For the last two days, I’ve been learning everything there possibly is to know about Cornell’s French department. The graduate field assistant, professors, and current students have showered us in kindness and pampered us 8 prospective students (three French, five Spanish) with a free hotel room, endless amounts of food (pains au chocolat, éclairs, cheese, Thai food, and sushi), and other free items (a lanyard, folder, screen cleaner, three-day bus pass, and an issue of a feminist criticism magazine).
On Tuesday, I awoke at the wonderful hour of 4:30 to take the metro to the DC airport and my flights to Newark and Ithaca. As soon as the bus reached campus and I found the graduate field assistant’s office, lo and behold, the 18th century and feminist theory professor I was supposed to meet with showed up and took me to lunch.
Yep, this café is inside the Romance Studies building. How ridiculously extra is that? Anyways, it’s a small world, because the professor was born in Laon and got her PhD at the Université de Nice, two French cities where I’ve spent a year of my life.
The free hotel shuttle them took me from the campus to the Hotel Ithaca, where I finally got to meet my hotel roommate, a fellow queer WOC French nerd. The hotel is the fanciest place I’ve ever stayed in, and I didn’t even pay money for that queen-sized bed with five pillows and a glorious view of a Sunoco gas station.
After a couple of hours, A and I unglued ourselves from the luxurious beds and headed over to campus for a creative writing seminar among the Romance Studies students. (Yes, this department is incredibly interdisciplinary.) We later headed downtown to dinner with a majority of the current grad students, where we got delicious pizza and I, through a series of unfortunate events, got a bruise on my butt. The four French students there had nothing but positive things to say about Cornell (including “Cornell’s so gay”), and they have such varied research interests. After two hours, a current student kindly drove us back to the hotel, where A and I immediately passed out.
Tuesday morning began with breakfast, where I gasped at the sight of mini pains au chocolat, and we got to meet more faculty and current students before embarking on a library tour. The main library is incredible, there are 7 floors and 8 million books (and there was an exhibition in witchcraft that included manuscripts in old French!); the second library has a room that I want to live in forever.
After I fawned over the libraries, the department fed us Thai food for lunch—the way to my heart—and I had so many wonderful conversations, notably ones about feminism and Black Panther.
I then met with another professor, who took me on a walk to see one of Ithaca’s famous apple vending machines and gorges. Unfortunately, I had to leave behind this pure, wholesome man and rush to a graduate class afterwards, which was…strange because, since the graduate departments here are so interdisciplinary, the class was cross-listed with French and taught entirely in English.
But the reception for prospective students took over my confusion, because I’ve never seen the Romance Studies lounge so full of Spanish, French, and Italian professors and students—and the food! Wine, cheese, éclairs, cannolis, fruit, charcuterie, and five huge trays of sushi. Who needs dinner after all that food? A and I returned to the hotel after two hours of chatting with professors and students, and then somehow stayed up until 11 discussing Cornell and our grad school choices, among other topics, and spent at least twenty minutes refusing to believe that one of the professors is in his 40s. Also, I will say that, damn, this department is incredibly queer.
This morning, three Spanish students met us in the hotel lobby and took us to a delicious breakfast at Café DeWitt, and then I had a wonderful meeting with a professor during which we agreed that gender shouldn’t exist. Finally, I had a tiny bit of free time before I had to catch the bus to the airport, so I wandered the campus. My emotional moment happened as I was walking toward this beautiful view and had to stop and stand there and wonder about how much I’d regret it if I turned down Cornell.
And now I’m sitting here in Ithaca, stuck on the plane that was supposed to have departed an hour and forty minutes ago, munching on leftover baguette from breakfast.