Monday, July 21, 2014

A Step Forward and Thinking of the Past

I’m not quite sure how to begin this, since there is much to cover, so I’ll do this chronologically. The very first time I heard of the Ivy League Connection, was as a freshman, when I was reading my high school’s newspaper and there was an article with a picture that featured students that participated in the program. I wasn’t sure what is exactly was, until the following year. One day, around the beginning of sophomore year, I received a note from the office to go to a presentation at the library. This presentation was put together by at the time, a new face—that of ol’ Don Gosney, as everyone refers to him. It was through the presentation, Don told us all the amazing doors of opportunity that awaited us if we successfully applied to the program. I was enthralled after the presentation, and thought that applying was going to be my priority. Then a dilemma came about. You see, I wanted graduate my senior year with calculus BC rather than just AB, therefore I needed to take pre-calculus over the summer to be on that track. If I chose to apply to this program, there was no guarantee that I would make it for sure, so I decided to take pre-calc over the summer. I now regret that choice—I should’ve taken my chances with the Ivy League Connection. 

When junior year came around, the same presentation occurred again and this time I knew I would apply—no backing out this time, because I had no plans this summer and I was determined. Not too long after signing up for the list, I had three programs in particular that I was eager to apply to. The first one I had in mind was the biotechnology course at Brown, this was because I’ve always had a deep interest in the world of biology—particularly molecular workings and this course was really the closest I could get to the field. My second choice was that of Freedom and Justice at Cornell, this was due to the fact that apart from loving biology, I also love just about anything having to do with history or humanities—specifically with the workings of civilization. My final choice was that of the Hotel Management course at Cornell. Why? Well this was because I heard it was the most rigorous course that the Ivy League Connection had to offer and I was up for a challenge. In the end, since the programs can only be applied to on specific time frames (being that one is available to apply to before others), Freedom and Justice was the first to open up and I applied to it and got to the interview. 

Getting to the interview was both exciting and a bit scary. To begin with, I already had quite a few friends that were rejected from the Vanderbilt interview a short time earlier and to know that I made it to the interview made me feel like I was in unknown territory and on top of that, I had never interviewed before in my life! Luckily, I had the help of some former ILCers that helped me prepare for it. I think now is the appropriate time to say THANK YOU, Damian, Jenna, Christian and Tamilyn for helping me out through the I.S.E.A. (Intramural Student Educational Advisory) club. Once I got to the interview, I was still nervous before and after. When Henry Ramsey Jr. announced my name at the end of the long wait as apart of the list of the people selected—which caused suspense because there was another Kevin too, I felt relief as the realization began to set in. 

Fast forward a few months, and then came the tutorial session where Don told us all the ins and outs of being an ILCer. I learned just about everything on what to expect and do during my time from then on, and whatever I forgot from that, was in the handy-dandy THICK packet that Don provided us. The next event was the dinner with alumni. I was extremely nervous for the dinner and was scheduled to give a speech as well. I was nervous to be having dinner among such prestigious people and when I was notified that I had to give a speech, I was at a loss for words. Either way, I practiced the day before and managed to pull it off with much approval. I remember meeting so many people that day and one in particular that I sat next to on the BART ride there, Carolyn Day Flowers, who attended Cornell and Harvard and was heading to her Cornell class reunion the following week, she enjoyed listening to my speech and gave me her contact info and told me to contact her when the time for applying to colleges came around. I’m definitely contacting her. 

After the school board meeting and orientation, was the big day… DEPARTURE. It all came by so fast, so surreal, like a blur that didn’t let reality set in on time. I didn’t go to sleep on departure day, I pulled an all-nighter out of anxiety and got to El Cerrito High School right on time which was before 4:00 AM from what I remember. 

The first stop was the humid-rich city of St. Louis, of which I was amazed at how much I could sweat by just sitting or standing in an air-conditioned environment. WashU was an impressive university with all the majors they offered, but its climate was the exact opposite. I remember the Cardinals game we passed by and how jam-packed the streets were of red. I remember visiting the St. Louis Zoo with its enormous variety of animal attractions—nearly all for free. Not only that, but the Gateway Arch was mesmerizing with its intimidating height and the underground westward expansion museum was interesting. 

The next stop was that of the gigantic city of Chicago. The city’s downtown reminded me of San Francisco as well as the climate at this time of year (full of sporadic rain and below 80 degrees). I remember going to the shopping mall there and the rehearsal in the park theatre. The Chicago metropolitan area truly has something for everyone. For some people, that would be the University of Chicago—for others, it would be Northwestern University just a train ride north. The two universities are excellent in academics but both boast a community of students that are far different from each other. I prefer the latter for a variety of reasons apart from its lively community, including location, scenery, even colors, and more.

Then there’s Cornell. We arrived there late at night on I forgot what day, as early check-ins. I remember I was the only guy in my entire building that day and for that specific reason I ran across my floor (because I was bored) and met my RCA Michael that way. My RCA Michael soon became one of my better new friends at the university and very helpful in terms of my course, for he took the same exact course two years ago when he was in high school. I met my roommate, Jantzen Nakai, the second day and he also surprisingly was taking the same course. 

First day of class was great, I was so glad to have such a spectacular and revered professor as Isaac Kramnick. He taught me to look at the U.S. in a different perspective and through his class and the readings, I learned how deeply rooted (as he would emphasize) our culture truly is in western philosophy. Not only that, but how problems are recurring over and over again throughout history, in different places and how people use “canonical” texts to strengthen their argument and how changing views are added on with each generation. In a sense, today’s world can be related to the past in variety of ways, particularly in themes. 

Every day was something new in the classroom, but not exactly in the cafeterias. The Robert Purcell Community Center was a buffet—sure—but it’s food was often times repeating after a week and not the most savory, but still they did a good job to accommodate around 900 kids. Trillium in my honest opinion had a bit higher quality food than RPCC, but far less of a variety—although I’ll have to praise their sesame chicken, which I thought was adequate. In the long run it’s not like I’m going to miss the cafeteria food, but RPCC and Trillium were the places where a lot of time spent with friends occurred, including speed-dating with Professor Kramnick at Trillium. 

Aside from Cornell Summer College, there was also fun outside of the school. Mr. Chan-Law (a.k.a. greatest chaperone to navigate the East Coast and Midwest) took us on some trips even when we weren’t touring colleges. We went to the mall at the beginning of our stay and saw the new, but downright pitiful Transformers movie with the entire cohort and we also went on the grand 4-hour trip to Niagara Falls. The waterfalls were awesome, and the sheer power of the water could be felt while on the boat cruise that got us all wet while on Canadian maritime waters. 

Considering dorm life, I’ll still remember all those times I stayed up until 3:00 AM and longer, playing the board game RISK and having debates on controversial issues with a good portion of my floor mates. Thinking back on it, it seems incredible that we were able to do that, finish homework and be able to wake up the next day. Oh wait…I started using caffeine on a regular basis, duhh to myself. Without caffeine I seriously would not have been able to pull of the routine I had at summer college. Studying was actually not as bad as it seemed when you had people from class to study with. Especially from the same building and floor specifically, then that would make it super easy to peer edit essays as well—good thing there were many F & Jers on my floor and surrounding floors. 

Studying wouldn’t ever be complete in a college class without the help of a TA. That TA would be my first college TA, Vijay. A bit timid at times, he managed to make his discussion/workshop sections enjoyable by making witty comments, jokes and having a satirically pessimistic outlook on life in general at times. The guest lectures were also very interesting, they dealt with injustice of almost every form. On a weird note, they presented the community of Ithaca as not the most idealistic to live in, considering all the bizarre crimes that happened rather recently. 

If I could succinctly sum up the trip, it would be that of an genuine exposure of the “other side.” If the trip taught me anything at all (and trust me I learned a lot), its that I came to terms with there being colleges outside of California that may be more suitable to my preferences than the ones here. It’s good to be exposed to different parts of the nation and know the different cultures and environments of the U.S. in order to understand that no one place is the same, but there are of course similarities and differences. With every place I visited I no doubt met a ton of new faces and in some cases such as Cornell, made many new friends in the process. Being in the tech age with social media we now keep in touch with each other through Facebook. It was definitely a new experience meeting up with so many highly intellectual kids and in reality this way I truly got a taste of what a college experience may be like. 

I thank the Ivy League Connection for this wonderful opportunity. I thank the directors of the program Ms. Kronenberg and President Ramsey for allowing the ongoing funding of this program. I especially thank Don Gosney for being the one-man army of the ILC, working day and night, being a stranger to consistent sleep and the epitome of hard work after retirement. I also thank the generous sponsors for believing in the cause of our program and I thank everyone else having to do anything with the program that I may have missed. Lastly I thank my cohort, for being the most unique group of people to travel with, there couldn’t have been a funnier, head-turning, awkward bunch of us selected to have many adventures with—I hope we all keep in touch. 

In return, I plan to give back to my community not only in the near future when I return back to school in the form of continuing the college club at my school, but sometime after I finish school. I have to complete my end of the bargain first which is attend college and then I can give back to the community that helped me out. Thank you guys for reading our blogs! 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

An Opportunity of a Lifetime

A symbol of what I accomplished 
It has not sunk in that my ILC journey is over. Just yesterday I was typing my application essay and prepping for my interview and now I'm writing this blog, reflecting upon the past four weeks. I returned from Cornell more mature with new knowledge and a new possible direction in life. None of this would have been possible without the ILC. To commemorate my amazing experience I give you my ILC story in a nutshell:

Becoming a part of the Ivy League Connection has been my dream since middle school. Until 11th grade, that was still what it was to me--a dream. I knew I was eligible to apply, but I did not believe that I actually had a chance competing against the brightest students in my district. I did not think I was good enough for the ILC.

Despite my apprehensions, when I was faced with the decision to apply, I realized that I could not miss out on such an amazing opportunity. After sitting in on a presentation given by Don Gosney I decided to at least try to apply by signing up for more information.

My inbox was flooded almost immediately. There were pages of emails to read and plenty of forms to sign. My first task was tackling the pre-essay portion of the application process. Explaining exactly why I wanted to be a part of the ILC, what I hoped to gain from my experience, and how I planned to give back to my community upon my return was easy. Believing that I could actually take part in such a remarkable experience was not.

One of the many emails I received included a list of the 11 programs available. I had no particular preference in what class to take or which school to attend. I decided to choose a class I felt I had the best chance of getting into.

For some reason the Hotel Management course stood out to me. I had no previous interest in the hotel business or the hospitality industry, but I thought maybe I should try something new. Not confident in my odds of actually being accepted, I told myself not to get my hopes up, but, me, incapable of doing anything half-heartedly, worked tirelessly on application essay. After several revisions, I asked for feedback from my parents, my English teacher, and my Math teacher, who majored in business at UC Berkeley. Once the final draft was submitted I was relieved, yet still unconvinced of my ILC potential.

A very long week later, I received the email notifying me that I had made it to the next step of the application process: the interview. While I was shocked, I was excited. I realized that I had a real chance of going to Cornell and I was not going to let this opportunity pass by me. Preparing for the interview began at once. Two ILC alums who attended Cornell, Damian Wong and Rochelle Yee, helped me and the other Hercules candidates practice for the interview. We all met at Starbucks, where they shared information with us. They tested us with practice questions and gave us tips for ace-ing the interview. Without them I know would not be writing this reflection. My family also lent a helping hand by setting up a mock interview for me with my uncles. By the time I walked into the interview room facing three interviewers, Don Gosney, Madeline Kronenberg and a video camera, I was ready. Of course I was incredibly nervous, but I pulled myself together and calmly did my interview.

The three interviewers returned at the end of an agonizing two hours and informed us of the winners. Shaking from anxiousness, I listened as they called my name. Words cannot describe how I felt at that moment. I was ecstatic. I thought I was in the clear. I was ready to be shipped off to Cornell right then and there. But I was very wrong. This was just the beginning.

I now had to apply to Cornell. The Cornell application consisted of an additional two essays, teacher recommendations and safety forms. Completing this application was tedious. The forms were difficult to fill out and I was juggling my school work at the same time. All the trouble applying to Cornell was well worth it though. A couple months before my trip, I received my official acceptance into the class. It was then that I could rejoice. 

The Cornell cohort at the school board meeting
But my work was still not done. Don had lined up a list of events for us, which he informed us through his mass of emails. Our first event was the blogging tutorial. There, Don instructed a group of us, ILCers, on how to blog and what to blog. He also discussed some of the basics of what we needed to pack further down the road. This was our first step in our experience as ILCers. Next came the school board meeting. In my 12 years of going to school in WCCUSD I have never attended a school board meeting, so it was quite interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes so to speak. I also appreciated how we were introduced to our district. It reminded me how honored I was to be an ambassador of my community.

Our biggest event was a dinner in San Francisco with ILC sponsors and Cornell alums. I was extremely nervous about branching out of my comfort zone and meeting new people, but I had nothing to worry about. That night was a great experience. I mingled with Cornell graduates, who told me things I had to do while I was back East. After dinner, I was extremely excited to go to Cornell. My dad even told me he wished he was going instead of me! Our final event, the parent orientation, came one week before our trip. There we received final information and a detailed itinerary of the following four weeks. I started to have mixed feelings by then: I was excited to go, but sad to be leaving.

Before I knew it I was on a plane headed for St. Louis--ready or not. The Charles F. Knight center, where we were staying, was a pleasant surprise. Due to some mix-up, we all received our own rooms. It was our first taste of independence. Even better the hotel offered a complimentary snack pantry. The first event on our trip was a tour of Washington University. The campus was beautiful. By the end of the tour I was ready to apply to WashU. Later that evening we all went to dinner at Tony's with three alums and an admissions officer. I was nervous about conversing just as I was prior to the ILC sponsor dinner. Fortunately, I was wrong again. I enjoyed the company. I enjoyed learning more about different schools. The rest of the week continued much the same. After St. Louis we travelled to Chicago. We went on tours of Northwestern University and University of Chicago and ate dinner with representatives from each school. 

University of Chicago
The first week of our trip travelling around with my cohort was, in one word, awesome. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Without going on some of the tours I probably would have never even considered applying to some of these schools. Thus, in some way, this mini "vacation" or sight-seeing adventure, was life changing. I am extremely gratified by the ILC who made that possible on top of sending me to an Ivy League school. But of course the fun was not over. 

We arrived in Ithaca, New York, on a Friday night. We were the first students to check-in. My dorm was located in Mary Donlon, which I found to be a great hall to live in. It was the largest dorm in North Campus, plus it was closest to the Robert Purcell Community Center, where all our meals were provided. My roommate was Elizabeth, who is from Massachusetts. She was taking the Speech and Debate course. Our schedules were very different so we did not get a chance to bond very much, but I enjoyed meeting her and living with her for three weeks.

I did not spend too much time in my dorm anyway. My class was lengthy and rigorous. Most of my time was spent in class or in the lab. I had no idea what to expect when I walked into Room 396 on the first day of class. I certainly did not expect to enjoy the class as much as I did. I had two professors, a husband and wife duo, Mark and Reneta McCarthy. They were the perfect match for each other and the job. Reneta acted as our mother, always asking if we were sleeping okay and condemning our sugar intake, while Mark was our jokester, providing comic relief throughout the day (I learned about our right-click fingers.) 

As for the course itself, I actually had fun learning about which hotels are owners, managers, franchisors or franchisees and about how to create pivot tables using Excel. Every day I made the 20 minute walk to class, passing the Statler Hotel on the way. Every day I walked up three flights of stairs to Room 396 and claimed four seats for my group. We either had an hour long lecture or a quiz to start off our morning. Then, the class was split into two groups and was either sent to the Bin lab or told to stay seated. In the Bin lab Mark taught us business computing skills. In Room 396, Reneta taught us everything we needed to know about the hotel industry. Our class started at 8:30 AM and ended at 3:30 PM. We then had mandatory office hours from 4:00PM to 6:00 PM.  We had to stay in class for 13 hours on two different days in order for us to complete our biggest assignments. The length of our class was sometimes overwhelming, but well worth it not. After taking this class and learning more about the hotel industry, I have decided to apply to Cornell's School of Hotel Administration in the fall. 

Of course, besides learning new things, I met several new people. On the first day of class, I was placed in a group with three other girls: Dani, Sabrina and Yueyuan. We worked together for all three weeks on huge assignments worth up to 20% of our grade. Luckily, I loved my group. We were the best group in my eyes. But I also met other people in my class, who I plan on keeping in touch with in the future. 

My experience would not have been the same had I spent it with anyone else besides my wonderful cohort and chaperone. From having sleepovers in hotels to trying escargot, we bonded while venturing to new places. I'd like to thank them all, Sue, Carla, Natalie, Jun, Kevin, and Mr. Chan-Law for making the past four weeks an exciting adventure. I'm glad I got to know you all a little better and I look forward to keeping in touch. Hopefully a Cornellian cohort reunion is somewhere in our future!

To end my "short" spiel on my journey, I would like extend my utmost gratitude to the people who made this all possible: the wonderful staff and supporters of the Ivy League Connection. I cannot thank Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg and Don Gosney, especially, enough for making this opportunity of a lifetime a reality for me and all of the other ILCers. Thank you to everyone who played a role in this life changing experience, including whoever is reading this blog. With that, farewell!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Looking Back

I first learned about the ILC my sophomore year, when I was summoned to the ECHS theater to hear Don's spiel. Although the program sounded great, I didn't apply because I wanted to spend the summer practicing and coaching gymnastics. However, this year my priorities shifted somewhat, and after hearing friends rave about their experiences I applied to Freedom and Justice. I wrote the essays quickly and then spent hours editing them, dragging my family in to comment on each change. Then, at school one day, some friends told me that I'd gotten the interview. I refused to believe them until I saw the email. Then, I watched a friend's interview tape from the previous year, copied down the questions, and practiced answering them with my family. On the big day I went to school, had debate practice and left early, came home and got dressed, came back to debate so my sister could do my hair, then went upstairs and started waiting. Unfortunately, I'd been getting only a few hours of sleep per night all week, and I knew that by the time my interview slot came my face would be pale, my eyes dead above huge black shadows, and my movements over-caffeinated. Still, I wasn't too nervous, although coming out of the interview I knew I could've done better (I was able to describe the course with reasonable detail, but then forgot the professor's name, to my embarrassment). I was surprised to hear that I'd been selected to go to Cornell, and to this day my ears ring with Don telling us that he's often thought the interviewers picked the wrong kids. 

Of course, I was elated go have been chosen. On the way home, I squealed. However, I had yet to realize the value of what I'd won. I only knew that before I got to Cornell, I'd have several months of feeling my gut clench up every time I checked my email, out of fear that Don had found something lacking in my work. The list of I Understands was intimidating, even though I knew I'd never purposefully do anything that might jeopardize my scholarship. 

With the tutorial I learned that while posting on Blogger and MediaFire was relatively straightforward, adhering to Don's standards would require me to constantly remind myself about font and margins. However, it was exciting to learn how to put my day onto the internet for the world to see. 

With the School Board meeting, we dressed up and were presented to the district as people who'd been entrusted with both representing WCCUSD well and coming back to accelerate the growth of the community. That day I began to appreciate the expectations that were placed on me when I was accepted into the ILC. 

One Wednesday evening we met at BART quite dressed up. We met Cornell alumni and made conversation according to our instructions throughout the ride. At the restaurant, Town Hall, we met sponsors and more alumni. Once we were seated I met three alums who'd graduated in three different years, who were studying or working in three different fields. Despite this, they were all fervently glad that they'd started at Cornell. The meal itself was extremely luxurious, and it was astounding to think that an entire roomful of busy, wealthy, and important people were there to send six high schoolers representing WCCUSD off to Summer College. 

Once we finally left from ECHS before dawn on departure day, things became real very rapidly. My initial homesickness lasted only until we were halfway to the airport. Then, I was ready to have my adventure. The site visits were fun, and the dinners with the admissions officers and students more so. We learned a lot about applications and college life, and also got to converse with these interesting people. It was exhilarating to move in such elegant surroundings. However, I learned that while impeccable service is really cool, I'm indifferent to posh food. Subtle, elegant pairings of textures and flavors are often lost on me. 

In our travels we got to see some famous places, like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and The Bean in Chicago. It was great to take a break from being a student to being a tourist instead, and I'm so glad we had the time to do that. 

The college experience at Cornell was everything I'd hoped it would be. The course itself had fantastic professor, TA, material, class size, etc., and dorm life was a fun new experience. We worked hard on the readings and final essay, but had fun in discussion every day. Blogging was an unavoidable chore which I heartily disliked having to do after late nights of studying. Still, I could appreciate that people were viewing my posts, and I knew that it would be nice to have some record of my daily activities once I got back home. It must be said that especially while we were travelling, I was so sleep-deprived that I sometimes had to work hard to remember what I'd done that day in order to blog about it. 

Sleep-deprivation and blogging aside, the month I spent in the Midwest and East Coast was a blur of excitement and happiness. It seems that being a part of the ILC means that you are waited on hand and foot through a luxurious whirlwind, and in exchange you squeeze out every drop of the experience that you can. The ILC has made a tangible difference in my college applications next year, because I will definitely be applying to Northwestern and possibly to the University of Chicago and Cornell as well. I'm grateful to have been a part of this program, and hope that in coming years other students will enjoy it as I have. 

Once an ILCer, Always an ILCer

Sightseeing St. Louis. Roaming the streets of Chicago. Conversing with admissions officers over posh dinners. Learning from a renowned professor. Creating bonds with people from across the world. Yes, this probably wasn’t my idea of summer a couple years ago. But last summer, this is exactly how I laid out my next summer -- of course, as a member of the ILC.
A part of the fantastic cohort!
For me, the process of getting into ILC started way before Don came to schools informing students about the program. I already knew about it and was ready to dive into the application process. Over the past summer, I avidly followed the blogs of previous ILCers and pretty much lived their lives through a computer. This, however, wasn’t enough; I wanted the hands-on experience as opposed to just a virtual one. Knowing that some requirements such as the pre-essay wouldn’t change, I began very early in the summer and crafted this piece word by word until I was satisfied.

A picture with the professor!
When it was time to pick what course I wanted to apply for, I had my mind set. Freedom and Justice at Cornell University. Both the course and the school were very different to me. Being a math and science person, I would’ve never even thought about a class on philosophy or law. And for Cornell, the lifestyle at this school is completely opposite to the life that I live in suburban Hercules. But this is specifically why I applied; I wanted to reach outside my bubble and explore something which deviated from my comfort zone.
The entire Freedom and Justice discussion group.
When I had found out that I made it to the interview, I knew it was time for more hard-work. My parents helped me day and night as we held mock interviews. Past ILCers at schools took time out of their schedules to mold me into the perfect interviewee. A special shout-out to Damian Wong, Jenna Lee, and Christian Abraham. And with their help and my efforts, I easily became a member of the Freedom and Justice cohort at Cornell.

Upon getting admitted, the events leading up to the actual trip were true eye-openers. I had the opportunity of being a speaker at the School Board Meeting. And as I spoke to the school board, my nervousness flew away as what I had to say became more heart-felt. This was an event when I truly realized how much care the School Board members, sponsors, and alumni put into seeing students like us succeed. The alumni at the San Francisco dinner gave wonderful tips on how to maximize my time at Cornell. This love and encouragement that I received was definitely overwhelming and served as the drive which kept me going throughout the four amazing weeks.
While speaking at the District Board Meeting

Before long, I found myself standing at El Cerrito High School at 2:50 in the morning getting ready to board an airport shuttle. The first week was hectic, but definitely the most fun. We adventured through two major cities (St. Louis and Chicago) and explored the colleges (Washington University at St. Louis, University of Chicago, and Northwestern University) until time ran out. I’ve never been on so many flights back to back in just one week. Whether it was the college tours, dinners, or sight-seeing, the hectic schedule was absolutely worth it.
Taken while sight-seeing Chicago
Dinner with WashU students and admissions officer
The daily view of the waterfalls
Once the actual class at Cornell rolled along, life became more routine compared to waking up in a new city every two days. At Cornell, there was a regime I stuck to: breakfast, class, lunch, studying, dinner, and bedtime. This pretty much became a cycle, but the best part was the little surprises that emerged within this cycle. Whether it was the mini explosions that took place in class (my lecture hall was located in the dead center of a construction site) or new people I was able to meet, every day was the start of something new and memorable. I would walk to class every morning past waterfalls and later listen to Professor Kramnick’s voice as he guided us through the ins and outs of Western political theory. I was able to shine as much or even more than the high schoolers who arrived from top ranked private schools in the country. This couldn’t have been possible without the encouragement my district, WCCUSD, had given me and I hope I’ve fulfilled my duty as a district ambassador. And today when I look back, these experiences have become memories to cherish forever.
A few of the awesome people I met
As much as blogging has been a hassle at times -- especially when you’ve stayed up studying until 2 AM – it had become more of a routine than a chore. Plus, blogging has taught me to write anywhere and everywhere regardless of the situation. I would sculpt my blog piece by piece in restaurants, in train stations, or on the plane. I remember typing up my first blog on the plane to St. Louis and now I’m home writing a reflection. Back in Hercules, it almost feels weird to come home and not sign into Blogger on a daily basis.

Now that I’m back in the Bay Area, my job as an ILCer possibly cannot be complete without spreading the vast knowledge that I gained. Because of this experience, I’ve learned to look beyond just California. Yes, California has some of the best colleges in the country, but other states do too. In order to maximize the opportunities, it’s crucial for a student to find a perfect college match. And this college may not necessarily be in California.

And before I conclude, this four-week journey that I embarked on couldn’t have been possible without the efforts of people backstage. Disclaimer: the list is long, so hang in there! Firstly, a huge thank you to the ILC coordinators: Don Gosney, Madeline Kronenberg, and Charles Ramsey. Your support has been incredible and thank you for everything. Secondly, thanks to the sponsors who have made our dreams into reality. Thirdly, thank you to my chaperone, Mr. Chan-Law, for being the best chaperone. These four weeks couldn’t have been any easier without you. Fourthly, thanks to the world’s greatest cohort! We went through all of this together and thanks to each and every one of you for making this trip as memorable as it was. Fifthly, this couldn’t have been possible without my parents. Thank you for being the world’s best cheer-leaders. Lastly, a sincere thanks to my audience who have stuck with me and have been a part of this experience, too.
The wonderful cohort!! 
When ILC means this program is life-changing, they mean it. For me, it’s as if I’m a better, more improved, more independent version of myself. Perhaps, a version 2.0? On a last note, as much as the word surreal is used (or dare I say abused) on these blogs, this whole experience could not be described any better than with the word surreal.
Turned out to be an unforgettable four weeks of my life. 

A Final Reflection

I can't believe it's all over. It's crazy to think that it was almost 9 months ago that I planned to apply to the ILC. I had the biggest knots in my stomach just thinking about being rejected or not following deadlines but at the same time I was excited knowing I would have this amazing opportunity. 

When Don first came to Hercules to talk to us about the ILC, I was excited about the opportunity but in the back of my mind I also had many doubts. I wasn't sure I could follow through with the essays and the interview since I already had a lot on my plate with homework and extracurriculars but once the students from last year came to tell us about their experiences, I knew I could do it. 

When Don gave us a list of programs to choose from, I was overwhelmed and had no idea which ones I should do. In the beginning I was set on doing a computer science one but got too caught up in schoolwork. I had also wanted to go to Columbia but the applications for those weren't due until almost the end and I was afraid I wouldn't go to any programs if I was rejected for one of Columbia's programs. I settled on Cornell's Hotel Management program since it is the best in the world and could help me with many different skill sets I could use in the future. 

After working on my essay for a few days, I sent it in to Don. Waiting for his response on whether or not I was picked for the interview was the most stressful situation of my life. I checked my email everyday and finally saw that I had gotten the interview. I was ecstatic but at the same time stressed because we only had about 3 days to prepare. With the help of Damian Wong, I could say I was prepared for my interview. Although I had a few slip-ups in my answers, I just about cried when Don said that I was picked. 

After this, the whole application process was a whirlwind. I managed to get all of my forms and application pieces on time but made the fatal mistake of not sending in my acceptance right away. Even though it had only been a few days, Don told me that I had been waitlisted and my heart absolutely shattered. However, being the angel that he is, Don (along with Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg) allowed me the opportunity to apply for Freedom & Justice. 

Even though the class was not one I had originally applied to, I was still very interested in the subject since we would be learning a lot of the same things we learned in my English class. I sent in my application and a few days later found out that I had been accepted. 

Now that my application was out of the way, it was time for the cool events. We first had our blog tutorial which was extremely helpful in teaching us how to format our blog posts. I'm really grateful that Don took the time out to help us out with it.

I also enjoyed the school board meeting because it allowed all of us ILCers to receive recognition and give thanks for the help and support we've received. My favorite event, however, was the dinner in San Francisco. I spoke there and although I was extremely nervous, I was even more happy that I was able to express my thoughts as well as my gratitude to all of our benefactors. Additionally, the dinner lets us get a first look at what some of our dinners would look like and prepared us to have conversations with people of great importance.

After our events, it was finally time to prepare for the trip. I was extremely nervous up until our trip but at the same time I knew this was gonna be an amazing experience. During our college tours, it all felt very surreal because I couldn't believe that I'm actually going to college next year. It feels as if it was just yesterday that I started kindergarten and now I'm off to do big girl things. I am extremely appreciative of these college tours because now I know that Northwestern University will be a school that I will apply to and strongly consider attending. It was also really cool staying in nice hotels and eating expensive dinners :-) 

When we finally got to Cornell, I was feeling a bit homesick. I spent my birthday there and it was very difficult since it was my first time without my family. I was also upset because we had already been there for a few days and I had yet to make any friends in my class. However, I soldiered on and worked extremely hard in my class. Being able to attend a college class and living in a dorm was amazing and I felt like an actual college student. It also reassured me in that I know I will be able to leave home and attend college with no problem, despite my little birthday meltdown. 

Overall, the class was difficult but I learned more in three weeks than I ever thought I could. I made some amazing friends at Cornell and formed strong bonds with my cohort. This amazing opportunity was one I could never experience without the ILC and I will be forever in debt to Don, Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg and the program's benefactors for allowing me to do this. To anyone reading this and considering applying to the ILC: it's worth it! And if you don't get in the first time, don't give up. This opportunity is something you cannot pass up and will help you extremely with your future. 

To end this final blog post: Thank you ILC! 

What We Did to Achieve What We'll Do in the Future

Time flies. It really does. It seemed to me that I'd barely opened the e-mail saying that I got picked for the interview. The anxiety before getting accepted and the sign of relief spread across my face when I heard my name being called by the judges. The School Board meeting happened in a flash to which I haven't even swallowed in that I was a part of ILC. And being able to attend the Cornell alums/sponsors dinner in San Francisco on the last day of school was a total reward. Now fast forwarding, the Cornell cohort met at El Cerrito High School to get ready to leave California for a world completely outside of what we're accustomed to. And then a month later the '14 Cornell Cohort came back to California having an ace up our sleeves.

I first met my cohort during the chaperone meet up at Extreme Pizza. As any meeting would have started, introduction proceeds in the beginning. There wasn't much of a surprise that four people were from Hercules High School since they're the largest group of applicants each year. As the meeting progressed, I couldn't put my commentary to most of what they're chatting about. My school didn't offer AP and neither did it have teachers that threw chairs around. So basically I was as silent as a mouse during my first encounter with them.

In two weeks time, the School Board meeting rolled around. Full of heebie-jeebies, I entered the meeting hall with my supportive mother by my side. Once all prospective cohorts situated themselves, the board meeting started with Mr. Ramsey giving an overview of the schedule for that night. The Cornell cohort was fourth to be introduced to the board committee, so tension aroused when we stood and walked to the podium. With butterflies in my stomach, I proceeded along with my cohort up to the stage. After all seven cohorts were introduced, Don ended the meeting ended successfully with a full-scale, flawless picture with everyone: parents, sponsors, and ILCers.
'14 Ivy League Connection School Board meeting
Fast forwarding to the last day of school for Middle College HS, I finished my finals and hurried home to get ready for the Cornell dinner. We all met at the BART station to go to Town Hall for the dinner. It was my first time to talk to someone about the BP oil spill before a fancy dinner, and with Mr. Don Kuehne too. He was an outstanding guy to talk to and he currently works for Chevron as a Civil Engineer. Needless to say about the food, it spoke for itself and everyone on the third floor of Town Hall was enjoying every part of the night.
Newbies taking off ~
Now that all prerequisites were done, we boarded the airplane to St. Louis, Missouri. Before sightseeing in St. Louis, we checked into our hotel rooms. To our surprise on the first day, all six of us got our own rooms. The reason behind it was because Charles F. Knight Conference Center offers only one bed per room. Never would I have thought that I be getting my very own upper-upscale hotel room. Thank you Ivy League Connection (especially Mr. Ramsey) for making it happen! We visited Washington University shortly afterwards. WashU is known for its guaranteed living for all four years and my parents definitely liked that! If I had to use just one word to describe Wash U, it would be: 'gorgeous'.
Our tour guide posing in my photo of WashU's campus

Next on the list for our college tour was University of Chicago. UChicago's buildings on campus was a blend of modern and ancient. The location of UChicago is excellent for people like me who wants to be near a big city for college. Depending on where the allocation of your dorm is, it's possible to reach downtown Chicago under five minutes by walking. I love the idea where you can to-go a deep dish from Gino's East and not be late for your next class! Chicago has the feel of San Francisco and it feels like home; I love it.

Since we were at Illinois, we toured Northwestern the next day. I absolutely adored the school spirit shown on campus. Wherever you go, there's purple flags and statues gleaming blissfully on the summer campus. The Rock in Northwestern is a legend. How can The Rock be so famous that it has a 24/7 camera recording it? Rumors say that the painted Rock has over six inches in paint. Wait, so just how big is the original rock? Well, no one knows!
Chicago at nighttime
We finished our four day college tour with a bang and headed off to Cornell ready to get drained with knowledge. It was almost midnight when we finally arrived at Cornell. Before coming to Cornell, here I thought UC Berkeley was huge, but Cornell was massive in comparison! A few months ago, I've never dreamed of visiting an Ivy League institution, but now I've just completed a Cornell Summer College course.

Let me start with how much I admired my professors: Reneta and Mark McCarthy. Reneta and Mark McCarthy is a husband and wife that co-teaches Hotels Operations Management: Tactics For Profitability. While Reneta teaches us that Marriott International, as a matter of fact, does own the luxurious and extravagant Ritz Carlton. Mark adds to that by teaching us the 'real' way to use Microsoft Office. They make you step into reality; they really do. You think college is a joke, well you ought to meet them (if you have the chance). They'll make you understand who you really are. Mark will call you out and downright embarrass you in front of 80+ people (saw that happen a few times). Never will I be Microsoft's female dog again.

The course's main objective was to let us run a simulated CHESS hotel. We were to then analyze our performance detail using Excel (in a clever way!) and present it professionally. It's amazing how in three weeks time, we were able to put together a whole analysis of a hotel from operating it for six weeks. From learning what ADR and RevPAR means in the hotel industry to Word's QuickParts made my life a whole lot easier then, and the future. I wouldn't have learned so much in such a limited time if it weren't for the help I got from Ashleigh, the fabulous TA that knows just about everything. Cornell is a place where everyone dreams of going, and I too, yearn for an education there.
My lovely professors and I!
With the academic part of the trip taken care of, I just wanted to say that my cohort was amazing. We didn't know each other (well, I didn't know them, haha) in the beginning but now we can laugh in a car together like we've known each other for decades. During the times when hours got tough (yes, I know "hours", seriously Jun?), Sue would always comfort me by saying, "You can do it!". She gave me that little kick that I needed to finish my report. Kevin was a funny dude that can pull of anything. Carla was the kind of person to record you while you're fake-sleeping and laugh hysterically, and it ends up with you laughing along with her too! Katelyn's smile can light up the whole room in a second. Natalie is the kind of girl to do ballet dance out of nowhere while we're studying for quizzes and exams. I can't help to say this again; you guys are amazing and I'm so glad I was able to be part of the 2014 Cornell Cohort. And of course, Mr. Chan-Law. He knows where he's taking us to eat, sleep, and play. He's the kind of chaperone that understands you've missed a meet up because you were crunched up in lab typing your report. Thank you for being such a great chaperone!
The awesome '14 Cornell cohort
This summer was full of plane rides and learning, all out-of-state. I still can't believe that I flew across the nation to study at an Ivy League institution for three weeks. Now that I'm typing my reflection on this trip, it's slowly coming back to me. This summer college trip, unfortunately, has came to an end, and I soon, will start another year of high school. But before starting my junior year in high school, I pushed myself into applying for a Speech and Debate summer camp. Just like the Jun that entered the hotel class without any knowledge on the hotel industry, I've yet to gain knowledge on how to debate in a large crowd. Also, when my peers think they shouldn't apply to Ivy League Connection, I will have the skills to make them go 'Wow' when they hear of the Ivy League Connection.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

It's Great to Be Back in the Bay

If you read my last blog, then you'll know that I fell asleep while blogging. This time around I really just fell asleep as soon as I was about to blog--sorry. I guess I should begin with my morning. I woke up a little after the 7:45 AM to the sound of my roommate Jantzen packing his clothes. He was in a hurry and said he needed to be in the airport in less than five minutes. We bid our farewells because it was more than likely going to be the last time we were going to see each other. On another note, I certainly to an extent had the feeling of being late as well. You see, with my time at Cornell, I certainly did not purchase enough souvenirs (I only bought one shirt to give)  to bring back home for family and friends. Therefore I had to no doubt buy some more. I checked the listings on the Cornell website the day before and found there to be only one store open within my jogging reach and that was the Cornell gift shop at the Statler Hotel. It wouldn't be the first time I jogged to a Cornell store to buy something for someone. Either way, I began jogging there around 9:05 AM and got there around 9:15 AM and was sad to see such a rather small selection compared to the two-story Cornell Bookstore. It didn't matter, I bought a few key chain trinkets, a few shirts, some pens and even a mug. I decided not to run back with the precious souvenirs (I walked), so I came back to my dorm around 9:44 AM with a 10 AM check-out practically pending. I re-stuffed my luggage, finished cleaning my side of the room, did my check-out inspection, turned in my keys in the lobby, took out the trash, turned in my linens, etc. and I sadly came out of the building at 10:17 AM when the goal time was a little after 10 AM. 
A building that Bill Gates donated at Cornell University.

We checked in the majority of our check-ins at the Ithaca airport and then went to the Statler Hotel for Katelyn and Jun's graduation ceremony (that just finished). We all went to eat at the restaurant in the Statler Hotel and Chan-Law again reminded us that this was going to be our last great meal so I made sure to order well. I ordered the baby iceberg salad and the crab cake sandwich and they were both excellent. I've had crab sandwiches before, but this one took the cake. 
Generously proportioned baby iceberg lettuce.

Best crab cake sandwich ever.
Flavor: Cornellia's Dark Secret. We went to Dairy Bar at Cornell after lunch, for some delicious ice-cream.

Afterwards, we all went to the airport and finished our checking in of everything and we had about a little over an hour to kill. I for one was still lacking much sleep and had no caffeine in my system, thus I was falling asleep. I got some Coca-Cola from a vending machine and stayed awake for the majority of the flight there. When we got to Philadelphia for our transfer, we had an even longer amount of time to kill and had dinner there too. I had Chick-fil-A (I decided to try this because I've never had it before) with Mr. Chan-Law and we both thought it was horrible. We got onto the plane not too long after with two other Summer College companions and while I was walking down the plane aisle, a man looked at me and said "There are quite a few Cornell Bears here, how many of you are there?" I responded by saying "About eight of us."(taking the other two into mind). He asked what we were doing at Cornell over the summer and I told him summer college and he nodded with an approving look on his face. 
The propeller plane once again.

I had the window side next to the propeller.

PHL International, it's size reminds me of O'Hare.

During the flight, there was really next to no point to stay awake when the people to my left and right were asleep and I had a middle seat. I was asleep for about 2 and half hours of the flight, half awake another two hours of the flight and pondering/daydreaming/thinking/anything else one does still awake with a dead phone while on a plane flight. 

Back in the Bay, not sure if this is San Jose or some part of San Mateo County. Photo by Mr. Chan-Law.
When we left the plane, we went to baggage claim where we were gradually meeting up with our respective family members. My parents came shortly after I arrived to baggage claim and I remember I was just happy to back on "native" land again. Shortly after talking with Mr. Chan-Law for a while and bidding goodbyes to fellow cohort members. We left SFO and arrived home around I forgot what time. The entire car ride and at home for about an hour more, I was talking to my parents, retelling them my experiences for about the past month. I was extremely tired by the time I got home and after eating food I decided I would blog on my bed, but fell asleep with my laptop right in front of me. When I woke up, I began watching the World Cup Final (it's still ongoing as I write this blog) I was truly glad to be back home and reminisce of what I had to remember.