'The hardest part of doing anything new is deciding to do it'

Anna Aki McDougall

Milwaukee, Wisc.

Why did you choose Cornell?

I had many reasons for choosing Cornell, but one of my most distinct memories during the college application and decision process was talking with my interviewer about the sense of community she felt from Cornell. She told me that after leaving Ithaca, she’d frequently had conversations with new people, felt a certain rapport with them and only later discovered that they were Cornell graduates like her. It was her emphasis on this community that drew me to Cornell, and it’s been one of my favorite parts about being a Cornellian for the past four years. Even throughout semesters done remotely because of the pandemic, my professors and friends have been constant presences in my life. I hope and believe this will continue to be true after graduation.

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of?

I have worked as a research assistant for two teams headed by professors in the economics department. Through these experiences, I’ve been able to run experiments, conduct literature reviews, write, clean data, help construct surveys and see papers through various stages of the publication process. The professors I’ve worked with have been amazing mentors, and I’ve never stopped being in awe of the work they do. Being part of these projects has really contributed to my sense of self-efficacy. I’m constantly having to learn how to do new things. I’ve not only broadened my skill-set, but I’ve also gained the confidence that comes with knowing that I can develop new skills on the job. I’m so grateful to the research teams I’ve worked on for teaching me how to approach new tasks.

How have your beliefs or perspectives changed since you first arrived at Cornell? 

I’ve definitely developed a greater sense of confidence while at Cornell. I consider myself the type of person who tends to overthink things, but I’ve tried to continually do things that push me outside my comfort zone, whether it be auditioning for the Cornell Chamber Orchestra’s Concerto Competition, presenting at a conference or studying in a different country for a semester. I’ve found that often the hardest part of doing anything new is deciding to do it; once I’ve committed, what once seemed daunting ends up being really enjoyable.

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? 

I owe a lot of how good my educational experience has been to my family. I call home often and talk to them about my classes and other things I’m doing. They’ve been a constant source of support and encouragement. It can be easy to get lost in the day-to-day of college life, meeting deadlines, balancing activities and still trying to get an appropriate amount of sleep. My family has always been there to help me keep things in perspective, and telling them about my time at Cornell never ceases to remind me just how amazing the people I meet and things I’m learning are.


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