Savannah Jo Dowling: 'I made the decision to commit myself to pursuing opportunities in the Middle East after I graduate'

Savannah Jo Dowling

China & Asia Pacific Studies, Near Eastern Studies

San Diego, CA

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

While at Cornell, I have devoted my time to the Public Service Center Language Pairing Program (LPP), and served as president during my junior year. LPP is a student-led program that provides a unique opportunity for individuals in the Cornell community to pursue their interest in language study and to improve their speaking abilities in an atmosphere that is conducive to the exchange of cultural knowledge and understanding. I have also worked with the Cornell International Teaching Assistants Program (ITAP) as an undergraduate consultant. Through ITAP, I tutor international graduate students seeking to pass their required oral proficiency interview in the English language. I am passionate about both LPP and ITAP because I believe that language learning is an important part of building a more accepting, aware and diverse community of individuals. Furthermore, I believe that language learning gives people confidence in all aspects of social and academic life.

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

I have had many life-changing experiences at Cornell, which all culminated in my decision to commit myself to pursuing opportunities in the Middle East after I graduate. My experience working in D.C., my experience in Cambodia connecting with both my peers and individuals who lived through an unfathomably difficult time and my time in China have all contributed to my growth as a young woman and adult. Before these experiences, I looked to other people to feel proud of myself and to find approval for my academic and social choices. It wasn't until coming back to Ithaca, having traveled to different parts of the world and having connected with people from all different walks of life in many different communities, that I realized at the end of the academic year I would finally begin to truly be on my own. My professors are clear examples of the type of person I would like to become – someone who is passionate about her work and who uses her talents to the best of her abilities for a cause she believes in. For me, directly after graduation, that was using my skills as an Arabic speaker and language learner to build connections with people in the Middle East and to help communities of refugees fleeing unimaginable atrocities.

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

Dive into college. Don't waste your time concerning yourself with what you think others will find impressive or be proud of, and even more, don't avoid a class, an internship, a job or research that you're passionate about because you're afraid of failure or other people's disappointment. Take advantage of the wonderful community that you are now a part of. Make yourself proud, be impressed with yourself and do what you love.

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