Thursday, July 18, 2013

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.

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