Monday, July 22, 2013

Interconnected

Two years ago, I was determined to attend U.C. Berkeley. It wasn't just my number one choice, it was my only choice, and I scoffed at the idea of even considering other schools. Now I find myself having to choose between an immeasurable amount of institutions. Should I apply to Cornell University, with its radiant campus and rural location? Or maybe Columbia University, where I’m sure to enjoy endless excitement both in and outside the classroom? There’s also Northwestern and its top class journalism program. Perhaps all of this deliberation truly is futile, and I’ll default back to U.C. Berkeley.  Whatever school I may find myself apply to, I know who to thank for the inspiration and opportunity to do so—the wonderful facilitators and philanthropists of the Ivy League Connection. It is because of their support that I am no longer limited by my own inflexibility or my own ignorance.

During my time with the Ivy League Connection, I was able to live out the college experience, all within a short, three week period. Although I had attended Columbia University’s summer program the year previous, I was still able to experience college from a completely different perspective. This year I was able to learn of what it is like to live in a single dorm, whereas last year taught me of the communal lifestyle that comes with living in a suite dorm. Through Hotel Operations Management I learned of the difficulty and rigor of college level courses, as well as why the word “dead,” is compounded in the word deadline. In contrast, last year taught me about the freedom that comes with being a college student. Because of the knowledge I have gained through these excursions, I believe that I will able to more easily adjust and adapt to any college environment that I may find myself in.

I have come to realize that just applying to be a member of the Ivy League Connection was a pseudo-college experience in and of itself, as the selection process for the Ivy League Connection mirrors that of a conventional college application process. The two systems follow the same basic format; I was to be pit against a competitive set consisting of the best and brightest, with only my wit and my writing to set me apart from the rest of the rabble. My worth would be deduced from a select few documents showcasing my academic capabilities; my transcript, a personal statement, a supplemental essay, a teacher recommendation, and my PSAT scores. Through the Ivy League Connection’s interview process, I was able to learn the true meaning of the term “holistic.” A student’s capacity cannot be measured by solely by their academics. Rather, an applicant’s appeal is determined by their ethics, talents, pursuits, and ambitions in addition to their intelligence.  Because of my experience with the Ivy League Connection I now have the knowledge needed to proceed towards the upcoming college application season with confidence.

I earned quite a bit of life experience as well. Mark and Reneta taught me about not only the business world, but the real world as well. They taught me how to properly approach and manage interpersonal relationships so that they are effective and productive as possible. Throughout the course, Mark and Reneta stressed the importance of communication, arbitration, and unification. Whilst under their tutelage, I was able to learn the skills needed to facilitate and orchestrate a cohesive team, becoming more vocal and assertive in the process. For instance, I was able to learn firsthand that it is indeed better to work towards promoting group discourse than it is to prevent group discord, as conflict in an inevitable outcome for all interpersonal interactions.

Being Hotel Operations Management has helped to me to discover that I have an affinity for the machinations and happenstance of the business industry, and I believe that I may pursue a degree in both business and English. Although this major is nothing more than an inkling of an idea, I do think this decision is a step forward for myself, as before I was completely undecided as to what I wanted to study.  As for now, I am content with using the business skills that I learned from the course to advise my mother on her business. While I am by no means a business consultant, I believe that I’ve been very helpful to her and I hope to be continue assist her to the best of my ability.

I would like to wholeheartedly thank the Ivy League Connection for all it had done for not only me, but also for the host of students that it has sponsored and supported over the years. First, I would like to thank the Ivy League Connection’s founders, Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg, and Don Gosney for creating and sustaining such an astounding, life-changing program. Next, many thanks to the Ivy League Connection’s generous benefactors for their selfless contributions for which without the Ivy League Connection would not be able to exist. I would also like to thank Mr. Chan-Law for being a fantastic chaperone and taking such excellent care of the Cornell cohort. Finally, I would like to my cohort for being not great travel companions, but also great friends.


My time with the Ivy League Connection was certainly a summer well spent. How many high schoolers can say that they spent their vacation dining with esteemed alums at Les Nomades? Or that they spent the better half of the summer touring some of the country’s most famous sites and cities, such as Niagara Falls and Chicago? I’m sure that even a smaller population of students who can say that they attended an Ivy League institution at the ripe age of seventeen, living, studying, and fraternizing just as a real college student would.  It becomes even more astonishing when one takes into account the amount of adults who've yet to experience what I have. It is amazing just how many wondrous ­­­experiences I was able to partake in this summer, and it’s all thanks to the Ivy League Connection. 

I am incredibly honored to have been selected for this program not only once, but twice. In order to honor the purpose of the Ivy League Connection, I have resolved to spread its influence as far as possible. One of the graduations requirements for my school is a Senior Project, wherein seniors are expected to find a means to better themselves and the community. It’s up to a student’s creativity to devise an outlet for their cause, and I have decided to host a college readiness seminar for middle and high school students. I believe that due to budget constraints and the like, many public schools see insufficient guidance counseling. I know that before the Ivy League Connection I held many uncertainties and misconceptions I held about college application process, but felt as though I had no one to direct my question to. I hope to abridge the deficit by offering my assistance and guiding students who feel intimidated and or by the very prospect of college. Although I know that I may not be much help since I have yet to go through the official college application process myself and that I have a resources to do all that I aspire, I am still determined to help in whatever way I can, whether it be by holding information seminars on the universities, helping potential ILCers get into the program, or proofreading other’s personal statements. My overarching goal is to act as envoy of higher education and inspire students so that they are excited by the idea of college, bot exasperated—just as the Ivy League Connection did for me. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Moment to Reflect

As I am sure everyone who is affiliated with the Ivy League Connection will agree, time definitely flies too fast. It has only been a few days since I have returned home from my three weeks in the East Coast. Before I elaborate on how incredible the experience has been, I would not be completely sharing the story if I did not talk about my journey from the very beginning.

Since I was a freshman, I heard about the Ivy League Connection from my mother, who was researching the organization and urging me to join, and from a family friend, whose daughter, Belul Naizghi, participated in the program a few years ago. The idea of being apart of this group was very interesting, so I decided I would participate. When I was a sophomore, and officially eligible to apply for the ILC, Mr. Don Gosney came to Hercules High and gave an information session about the entire organization and all the benefits of being apart of it. I was so excited to apply, but one important thing I learned that year was to only apply for a program if you are truly interested in it; which was not the case for sophomore year.

Junior year, however, was a different story. Last October, Don returned to Hercules for this year’s new applicants. I was determined to join, and fortunately, I found the right program to apply for: Freedom and Justice. I am interested in law and after researching the subjects the course covered regarding the history of Western political theory, I was even more determined to earn my seat in the program. First, we needed to write two essays: a pre-essay explaining why we want to join the ILC and what we will give back to our community afterwards, and an essay regarding our views on the “ban the box” movement. I checked, double-checked, and triple-checked my essays because this was the only program I wanted to get into and did not want to ruin my chances. After succeeding in the essays, it was time to survive the dreaded interviews. I was so intimidated by the other applicants because they were all exceptionally talented and worthy of being selected. My nerves reached all new heights as I waited for my turn to be interviewed. Fortunately, all that pressure faded once I told the interviewers my name and began answering their questions. But of course, all the nerves returned just as quickly while myself and the other applicants waited outside the room where they deliberated. We were all called in, and my heart was beating a million times a minute, while my brain was already preparing myself for rejection. Suddenly, a miracle occurred: my name was the first called, along with Tamilyn’s and Jenna’s; the Freedom and Justice group was selected and I could not have been happier.

The time between then and our trip felt was perhaps the slowest and longest period of the journey. While many of the ILCers scrambled to submit the final forms of the official applications, we needed to attend several milestone events as preparation for our excursion. From the blog tutorials to the elegant dinner with Cornell alumni at One Market, to the city council meeting, each event was very helpful in teaching me how to comport myself during the dinners with college alumni and that my actions on the East Coast are reflective of my school district, and I did not want to squander my role as an ambassador.

Inevitably, the day of departure arrived and our descent to Chicago was nine hours away. By 3:30 AM, the Cornell cohort stood in the cool air surrounding El Cerrito High School, waiting for our shuttle to whisk us away to the SFO Airport.  I would be lying if I said I was completely eager to leave home for three weeks, but I knew I needed to do this so I could grow as a student and as an independent person.
We're in Chicago!
When we first arrived to Chicago, we were all shocked and amazed by the elegance that was The Drake Hotel. Mr. Chan-Law did not want the Freedom group and the Hotelies to just room with each other, so he mixed us up; my roommates were Jenna and Michelle. Despite the issues we had with the Drake’s internet connection, I am glad we are able to get along so seamlessly as we stayed up late blogging and waiting for each other until our photos successfully uploaded on Media Fire.

Our three days in Chicago were action-packed with sight-seeing, college tours, and fancy dinners. On the fun side, we visited Millennium Park and Navy Pier, a couple of the city’s tourist attractions. Both were so amazing. But our main purpose was touring the University of Chicago and Northwestern. While visiting both such prestigious universities, I realized that I prefer a college where there is a good sense of community and the campus is not too vast.  

Throughout the entire stay in the windy city, I never felt my stomach growl with hunger. It seemed that the restaurant’s food portions and presentation increased each day; but my favorite out of them was Les Nomades. During the dinners, we met with admissions officers and alumni, who were so eager to answer our questions about their experiences at the colleges. For the first time, I did not feel like a child who was merely sitting there silently eating my food. Instead, I was viewed as an adult, whose questions were respected and welcomed.

While Chicago was very enjoyable, it was now time to head to Cornell to begin our courses. Ever since I was accepted by the ILC, I envisioned what the campus would look like and what my experience would be like; what I thought was just a fraction of the real thing. Regarding the course, it was simply intriguing all throughout. When Don first gave us our reading materials before the trip, I was a little intimidated by the many philosophers we needed to comprehend before we even stepped foot into the classroom. But once the course began, my perspective completely changed.

The very moment class began, I was captivated. Professor Kramnick’s lectures, even though they were an hour and a half long, were always so engaging that falling asleep was never an issue. On the first day of class, I had the honor of having lunch with him and several other students. During that time, I got a sense of just how intelligent and interesting Professor Kramnick was as a professor and as a human being. 

Professor Kramnick, a man I am truly honored to have learned from
From the teachings of the New Testament to the policies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X, I learned such a wide array of theories from so many philosophers; my perspective on the political theory definitely widened as a result. The class was even more enjoyable when we met with our TAs and fellow classmates in discussion section, where thorough talks about the philosophers’ theories and our interpretations of them were openly shared.
My TA Nolan, the first and best TA I will have
My TA Nolan was such an intelligent man who was always so willing to help all of his students by thoroughly grading our final essays and being so helpful in answering all of our questions, no matter how tedious, during his office hours. What I learned from day one during section was that every single person in that room had insight and was not afraid to show it. Realizing this, I became more confident in myself to actively participate and share my thoughts without fear of being wrong.

Through this course, I was able to meet and make friends with so many diverse people. Not only did I meet people who live just thirty minutes away from me in California, but I met a couple of girls all the way from Turkey! They were all so pleasant to be around and I am honestly going to miss being around them. We exchanged contact information, but it will not be the same as sitting across from them in discussion section or them sitting behind me during lecture.

My dorm room on Day 1
Initially, I was frightened by the thought of spending three weeks in a residence hall with people that I did not know. But I am glad that I had this experience too. Even though I was assigned a single on the fourth floor of North Balch, I never felt alone. Everyone on my floor, including my RCA, was so welcoming and their doors were always open, making it easy for us to talk whenever we passed each other. Moreover, Jenna lived on the same floor as me and Tamilyn and Michelle were just a floor down, so I did not need to worry about being all by myself.

I am very happy that I achieved my goal of overcoming my shyness and meeting so many new people. But even more importantly, I am glad that I was able to grow so close with my cohort. Before the trip, we all briefly got to know each other from when we first met to set up our blog site to when we were waiting outside of El Cerrito High. But once we reached Chicago, our bonds began to deepen as we explored the Drake and the windy city together. Despite our hectic schedules once our classes started, we were still able to hang out with one another either for dinner at RPCC or on the weekends at the Ithaca Commons and Niagara Falls.  
Tamilyn, Tomi, and Michelle (sorry that I did not have separate pictures of each of you)
Jenna!
Keep laughing Rochelle!
Even though I had a familial relationship with them at school, I believe my friendships with Tamilyn, Jenna, and Rochelle grew immensely. I did not know Michelle or Tomi before the ILC, but now I am so thankful to have met them because they are both very funny and intelligent. In addition, I am thankful that Mr. Chan-Law was our chaperone. Not only was he was always organized during our time in Chicago and our weekend excursions, his humor and caring nature added to my enjoyment throughout the entire experience.
Last time I will be in class















It has been about four days since I returned from Cornell, and not much has happened. My time on the East Coast feels like a memory now, but it will definitely be one that I will never forget. I will miss waking up in my dorm room at 7 AM, walking to class with Jenna, learning a bounty of knowledge from Professor Kramnick, having engaging conversations with my TA Nolan and my classmates during section, checking in with Mr. Chan-Law and the whole cohort, and checking in for bed at 11 PM. Through this experience, I have been able to grow as a student and as an adult. I took care of myself while setting my priorities and managing my time to the best of my ability so I could succeed academically and socially. I cannot wait to share this story with others so they learn as I have. To my RCA, floormates, Professor Kramnick, Nolan, and classmates, thank you for making the trip all the more memorable. To Don Gosney, Mr. Charles Ramsey, Ms. Madeline Kronenberg, the donors, and everyone affiliated with the ILC, thank you for all the hard work you guys put into giving me and all of the ILCers the privilege of having such an incredible experience. 

Inspire to be Inspired

This journey all began when I heard from the ILC from my friends. I followed several of the blogs and witnessed actual students from my school getting acceptance letters from Ivy League Institutions. I asked my friends about their experiences and some of them even mock-interviewed me! It was like mapping out what I needed to do and proceeding when it was the right time. Cornell's hotel class was my top choice and I was scared going into my interview. Everyone was so nice that I almost forgot that we were all competing for the same three spots. Tomi and Rochelle were called and the last person was me. I let out a sigh of relief and asked the whole group for a hug. Our two hours together brought us all together and the next few months would make us closer than I could imagine.
Our first picture together after the interview
After all the mandatory events of the ILC, I felt a little closer to the trip. I learned how to use Photoshop, I started to write those blogs that I once read, and I met a group of talented students from all over WCCUSD. I was given the opportunity to speak in front of the school board and have dinner with soon to be Cornell students and Cornell alums. That night at One Market was a huge eye-opener for me. I sat in between two brilliant Cornell students who were so proud of their alma mater. I still remember the glassy atrium and packed Barts we took in and out of the city. Next thing I know, I’m taking a bus into the same city, but into the airport.
The ILC family after the school board meeting
I got almost no sleep the night before and I couldn't find the ability to leave my mom while the rest of my cohort already started to share their excitement. We were whisked away at 4AM in the morning. The beginning of the actual trip didn't work out so well because I accidentally grabbed baggage from the Columbia cohort. We found out we had swapped bags and ran across the airport, right past each other. Once the baggage was sorted out, every part of the trip was perfect. Our baggage wasn't overweight and no one got stopped at the security checkpoint.

Arriving in Chicago gave me the most amazing feeling. I felt so free and there was so much going on around me. We were only specks in comparison to Chicago’s towers. Business people were power-walking across the streets with phones in one hand and coffee in the other. We didn’t even need the cool breeze to keep us up. All those months of work were proven to be worth it in that single drive to the hotel. The Drake was absolutely breath taking. Since I was on my way to becoming a hotelier, I tried paying extra attention to the employees and furnishings. We spent the rest of the day exploring the beautiful city and I called my parents to tell them about the places we visited.
Some of Chicago's towers while walking from the hotel
The next two days consisted of college tours. We went to UChicago where I didn’t even need a college tour to know that I was going to apply there. We met two admissions officers and listened to an engaging information session. Even then there was a variety of students from all over the world. We had dinner with three UChicago students and the two admissions officers. Mario was the first person during the trip to tell me a lot about how different life in college is from home. I learned how different the school he came from was to mine and I was able to leave dinner with no regrets. By then, I had already gotten past my fear of asking questions. It wasn’t “1,2,3 ask the question now!”, questions just started to come out naturally. We visited Northwestern the next day and the experience was similar. UChicago is still at the top of my list, but Northwestern seems like a really interesting school too. These were the first liberal arts colleges I visited, and I’m pretty sure a liberal arts college is where I belong.

I was sad and happy to leave Chicago because this is where the college experience came into play. Summer College was by far the most diverse environment I've been in. California is really diverse and there are all sorts of cultures here too, but I was actually talking to and learning with these people. I met other students from multiple countries and all over the US. I met my first friend outside of the cohort on the first day. I showed her our blog and she told Tamilyn and a little about herself. I didn't consistently talk to her because we were in different classes and once class started, there was minimal time to talk, but she was impacted by the ILC. Just a few hours ago, she e-mailed me saying that our blog inspired her to start her own. I ended meeting so many more people who came from backgrounds that couldn't eat meat or couldn’t use Facebook. We even witnessed Amish families on our way to Niagara Falls! Each and every one of these people made me think about how life would be different if I were in their shoes. These people made leaving Cornell so difficult. I know I've met at least 150 new people during this trip and some of them will continue to influence me throughout my life.
The pool of people I spend three weeks with
Apart from the new people I met, I knew I had an amazing cohort to spend time with. Since the first time we met, we all got along and we didn't disagree even once during the trip. I was afraid that they might single me out because four out of six were from Hercules High and all of them were seniors except me. They never made me feel out a place for even one second. I could always talk to them about anything and they treated me just like they would have treated anyone else, equally. Tomi, Rochelle, Jenna, Tamilyn, and Christian have been the best cohort I could have ever asked for. They've already accomplished so much and I look up to them like older sisters. We shared laughs, meals, rooms, and just about anything and everything. We all ventured out to make new friends while easily coming back together. And not to mention Mr.Chan-Law, our chaperone, who guided us and made sure we were safe throughout the trip.
Rochelle, Mr.Chan-Law, Christian, Jenna, Tamilyn, and Tomi at Niagara Falls
The two people who probably taught me the most during this trip was Mr. and Mrs. McCarthy, my professors. They were somehow able to make an eight hour class interesting from beginning until the end. I learned about my controller-persuader behavioral style and worked in a team of four. My team mates were like my second cohort. If one of us was late, all of us were late. We had to prepare reports and presentations, which all paid off in the end. We were given the chance to present at graduation and we learned to work around our different behavioral types. The professors taught us about the hotel business inside and out. We learned how to run successful hotels in the CHESS simulation and toured the Statler Hotel. Mr. McCarthy taught me so many new things about Microsoft Office Suites. I know that I’ll be able to swiftly create templates and reports in perfect formatting thanks to him. The hospitality industry makes such a big impact on the world and even if I don’t go into the hotel business, this class has taught me valuable lessons about teamwork, leadership, and Microsoft Office.
Our last day of class
As for college life, I actually enjoyed my little dorm room and dining hall food. The dorm room is probably half the size of my room at home, but it was comfy and I was still able to do work there. Dining hall food wasn’t comparable to home-made food or Les Nomades, however it was edible. Nothing weird crawled out of the lasagna! I got used to the weather there and I still miss everything despite the fact that it was very different from home. I was a lot less homesick then I thought I would be.

Coming home, I have so many vivid memories and new knowledge. I can’t stop classifying each hotel I pass on the freeway and I haven’t been able to let go of Cornell. I dreaded the flight back home but found myself overjoyed to see my parents again. The whole ILC experience has been truly a blessing. Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and Don, thank you so much for starting this program and putting so much effort into keeping it strong. You guys pull so many strings to provide us an experience that simply can’t be bought. Thank you to all the donors, alums, and students for making this experience complete. What makes the ILC unique is the community effort and application process. Oh, and the blogging! The other students at Summer College were able to take the same classes, but they didn’t have these dinners and they didn’t have to go through a separate application process. East Coast schools are at the top of colleges I want to apply to and I know this wouldn’t be true if it weren’t for the ILC. I actually know about colleges besides the UCs now! After all of the work that was put into the program, I hope that I can make the community proud and help other students learn from my experience. 
Team 1A in class!

Growth

Ever since I got home, it’s been really hard to look at the photos I took at Cornell, and even harder to start this blog post.

My crazy journey started during my sophomore year when I applied for the Macroeconomics program at Brown and the Constitutional Law program at Columbia through the Ivy League Connection—both of which I did not get into. I was upset, but I really didn’t want to just end there. I didn’t want to give up on myself, and I didn’t want the Ivy League Connection to give up on me-- so I tried once again my junior year for this one course called Freedom and Justice offered at Cornell. I was accepted after the interview, and I was beyond thrilled. The interview took place at my school during school hours, and right after the accepted students were announced, I immediately called my parents. From that point on until my departure date, I attended a dinner with Cornell alums and rising freshman at Cornell, spoke at a school board meeting, and at a town hall meeting, all of which helped me immensely with public speaking. I not only learned how to communicate with my peers, but also adults, such as college admissions officers and alums.  

The three days we spent in Chicago were extremely eye opening for we visited U Chicago and Northwestern University as well as ate dinner with the college admissions officers and current students of each school. Though we were in Chicago for such a short time, it made me realize how college was just around the corner for me and how much research I still had to do. These college tours really helped me get a better understanding of college life and starting that new chapter in life. I really want to go to a school that I will feel happy attending each day I’m there—despite name, popularity, etc. I have yet to find that school that will make me feel like I made the right choice to attend it, but as soon as I sat in on the info. Session for Northwestern, I immediately had that feeling. I was a bit hesitant and frightened by how quickly I fell in love with a school I barely knew anything about , but it was the first time I felt that way about a school and it made me really excited.  

Once we drove up the hill to Cornell University, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the campus. It was beyond beautiful and as I held onto my suitcase, I knew I was in the right place. I looked in all directions for there was too much to take in—and all I could see were the beautiful hills and buildings surrounding me. My sister did not exaggerate when she said how “gorges” Cornell and Ithaca were. People told me that Cornell was a good school to go to because its students did not have to worry about the distractions they would have had to deal with if they went to a university in an urban city—but how could you not get distracted by all of this beauty?


One of the most memorable events of summer college would definitely be the Ice Cream Social the second day I was there. Located in the Courtyard, this event was one of the main gatherings where all the summer college students could meet. Within those 2-3 hours, I introduced myself to so many people that I lost my voice by the end of the night. I forced myself out of my comfort zone and made the first action to meet new people. I ended up meeting students from literally all over the United States as well as students from other countries like Venezuela, China, France, and Italy. It was really great to meet everyone but I have to admit, the moment I got back into my dorm, I ran to my bed, hid my face in my pillow, and began to cry. I guess everything—meeting so many people at once, was so new and in a way, overwhelming for me. There was so much running through my mind and I was afraid that I didn’t leave a good enough impression on the other students and that that was my only chance to find your “group of friends.” Looking back now, I could understand where I was coming from, but I feel like that situation alone made me realize how much I’ve grown since. For the rest of the three weeks, I met some really great people from everywhere, and I’ve learned that there’s no specific group you should feel the need to have or be a part of.

Freedom and Justice is also probably the most interesting I’ve ever taken in my life. I was always interested in history, and I loved reading the excerpts from western philosophers Plato and St. Augustine in my AP Language class, but I never expected to learn about these philosophers in such depth. The purpose of the course was to relate the political theories of these philosophers to issues of freedom, justice, and equality today and after taking this course, I actually felt like I could impact the world somehow with my knowledge. This excited me and for the first time, I felt like I actually earned the privilege to take a course like this, and that I gained something I’ve never gained in other classes I’ve ever taken. Professor Kramnick is such a dedicated and passionate instructor that despite the lack of air conditioning in the lecture halls, I looked forward to hearing what he had to say each day. I also got to eat lunch with him after the 2nd day of class—something that definitely made me feel more like a college student. I was also glad that more and more adults were also starting to see me as a young adult, instead of a child. Thank you Professor Kramnick for enlightening all 66 of us, encouraging us to do big things in life, and having faith in us.

Our discussion group
We also had the best discussion group…ever. This was also something that was completely new to me—having a session dedicated to class participation and discussion. I was extremely intimidated on the first day by how intelligent everyone was and how well everyone presented themselves. Right off the bat, I knew I was with a very stimulating group and that made me try extra hard. I wasn’t used to having about 10 hands shoot up right when the TA asked a question, but I quickly got the hang of it and by the end of the course, I was able to say most of the things that were on my mind. This part of the course also encouraged me to engage in debates outside of class too, such as a very intense conversation a group of us had about our take on feminism today while waiting outside Nolan’s office during his office hours. Nolan, our TA, is crazy intelligent, and taught us so much. I have to say, he was a pretty difficult essay grader but the most important thing I’ve learned from him was how to write a concise and clear essay. Getting my first B- on my practice essay really opened my eyes as to what college professors and TAs expected out of an essay. Thank you Nolan, for giving each of us an equal chance to contribute to the class, allowing us to express our opinions, and creating a comfortable learning environment for all of us.

Floormates Tess, Monica, and I
Dorming..North Balch Hall— god, I miss saying that. I’ve had so many great moments in my hall. Everyone on my floor got along so well and I felt so good being a part of that floor. I loved how happy everyone on that floor made me, and how I could knock on anyone’s door, walk in and stay there having a fully engaged conversation with them. I also kept my door opened most of the time I was in there so anyone who walked by would always stop by to say hi or come in to talk or study with me. I had a double so I got to experience living with a stranger for 3 weeks. My roommate, Eva, was so nice we didn’t run into any problems in terms of sleeping and shower schedules (Yes, I had a full bathroom in my room!). The lounges were also great for studying, hanging out, or to even practicing piano! The environment around me was so amazing and I felt very comfortable being around everyone in the hall. The RCAs (Residential Community Advisors) were also so kind—especially my own, Haswiny! She, along with the other RCAs always tried to organize hall events, such as a karaoke night or a dessert night!  

I also loved doing the little things, like making sure I checked in with the RCAs every night, scheduled my weekly PIs (Personal Interaction) with Haswiny, locked my door, and didn’t forget my keys and ID anywhere. It gave me more responsibility and made me feel more like an adult. I enjoyed walking to class every day, exploring the campus, walking to the libraries. For the first time, I was also completely the boss of myself, having to make sure I ate enough, slept enough, studied..enough! This did give me more freedom for I could have skipped class, never slept, or missed meals easily. Therefore, this taught me more about priorities, making the right choice, and what’s important, giving me a better sense of what college would be like.

A group of Freedom and Justice students with our TA, Nolan (Far right)
After reevaluating my stay at Cornell, I’ve decided that I could definitely imagine myself attending Cornell University, taking classes, and living the campus life there, but I don’t think I can live in such a rural city. Traveling to Ithaca, NY for three weeks also marked the very first time I went away from home for so long without my parents. It was definitely a tough challenge I had to overcome (having to deal with and solve my own problems) and I’m proud to say that I went through it. This entire trip was a learning process in all aspects—socially, mentally, and academically—and I am so grateful I had this opportunity.

Firstly, thank you thank you thank you to Don Gosney, Mr. Ramsey, and Mr. Kronenberg for making this all happen. Thank you for believing in me and giving me the chance to learn, grow, and in some ways, get to know myself a little better. Because of the Ivy League program, I am now less scared to get up in front of a crowd (whether it is to speak to my peers and community about my experiences, or sing in front of hundreds of students! ). Because of the Ivy League program, I am now also more open to new people, new viewpoints, and new environments. I am also more confident when contributing in the classroom, or debating about an issue with someone I did not agree with. I don’t think thanking you guys a million times will ever be enough and giving back by spreading the word to my community will only make up for part of how thankful I am.  

Thank you to all the donors and contributors for keeping this Connection alive and growing. I believe this is probably the most genius and beneficial program ever created and thank you so much for making it possible to send a large amount of students every year to be enlightened and have the best summer of their lives.

Next, thank you to the best chaperone, Mr. Alfredo Chan-Law! You definitely made my experience at Chicago and Cornell worthwhile. Thank you for treating us like your children for almost 4 weeks, being so patient with all of us, for helping us in any way you possibly can, and for making sure we remained focused but still had a ton of fun. I love how laid back you were as a chaperone but still made sure we were safe. Thank you for routinely checking-in with us, driving us 3 hours each way to Niagara Falls, and cracking lame jokes along the way.

And lastly, I am thankful for my amazing cohort:

Michelle, for always having a wonderful smile on your face whenever I stopped by your room to talk! Thank you for buying me capri sun and even though I did not see you on a daily basis (along with the other hotelies) simply because our schedules were different, you definitely made moving in and getting used to life at Cornell a lot easier. I’m so glad we got to meet through the Ivy League Connection. You are an amazingly kind and caring person!  

Tomi, my Chicago roommate! I can’t believe we went from being roomies to not even dorming in the same hall! Despite this distance/barrier, I still always look forward to the regular check-ins with Mr. Chan-Law with you! Thank you for your great personality (it really just blooms after you really talk to her!) and for your kind words. Also for just always being there, for the good advice, and for always listening.

Jenna, for your always-smiling-bubbly personality! Good days, bad days, you always make my days better. You are honestly one of the most positive people I know and I love how happy and calm you are even in times of stress (before midterms, finals etc). You really just have a never-ending supply of happiness bundled up in you, and I don’t know how you do it, but I admire you so much for that. Thank you for bringing me granola bars and checking up on me (before meals, check-ins, etc.) from time to time, forming study groups with Christian and I before test days, and bringing positive vibes into whatever room you walk into.   

Rochelle, my Chicago roomie #2! I am so upset that you got placed into Risley Hall as well! But even so, for our lame jokes, endless laugh attacks, and the way we can just make eye contact and know exactly what we’re thinking inside. I love how much closer we got during these three weeks, and you are definitely the crazy (with your obsessions) one in the group. Conversations never die when I’m talking to you and I thoroughly enjoy and cherish all the times we get to hang out. Thank you for your quirky personality and your overall fun qualities that make any group get together awesome.

Christian (Chrissy), oh where do I even begin? I may be the only one who still calls you Chrissy (due to our long childhood history) and I’m glad you’re okay with it. I truly admire how studious and focused you are all the time. I wish I was as concentrated and driven as you were because you really keep me and yourself grounded. You were definitely my greatest support and backbone and even though we didn’t live on the same floor, I love that we were both at the end of our floors, so your room was just a flight of stairs up from mines. With that said, thank you for always, I mean always, letting me stay in your room to study, to laugh, to cry, or to just talk—and for 5 minutes or 5 hours at a time. Thank you for always keeping your door opened for Jenna and I when we wanted to study with you, peer edit each other’s essays, or order insomnia cookies! You’ve seen me at my best and worst and I couldn’t be more thankful to have such a patient and caring friend like you during our intense summer college program. You literally keep me sane. Thank you.

I seriously had the best cohort anyone could ask for. You guys were my greatest support system!

It’s already been 4 days since I came home from Cornell, and I’m honestly missing everything about it like crazy. I can remember everything that happened within those 3 weeks but for some reason, I can’t remember what I did these past 4 days.. This experience was definitely the experience of a lifetime and I would not trade it for anything else.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Reminiscence, Recognition... Ready to Take on the World


Sitting at home with nothing to fret over other than school summer assignments, upcoming tests, and college applications definitely feels alien to me now after spending weeks worrying about all aforementioned subjects, as wells as summer college applications, fancy dinners, travel preparations, and class work usually given to college freshmen. I had grown accustomed to waking up in the morning to greet my roommate Marika, walking to breakfast at Robert Purcell Community Center with Christian, greeting the cashier, and speed-walking to McGraw Hall for Professor Kramnick’s morning lectures. Despite the lack of air conditioning, I had grown to like the lecture hall, as well as the small room—the only section room without air conditioning—where I joined in intellectual discussions about the history of the feminist movement. I joined the Ivy League Connection thinking to expand my intellectual horizon, but I returned home with worlds of information which I will carry with me wherever I go.

Having applied to the Ivy League Connection last year, I was accustomed to the application process and was determined to go to Cornell this summer. This year Cornell’s Freedom and Justice program was made school-specific to Hercules Middle/High School, and after researching the class and Professor Isaac Kramnick, I knew I wanted to take the course. I wrote two essays before being accepted for the interview, one short general essay about what is expected of me should I be chosen, and one program-specific essay about freedom and justice. I was selected for the interview among five other students, and with some confidence and positive thinking made it fairly smoothly through the interview. I was overjoyed when Christian, Tamilyn, and I were chosen to attend Cornell University’s Freedom and Justice Summer Program. 

The dinners were definitely the tastiest element of the program; from braised beef short rib to basil soup, each dinner was mouth-watering, belly-warming, and complimented great conversations between students, alumni, alumnae, and admissions officers. Everyone, even the admissions officers, learned something at each dinner, and it was a wonderful opportunity for students to ask questions about college, as well as experience the life they can have if they are successful in future.

The college tours were also very productive and I only wish we could have visited more than two campuses. Chicago and Northwestern provided two very different campus settings, from a “Harry Potter” feel to a more modern and plain institution, but a greater variety would have been more favorable. The University of Chicago had many beautiful Victorian-styled buildings and was a rather small school. Northwestern University was slightly larger, though it had more modern-styled buildings on its gothic campus. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to see examples of the different colleges I available for application.

Cornell, however, definitely caught my attention. It is no small exaggeration when people say Cornell is “Gorges,” and I loved the natural beauty and grand size of the campus. I was assigned to a double on the fourth floor of North Balch Hall, where the heat would rise and my roommate Marika and I would do our work with a fan in front of our faces. While Marika and I did not have time to truly sit down and have a heart to heart chat, we got a long well and conversed about trivial matters that taught us more about the other. I initially hoped to have a room to myself, but at the end of the program I was glad I had a roommate for the three weeks to talk with, share stories with, borrow laundry detergent from, and to tell me to go to sleep when I have been studying for too long. 

The other students at Cornell, the Resident Community Advisors, undergraduates, and fellow classmates, were also very friendly and pleasant people who opened my eyes to other cultures and academic institutions. Two of my new friends, Purva and Gloria, taught me about education and holidays in India, as well as life in a California boarding school. I really enjoyed my classes with Professor Kramnick and Kevin, and I will miss the long hour and a half morning lectures in which the professor would often incorporate modern topics into our lessons, even trying to convince us to watch Bling Ring (which Gloria, Christian, and I watched) because he thought it might appeal to us younger folk. Learning about writings from people who have been dead for hundreds of years may seem unimportant, but the ideas of these people are the basis of our modern society and have shaped American culture, politics, and economy. Our teacher assistants were exceptionally helpful, as Kevin said: the professor is like our verbal textbook and the TAs are the teachers in every other aspect.

The Cornell cohort was kept busy in our classes, but on weekends we would usually go on trips together, whether it is to Niagara Falls or the Ithaca Commons, and usually on weekdays Christian, Rochelle, Tomi, and I would have dinner together. We definitely grew closer together, and even talked with Mr. Chan-Law as he was one of us. Mr. Chan-Law was a very capable and experienced chaperone, and he was up to speed with everything and made sure everything went smoothly. I was glad to have him as a chaperone, and I am grateful to the Ivy League Connection for making this experience possible.

I have learned so much more about the world, and I truly appreciate the effort Don, Mr. Ramsey, and Madeline Kronenberg put into helping high school students succeed. The Ivy League Connection is not the only scholarship program offered, but from my talks with other students at Cornell, I have found the ILC to be the most rigorous and dedicated. ILC students have a unique opportunity to dine with alumni and admission officers in expensive restaurants we will usually not eat at, an experience no other scholarship program does that I have heard, and the program also ensures that the students are prepared for the course, giving students course material before hand, which we were very thankful for! 

Once again, thank you to all of the Ivy League Connection's supporters and everyone who has given these West Contra Costa Unified School District students the opportunity to open the door and expand their horizons. 
Everyone has returned home in one piece and ready to take on the world.

Reflecting On A Great Experience

I’ve gained so much through the Ivy League Connection. From applying to actually going on the trip, I never stopped learning.

I remember when I wrote my essays, I thought long and hard about how I should approach the prompts. After submitting the essays, I was notified that I got an interview because there weren’t a lot of people that applied. Though I didn’t get in the first time I interviewed, I got in the second time. The major difference between the two interviews was that I was myself in the second interview. For the first, I remember being scared and nervous, which didn’t help me in being myself. After I knew what to expect, the second interview was easier. I wasn’t as scared and I had much more to say because I wasn’t nervous anymore.

I learned that it was important to be myself when interviewing because it really makes me stand out. If I continued to talk like a robot and not share my true thoughts, how would I prove that I was a great choice for the ILC? Talking in front of strangers was difficult at first, but after a while, it wasn’t too bad.

At the dinner, Board Meeting, and Council Meetings, many of the ILCers had to speak. For myself, I spoke at the dinner and at two council meetings. It was nerve wracking in the beginning, but after speaking for the first time at the Pinole Council Meeting, I was more comfortable speaking in public. After all, practice makes perfect.

When we were actually going to Chicago and Ithaca, I’ve learned a lot as well. We visited and toured the campuses of the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. Both schools have small class sizes, which is very different from schools in the UC system. It made me want to go to school where the class sizes were smaller.

At Cornell, I met so many different people from all over the world. It turns out that what I once thought was reality really isn’t. For example, television shows don’t show what the world is really like. People in New Jersey don’t really have a Jersey accent.

Also, we Americans are very fortunate to have so many opportunities. Some countries don’t give people as many rights. For example, in China, citizens aren’t allowed to have a Facebook. I found it really odd to prevent people from having a way to keep in touch with others. However, I also know that there are definitely reasons as to why the Chinese government is so strict. I’m just glad that I have the right to choose whether or not I have a Facebook.

Throughout this entire ILC experience, I’ve been treated as an adult. I interviewed to be an ambassador like an adult interviews for a job. I showed up on time to events that required my presence just as an adult should be on time to everything. I followed directions and rules just as an adult would be expected to. I’ve also become quite independent. I did my own laundry, fed myself, and kept myself healthy while I was at Cornell.

I’m very grateful to have been given this opportunity to be a part of the Ivy League Connection. I’ve learned a lot and my horizons have been broadened. I find myself viewing situations in different ways and I’m grateful for many things I wasn’t grateful for before. Now that I’m back, I’ll definitely be convincing others to apply to be an ILCer as well. Thanks to all those who support the Ivy League Connection for this great experience!