Thursday, July 17, 2014

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. 

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