Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Conclusion to a Fantastic Journey

Cornell feels like a distant past now. It has only been a week ago but being back here makes Cornell seem like one of my childhood memories. Though it feels like a long time ago, everything that happened there feels crystal clear, even back when this all started. With all these memories fresh in my head, I can't help but think of a time when I didn't really want to be involved in this program.

It has been over half a year since Don first visited our school, but I still remember him giving a detailed description of this program: the Ivy League Connection. Of course, I knew of this program before this, seeing that my sister already attended the Brown program for macroeconomics. I remember a few things that happened on that particular day. Don told us the responsibilities that needed to be met when receiving this scholarship as well as the rewards that were given to the ILCers. Close to the end, the ILC alumni were there to share their experiences with us. This was the deciding factor that made me want to be in this special program. They were very sincere when describing how great their experiences were.

Step 1 of 2 started with some essays. I had to write two essays to apply for the Hotel Management program I sought to be in. One was the pre-essay to show how I was committed to this program, and the other one compared the similar management tools used in motels and high class hotels. I spent time checking, re-checking, and re-checking again to make sure there was no mistakes on it because this was the only program I applied for, and I didn't want to get rejected. Once I passed the first step, all that stood in my way was the deadly interview. I was pretty nervous because I had very smart people to compete with. Miraculously, I managed to grab a spot with Eric and Rachael and we became the new ILCers that were setting off to Cornell.

After all the applications were finished with, everything seemed to pass very slowly. It always seems like when I can't wait for something, it takes longer for it to come. There was a gradual buildup of events before actually departing, with a presentation at the council meeting and orientations preparing us on representing this district almost three thousand miles away in elite colleges. The dinner with the Cornell alumni before our trip gave me a preview of what to expect, and I was even more excited to fly off. Finally, it was time to leave the Bay Area and come to the East Coast, and it was worth the wait! I couldn't have asked for a better four weeks or better people I met at the Hotel Management class.

The first week of the four week adventure started in Philadelphia, and honestly, I never lived such a luxurious life. When we arrived at the Inn at Penn, and I knew that it was going to be a sweet week. The hotel was four diamonds and the rooms were much better than I thought. Every day, we went out to a fancy restaurant, and as each day passed, it felt as if the restaurants got fancier. I never thought that this program had so much money, all from our wonderful sponsors, whom I cannot appreciate enough. Living the fancy life was not the greatest benefit I gained from this week, but it was actually getting to know all my cohorts. This was the perfect time for all our cohorts to bond with each other before setting off to Cornell. I wasn't sure how they were going to be like, having only briefly talked with some of them. I didn't want it to be an awkward month with my fellow ILCers, and eventually, we all became friends. Each and every one of my cohorts were wonderful to be around with. Even our chaperone, Mr. Chan-Law, the coolest person I could have asked for to watch over us, didn't felt like he was being a parent that was telling us what to do and not do, but enjoying his time with us, making our group like a big family.

My experience in Cornell was just as exceptional, if not more exceptional, than our week at Philly. It is true that the hours for Hotel Management was incredibly long: from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM and then 7 PM to 9 PM. However, it all went by fast because it was interesting and fun to be in class. To be truthful though, I was dying during the first few days of class, purely because I was not used to such a long school day, especially only with one class. It got much better after a couple of days. In fact, it was so enjoyable that the three weeks flew by as if the days seemed like mere hours. 

One of my goals at Cornell was to meet new people, and I feel pretty happy in saying that I met my goal. I've never met so many different people just in my class alone (we had 80 people in the class though). I've met people from different parts of the country, from New York to Pennsylvania to Houston. Yet, there was, in my opinion, just as many international people as there were people from the U.S.A. I tried to get to know these people that didn't live like I do in America. There were people that came from as far away as Russia and China, and it was surprising to see how many Chinese people there were in Cornell. These new friends made this journey all the more memorable.

As with all great adventures, our's finally and sadly came to an end. There was no doubt that there were some tough times, like one almost all nighter, and a three hour lecture, but I will certainly miss everything about Cornell, especially the people. Even those 15 minute walks to and from class will be wished for once I'm back in school, and as surprising as it sounds, I'm going to even miss our food. The RPCC was getting a little boring in the end after eating the same things over and over again, but I would choose that over our school lunch anytime. Above everything else, I'm going to miss seeing everyone from Cornell. I'm glad that that El Cerrito is fairly close to Hercules, so it wouldn't be too hard to have some reunion with all our ILC cohorts anytime soon.

I am very appreciative to the time and efforts of everyone that helped us travel to the East Coast. Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, and Mr. Gosney took their own money and leisure time to make this whole program available for us. If I knew how tiring it was for them, blogging probably would seem like a game, but I'm glad that this was the least I could do for them. 

For the Last Time...

This past week has been different.  I haven’t heard the signature AT&T ringtone that had served as my morning alarm for the past month.   I haven’t met Calvin and Eric for breakfast at the Robert Purcell Community Center, or made the journey to Goldwin Smith Hall with them.  And I haven’t let a moment pass where I do not miss my days on the East Coast.

This has not only been an investment of a month, but an experience that has been about seven months in the making, ever since Don had made the trip to the El Cerrito High Performing Arts Theater to host an informational assembly regarding the opportunities that the Ivy League Connection can provide.  I was immediately interested in applying for the programs, as I have had friends who had participated in various courses last year and had loved it.  At this point, Brown’s Macroeconomics and Cornell’s Freedom and Justice were the two programs that had attracted me the most, and that is where the journey had started. 

“Explain how the ‘ban the box’ movement has affected the rights of convicted felons versus the rights of employers and coworkers.”  In summary, my answer to this question was a turning point in my journey with the ILC.  After not being selected for the Macroeconomics program, Cornell’s Freedom and Justice was the next course where the essay was due for admittance into the interview stage.  The “ban the box” movement was a social advancement to eliminate a checkbox on the common employee application that asks whether the applicant has been convicted of a crime in the past.  My suggestion to revise the box and develop a separate confidential document to elaborate on any past convictions of an applicant might have seemed to be a deciding factor, as I joyously received an e-mail inviting me to participate in the interview stage of the process.  After much preparation followed by a successful 20 minutes in front of a judge panel, I was admitted as a member of the Ivy League Connection. 

Of course, along with all the delight and relief that I was experiencing over the next couple months, I also did not know what to expect going in.  Luckily, I had the support of friends, family, and even people that I didn’t know but was so lucky to encounter, such as regional Cornell alumni.  Through our dinners with past Summer College students, including two friends of mine, and our luxurious dinner at Prospect in San Francisco, I was able to gain the best insights on what my experience on the East Coast will be like.  I was so grateful for all the people that were able to guide me along the way prior to our departure.

As much as I would love to retell all the day-by-day events that we experienced between Philadelphia and Ithaca, you have all heard it before and I could spend my time speaking of other things.  Our time in Philadelphia was a great introduction to the East Coast.  I was able to get to know our cohort, especially the Hercules kids, and had a great time traveling by myself.  The university visits have been extremely beneficial; I was able to decide what I want in a college and, just as important, what I don’t want.  We explored a great variety of schools, which shared many similarities and differences even though they are all belong to the Ivy League. The University of Pennsylvania stuck out to me as the most attractive, especially through the campus visit and our tour guide’s ability to not only explain what the school has to offer academically, but what activities and social life are present on and off the campus, something the other tour guides did not explore in depth.  I have found out that a suburban campus is my most preferable choice, but while visiting Princeton, and later Cornell, I realize that a more rural campus has its advantages as well, such as an active presence on campus.  In contrast, Columbia University had to offer not only a superior level of academics, but also a lively off campus options in the heart of New York City.  Nothing better helped me get a sense of a great college than our three weeks at Cornell though. 

Summer College was a life changing experience.  In and out of the classroom I learned a great deal of things.  I am so grateful for studying under Professor Kramnick and Ulas, they provided us with a level of education that could be found nowhere else.  Professor Kramnick was able to revolutionize the way I will ever think about the topics of freedom, justice, and equality, and has succeeded in steering the definition of “lecture” away from “boring” for me.  Ulas has been an agent in my greatly improved writing, allowing me to develop a clear and concise thesis especially. They have changed the way that I think and have already identified differences within myself based on the improvements that I have made during my trip. 

I have also developed socially through this trip.  Along with my cohort, I was able to meet so man new people who were all very friendly and considerate.  Learning about people’s backgrounds and cultures fascinates me, and this course provided me with the perfect opportunity to meet these people.  I am going to miss all those days downstairs in the Uris Library and playing pool in the Robert Purcell Community Center with all these people that I am unfortunately not going to be able to see again.  The opportunity to make new friends from all over the world has really been a valuable experience that made this program all the more special.

One of the reasons why this trip was so memorable was thanks to our cohort.  Our group was so cooperative and easy to get along with and really made a difference in the success of this trip.  As the journey continued we really started to behave like family.  In fact, according to the Cooperstown Hall of Fame family membership, the seven of us are a family! I would like to thank Mr. Chan-Law especially for his exceptional leadership and responsibility throughout the trip; he was a great mentor and friend who stuck it through with us during the extent of the trip. 

In addition to my cohort, this trip could not be made alone.  I want to send a second thank you to all of the Ivy League Connection administrators and generous sponsors, especially Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg, members of the WCCUSD School Board, and Don Gosney, who does a marvelous job organizing and keeping contact with all 40+ ILC students.  Also Professor Kramnick and Ulas for delivering their masterful level of education to us.  And Asher and Riley, our R.C.A.s who did the best job in making us feel welcome at Summer College and provided a smooth transition into dorm life at Risley.  And once again to our cohort, who made this trip all the more memorable.  This truly has been a terrific experience that I will never forget.  I cannot believe how much I have changed as an individual and how important this trip was for me in determining my future.  Though this may be the end of a wonderful journey for me, the next step is to educate the next generation of ILC Cornellians as they will make this trip on their own next year.