Greater than the debates between Hillary and Trump, JFK and Nixon, or Socrates and Glaucon, the Sino-American debate in the venerable Okenshields dining hall was one for the ages. Surrounded by the clattering of plates and the hum of the dish return, I questioned David from Beijing and Myles (“with a Y”) from New Jersey about their enlightened opinions on the social credit system in China. While Myles stated that social credit is yet another way for communists to mess with people’s personal business, David replied that he couldn’t care less about it, since upstanding citizens didn’t feel its effects. I hastily took notes, knowing these arguments were worthy of a New York Times Op-Ed. Our fellow Cornell Precollege students were oblivious to the historical turning point happening right over their plates. Western and Eastern, capitalist and communist, libertarian and apathetic authoritarian: clashes between cultures were more common and more cordial at Precollege than I had ever expected.
This summer gave me my first taste of college life and launched my dreams about my own undergraduate experience at Cornell. The Political Philosophy course was the most demanding class I’ve ever taken, and yet when I was not reading Hobbes or Locke, I found the time to befriend people who had been strangers just a few days prior. I shared editing tips with classmates in Olin, discussed how to interpret Plato’s esoteric analogies while sipping boba at U Tea, and complained with my classmates about our amount of homework at the Dairy Bar. I’m always one for a challenge, and I know I can pursue my interests in mathematics, economics, and Chinese to their full potential at Cornell.
The close relationship between math and economics became clear to me in my Multivariable Calculus class at Harvard Extension School. During a lecture on Implicit Differentiation, the professor went off on a five-minute tangent about the Marginal Rate of Substitution in economics, which uses the slope at a point to find how swapping one good for another changes utility. With different levels of mathematics, the marginal utility might be calculated with a simple rise-over-run equation, defined as a derivative with calculus, or even enhanced with a multivariable equation. I know now that studying upper-level courses like Mathematical Modeling at Cornell will allow me to explore topics in economics like the MRS in greater depth, and that broadening my economics curriculum will reveal more practical applications for general math equations.
With Cornell’s China and Asia-Pacific Studies Minor, I can view economics through the lens of politics, sharpen my analytical writing skills, and familiarize myself with a different culture. I started learning Mandarin in middle school, and at Cornell, I will keep looking for engaging ways to increase my fluency, including practicing conversation skills at the Cornell Language House and spending time abroad in Beijing. In AP Chinese this year, the curriculum focuses more on Chinese culture, which has expanded my curiosity beyond just learning the language.
CAPS courses such as Making Sense of China will enhance my growing understanding of international economics and Chinese politics; I can apply this knowledge to modern-day situations like Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan or Xi Jinping being elected for a third term, and imagine scenarios for the future of Sino-American relations. Each trade deal or diplomatic interaction between the US and China has ripple effects on everyone in the world, me included. Without the limits of defining myself as a mathematician, an economist, or a Chinese learner, Cornell will allow me to find the inter section of my interests and view the world with a new perspective.