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.

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