'My classes transformed the way I think about human problems'

By: Adam Ziccardi , 
May 10, 2021

Adam Ziccardi

Religious studies

Why did you choose Cornell? 

As a high school student, I had a very wide variety of academic and extracurricular interests. Cornell offered the widest variety of clubs and classes of any college I applied to, and is also located in one of the most beautiful places in New York State.  Even now, I’m about to finish my major in Religious studies, with minors in mechanical engineering and East Asian studies, all while taking private music lessons and doing community service.

student outside monastery

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

My anthropology and religious studies classes transformed the way I think about human problems. I went into these classes, uncomfortable thinking that black and white don’t exist, but I came out really understanding that to be critical of everything means. 

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

student getting instrument signed by Wynton Marsalis

My main extracurricular for all four years has been the wind symphony, though I also loved the marching band! Band has always been a big part of my life, especially getting to make music with friends on a regular basis. Music is a meaningful source of inspiration and stability in my life, and the wind symphony even took me to Haiti to make music with new friends there too!

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why? 

Between my sophomore and junior years, I got to go to live in two Zen monasteries in Japan, and then to go live in the Italian Dolomites for a month to perform in an orchestra. On these trips, I realized that being an engineer wasn’t the only way to be successful in life, and that compelled me to change my major completely.

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Every year, our faculty nominate graduating Arts & Sciences students to be featured as part of our Extraordinary Journeys series. Read more about the Class of 2021.


  student on top of mountain