'I was encouraged to ask difficult yet necessary questions'

Luis Tamayo

Sociology and Spanish
South Houston, Texas

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

I started my undergraduate journey as a biology major in CALS under the pre-med track, but quickly discovered my passion for creating social impact in another domain, which I found in the sociology major in the College of Arts & Sciences. My time at the College of Arts & Sciences gave me the unique opportunity to partake in fieldwork research in Mexico’s southern border, an experience that truly shaped my career aspirations. I continued this research experience throughout my second and third years, gaining communication skills that I continue using today. Additionally, my participation in the Humanities Scholars Program enabled me to utilize my naturally humanistic perspective in the academic setting. I enjoyed being encouraged to ask difficult yet necessary questions, a skill that I will carry with me throughout my career.

man with city in background

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

During my sophomore year, I auditioned for and joined Cornell University’s first and only Latin dance team: Sabor Latino Dance Ensemble. I was an inexperienced dancer but I dedicated myself to learn choreography and polish my dance skills. Especially given Cornell’s rigorous academic culture, Sabor Latino provided me with a healthy physical and mental space to distract my overwhelmed mind after completing a prelim or after writing a long essay. I met the kindest individuals in Sabor Latino, individuals that have played key roles in my life and will do so for the rest of my life. Sabor Latino was my support system when things became hectic, and I will be forever grateful.

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

person drinking coffee

I grew up in a low-income, migrant household. I attended college to help my family get out of their socioeconomic situation, and I am accomplishing just that. But my biggest accomplishment has been that my parents explicitly told me that they are proud of me.

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?

You do you! I wish I would have known this from the start. Cornell, like the “real world,” is a difficult place, and people get caught up in competing with each other and seeking validation for things that do not matter in the end. I have learned that it is much more important to do what is best for yourself and to focus on your happiness, not your family’s, not your friends’. This does not mean you are being selfish. You need to care for yourself first, that is all.

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Luis Tamayo