From Arizona to Washington, from Beijing to Paris, Cornell club leaders and other volunteers are giving members of the Class of 2020 a warm “welcome to Cornell” while bidding them joyful hometown farewells. At restaurants, picnic grounds, and alumni homes, 44 send-off celebrations are happening throughout July and August in 30 cities across the US and 14 cities in 9 countries overseas—gatherings full of nostalgia and wide-eyed hope.
The first two international send-offs took place on July 23, hosted by the Cornell Club of Shanghai and the Cornell Club of Indonesia.
The celebration by Cornellians in Indonesia was the club’s first-ever student send-off, and it took place at a trendy restaurant in Jakarta, where an energized crowd of alumni and parents fawned over five incoming students.
“They came with their questions and curiosities about Cornell, and this event served to equip them with more knowledge as they embark on a new adventure in a foreign country,” said Jessica Budiman ’13, who helped organize the gathering.
Mingling with alumni and current Cornellians, getting tips on what to wear and where to eat, and hearing a hodgepodge of anecdotes from the Hill helped to steady the jitters and raise the spirits of the new students.
Linus Setiabrata ’20 also can’t wait to experience the Hill. “Cornell’s a great place to be, with so many interesting opportunities!” he said. The would-be mathematics major looks forward to making new friends, getting an outstanding education, and having his first taste of independence 10,000 miles away from home.
For Ernest Bethe IV ’20, the send-off was a reassurance: “I can make Cornell my own place, as so many alumni and current students have clearly shown.”
Bethe intends to major in human biology, health, and society, and he plans to make the most out of his time on campus. “I want to develop as a person and scholar, while also remaining true to myself and my passions,” he said.
In North America, the first three celebrations happened on July 24, hosted by Cornell clubs in Arizona, Northeastern Ohio, and Toronto. The Arizona send-off gathered 40 alumni, current Cornellians, and incoming students and their parents to the Scottsdale home of Seth Kromholz ’98, MEng ’00 and Gilat Ben-Dor.
“Hosting a Cornell event in our home is more than just an alumni function—it’s about getting to know people on an individual basis, with our university ties in common, and giving these new students another community to be a part of,” Kromholz said. He added that the event helped to create an immediate support group for students on an “unfamiliar campus,” with an added benefit for travel: “They can go back and forth to Arizona from Ithaca with a friend!”
Looking ahead to life on campus, Christian Hall ’20 plans to “achieve academic success and make deep connections with faculty and peers that will last a lifetime.” The incoming student to the School of Hotel Administration added: “I hope to become a true ‘yes man,’ seizing opportunities that come my way, as bizarre and out of my comfort zone as some may be.”
Student send-offs are, at heart, a family affair, according to Donnelly Nariss Maysey ’97, a co-organizer of the Arizona gathering.
“They are a great opportunity for incoming freshmen and their parents to be welcomed into the Cornell family,” she said. “They get the chance to meet their future classmates and their classmates’ parents as well as speak with those who have recently or perhaps many moons ago experienced the excitement and anticipation of heading off, or having their child head off, to Cornell.”
Maysey also highlighted the powerful impact on alumni organizers themselves: “For me personally, to see the joy and excitement on the faces of students about to head off to an experience of a lifetime is just fantastic. It brings back so many memories of my time leading up to and on the Hill, some of the best times of my life.”
As the first day of classes approaches, other alumni are gearing up for their student send-offs, including members of the Cornell Club of San Diego who are partnering with local volunteers of the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN) for an event on August 7.
Laura Waksman Sugano ’90—who co-chairs the San Diego CAAAN committee with her husband Dean Sugano ’89—is eager to meet the students. A parent to a Cornell sophomore, she is ready to share alumni insights and motherly words of wisdom with the Class of 2020.
“My advice is make sure to reach out! Don’t let yourself just study, eat, sleep, repeat,” she said. “Get out there and explore your passions, and make friends with some who think just like you, and some who think nothing like you!”
Hailey Sokoloff ’20 has already marked her calendar for the San Diego gathering. An undecided major planning to pursue medicine after college, Sokoloff is touched by the immediate bond with alumni communities.
“I am looking forward most to meeting other Cornellians and attending an event where others share my love and excitement for Cornell. I love that alumni who graduated many years ago still hold such deep fondness for Cornell and their time on the Hill,” she said.
For Sokoloff and other students, these send-offs offer an experience of belonging that will only deepen over time.
“Although I have only visited the campus twice, each time I felt a strong connection. The campus always felt so alive, bright, and like home,” she said.