‘I created my own path and embraced uncertainty'

Thu, 05/09/2019

Varun Biddanda

Spanish & Biological Sciences

Grand Haven, MI

What was your favorite class and why?

I think that Cinematic Cities was by far one of the most impactful courses that I have taken here. The class explored and interrogated what it means to "know" a city, specifically through the medium of film, but I think that these lessons extend well beyond the urban setting. Above all, Cinematic Cities taught me not only what it means to occupy a space but also to share it and inscribe myself in it. And perhaps it is for this reason that I find that the lessons of this incredible seminar continue to come to me well after the last day of class.

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

Being part of the Cornell Symphony Orchestra since my freshman year has been absolutely incredible. The orchestra is nothing short of my second family, and I do not think that I would have made it through Cornell without them. It is incredible that despite the weight that we carry as students at this institution, we can all come together twice a week to make music together. Twice a week we can leave our stresses at the door and share each other's company. To me there is something undeniably sacred in this. For all of these reasons, my involvement in the orchestra has been one of the most visceral demonstrations of why the arts matter.

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?

Far beyond any material metrics, I am most proud of the person that I have become and the resilience that I have gained in the process. It was about one year ago that I had been struggling with the idea of my professional future beyond Cornell. I felt that I had accomplished very little in comparison to my peers and that I had ultimately failed to measure up to my own expectations. The following summer was when I began to think about what truly excited me throughout my time in Arts & Sciences. I came back having realized that it was always language through which I (re)understood the world and having the courage to pursue this despite the many uncertainties that such a change in direction would entail. My coursework through the linguistics minor has equipped me to better engage with my interests in languages. On my own time during the summer, I began to write an elementary teaching method for Kodava, my mother tongue, using a romanized alphabet that I developed. This guide represents an homage to a language with which I have an incredibly personal relationship. But more than that, it helped solidify my passion for language as more than just a secondary interest. I eventually realized that what I needed to do was create my own path and embrace this uncertainty rather than shy away from it. Above all, I returned from the summer with a much more balanced view of what I wanted out of life and a renewed sense of confidence in my own abilities.

  Varun Biddanda