'I learned to push the boundaries of what I could accomplish'

Tessa Walden

Near Eastern Studies and Government
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Why did you choose Cornell?

I chose Cornell because of all the different opportunities that Cornell would give me. Since Cornell has a large undergraduate student body, I knew that I would meet an incredibly diverse group of people, racially, ethnically and religiously, as well as diversity of thought and opinion, which was particularly important to me. Additionally, I wanted to come to Cornell because of the pioneering Arabic program led by Professor Munther Younes. I had wanted to study Arabic since I was a child, and Cornell offered me the best opportunity to do so.

What is your main extracurricular activity and why is it important to you? 

person with squash racket

I played on the Women's Varsity Squash Team at Cornell. When I was in high school, I was neither a strong enough player to be recruited to Cornell nor was I sure that I wanted to play competitively in college at all. After Covid took away my last year and a half of junior squash, I realized that I did want to play squash, and that I was lucky enough to be going to a college with both a club and a varsity squash team. Now, I am so glad that I decided to walk-on to the Women's Varsity Squash Team. Despite the fact that I was not recruited, I was quickly embraced by the team. Almost immediately, the team became a second family to me, and each new group of freshmen have been quickly embraced the same way that I was.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?     

At the end of my sophomore year, the campus publication, Women of MENA, for which I was the editor, held an end of semester event to celebrate publishing our magazine. When I joined the club, it had only been on campus for one semester. At our event in the Spring of 2023, we were celebrating not only the semester’s magazine, but also a year and a half of existence. Through this event, I was able to appreciate the work that all of my team members and I were able to accomplish together. Finally, the magazine we published was a reflection of the diversity of experiences that we were able to learn from and celebrate together.    

What are the most valuable skills you gained from your Arts & Sciences education?  

Through my classes and my extracurriculars, I learned how to push the boundaries of what I could accomplish. By constantly presenting me with more and more opportunities I could pursue, the College of Arts & Sciences and the Near Eastern studies department pushed me to achieve more than I ever thought possible, while still supporting me in everything I did. I am now graduating in three years, I am almost finished my senior honors thesis, I have been the editor-in-chief of a campus publication, and more, all while staying engaged in all of my classes. I never would have tried to do half of the things that I have now done without the support of my professors and advisors.       

Where do you dream to be in 10 years?

In 10 years, I hope to be working as an international human rights lawyer, helping to uphold international human rights standards for people around the world.

Every year, our faculty nominate graduating Arts & Sciences students to be featured as part of our Extraordinary Journeys series. Read more about the Class of 2024.

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		Tessa Walden