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! 

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