Thursday, July 28, 2011

Building College-going Culture One Student at a Time

I was never one to keep my thoughts organized, so the best that I can do is to let it flow the way I feel it. The simple fact is that this summer’s experience with the ILC opened for me a door to self-discovery and gave me perspective on the next great step in my life, college. It went so much beyond a preview of university life.

I’m so glad that, because of the ILC, I finally see there’s an enormous world out there, outside of the Bay and California, and that there just might be a place for me outside of the UCs. Growing up, I couldn’t imagine leaving California. How convenient it would be to take my post-secondary education in-state to make the decade of state taxes my parents have been paying worthwhile. However, entering high school, I began noticing private institutions and wondering about different options. The Ivy League Connection has really cemented that for me. Hearing about the experiences of ILC and WCCUSD alums and listening to the inspirational words of Mr. Ramsey & Mrs. Kronenberg on college-going culture was the starting point to the discoveries I would make on my own when visiting Northwestern & U of Chicago and living at Cornell.

Among the greatest highlights of these three and a half weeks were the college visits. When I first heard we were being given the opportunity to visit Northwestern University, I was thrilled, because it was a first-rate school I had heard so many good things about and on the top of my list; but, I had been largely attracted because of their Honors Program in Medical Education. It’s amazing how things changed and how much I learned in just a day on the marvelous campus. It was a validating, reassuring, and incredibly blissful realization, discovering that I love Northwestern for Northwestern, that I could see myself not as a participant in a combined BS/MD program, but as a Wildcat. I could babble on and on about the impact of discovering Northwestern (refer to Words of A Prospective Wildcat & First Impressions of Northwestern), but there’s so much more to cover.

I learned a great deal about myself through these experiences. With trial and error, I finally learned how much I can thrive in independence. I want a place with the small college town feel, all the while with access to the big city. I want to be someplace where I can enjoy the outdoors. I’m looking for a school which will allow me to be flexible and simultaneously equip me with the tools and programs I need to stay on track. I need a college where I won’t get lost in lecture hall after lecture hall of 100+ students. Now I know what I’m looking for in a college, but simultaneously I’ve been opened to a hoard of new possibilities. Because of this program, I am lucky that I will not settle for applying to schools I hope to grow to love, but rather colleges I know I will love spending four years of my life in.

After the ILC experience, I’m so ready to hit the college fairs this fall with the newfound confidence to approach admissions representatives, introduce myself with a handshake and a smile, and fire away the questions. The ILC gave us the opportunity to interact with the admissions at three top universities, and I’ve learned that I have nothing to be afraid of. Admissions officers are there to help student get a better understanding of their universities and help those student discover if they’re a good fit. I now feel like I have the right questions up my sleeve thanks to much practice and observation at ILC-sponsored dinners with admissions officers.

Thanks to the Ivy League Connection, I’ve come a ways from the nervous girl shaking at the table during that first interview. Occasions such as the city council meeting and class presentations have made me more comfortable with public speaking. More importantly, being a part of the ILC has helped me realize how much room there is for improvement. After all our adventures, I have found confidence in reaching out and mingling with strangers, some of whom soon became close friends. Much of this ease in sociability comes with the territory of the Hotel class.

Not many future interventional radiologists get to say that they took a summer course at Cornell’s world-renown Hotel School with people of such diverse places from Brazil to Burma, to Jordan and Long Island. It was an incredible experience indeed. Absorbing new material from a subject I’d known nothing about turned out to be fun, especially because of our engaging Professors McCarthy and helpful TAs.

The class didn’t just leave me hotel-savvy, able to count off the major corporations and their respective brand franchises or manipulate operations expense variables to maximize profits. The most significant thing I had to gain wasn’t just a whole new education in the workings of Excel and Word, but an understanding of my own work personality. From the get-go, each Hotelie was confronted with the characteristics of his/her type of work personality based on the results of a survey, determining our group dynamics. I learned a great deal about my strengths, how to deal with my weaknesses, cooperating with the other different personality types, and applying different leadership tactics with people of different skill and commitment levels. Much of what I explored in the Hotel class revolved around adapting to meet the needs of others.

It’s imperative that every student in our community knows how much there is to be gained from this journey with the Ivy League Connection. While these are just my personal accounts of the rewards that being a part of this life-altering program have brought me, one can’t imagine the extent of the ILC’s impact when factoring in the number of WCCUSD students they’ve sent on similar excursions and how many more lives this amazing program will touch in the future. Witnessing the tremendous support network behind the Ivy League Connection has taught me the power of connecting and forming relationships with people.

I cannot begin to express the immeasurable thanks I owe the Ivy League Connection and the wonderful people behind it, most notably Mr. Charles Ramsey, Mrs. Madeline Kronenberg, and Don Gosney. Shout-outs of appreciation go out to all the people who made Cornell Summer College unforgettable; to the phenomenal Mark & Reneta McCarthy and to our eight amazing teacher assistants; to our chaperone, Ms. Neal; to the seven remarkable people I spent the most thrilling nearly-a-month in my life with; to Aaron Zdawczyk, Callie Brown, Tara Bubble, and Jill Schaffer for making their schools memorable; to the WCCUSD School Board, generous sponsors, and selection committee; and to all the supporters back home.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Month To Remember

I should not have been in this program. That seems like a negative way to open my final blog looking back on this Cornell experience, but allow me to explain myself. I had been nominated for this program early on in the school year, but didn’t make it to the essay and interview portion of the application. I was disappointed, but I still wasn’t sure what exactly the program was, so I all but forgot about the ILC. My memory was jarred a few months later when I was told that I had been nominated for a different program, the one at Yale. I had to write an essay right off the bat, which surprised me since I hadn’t even made it to the essay-writing segment for the Cornell program, and here I was writing away before I even knew what hit me. I went into the interview later on quite nervous, and was a bit thrown off when I was asked about a Grand Strategy course, even though I had thought I was supposed to be applying for a Global Leaders course. I didn’t think much of it though, and was ecstatic when I found out I had been accepted. I also felt good being the only sophomore accepted, although that turned out to be problematic. I checked back online the next day to learn about the Grand Strategy course, since I knew next to nothing about it. My heart stopped when the first thing I read was that the class would be for rising seniors and older, which I most certainly wasn’t. I talked to Don about it hoping that was just a typo on the website, but he told me that the professor had just changed the age requirements a little while earlier. I was both sad and somewhat frustrated that I had put all this effort into my application all for nothing. That frown was quickly turned upside down when Don said that to make it up to me; I would be able to choose my preference among the appropriate programs. There were so many great programs it was hard to choose, but I had already been slightly leaning towards Cornell in the first place since the Freedom & Justice course sounded pretty interesting to me. This slight leaning towards Cornell was aided by strong hints of disownment coming from my parents (both of whom attended Cornell) if I chose not to give Cornell a chance. That made my decision quite a bit easier, and before I knew it, I was headed out to Ithaca.

I really didn’t know what to expect heading in, much like I assume one feels heading off to college, but after this experience, I think I will know what’s coming in college. (I know, Summer College isn’t actual college, but it’s quite a bit more similar to college than high school is.) I had no clue what sort of people were there, how my professor would be, what my RCAs would be like, what my TA would be like, and countless other worries to deal with. On the first day my worries about my peers were instantly quelled, when I met dozens of interesting nice people, including my Jordanian roommate Sami (have I mentioned he was from Jordan yet?!). As soon as class started, I saw that I didn’t have to worry about Professor Kramnick or my TA Vijay, both of whom were hilarious and gave great insights throughout the course. I know my level of accomplishment in the class is due to Vijay’s guidance (and also because he happens to be giving me the grade, so it really is all thanks to him).

Aside from this great class and how the program as a whole made me mature ten times faster than I would have expected, one of the best parts of this trip was getting to take a tour of the engineering quad with the current student I mentioned in a few of my past blogs, Ashley Harms. I know I am probably repeating what I said earlier about our tour, but getting to talk to her just made me so much more excited and calm about the college experience, and I really feel like I will be able to handle college thanks to her stories about Cornell.

Another great aspect about this trip that really affected me as a person was the social aspect and overall freedom (as well as responsibilities). Heading into this Summer College, I was never all that outgoing (not that I wasn’t friendly, just somewhat shy) and definitely wouldn’t have imagined myself being able to make friends over such a short period. Since I only had three weeks to get to know a lot of these people, I just naturally became more outgoing, and within the first week already had a great group of friends who I’ll remember not only for their awesome personalities, but for teaching me one of the greatest basketball games I’ve ever played, kangaroo. Having all this freedom and responsibility was also an enlightening experience, since I have had to rely on my parents a great deal (especially since I still don’t have my driver’s license). Having to mix work and play was quite the hassle, but I was always able to get things done when I needed, and I actually found that I was able to push myself more without my parents’ watchful eyes (much to my mother’s chagrin). This program made me feel as ready for college as I could have possibly imagined, which is a bit odd for a rising junior who is just barely halfway done with high school to say, but that is truly how I feel. I also feel that the stress and work I had to deal with for this course will make high school much easier, which is nice since I’ll be heading to my most difficult year. I think this in turn will lead to an easier college life, which will also lead to an easier life out in the real world, so it is pretty difficult for me to explain just how important this was for me as of now. The only way for me to truly show this will be my future accomplishments, since I’m betting they will all easily be traced back to this month.
Anyway, because all these future accomplishments I hope to make would be thanks to this program, I think it’s only fitting to give thanks to those who really affected me in this program. Thanks to our School Board trustees who founded this program, Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg. Thanks to Don, who helped keep everything running. Thanks Ms. Neal, for your support and flexibility. Thanks to the teachers and counselors at ECHS who introduced me to the program. Thanks to Cornell for creating and developing this Summer College. Last but not least, thanks to my cohorts who always kept me laughing and without whom I don’t think I would’ve survived the course; Joe, Taylor, Genevieve, Terilyn, Jobel, Kevin, and Kelly.
Now I have ended my journey just the way it started, with a 1200 word paper.

Thank you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thank You Forever

Cornell was magical, and anything I write here will never do it justice, but I shall try.

My experience with the ILC started in sophomore year, when I decided to apply since I had a couple of older friends who recommended it. It also just seemed like a “thing to do” for someone with good grades at my school. I applied and wrote essays for several schools before I was accepted by the ILC for the University of Pennsylvania program. I was not accepted by the actual school and ended up exploring other interests that summer. I applied for ILC again my junior year. Still, I was applying because I was being told it would be a great experience and because it seemed like the “thing to do.” But this time around, I was also applying because the whole thing scared me. I liked the feeling I got after going through the tough ILC interview sophomore year and I hoped I would succeed and feel that sense of accomplishment again.

I had never learned anything about hotels and business before, and I was pleased to realize that I get excited about subjects as different as environmental science, art, and hotel operations. This program gave me a taste of how much more is out there, how much more there is to get excited about. Besides all of the actual hotel and business concepts and the Microsoft Word and Excel concepts that I learned, besides the gorgeous universities I learned about and visited, besides the opportunity given to me to make friends from all over the world, yes, besides all of that, I learned to trust myself.

I didn’t think I was capable of living far away from my family. I had always seen myself as dependent, dependent in every way. But I thrived and I loved living away from home. I loved waking up in the morning and going to class because I wanted to. I loved doing little things like remembering to always check if I had my keys and if I had locked my door, because there was no one else to pick up the slack. I loved being able to walk out of my dorm room and walk to the library or to the art museum without having to tell anyone. I loved planning when I would study and when I would slip in fun time. This was all very exciting, and I am proud that I did it. I now know that I can do it. I realize Summer College is different from real college, and I know that real college will be much, much, much more difficult, but I now trust myself enough to know I will be okay.

To all future ILCers: This is what this program gives the students who participate in it. This is what you get from being in the ILC. You will like yourself more at the end of the program because you will be more confident. Again, remember that this is besides all of the other amazing things you are given, like dinners with admissions officers and college visits, tuition for class and support during every single aspect of this process. You will cry on the airplane ride back because you will not be able to wrap your head around how much people are willing to help and give you. The ILC likes to say that in return for all this, students have to blog and go to various ILC events. They like to say that that is “the catch.” It will not make sense to you how this is a balanced tradeoff because it isn’t. It really isn’t.

The actual course, Hotel Operations and Management, is beautiful in itself. You will adore your teachers Mark and Reneta and I am sure they will pick wonderful TAs like they did this year. Mark and Reneta are both incredibly dedicated to teaching you the basics of the hotel industry, and will do whatever it takes to answer your questions and make sure you understand. And you will want to understand! They love their craft, and it shows during lecture. They are also incredibly dedicated to you. They will have lunch with you, they will give you advice on applying for college, they will give you advice on life. They care. The TAs will have lunch with you. We even went bowling with our head TA. I'm sure any of the courses offered through the ILC will be taught by brilliant and beautiful people, as ours was, and that you will feel brilliant and beautiful for being a part of it. I'm sure that at all of them, you will meet people who are genuinely and completely in love with what they do. I don't know about you, but meeting people like that makes me so hopeful.

If you are scared to apply for ILC, that’s good. Do it anyways. Or better yet, do it because you’re scared. It’s beyond worth it. You will never regret it. These words won’t mean anything unless you go for it. (So go for it!) I will be talking to many of you prospective ILCers at the beginning of the coming school year- don’t hesitate to ask me any questions at the presentations that will be set up or anywhere when I see you!

Yueming Wang called her ILC experience “life-changing.” Mine certainly was. Seriously. These 3 and a half weeks have been so significant to my life, I can’t even comprehend.

I have probably blogged about this before, but the most significant and invaluable lesson I learned from this entire experience is that people are so much better at adapting and finding ways to be happy then they give themselves credit for. Granted, it didn’t take much to be happy at Cornell. But on a personal level, the sheer freshness of this experience and the happiness that came with it made me realize that I can do anything, anything I want. And I can be happy doing it.

Attending Cornell Summer College as part of the ILC made my experience all the better. It introduced the new dynamic of having to make friends while keeping “old” friends from ILC, many of whom I had actually only met a short time before. I was also lucky to be there with our chaperone Ms. Tiffany Neal. Even though I loved the independence, it was nice to know that she was there for us. She also took us places during the weekend and was amazing to talk to. She is a very warm and accepting and beautiful person who gave loads of great advice during this trip.

I will definitely be applying to Cornell for college this coming fall. I also got to experience “that feeling” for the first time when we were at Northwestern. This feeling I am referring to is the one you get when you can definitely see yourself going to a particular school. I got that at Northwestern, and now I know what to look out for when I visit other schools.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you times a million, ILC. Thank you Mr. Ramsey, and Ms. Kronenberg, and Don. Thank you to our sponsors. Thank you, thank you. Thank you Ms. Neal. Thank you, WCCUSD. Thank you WCCUSD School Board, for caring enough to make sure students are part of a college-going culture and for allowing students to help make that college-going culture. Thank you, Ms. Ishmael of Hercules High School. Thank you to all the teachers at Hercules High School.

Thank you Mark and Reneta. Thank you to our TAs Gorka, Shuang, Sam, Patrick, Chelsea, Brandon, MacKenzie and Karli. Thank you to the friends I made at Cornell and the people who just said hi to me in the dorms. Thank you to Joe, Vivi, Nick, Taylor, Kevin, Jobel and Kelly.

Thank you to every single person who has touched this program or who has touched me during this program. Thank you.

Expand Your Borders

It is hard for me to believe that the ILC experience has followed me for nearly eight months. And throughout those eight months, I have realized a tiny bit about life each time I have done something related to the ILC. When I look back into the mirror that is “December 2010“ and the one shimmering in my bathroom today, I absolutely do not think that the reflections are two different people. While I don’t think that I have actually changed as a person, I can certainly say that I have grown as an even wiser one.

In the few hours before we departed for Chicago, I was downright nervous. While I was absolutely excited for what new experiences I would come across, this was obviously something new and I was not exactly sure of what to truly expect. But once we were in the shuttle towards the airport and on the plane, each minute felt like one less sliver of nervousness and one more sliver of excitement.

While the experience at Cornell was nothing I could have possibly imagined, the visit to Northwestern University in Evanston is something that has perhaps changed my views completely. Before stepping onto campus, I had my college career set already. In fact, some people may even argue that my college career is hardly anything.

Even with all the opportunities like the dinner with Cornell alumni, I have always been skeptical of the university system. I have always been under the impression that it is entirely and unnecessarily pretentious. I have constantly questioned “Why on Earth do people spend thousands & thousands of dollars for what is essentially a piece of paper?” Not only do the costs shock me, but so is the highly competitive nature of the application process. I believe that everyone should have access to the best education tools out there, and if they want to reach out and receive them, by all means should they be able to. When I always hear these stories and statistics about how SAT scores can make or break a student’s chance at a good college or that the acceptance rate is well less than 10%, it saddens me that people who obviously want a good education are basically being shut out by these schools. In a way, it is as if the high creams of the crop are getting more cream while the low stocks are just left out to hang and dry. It also bothers me when people believe that it’s either the “university way or no way” and that community colleges are for “losers” and “high school squeezers.” I have originally considered going into a community college and I absolutely believe that it is a perfectly viable option. I have many good family friends who have gone into community college and have left as very successful people.

However, discovering and learning about Northwestern University just opened new windows in my mind. Exploring the campus and hearing these anecdotes by the students made me realize that there is a completely different life I would be missing if I didn’t attend a university. While education is absolutely important to any school, you have to keep in mind that this will be a student’s home for the next four years. In retrospect, while those years seem like a simply small portion of a life, they are a huge chunk and a turning point in the time of a young adult. Being able to see, breathe, and hear Northwestern firsthand made me realize that this culture is something that is too good to pass up. I consider myself a very exuberant person, and the activities, friends, social life, and adventures that are to be had in college are the things I want to experience in life. I want my home to be a place I love and I certainly want it to be larger than just a simple bedroom and kitchen. The campus and its people don’t make up a four-year college, but a four-year home. And all of that is simply too good to pass up. While I may not actually go to Northwestern in the future, it will always have a special place in my heart for making me realize that perhaps the best things in life are to be had in a university.

The trip to Chicago simply prepared me even more for what a pseudo-college experience would be like in Cornell. Not only was I skeptical of the university system before I left the west coast, but I was skeptical of Cornell’s Summer College program when I set foot in Ithaca. In the first few days, it felt more like a summer camp in which our residential advisors were our counselors and that nightly check-in was our bedtime. These were bad tastes in my mouth that I was hoping to wash out. But once we actually set foot in the classroom for the first time, I felt this odd sense of comfort. I knew that this was something I was going to enjoy for the next three weeks.

I absolutely loved the class. I honestly think that if I was in any other Summer College program, I would be bored out of my mind! That is because the course was nothing I have ever experienced. I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be some typical history course or math session, and I was certainly not disappointed. Learning the small and minute details of running a hotel was so different that every second of the class kept me entertained.

The class was definitely rigorous. However, the course was designed in a way in which someone who has never heard of a Holiday Inn or Hyatt would certainly learn at the same pace as someone who has actually worked at one. I will admit that when I first started the program, I never knew what Ritz-Carlton even was! So would I say that the course was actually hard? Not in particular.

To do well in the class, you didn't necessarily have to be smart at all! All of the skills and knowledge you learned to master throughout your years of elementary and high school? Forget about them! If you wanted to ace the course, you needed to show work effort and an eagerness to learn. It was never about trying to outsmart the student next to you or to get that perfect grade. In my eyes, the grade in that class didn't even matter! The whole program was meant to be a learning experience, and if you felt proud in what you worked on and excited in what you learned, the grade you get should only be an afterthought.

The whole three weeks was an adventure in relationship building. I made very good friends in the class and we have certainly shared tons of laughs. What is perhaps the most charming (albeit vulgar) thing was the inside joke that the entire class shared. One day, Mark McCarthy, one of our professors, asked us to show our "right-click finger" to him. Now, unless you're a "Southpaw," the finger commonly used to right-click on a mouse is the same finger used in a very rude gesture. This was an ongoing gag that occurred throughout the class that basically symbolizes the down-to-earth attitude of the students and professors. The phrase was so impacting that our course packet even had references to a fictional "Right-Click Hotel!" We have even made a few class photos in which we made the gesture to the camera! What is perhaps the most ironically heartfelt part about the gesture is that we all bought t-shirts as a class that said "Show me your right-click finger!" on it.

While we would constantly joke around (Mark McCarthy included!), we certainly settled a learning environment. I will never forget the day we had to do our group presentations in front of 70+ people. At that point, I was very comfortable with the class and so standing in front of the crowd didn't startle me as much. But the high pressure and high steaks of going up there and knowing that your professors were grading every single word, second, and inch of the presentation was quite intimidating. Because I felt our group put in the best effort it could, my emotions changed as soon as I got up in front of my peers and professors. Because I was proud of what we made and what we were about to deliver, I didn't even care about how the professors were going to grade us. We put in our all and quite honestly, I have never felt so proud of an assignment as I was of that presentation. The dedication we placed into that was unmeasurable and when I look back at that moment, I wonder if it would ever be impossible to recapture that same effort again.

In the end, the experience was something absolutely grand. I certainly believe that it has made me an even stronger person than before in both spirit and mind. Without this opportunity, I would have never been able to visit the amazing campuses of Northwestern, Chicago, and Cornell, and I would have never been able to meet new, exciting, and incredibly amazing people. It has allowed me to change my views on college and these three-weeks has potentially shifted what I will be planning for four years. The relationships I have gathered throughout the program are ties I hope will never break and will cherish for a very long time. The skills I have learned both in class and outside of class are ones to never be forgotten as well.

I believe that it is always important to expand your borders one way or another.
And I believe that I have expanded each and every one.

A Midsummer's Adventure (You Haven't Seen the Last of Us)

If you are not a fan of cliches or cheesy writing, I suggest you stay strong for the next five minutes and keep on reading.  And if you are a fan of those, prepare to get sick of them pretty soon.

So, I have been putting off writing this for quite some time now, and by putting off, I mean, I have been thinking about it.  About everything that has happened over the past four weeks and what any of this means.  This journey of thinking has taken me across the town to my childhood neighborhood to a special hill of my own to lie on the grass and figure out what is different between the sunsets here and the sunsets there.

To be honest, I am hard pressed to find much of a difference.  Except the fact that it feels different -- that things have changed.  And they really have.

So why don't we start at the beginning?  Let's wind back the clock, oh say, eight months.

Before Anything?
It is now around November and having come from the Ivy League Connection seminar hosted by last year's delegation (Chris, Jacky, and Beilul) I decide, "Hey, why not take a shot.  Not that I will get anywhere, but what the hell?"

Two weeks later:  "Congrats son, you got in!"  Yeah I did not see that one coming.

Skip ahead a few days and through the scary interview process -- I was third to last since we were all going in alphabetical order.  Once I was seated in the chair and I spoke to the interview board, I began to feel comfortable answering and actually started enjoying these questions, despite the lack of my knowledge of the hotel industry (and to be quite honest, of the course), I managed to get away alive and actually, smiling.  Who knew I would be doing that a lot the next eight months?

Move a season ahead, it is now April and May, and everything seems to be ILC-related this month.  Don's training session, the University of Chicago visit, followed by a dinner at Town Hall.  Yes, the events were piling up and the trip was getting closer and closer.  Still, it seemed like an eternity away -- I had so much that I was still dealing with, so much to think about in regards to school and friends, Ithaca was still so far away.

June came by like a howling wind and effectively ended the school year, flying us to El Cerrito one last time for a visit with Northwestern University before finally departing for Chicago.

Chicago and the Universities
Staying up the entire night in order to be prepared for my trip did not seem such a difficult task.  However, as the plane took off, so did our energy, and I personally fell asleep for a good portion of both flights.  Not that I have any complaints about that -- it turned out alright at the end.

I believe the main thing that Chicago taught me was that it was vitally important that I started to look at where I was going to go after high school.  I had never been on a college tour or planned out any of my future education plans beforehand, nor did I feel the need to, but after seeing how great Northwestern was and how different the University of Chicago was, I felt like I began to develop a basis for what I was looking for in a college, what kind of environment I wanted to be in when I left high school.

Another positive of being in Chicago -- being there during some of the best events, such as the Taste of Chicago.  I finally got to see Millennium Park after much convincing was done with our chaperone.  And it was certainly worth it.  We had a good time while learning a lot more about ourselves in the process -- it was a key part of the trip, but we're not at the good part yet.

Cornell, Ithaca, and Lots and Lots of Red
Red bricks, red sweatshirts, red hallways and banners.  No, I am exaggerating how red Cornell was, but it is a pretty accurate description of what one would see around campus any given day.  And I don't think I would have had it any other way.  Cornell turned out to be such a beautiful campus, and to anyone reading this that has not been there yet -- visit and explore, I implore you.  From Libe Slope to the Plantations to the crypts and the many great facilities, you will not be disappointed, that is, if a large campus is your kind of thing.

The dorms were, well, just as I expected them to be, actually.  My room was a bit small, but it never really seemed cramped.  The dorm lounges were air-conditioned and often filled with kindred spirits, which made every late night an enjoyable one.  Of course, it was a little hard to get used to the large bathrooms shared by 150+ guys on one floor, though it was not a hard transition at all.  Friends often kept the halls filled with piano music, and there could always be a party found on the first floor lounge.  All in all, the dorms, in my experience, were great places to be.  I enjoyed my room and I enjoyed the many facilities around the area.

That being said, I had to work around my schedule to where I managed to get enough sleep, eat, and get work done in a day.  I never actually wrote down my schedule, but in my mind, I kept the times as precise as I could from day to day.  In effect, I learned how to organize time for myself in a meaningful fashion, and it kept my daily routine as efficient as I could make it.

Class turned out to be just as rigorous as the past students made it out to be.  From the get-go, Mark and Reneta McCarthy made it clear that there was little time to cover the amount of content they would be covering, thus we would have to work hard to get through all of it.  And they were right, we did have to work hard, the content moved quickly and the lessons were unyielding.  And they also turned out to be right about getting enough sleep, which I did not get enough of to be honest, and I suffered for it.  But it is all part of the lessons I learned.

Along with that lesson was the lesson of working with a group.  While the other groups seemed to have a working structure going, we were rather scattered in a way.  In fact, there was a lot of tension running around in my group, and it caused a few arguments here and there and while cool heads prevailed, I can't say that we weren't happy that we were done working with each other when the three weeks were over.  It taught me a valuable lesson in dealing with other people and how to get such a diverse group to work as a unit and put together projects we could be proud of.

Of course, there is off time, much of which I spent wandering around the area simply exploring.  I watched Shakespeare's "As You Like It" at the Plantations, I slept on the grass in the Arts Quad with a friend, and I went with a small group to the Ithaca Farmers Market and heavily enjoyed sampling the local foods.  And, just as importantly, we found a group pastime - Bananagrams.  I bought the game off a recommendation of a friend back home in Chicago, and I managed to get several of my friends hooked on it.  All in all, I would think it was a good way to spend my relaxation time.

I think the most important thing I gained from living in Cornell for those three weeks was that I learned how to live.  Learned how to act on my own, be on my own, make decisions and meet people on my own.  That, I feel, is a certain sign of independence and growing up, something that has changed my life for the better.

Look at All the People
Obviously, I have to cover the great people I have to give a few sentences to the people I have met since I left for Ithaca.  First off, my roommate Harley -- one of the most interesting people I have ever met.  He was full of some great stories and I have to thank him for being such a great and understanding roommate, as well as a great friend.  Then well, there are all my friends -- Tarina, Kaan, Missy, Sam, Kevin, Andrew, Leo, Dylan (and I apologize if I did not mention you here) -- I do not think I could have met better people there to be with , and I thank all of you so much for being so wonderful.  We will meet again, someday, I promise that.

There is the school staff of course, my RCA Aaron and HR Jude, as well as the rest of the Donlon Hall staff.  My group, Deedee, Pearl and Andrew, I thank you for working with me.  Of course, Gorka, Shuang, Patrick, Sam and the rest of the TAs, I will am very grateful for everything they have done for us.  And of course, Mark and Reneta, hands down, two of the best teachers I have ever had, thank you so much.

Then of course, my cohorts.  Genevieve, I will always remember the violin playing in the closet, secret languages, and the understanding nature you always had.  Taylor, of course, with your love of soccer and how every college must have it, as well as your love of random YouTube songs during long blogging sessions and all the funny comments you had.  Nick, for being a baseball fanatic who, while quiet, was a very great roommate in Chicago and strangely, had a lot more in common with me (from what I observed) than many would think.  And Joe, I will always remember our first real conversation on that train ride to the centre of Chicago and the great jokes since then, and of course, getting back into your room at the Drake.

Now, my Hercules cohorts, the ones I will see on a regular basis after all of this.  Kelly, with her crazy, wild-eyed obsession with frozen yogurt and subtle childlike qualities that made her so much fun.  Kevin, probably the bravest guy I have ever met.  He is willing to go in front of the entire class and flaunt it and show that he was the one who had style.  And then, there's Teri.  What can I say?  She is wonderfully weird, unceasingly happy, incredibly irritating and annoyingly good-natured all at the same time.  And I am beyond glad that I joined this program, if part of the main reason was meeting her.  Ever since we first spoke so many months ago, I have made a very good friend, and even before the trip, I wouldn't trade this experience for anything, just because I have made a good friend.  Just because I have made so many good friends amongst my cohort.

My Thanks

Well I would think that I have given a lot of my thanks already, but in case I have not made it clear yet, thank you so much to my friends, my cohort, my teaching staff.  I would like to thank Ms. Kronenberg, Mr. Ramsey, Don Gosney, and of course Ms. Neal, without whom we would have been blind and helpless wherever we went.

I would also like to thank the doners and assure them that they have given to a great cause.  And I would like to thank all of those that continue to read through the blogs, despite my incessant droning.

Cornell has been a fantastic experience - brilliant, in fact.  I have met more people, made more friends, been to more places, than I would have thought possible a week before I went to that fateful seminar.  I don't think I could ever forget any of what has happened here, but if I do, I swear I will come back and read this over again to remind myself.  It has been an experience of a lifetime, one that has changed me completely.

So for one more time, thank you to everyone!  And one last time, I bid all of you adieu, and I advise you to keep on watching -- this is not the last you have heard from me, or from any of us.  I promise you that.
Signing out, in style.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Good Bye and Good Night

If there is one thing that I learned from my Freedom and Justice TA, Simon, it's that you want readers to know exactly what you're talking about as soon as they get into your paper. There's no point in dilly-dallying with historical background and there is no point in explaining the mere content of your paper. You need to start with a strong point, a thesis if you will, and then build the rest of the paper off of that.

Thank you Simon.

Thesis: Cornell Summer College was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I learned about the basis of all modern political thought in my Freedom and Justice course and I learned about how important it is to be independent in the college world. I learned that friends are a vital part of the college experience but also learned that when you have those friends you need to learn how to balance work and play. This trip to Cornell University has made me more responsible with my choices, more confident in my ability to handle myself, and more excited to get to college and do this whole thing all over again.

I guess I should start from the beginning. When my school's staff first informed me that they would like me to participate in this program called the Ivy League Connection, I kind of just heard their offer as, "Hello. We know you've been working really hard all Junior year, but when summer comes around and you finally get some time to relax, how would you like to go participate in one of the most rigorous classes of your life?". To be honest, if my brother hadn't participated in the ILC and told me that it was amazing, I probably wouldn't have done it.

Thank God he had.

As I said before, this adventure taught me more than just the ideas of Locke and Marx and what-not. It taught me a lot of personal lessons that I'm sure will help me in the long run. First of all, it taught me how to discipline myself. With all of the distractions available to you at a beautiful place like Cornell, it can be hard to sit in one spot and write a paper on Plato's views of Athenian democracy. However, when you begin to understand that that paper is important, and that you don't have any parents around telling you that you need to do your work, that's when you start to realize that you should probably become your own parent (figuratively speaking) and tell yourself to get that paper done. That was a skill that I picked up very quickly (because if I didn't I probably would have failed the class) and I am sure that I will be able to use that skill in any aspect of my daily life. I guess in a way, this skill goes hand-in-hand with being proactive and making sure that I get all of my work done before I engage in any leisurely activities.

On the other hand, I also learned that breaks are important! Sometimes it's more than just
"hard" to finish that Plato paper in one sitting; it's impossible. The key here is to work as hard
as you can, for as long as you can, and then when you feel yourself starting to fade off, that's
when you can go say hey to a friend or play a quick game of basketball, or even do something as
small as taking a quick Facebook break. As long as it is something that you are actually
interested in, I find that it will allow your brain to refocus so you can get back to work on
something that you really don't want to be doing. The biggest part is just making sure that you
actually come back to finish the work.

These, I can assure you, are only a few of the many lessons that I learned through the ILC.
All of these new life skills that I have picked up I'm sure will help me with any kind of schooling
that I will ever encounter and also just with my people-skills in general. Another lesson that I
learned through my TA, Simon, was to be patient and accept criticism with an open mind. That
skill will definitely come in handy whenever I am working with others, which I have to do
frequently in school, sports, and even at home, and I am just excited to know that I now have
the ability to really listen to other people.

Now that the trip is over, however, I need to start looking towards the future. All of our
college tours helped me realize exactly what aspects I want my college to have (good sports, big
city nearby, and as little snow as possible) and so I will be that much more prepared when
college apps come around. I will know what I am looking for and I will know the main areas
that I should look at. Right now, I would say the top choice is UCLA but Northwestern is now
running a close second (even with the snow).

All in all, this journey to Cornell was incredible. I got more out of it than I possibly could
have imagined and I am so excited to share my newfound knowledge throughout the bay area.
We Cornellians are now planning a service learning project, which will take place some time
this fall, where we will go to different high schools and give tips on how to write an essay and on
how to carry yourself during an interview (just like we had to do for the ILC application

I truly cannot thank the leaders of the ILC enough for providing me with this life-changing
opportunity, and the same goes for the sponsors of the ILC for making this all possible. As the
beneficiary of your guys' contributions, I would like to say that your time and money did not go
to waste. I gained skills that will help me throughout the rest of my life and I have absolutely
become a better person through this experience. Your example drove home for me the value
of investing in your community.

Thank you all for reading my blogs and supporting me throughout my entire journey with
the ILC. I hope you all have enjoyed reading my posts and although this will be my last one, I'm
sure you will all be able to keep up with me through the media when I become famous.

Thank you all very, very, much. This was truly the experience of a life-time.

Good bye, and good night.

Everything Seemed Far Away

The transition back to life at home felt much easier than I thought it would feel, and honestly, this isn't what I want to be feeling.

While I was at Cornell, I obviously didn't look forward to missing the place, the people, and the class when I got home. I didn't look forward to having a difficult time adjusting back to life without Hotel Management and Operations class. But struggling seems better than what I am doing now, which is adjusting perfectly.

Yesterday I walked to the same spot I was at on the day I left for Chicago. It felt like everything that happened since that day I left had floated away to somewhere very far. It was easy to remember the day I left and it is easy to be aware of being here at home, but it isn't easy to remember being at Cornell. Well, no, that's not completely true.

It surprises me how clearly I can imagine walking to class and walking towards the second floor Donlon bathroom and climbing the steps up to the third floor of RPCC for breakfast. These memories are all very clear and very accessible in my mind, but they still seem extremely distant.

The day I arrived back in California, I was surprised at the airport by four of my friends who had decided to come see me. My parents and my sister had brought my puppy Basil, who went crazy upon being held by me. When I arrived home, there was a huge colorful poster hanging on the stairway banister that said "Welcome Home and Happy 17th Birthday!" and a pretty homemade cake sitting on the table in front of it. It was touching and I was glad to be home, but already I had started to feel the distance between myself and Cornell.

Cornell On My Mind

I must admit being home has been a bit odd. I have really missed Professor Kramnick’s class and hanging out with all my friends, but I do enjoy being home.

Over these last couple days of being home I have had time to think about what the ILC and Cornell Summer College experience has meant to me. And I must tell you all now that the experience I had this summer changed me for the better.

I owe the ILC a huge thank you. For those of you who are unaware of the process of being an ILC student here is how it worked for the Cornell kids. First we had to write an essay about vandalism and the meaning and/or impact it has on us. After our essays were read we went through an interview process with four questioners and Don filming us. Then the questioners made the cuts and called us out of class to tell us who would be going to Cornell that summer. I must say the entire process pushed me pretty hard. I was very motivated to be part of the ILC and thus tried my hardest to prove that I should be one of the kids going. I must say that the interview portion of the picking process was the scariest for me. I have two parents in the working world who have told me that public speaking is the key to life (more or less), but the interview was still terrifying. That is not saying that the people who were questioning me were scary, they were actually very nice, but what was scary was having to think of an answer that you thought would set you apart from the others in a positive manner.

After being chosen, you (as an ILC student) are obligated to keep being the best you you can be. You attend meeting and dinners and are always on your best behavior. I had never had to blog before, and I have learned a lot about myself through my blog. It is interesting to see the blogs from the beginning and then the later ones and see the new Taylor that has grown from this whole experience. If you read the blogs from the beginning of my ILC ‘career’ you would find a more shy and timid girl, now I am more out going and confident and I owe a lot of that to the ILC for giving me this chance to grow.

As I think back on my time at Cornell I am speechless. I honestly cannot believe that I, Taylor Doty, was chosen to go take a class for three weeks at one of the top universities in the nation. It is a great feeling knowing that I was smart enough and capable enough to compete with students from all over the world for a spot at Cornell this summer. It give me the confidence to try and compete with those kids and more kids for a spot that the university for the next four years of my life. I had only really considered Cornell because it is an Ivy League school and would be a great place to say I went, but now I would actually like to attend Cornell. I have learned a lot about what I want to get out of college and know now that if I put my mind to it I can do it.

I blogged about it when it happened, but I feel the need to state it again and give another HUGE thank you to the ILC for this opportunity; as I mentioned in a blog a while ago I met the assistant coach for the Cornell Women’s Soccer team. She met with me for an hour and we talked about their program and what I would have to do to be a constant for the team. I would never have gotten the opportunity to sit one-on-one with some like her if I had not been in the position I was in. As some of you may know I am considering playing soccer in college and would love to play for Cornell.

I really must say that no matter how many times I type or even think the words thank you it wouldn’t be enough. The ILC has opened a door for me that I may have never tried to open on my own. I have learned the world is what I make it. That nothing can stop me from getting what I want as long as I stay focused and push through every and anything that gets in my way.

Thank you ILC members for giving me this summer opportunity. Thank you for pushing me in the right direction. Thank you for opening a new door for me. Thank you for believing in me and thus making me believe in myself. Thank you for sending me to Cornell this summer.

Over and Out blog readers.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Home Sweet Home?

I did not realize just how much I missed my own bed until I slept for an unbroken 11 hours today, getting more than enough REM sleep that is needed according to the crash course on college I attended my first weekend at Cornell. When I woke up this morning, my first thought was fear of my upcoming final. I saw that I woke up at 10, when the final was supposed to begin at Goldwin Smith Hall, and I sprinted out of bed to shower. I ran into the bathroom in a semi-daze, and when I realized I was in a private bathroom, the thought occurred to me that perhaps I wasn’t in Donlon anymore. I thought I deserved some additional shuteye and indulged myself in an hour-long nap.

I do miss everyone back at Summer College, and still have a strange feeling that I’m on vacation right now, staying with these nice people who decided to take me into their home, although I have had to deal with a rather large and drooling dog. One thing I don’t miss about Cornell is the humidity, and was ecstatic when I came home yesterday evening to cool clouds. I realized just how long I had been away when I forgot how to open my front door. It isn’t a very complicated front door, so I was eventually able to figure it out, but it did take a few more tries than one would expect for my own house.

After that long and arduous battle with the front door, we got inside and I gave my family their gifts. I gave my sister and dad presents from Cooperstown, my dad a Yaz shirt and my sister quite possibly the cutest Red Sox-based teddy bear/round ball I have ever seen (shown above). I also realized that I had completely forgotten to get my mom anything, but I was able to smoothly pass it off by handing her the Cornell sweatshirt I picked out “with her in mind”. My mom rewarded this kind gesture with question after question, seeing just how far she could ride my overall joy at being home. Let the clinginess begin!

My sister's photoshoot of said adorable teddy ball

Waking Up

Today, I woke up at 3:30 AM PDT, expecting to get dressed, walk out of my room into the air-conditioned 5th floor lounge, and wait to leave for breakfast at RPCC.

That is what I expected.

When I opened my door, I remembered where I was, what I had done the past three weeks, and how everything had finally finished.  And now, I was here, at home.

It is an incredibly weird transition to go from having a roommate and best friends down the hall to having parents and a bathroom all to yourself.  But I can't really say I don't like it.  Quite the contrary, it's nice to be back home with my parents and grandparents and all my friends living outside of the building.

The flight home was good, especially the last one (mini-TV screens!), and getting back and eating dinner was rather surreal, though I am very glad to have Chinese food that I enjoy.  Other than that, I am not sure that I can really think about what has been going on, besides the fact that I would like to say "Thank You" to all of us who got us to this point - the ILC, Don, Ms. Kronenberg, Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Neal, the doners, our teachers, and of course, my cohorts as well.

Well actually, there is one way I can sum up the past month.  So let's try that again - Today, I woke up and I felt like I woke up from a four-week long dream.

It's a dream I don't think I would want to wake up from.

All Good Things Must Come to an End

How strange it feels to finally wake up in my own bed, in the home I haven't seen in three weeks, to the cool California weather. There is no place like it. Then again, that's the way I felt about Cornell too.

Saturday morning I tried to put the teary goodbye hugs and moping of the previous night behind me. As our friends and classmates walked in their finery to Statler Hall one final time for graduation, we caught the flight to Detroit.

The journey back was smooth as I gradually let go of my Summer College withdrawal through sleep, in-flight movies, a Whopper and fries, and awe at the Detroit Airport.

I must say that the Metro is a piece of work. Even going up the escalator, I felt like the place was designed to hit you with its stark spot-clean impeccability and sweeping architecture. A beautiful fountain acts as a centerpiece, a giant tree grows in the airport, plus a tram runs through it. And a bird lives in it! The layover was a beautiful distraction.

Arriving in SFO with no problems, we said our final goodbyes, this time to each other and to Ms. Neal. The 2011 ILC Cornell crew will always have a place in my heart, right next to the rest of Summer College. Thanks to all of them, as well as the ILC, the WCCUSD school board, our chaperone Ms. Neal, the extraordinary Mark & Reneta McCarthy, our awesome TAs including Gorka, the incredibly helpful admissions at Northwestern, U of Chicago, & Cornell, our readers, all the wonderful supporters we’ve met in Chicago & Ithaca, and to those of you back home, for giving me the most unforgettable three weeks of my life.

Enjoy the rest of your summer everyone! Mine will have a hard time living up to unbelievable experience all of you have given me.


Woke up this morning in my own bed. It is so nice to be back in the Bay Area with weather reaching a max of only like 65 degrees.

I must say though that I do really miss waking up in Donlon and hearing Taylor Swift blasting down the hall. I do not miss the RPCC breakfast, but I did send the gang a ‘Breakfast?’ text, which was my job every morning for the last three weeks.

Thankfully the flights went swimmingly and we made it home right on time. It was really nice to see the hotelies again since I really hadn’t seen them during our time at Cornell. I am really going to miss my friends from summer college it is really odd to be home but I am kind of glad to be back. As much fun as summer college was, three weeks plus a couple extra days is a long time to be away from home.

I will never forget Cornell Summer College 2011.

Over and Out blog readers

In With the Old

Yesterday morning was a bittersweet one. Packing up the last remnants I had left with me, I knew that this journey was coming to a close. Seeing people rushing through the elevators and hallways, I sent the people I knew a final farewell.

While much of the day consisted of sitting on a plane, it doesn't mean that it wasn't full of adventure. Touching down in Detroit for our transfer flight was quite interesting! While airports are known to be large and gigantic, this was the first one I have ever seen that provides tram transportation between gates. While most of my cohorts walked through the airport, I fell into temptation, knowing that I would never be able to experience this ride again!

While every plane we have been on has been bare-bones and small, the one that arrived at SFO actually had one of those in-flight personal monitors that always seem to interest and fascinate me.

But the best part of the flight was actually being able to be in San Francisco and the Bay Area I have come to know and love. While it was nice to be away in a place completely foreign to me, I felt great comfort being where "everybody knows your name."

I don't know what the remaining days of summer will bring me at this point, but it certainly will not top the adventure I have experienced for the past three weeks!

Home Sweet Home

I am blogging for the first time from the comforts of my own home, about events that seem to have happened an eternity ago. Today I have left my home of three weeks and friends behind, rode planes for more hours than I can count- especially with time zones changing on me- and arrived home after almost a month of being away.

I want to express my thanks for this wonderful opportunity. Without the ILC, I never would have been enrolled in Freedom and Justice at Cornell, being educated both in political thought and college life at another level, looking ahead to what we WCCUSDers really can achieve when put to the test.

After packing up clothes and tears this morning, I am now getting ready to head off to Mexico, so farewell good ol' blogspot. On the road again I go.

Maybe someday if it I decide on going- and get accepted to- Cornell, I will be in Ithaca once more. But until then, I will always hold a fond place in my heart for the fantastic three weeks I spent there in upstate New York.

Thank you to all the readers who have been keeping up with our privileged journey, I hope you enjoyed reading about it a fraction of the amount I enjoyed partaking in it.

Genevieve Simmons

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Back to the Bay

Well, it's all over! I am typing this blog from the comfort of my dining room table at home, as opposed to the discomfort of my dorm room desk, and I could not be happier to be home. The sight of fog and the simple fact that I needed a sweatshirt to walk around was enough to tell me, "Welcome back!". It was so nice to see my family welcome me home at the airport and I was pleasantly surprised to see my little cousin, Jackie, waiting to say hey!

I thought I would be a little more sad to leave Cornell, but I think I've just accepted the fact that my time there was amazing and that it's time to get on home. The friends I made were some of the best people that I've ever met, and the class has given me a great basis for all kinds of moral thought. Cornell Summer College was one of the best experiences of my life, but I am very happy to be home.

Tonight's celebration has included picking up my brother, who is currenty living in San Francisco, going out to eat at Round Table Pizza (one of my personal favorites), and coming home to watch a movie as a family.

It's so nice to be back in my element, and I am just going to be happy to lay down in my own bed. Just the idea, honestly, is making me go crazy so I think I'm going to have to make it a reality very soon here.

Like I said, this trip has been the opportunity of a life-time and I am so glad that I got to experience it. Thank you again ILC for everything that you've done, and I have done my best to represent the WCCUSD.

Thank you readers for your loyal support throughout these times, and I will say, for one last time to you, GOOD NIGHT!

With much appreciation,
-Joe Arciniega

Never Say Never

Today (or well, yesterday) was the last day for school.  Yes, the last day.  After that, all was done, finished, it is all over.

I do not know exactly how to feel right now except that I am smiling a lot for no real reason at all.  That's rather strange isn't it?  I would hope that I am smiling about the past few weeks - the places I have been, the things I have done, and the people I have met.

Today, Mark and Reneta wrapped the class up in a nice little bow for all of us with an inspirational lecture about our futures, pretty much telling us to stay on top of our game.  It was a good gesture, especially since the stressful group reports were due at 1 PM that day as well.

So for the last time, I worked as part of my group at the Binenkorp Computer Lab.  We were all stressed out from the past few days of work and there were a few arguments scattered here and there throughout our work time.  Nonetheless, we finished our work, complete and as close to perfect as we could possibly make it, and we turned it in.

Other highlights of the day included bowling with our TA, Gorka, who I have grown to appreciate a lot over the last few weeks.  This led to our attending the talent show, where my friend Leo played a piano duet with our classmate Chris.  Afterwards, Gorka came down to our dorm to say goodbye to us.

Something that has wildly occurred to me today amongst all the goodbyes and the general sadness of the situation is a very simple thing.  I realize that despite the low chances of any of us meeting again, it is not impossible.  For example, my roommate will be in our area soon and we will spend some time together.  Other meet-ups like these are occurring all over the country at this point.

I guess the point is that there is not a point to saying things will not happen.  Because that is extremely far from true.  Just being a part of this program proves that you cannot really say "never say never," and I hope everyone, from doners to students, understand how important this kind of experience really is to a young person.

Maybe I will not see these people again, or do things like these again.  But then, maybe I will.  Being absolute about it makes it seem so boring, does it not?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Checking Out of Class

Like a hotel, there is always a time when you simply have to check out. While it may seem like an odd metaphor to summarize my day, it certainly is a proper one that fits.

While everyone's mind was focused on getting the final report done, Reneta and Mark held some closing words for the class as a whole before every student went back to finishing and polishing their last project of the program.

With an emphasis on relationship and group building, Reneta went through a slide show of the different groups within the class, including ours! Amusingly enough, she slipped in a few inside jokes that made many of the pictures worthy to laugh of! In one instance, she made a rabbit pop onto the screen in reference to the fact that one girl owns a thirteen-pound rabbit! In another instance, she added the name "Frenchie" to another student as that is what everyone simply refers to him as (as he is French after all).

She then shared a video about Marriott Hotels and one example of a customer having a strong relationship with an employee for many years. Afterwards, she went into a presentation on the importance of relationships and shared her anecdotes of working at one of her previous hotel. She then struck a philosophical chord within each of us in providing motivational and positive thought to sprinkle throughout our daily routine. While it can seem a little corny, Reneta obviously overshadowed it with sincerity. And while so many students were itching to get back into the computer lab, all I was thinking of was how I am going to miss all the relationships I have made here at Cornell. While she emphasized that strong relationships will never break, this may be the last time I will ever see my cohorts face-to-face.

My group as we finally finished our report.

But without wasting another minute, we all scrambled to our chairs in the computer lab and went to finishing up what we had left to do. The day was crazy and chaotic as the pressure of finishing it "efficiently and effectively" (a term Mark has used throughout the course) was getting to us. While some compromises had to be made, we managed to get everything done from head-to-toe! When groups began to leave one-by-one as they turned in their report, it was hard to accept the fact that this would be the end of a remarkable journey.

The "pressure" got to Jobel's group.

Throughout the day, however, I was seeing my friends and cohorts around campus and giving them a warm welcome as I passed them by! But the icing on top of the "farewell cake" was being able to play bowling with many of our friends and the head teacher assistant of the class, Gorka. If you were there, you could have obviously felt the energy and joy this event brought to us. And while I may have been ultimately horrible at actually knocking pins down, the game was worth every minute as I was able to hang out with people I enjoy.

A group picture outside of the bowling alley.

Unfortunately, all things must come to an end and this program happens to be one of them. I think that this program has set such a high standard for similar summer colleges. The class is extremely different than anything that is taught at a high school level and it absolutely felt like a breathe of fresh air in curriculum. And while sometimes forced, the group mechanics that are thrown at us only help with the bonding of cohorts. With all the amazing people I have been honored to meet and know, it has been hard to pack up and part ways. But as it has been said before, I hope these relationships will continue to bloom and grow.

Ad Finem

Translated, my title means "the end" in Latin, a bit fitting considering starting Freedom and Justice with our roots in antiquity. I just wanted to share with readers about my final before going out- I actually haven't done anything else today but sleep! I got back to the dorms and immediately conked out. I plan on going out to dinner tonight with all my friends but basically this exam governed over this whole day.

Honestly, the two hour exam was a doozy. First of all, we had an hour to write an exam that culminated everything we have learned in the course and to find connections throughout it. I wrote about (there were a variety of choices) how Plato, Wollstonecraft, and Marx compared and contrasted on how their ideal economic, societal, and political orders were to come about in the societies they currently lived in.

Next, I wrote two shorter essays, the first regarding the difference and similarities between Locke's and Marx's conceptions of the link from labor to property. The second was on guest lectures, wanting us to bring contemporary cases we have gotten guests to discuss into the age-old themes of freedom, justice, and equality. I wrote about the case of a local girl who had been discriminated against because of her race and tied that in with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Last but not least, I identified quotes and stated their significance, in context and what effect they have on society today.

I am not sure that I did very well on this test as timed tests do not always bring out my best writing when I feel rushed, but it is always good practice, but I did my best and knew all the material I had to- so let's just hope I presented it in a way that my TA agrees. :P Either way, this class has truly been a joy to take and I have learned so much information that will be valuable in the future.

See you for one last time tomorrow readers, I'm off to my bed once again. I think I'm sleeping off all the stress of this final. And it's finally over! Which I find hard to believe in fact, and slightly nostalgic about already.

Endings Part II

After the chaos of finishing my final report with my group, and after lunch and a bit of exploring with a couple of friends, I headed back to my dorm room to start the dreaded task of packing.

I didn't bring a lot, so packing was relatively easy. The feelings that came with packing, on the other hand, bothered me. Reneta's lectures for the past two days had been painfully reminiscent of her lectures from the beginning of the program, and packing was like that. When I was done packing, my dorm room was nearly restored to its original state. It looked very much like it did when I had just arrived three weeks ago. That depressed me a bit since it was like everything was back to how it was. Then I thought about how much I have changed during the course of the three weeks. Even though I am leaving my room the way I found it, that doesn't mean nothing has changed.

Incidentally, our Head TA Gorka planned a bowling get-together today for the Hotelies at the bowling alley on campus. Some of our friends from other programs also joined us.

Gorka ended up paying for most of us! Since Jobel, Kevin and I will not be able to make it to the graduation ceremony tomorrow, today was our last day seeing Gorka. After bowling, we all took pictures and begged him to meet us at the Talent Show tonight, and he ended up coming! That was a great surprise, and gave us a little bit more time with him.

Meeting our wonderful TAs and Reneta and Mark and the friends I have made here has only made me even more excited about building relationships. A huge part of the Cornell experience was about learning people skills.

I definitely plan on writing letters and keeping in touch with the people I have met here.


It’s all over. Final = DONE. Everything is done. I am almost all packed. My roommate already moved out. Wow it is really all over.

The final wasn’t as horribly scary as I thought it would be. I felt that after studying with the gang that I had covered most of the stuff that was asked of me on the final. I am not going to say I did great or anything like that, but it is nice to know that all that stress and pressure is off my shoulders. I have really learned so much these past three weeks, and I must admit I was very worried that I would be behind the game because I have not had the best history classes while at ECHS, but I never felt like I was not a competitor while being here. I think I gained a new level of confidence while being here.

I am going to miss Professor Kramnick and Simon my TA. They have been amazing support through this whole trip. I have learned so much from both of them and I know there is no way I can thank them enough for everything they have taught me. For you future Freedom and Justicers out there I really hope you get Simon as a TA because he is a lot of fun to get to know. And for anyone interested in the ILC Cornell Freedom and Justice is a ton of fun and extremely interesting. I will never forget what they have taught me.

Gosh it is just such a shock that it is all over. It feels like I haven’t seen fog in a very long time, but my three weeks here have not felt very long at all, and now it is over.

I owe a HUGE thank you to the ILC. This has been a trip of a lifetime I will never forget it. Being here at Cornell opened my eyes to everything I have to look forward to in life. There are so many people out there for me to meet, so many places for me to go, and so much for me to learn.

I have enjoyed my time here at Cornell and cannot believe that I am leaving tomorrow morning. I would really just like to say I have learned so much about myself while being here. I have learned new time-management lessons (the hard way at times). I have learned how to be more confident and out going person. And I have just learned a lot from the other student that I have been surrounded by these past three weeks. I could never have learned all these things if the ILC had not believed in me so thank you so much.

I am going to miss Cornell!

Over and Out blog readers.

Is This It?

It still hasn’t hit me in any form that I’m going to get on a plane tomorrow, leave this awesome place, and go back to my home. It’s a bit weird even calling my house in California home right now, since I’ve been here so long, it feels like I’m about to go to my home away from home, not go from it. These three weeks have been fun and boring, short and long, relaxed and stressful, all seemingly at the same time. It’s hard to explain just how I’m feeling about going home now, mainly because it’s impossible to look at this whole experience objectively, at least at this moment.

Anyway, today I took my final, and I felt good about it. Not great, but good. It was a bit odd hearing the professor telling us we were done and to leave.

Well, off to enjoy my last night of freedom, I’ll probably be able to actually reflect over the weekend.


I'M DONE!!! I know I said last night that I didn't know if I would be sad or excited, but I am SO excited!!! Turning in my final and hearing Professor Kramnick say those final words, "You're done!" just made my heart jump. I can't believe that I have no academic work to do tonight and I definitely cannot believe that the main item on my to do list today is to pack up.

So, the final went well! I don't know if I would say great, but definitely well. The introduction to my essay was a bit off topic, which I realized after I went back and re-read the question, but the rest of my body paragraphs and conclusion were solid. The question I chose prompted me to pick three thinkers that we had covered throughout our class and compare their methods for reaching the goals that they had in mind for society. I chose to write about Plato (who wanted to lie to the people in order to make them subordinate), Martin Luther King Jr. (who contrastingly chose to show people the truth behind racism and prejudice), and Karl Marx (who differed from both of these thinkers in that he just thought his vision of a communist society would inevitably become a reality).

After that were the short essays: First one asked me to compare Locke's ideas of labor and property with Marx's, and the second one asked me to relate the message of one of the speakers we'd had to the fundamental themes of the class (i.e. freedom, justice, or equality). Those essays went fairly well and although I feel like I could have done better, the essays I wrote were about as good as I could have gotten them in twenty minutes, which was our time constraint.

The short answer questions after that went well, but I think I only got partial credit for one of them again like last time! I was solid on four of them, but the fifth one was a little shaky. I definitely knew who said the quote that it asked but I could just barely relate it to that philosopher's overall message. Oh well. 4 1/2 out of 5 isn't bad, haha.

When I turned in my paper I made sure to thank Simon for all of his help and was happy to hear him offer a letter of recommendation. It was such a happy moment. We shook hands and I was on my way.

Now it's time to celebrate. My friends are currently in my room waiting for me to finish this blog so we can go out and play basketball. I don't know what we're going to do with the rest of the night, but I'm just so excited to be done with everything.

Thank you again ILC for sending me out here. This has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I would never have been able to do it without you. I appreciate everything you've done for me and I've done the best I can to represent WCCUSD. I can't wait to get home.

To my family, I love you guys, and I'll see you soon.

Have an awesome day readers! I'll talk to you soon. Good bye!