the country. 

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

It has certainly affected my life. All the things I learned helped me improve my thesis—so much that I think I wouldn´t have been able to finish it without the help of my Cornell experience. Thanks to that program, I am becoming a better prepared biologist. And now I have loads of friends abroad!

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

Give it a try! Don´t let the fact that Cornell is one of the best universities in the world stop you from applying. The moment you step inside the boundaries of this fantastic school you will change completely. You will indeed become an improved, better prepared and more thoughtful person. You don´t have anything to lose in applying, but everything to lose if you don´t even try.



Visiting International Students
United States
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