Back to School

Did I ever mention that I went to Harvard, Northwestern, Stanford, Oxford and other prestigious universities? However, it was only to visit; not to study. Strolling on campuses in places I travel is a hobby of mine. I like the university atmosphere, energy and knowing that future leaders, scientists, doctors, lawyers (and high-profile defendants) are all around me. One of the few souvenirs I collect nowadays is a university t-shirt. I’ve also managed to sneak into a few empty classrooms and imagine being a professor.

My visit to the Ivy League’s Cornell University in Ithaca, New York was more special. My husband is a Cornell alumnus and for years has told me about his time there and the beauty of the campus and surrounding area. I’m always proud to point out that he played football at Cornell, too. This was the first time he had been back since he graduated.

Ithaca is located in the Finger Lakes area of western New York State about 220 miles northwest of New York City and 250 miles southeast of Toronto. We drove from Toronto, where we had been on business, spending the night in Niagara Falls along the way (more to come on that in another post). The closest sizeable cities are Syracuse and Rochester. The small town of Ithaca has many restaurants, shops and galleries. It also boasts being the place where the ice cream sundae was created.

When I visited, there was fresh snow on the ground and it was quite cold. In many ways, that added to the scenes. Although I haven’t personally been there in other seasons, the photos I’ve seen show spectacular trees in bloom in spring and glorious fall colors. In the early 20th century, Ithaca was an important location for silent films because of the area’s natural beauty.

Built on a hill, there are views of Lake Cayuga, the longest of the Finger Lakes. Numerous gorges and waterfalls created by ancient glaciers are on campus and the surrounding areas. We hiked at nearby Taughannock Falls. We also drove to Watkins Glen State Park, about 30 miles from town, but could only walk in a short distance because the path beyond the gorge entrance was closed.

Cornell offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs. Travelers may be interested to know that many professionals in the hospitality industry have studied at Cornell University which has the United States’ first college dedicated to hotel administration. The on-campus Hotel Statler is staffed by students in the hotel administration program. There is an impressive list of famous people who have graduated from Cornell in all fields. A university alumnus in the news recently is David Seidler who just won the Academy Award for Original Screenplay for The King’s Speech. Significantly, Cornell was the first Ivy League school to admit female students.

The building styles range from ornate structures erected in the late 19th century to modern designs. The non-denominational Sage Chapel, built in 1873, is decorated with colorful murals, stained glass windows, mosaics and figurines representing Literature, Music, Science, Young Womanhood and Young Manhood.

I could see why my husband had been so enthusiastic about taking me to see his alma mater and nature’s many gifts to this part of New York State. He enjoyed showing me around this place that had been an important part of his life. But with the passage of time, to him it was much like visiting many other places. It was a beautiful setting with interesting history, but there was no longer a strong attachment.

Have you gone “back to school” for a visit? How did you feel?

Professor Sweeney

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

32 thoughts on “Back to School

  1. Michael Figueiredo

    What a great angle for a story, Cathy. I never really thought of visiting college universities while traveling, but I like the idea. Cornell looks really pretty too! I love the photo of the frozen waterfall.

  2. Grace

    I really like how each of your post reveal something new about you Cathy! This just makes me very sentimental since I have not been able to visit my alma matter for some years now. I am planning a trip back home this May and plan to stop by my University and reminisce.

  3. Andrea

    Campuses can be really beautiful! Stanford was a highlight for me. I also love the towns where Universities are located – uni towns usually have such a great vibe and reasonable food and accommodation.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Stanford’s great. When I lived in Palo Alto, I’d ride bike around campus all the time. You’re so right about the vibe in university towns, too.

  4. Nancie

    I did my undergrad at Dalhousie in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and have been back many times. It’s a beautiful campus. When I was a student I used to work in the social work library, which was housed in a beautiful old Victorian house. I have the feeling that it is one of the few university libraries that can boast a bathroom with a bathtub! I lived almost on campus and remember watching the Law School Library burn down. Little did I know that many years later the law library would become one of my major customers when I worked in the law publishing field.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Nancie – it looks like you and Ayngelina have something in common — she mentioned in her comment that she went to Dalhousie, too! Thanks for sharing your story about the social work library (imagine that, a bathtub!) and the law library!

  5. Katrina

    I absolutely love the gorge photo. What an amazing assemblage of features, so beautiful!

    I don’t especially have an attachment to my college. I did take the husband with me to a one of my high schools and a grade school on our road trip last summer. I wanted to exorcise some demons and to show him some of the places that had an impact on shaping who I am. It was amazing to see how teeny-tiny the grade school was!

    I am much more interested in going to visit the place where I went to bootcamp. I was only ever there as a recruit, so I’d like to see it through they eyes of a non-prisoner. 😉

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, Katrina. I hope you do visit your old bootcamp — it really would be interesting to see it as an outsider, I’m sure. I took my husband to see the University of Utah, but when I wanted to show him my dorm, I found out that they had torn it down and built a parking lot!

  6. Jeremy B

    This is where you and I are a lot alike. Ever since I was a kid, I am FASCINATED with college campuses. When I was 11, I went to a Furman football game (SC). And while I love football, I took a break and wandered around campus. Now every place I go, I just LOVE visiting college campuses.

    When we went to Seattle, I had to take a look at the University of Washington. In Estonia, I visited Tartu University. I’ve been to Harvard twice. I ate lunch in a cafe at the university in Seville, Spain. When we visited the Grand Canyon, we took a special trip to visit my wife’s campus of Northern Arizona. I love colleges and university but my favorite will always be the University of South Carolina! 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      So cool to hear that you and I share this interest! There are so many aspects of university visits that I like — the student vibe, the buildings, nostalgia, the history, etc. Keep me posted on your college visits! Not sure what my next one will be.

  7. Caz Makepeace

    We loved visiting university campuses whilst road trippin USA. They are amazingly beautiful with lot’s of history and agree college towns are where it’s at for us. Love the vibe and facilities. Some of our experiences were University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (our fav just up the road), University of Texas in Austin, and University of California in Berkeley.

    1. Cathy Post author

      I’d love to visit Austin. Everything I hear about the university and town is really positive. I enjoyed Berkeley, too — always a lot going on there. I guess I’ll have to add UNC to my list, too!

  8. turkey's for life

    Wow, that’s dramatic scenery A lovely journey!
    I know what you mean with walking around universities and imagining… We were like that when we were at Oxford and Cambridge universities – just looking around. Lucky you, having a clever husband, and therefore a tour guide in the know! 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      The scenery is pretty amazing — don’t think the pictures really do it enough justice. I loved Cambridge and Oxford! And yes, I did enjoy having my own personal tour guide! 🙂

  9. Jorie Pacli

    My ultimate wish in life is to study at Harvard…! That’s the lamest joke I ever heard to…ahahaha! Now wonder if Harvard U will accept me…. now it’s worst… LOL

    Cathy, I like your unique way of travelling by the way….. Why didn’t I think of this in the first place? Cheers! And keep up with the great job! 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      One of the great things about Harvard is being right there outside of Boston — one of my favorite cities! Thanks for the nice comment, Jorie!

  10. Caz Makepeace

    I love walking through universities as well. We used to always enjoy spending the day walking around the Chapel Hill UNC campus. And as much as I hate to write anything nice about Duke, it is a pretty campus. The photos of this uni are gorgeous

    1. Cathy Post author

      I’m sure that Duke would be happy to know that you like the campus, if not the university itself! Glad you liked the photos. Thanks.

  11. Adam

    Very cool! I bet your husband was pretty excited to go back. It’s always fun, especially when you haven’t been back in a while. We enjoy perusing campuses as well. When we were in Madison, WI last fall we spent quite a bit of time wandering around campus. They even had this massive area right on the lake with tons of picnic tables, and they even sold beer. It was fantastic and quite beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing your story Cathy!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Hey Adam – thanks for your nice comment. Great that you visited Madison — it’s a very cool university and town! I lived in Milwaukee for a few years and would go to Madison once in a while. The setting by the lake is beautiful.

  12. Amy

    Whenever I visit some of those grand universities it gives me a major craving to go back to school. I went to the ugly old 1970s build University of Regina. I swear, that I would have enjoyed school more if it had been set in buildings with ivy covered brick walls and stained glass!

  13. jamie - cloud people adventures

    my uni (as we call colleges here down under) was in an industrial building leased from aircraft company boeing. didnt really make for a great campus experience, as we aerospacers (nerds) were the only ones studying there. i kinda feel like i missed some of the college experience, especially after we visited lewis and clark in portland where jess’ sister is going to college. the place is incredible. i can easily see why you have an “addiction” to visiting them. get along to any parties while youre there? haha.

  14. inka

    What a great idea to visit university campuses. A very special kind of sightseeing. The only time I did this was to visit Cambridge in the UK. Haven’t been back to my own alma mater but as one of the htree I went to was in Basle/Switzerland I might go soon. Thanks for your comment on the flight of the angel in Venice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.