Thursday, July 18, 2013

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!

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