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Nicole Allen

Nicole Allen

UI professor of psychology | 2011 Dazzling Woman Faculty Award

During move-in week ’19, we asked UI faculty members to tell us a story about their own experience of leaving home for the first time. Here’s Cornell grad and award-winning Professor Nicole Allen, associate head and director of graduate studies in the UI’s psychology department.

“My memory of being dropped off at college begins with a last stop at my grandmother’s to say goodbye one more time before we drove to Ithaca, New York from Long Island.

"My grandmother, my Yiayia, was a very strong woman and I had rarely seen her cry growing up. As I hugged her and got into the car to pull away, her tears started and so did mine.

“I was the first grandchild to go to college. I found leaving home and the safety and security of my large, Greek family very difficult. Almost 30 years later, I still miss being in close proximity to my mostly New York-based family.

“When I think of arriving at Cornell, I recall a mix of excitement and fear, but mostly fear. The campus was stunningly beautiful. The gorges, the bridges, the buildings — I have a visual montage of memories from these early days of how enchanting and other-worldly I found it.

“My dorm room was in an old building in a corner room with interesting angles and a roof you could walk out onto through the window — not allowed, but a favorite quiet place for my roommate and eventually me, too.

“My roommate was from Queens, close to home, which was comforting. Unusual for a freshman, I was paired with a junior, a pre-med student, very serious about school and a wealth of information about succeeding at Cornell. She was welcoming and a fantastic resource. And very funny, which put me at ease.

“Most of all, throughout the drop-off period, I remember my mother’s constant reassurances, that everything would be OK. I experienced serious doubt about my capacity to succeed at Cornell and I did not feel I belonged.

“Invaluably, my mother steadied the ship, assured me I belonged, and provided the foundation for launch — as she always did and often still does.

“And she was right. Everything was OK and more.”