Sunday, July 22, 2012


Well, it’s hard to say it, but it is over. Throughout this past week, I knew that I had to write a reflective blog on my experience of this past month but I never really wanted to write it. This is more than a reflective blog; it is symbol. The moment I post this on our blog site, it truly means that our trip has ended: something I never wanted to happen. The time I spent in the East Coast has been extraordinary, but before I further reminisce, let’s start from the beginning. 

My sister, Jennifer, was part of the first Ivy League Connection cohort in which they went to Dartmouth College. After seeing how the ILC impacted her life, I knew I had be part of the ILC. I remember where this journey began. It was before Don even had his informational session at the El Cerrito High Performing Arts Theater. I emailed him asking for more information regarding the application for the ILC. Day after day I would pester him to go into deeper detail about the application process until Don finally told me that I will understand it better once he gives the information session.

There is a famous saying that goes: “third time’s the charm.” This phrase could not have been better suited for my situation. I had received interview opportunities for three different programs: Macroeconomics at Brown, Constitutional Law at Columbia, and Freedom & Justice at Cornell. Since I didn’t find any luck with the first two, Freedom & Justice turned out to be the charmer. Once Alex’s, Eric’s, and my name were called as the ones chosen to attend this program, I knew it was going to be fun.

Once everything was running smoothly, we had a taste of what was to come, literally. Through dinners with Cornell alumni and ILC alumni, I gained a lot of insight of life at Cornell. Such dinners made me ever so excited to leave at that very moment and fly out to Cornell. Furthermore, our fancy dinner at Prospect in San Francisco was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the restaurants we would eat at in Philadelphia.

Before I knew it, I was standing in front El Cerrito High School freezing along with the others in the Cornell cohort. It was time, we got into our charter bus and headed towards the airport to embark on what was to be a priceless journey. When the airplane took off, it was time to leave all our dependency and comfort of home behind (although our first week of living was far more luxurious than any of us could have imagined). Honestly, I was ecstatic about leaving home and being independent.

At the airport, we drew cards to see who would room with whom in the hotel in Philadelphia. As you may already know from previous blogs, I got Eric Wang from Hercules High. I’m not going to lie, I initially wanted to room with someone from El Cerrito or get the single room (Alex got that one). However, rooming with Eric Wang was the best experience I ever had. Every night, we would stay up late blogging, playing computer games (mainly golf), watching movies, and laughing endlessly during our conversations. We ended up being the best of buddies.

Our first week in Philadelphia was filled with campus visits and fancy dinners. I can’t say I’m not going to miss those dinners, but everything in moderation, I guess. As for the campus visits, we went to University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, and Princeton. Out of all three, UPenn appealed to me the most. From these tours, I realized that I prefer a large campus over a small one. Throughout the first week, we all became close friends and it was sad seeing us go our separate ways once classes started at Cornell.

The experience I had at Cornell is one in which words cannot describe. It is one of those experiences where you have to tell others “you had to be there!” Cornell seemed to have further cast a charm on me. For the first time ever, I enjoyed waking up early in the morning. I enjoyed going to class and listening to an hour and a half lectures. I enjoyed studying. I enjoyed writing my paper. If this is what college is like, then I am extremely sad that I still have one more year to go before that. Of course, Cornell had its flaws, not in a sense that Cornell did anything wrong, but more because of personal taste. I guess this problem comes with every college: the dining hall. The first week, we all thoroughly enjoyed the food there and would go for seconds, even up to fifths. However, towards the end of the program, we could barely eat one plate of food before looking at it with queasy stomachs. Throughout the three weeks at Cornell, never once did I miss home. Cornell became my home.

Over the course of the three weeks, we made some incredible and unforgettable friends. We were heartbroken when our time together ended and we went our separate ways. You see, these aren’t the friends in which you will see next week when you decide to hang out at the mall. Most of these friends we may never see in person for the rest of our lives. Nevertheless, these friends will be the ones we will never forget.

I will truly miss my time at Cornell. Everything from our discussion sessions to our billiards games in Robert Purcell Community Center. Throughout this experience, I have grown as a person, individually and academically. I have become more outspoken and outgoing. More importantly, I have learned proper social protocol from all the dinners with the admission officers of the different colleges. As for the academics, I feel that my writing skills have improved. The most important skill I have acquired over these three weeks at Cornell has to be time management. Never in my life have I managed my time well enough that I don’t feel stressed.

There are many people that I would like to thank for making this opportunity possible for me. Firstly, I would like to thank my family who would pester me endlessly about how I am wasting my time and thereby giving me motivation. To our chaperone, Mr. Chan-Law; your easy-going, yet authoritative, personality made it very easy to connect with you and made the trip very enjoyable. I would like to give my cohort a big thank you. We shared many memorable moments and laughs (especially those times when we would yell profanities when we almost forgot to blog). You all were a huge factor in making this trip from good to extraordinary. Finally, I would like to thank a million times over to everyone affiliated with the ILC, from the alumni to the sponsors. You all have kept the ILC running and reputable. I would like to especially thank Don Gosney, Mr. Charles Ramsey, and Mrs. Madeline Kronenberg who all have been the backbone of the ILC. No matter how many times I say thank you, I can never do it justice. The opportunity the ILC has given me is priceless. As for now, goodbye Cornell, may our paths cross sometime in the future.

It has finally come to an end, but at the same time, this is the beginning. The ILC has opened my eyes to the many possibilities outside of California. As for now, I will be leaving for a service trip to Nicaragua this coming Wednesday. I believe that the ILC has in some way helped me prepare for this trip as well as in my future college career. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I will dearly miss blogging every night in the comfort of my 95 degree dorm room. To keep this going, I will be blogging during my trip in Nicaragua. Should you feel so inclined, you can follow me on my new blog:

Thank you ILC!  

Me and My TA, Gaurav
Me and Professor Kramnick

Looking Back

It's different, really different being back at home. I had grown accustomed to getting ready for class in my dorm when only Hotelies would be up and about in the hallways of Mary Donlon Hall, to greeting the lady who swiped our IDs at the Robert Purcell Community Center, and to walking to the Statler School of Hotel Administration with Frank and our international friends Julia, Jiyoon, and Andrea. Cornell is so far away, but I will always have a small part of Ithaca that will travel with me wherever I go.

Even before the ILC information meeting at Hercules High School, I already knew that I was going to apply for a second year with the ILC. I wrote two essays this year - one about hotel management, and one about what I know is expected of an ILCer. I wrote both essays and was selected for an interview which I was prepared for and felt went pretty smoothly. I feel that this process is necessary and that the ILC should keep the selection process, the school board meeting, and the city council speech the same for next years applicants.

The only pre-trip milestone event I would suggest some changes be made about is the dinner. This years dinner at The Prospect was absolutely delicious. I only wish that I didn't sit next to another ILCer because I feel that if the members of the cohort are more scattered, then the conversation would be more personal, more along the lines of the interests of both the alum and student, and will make it less likely that the alumni will spend time catching up with one another.

I enjoyed the college tours very much. I liked the fact that the three schools we visited were all extremely different. With UPENN, we got a taste of a school that is located in a large metropolitan area but retains its sense of campus. Columbia was similar, but we got to see a school whose campus is really the metropolitan area and whose demanding core allows for virtually no class variety for the first years of college. Finally, we got visit Princeton, located in a small town that really exists for the institution. Compared to the two other colleges, Princeton was the smallest and quietest, so we really got to visit not only three world class universities, but three world class universities in three very different settings. It really provided me with a sense of what I like and dislike about college campuses.

Cornell is amazing. I loved just about every aspect of Cornell. I lived in Mary Donlon Hall on the fifth floor. Since students at Cornell only really need air conditioning for the first few and last few weeks of school, there is no air conditioning in the dorms. I dealt with the heat by spending all the time I was allowed to spend in the lounge in the lobby which has several tables for work, soft couches for relaxing, people to meet, and air conditioning. I loved the lobby because it became the place where just about everyone went to. People from all the dorms ( Donlon, Risely, and Balch) came to Donlon to hang out and get work done. I met so many new friends from across the globe just by being in the lounge.

My dorm had everything that I needed. I had a double, but no roommate so I had twice the amount of space as everyone else on my floor. I had two of everything, but soon, I reserved the other half for Frank who would drop by my room when we were both working and he didn't want to disturb his roommate who was already sleeping. We bonded and enjoyed each other's company as we worked. We also helped each other out whenever we could. If one of us needed something that the other person had, we'd share. One time Frank needed some toothpaste, so I shared mine with him. When I described this incident to my friend at home who graduated from Cal, he laughed and said "Now you're getting the real college experience!" Although I didn't have an assigned roommate, having Frank living (sort of) in my room gave be a preview of what having a roommate is like.

I absolutely loved my class, Hotel Operations and Management: Tactics for Profitability. My class was taught by a professor couple Mark and Reneta who crammed what is parts of several college classes into three weeks. Mark gave us a couple lectures on how to be effective presenters, leaders and the like in addition to walking everyone through working with various computer programs such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Mark made learning so much fun. His serious, no nonsense attitude kept everyone in line, but he employed his sense of humor to great effect which made what could have been really boring lessons really captivating. Reneta lectured the class about the hotel industry from the brands and chains to how casinos try to attract and keep customers on the gambling floor. While her lecturer were a little dryer than Mark's, her lectures were extremely interesting because not only did she give us the strategies that hotels use, she explained the reasoning behind the strategies which made me realize that I can apply these strategies to my CHESS hotel simulation. Her lectures lit my brain on fire as I scribbled down notes and plan for my hotel and tried to figure how I could best apply the strategies. In addition to Mark and Reneta were our fabulous T.A.s who were on the search for anyone who needed help. Our T.A.s went the extra mile and stayed late with the class at office hours and even stayed available through email until the early morning/late at night hours replying to our every question. Words cannot describe how great of a job Mark and Reneta did as professors and how great of a job the T.A.s did in helping us survive being a Hotelie!

Finally, I want to write about our cohort. I will never forget our cohort playing baseball with a plastic bat and a wiffle ball on the lawn to the side of Donlon. We established a unique bond and camaraderie that normally takes much longer to establish. I think I can say that we will all be really good friends for a long time.

The Freedom and Justice guys: Calvin and I bonded while being roommates in Philly during our college tours by trying to impress each other with impressions and by being absolutely miserable at online golf. His great sense of humor and desire to have fun made the trip so much fun! I had an gut feeling Eric Wilson had to be a cool guy as soon as I saw we had the same name, and my gut feeling was correct. Eric would always be the first one to want to hang out with and meet new people. Like Calvin, his sense of humor and nice personality allowed for the two of us, Eric Squared, to become quick buddies. Alex was always the calmest of our group. He was the most outgoing of us and wanted to meet new people and do new things. I vividly remember us spending time playing catch and him teaching me how to throw certain baseball pitches. Playing catch became one of our must-do events and each time we had time and a ball to throw, we'd play catch.

Hotelies: Rachael is a independent person who found her own way and own things to do at Cornell and I respect that. It was nice to have her in our cohort. Before this trip, Frank and I knew who each other were, but never really talked to each other. During the trip, we bonded by debating if Ryan Lochte would get more gold medals than Michael Phelps at the Olympics and became the best of friends. Some of our fellow Hotelies would stop Frank and I (Freric as Mark, Julia, and Jiyoon call us) walked to class to ask if we were brothers or best friends from school and we'd explain that we'd never really talked until this trip. I'm not sure if people believed us or not, but that just goes to show that we became very good friends very quickly.

Our chaperone Mr. Chan-Law, is an amazing chaperone. He was on top of everything from the moment was in charge of us. He was extremely organized and researched how to get to and from places as well as making sure that everyone was doing well in class. In addition, Mr. Chan-Law made a concerted effort to make sure we had fun at while we were on the East Coast. He planned a trip to Cooperstown to visit the baseball Hall of Fame as well as a trip to the local state park for the Freedom and Justice guys. His welcoming personality made everyone feel safe and contributed to the quality of time at Cornell. I truly appreciate everything Mr. Chan-Law did for our cohort.

Last but not least, I want to thank everyone in the ILC for making my experience so wonderful. I want to thank all the sponsors for making this journey possible. I also want to thank the program directors: Don, Mr. Ramsey, and Mrs. Kronenberg who have put in countless hours and long nights to plan every aspect of our experience from the information session to our arrival at SFO. The work they have done is the main reason the Ivy League Connection has been so successful and will remain to be successful for many, many years to come. This is only the beginning of a bright future for the ILC!