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.