Magdalene Murphy: 'The best way to succeed was to extend myself and try, even at the risk of failing.'

April 23, 2017

Magdalene Murphy

Near Eastern Studies

Bellingham, Washington

What is your main extracurricular activity? Why is it important to you?

I am involved in Cornell Friends of Farmworkers, an organization that sends student volunteers to tutor farmworkers in English. The workers I've tutored have mostly been Spanish speakers, and it has been very rewarding for me to be able to use a skill that I have in being multilingual in order to help other people live easier lives. When I can use those skills to help people communicate with each other, understand each other and have a more comfortable time in their lives, I feel like I am really able to use my opportunities to serve others. I didn't come to Cornell to learn to be useful, but I did come in order to become a person who was better at helping others, and this is a really wonderful step in that direction.

What accomplishments/activities are you most proud of while at Cornell?

I am really proud of becoming fluent in Spanish. When I left for study abroad, I doubted whether I could ever do it, and it certainly took a long time to even become used to speaking to strangers in Spain, let alone comfortable. But now I am totally fluent in Spanish and am totally comfortable speaking it as well as translating and interpreting between Spanish and English. I'm also proud of the independent study I completed this year, since it was a long investigation in the study of Mary Magdalene and her presence as a literary figure in Christian literature, something I am extremely interested in and think is a very important piece of history. I also wrote an article for Kitsch Magazine last semester, about a topic I don't study in my classes but that's really interesting to me, and I was very proud of that as a start in writing and researching for myself, even though it wasn't related to my studies.

What do you value about your liberal arts education?

I didn't come to Cornell in order to get a job, and I never considered it as a training for said job. The best thing for me about my education at Cornell is that it has been a true liberal arts education — I've studied history, literature, languages, biology — all kinds of things that don't seem connected and often don't seem useful, but that are essential to the understanding of people and of myself. I came to Cornell to become the best version of myself that I could through study and learning, and Cornell has truly helped me achieve that in a way I could not have done on my own.

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

I would say that Cornell has a wealth of opportunities, and you just have to reach for them. I was pretty scared to fail my first year at Cornell, but I realized eventually that the only way to succeed was to extend myself and try for things, even at the risk of failing. At the same time, it's really important to try and balance academics and social life. The culture of academic achievement here has been really rewarding for me by always pushing me to do my best and surrounding me with people who want to do their best, without any animosity, but I've had to make sure to develop and keep my extracurricular interests in order to ground myself and improve both my academic and social life.