Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Journey Ends, a New One Begins

We started out the day similar to yesterday, walking to the train station and then grabbing breakfast before we boarded.  We got an early start as our appointment for our info session at Princeton was at 10. From the Amtrak we took a taxi to the school, where we met our guide, an admissions officer at Princeton.

Princeton University
His presentation has been my favorite info session we have attended. He was engaging, talkative, and told stories about experiences while on the job during his lecture.  He specialized in describing the admissions process at Princeton and went deep into detail for what the school was looking for.  He continued to emphasize the importance of presenting yourself as a unique individual interested in the school and how important the personal statement is for the admission officers. I agreed with his theory, as while grades and standardized test scores are extremely important to colleges, it will not set you apart from the hundreds of other academically gifted students like you. Expression of your interests as an individual and why Princeton is the best school for you seemed to best summarize his philosophy. "Make us think of you as a person during the application, not a number."

Our tour continued with a tour from Kelsey, an undergraduate at the school. What interested me most about her was that she was involved with music at school, and, being a musician myself, I would have loved to ask her a couple questions about what she is involved in specifically, but, seeing that our tour group consisted of about 70 people, all hungry with questions, time to answer my many questions did not seem to be a possibility. 

What separated this tour from Columbia's was the openness of the campus. As Princeton does not offer any summer courses, only about 200 students attend school for the summer, most of who are finishing their senior thesis (or final project).  This allowed us as tourists to explore the insides of many of the buildings (which were equipped with air conditioning!), something that Columbia was more limiting over.  This campus was very green and spacious. We saw very few students roaming around campus, unlike the other two schools that we visited. Princeton also tries to preserve the buildings of the schools, but has also built newer, more modern-looking buildings, such as the Firestone Library.

Philly Cheesesteak at Abner's Restaurant
At the conclusion of the tour we stopped at small Italian restaurant for lunch and then walked around the college town a little bit.  With very few college students on campus the area was relatively empty. We took a cab back to the Trenton station to return back to Philadelphia, where we made a quick stop for an authentic Philly cheesesteak to hold us over until dinner. 

Variety of Breads with Butter and Goat Cheese
Dinner was held at Lacroix in the Rittenhouse Hotel.  Unfortunately, with few Princeton alumni living in Philadelphia, any people belonging to the school could not accompany us.  However, with the reservation already set, we were still welcomed into the restaurant’s private dining room.  The dinner was exceptional. Everybody kept making comparisons to Tuesday night’s dinner at Fountain, with the similar type of menu and dining experience.  Being in a separate dining room, we had a large attentive staff that was always coming up to check on us.  My meal consisted of a soft shell crab to start, followed by ribeye steak, and for dessert a selection of sorbets.  And by selection, these were not the regular fruit flavors you would expect.  I received an assortment consisting of honeydew, hibiscus-grapefruit, cherry cola, cantaloupe, and Thai-spiced pineapple (my favorite), all spun in the kitchen.  Again, the staff was very considerate toward Rachael’s food allergies and mine and went out of the way to prepare substitutions that we could enjoy as well.  I really cherished this night out again with just our group and am sad that this is the last fancy dinner we will have together in Philadelphia.  However, this just means that new adventures are sure to come!

Last Dinner in Philadelphia!
And with that we conclude our stay in Philadelphia as we depart for Ithaca tomorrow. I've have had a great time in Philadelphia and have learned quite a lot not only thought the college visits, but through traveling in a group in a new city and interacting with different people. Even though we are still in the same country, I have learned many things about a new culture on the East Coast through observations and interactions. Tomorrow in Ithaca will be our last day before we are introduced to Cornell and begin the transition to the dorm life and begin our classes. With our time in Philadelphia I would love to extend my thanks to the ILC as they have provided such an amazing opportunity that I could not have dreamed of without their help. I want to emphasize their generosity as well as we have been living a life of luxury without having to take a single penny out of our own pocket, and am truly grateful for that as well. Also I want to thank Alfredo for his outstanding guidance and responsibility, as he has been a great leader and organizer as we all explore a city foreign to us and he has really allowed us to count on him as the week has progressed. Tomorrow we will board a plane to Ithaca and spend the night on campus at the Statler Hotel, meeting alumni and a summer program coordinator for dinner as well.  

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