Thursday, June 30, 2011

Midnight Re-cap

The rigor of the Cornell Summer College experience has become routine.

Our CHESS business memo on expense strategy is due tomorrow, and I'm pretty much scrambling, since this will be 10% of our total grade. We have a pretty weighty presentation due Monday on our respective hotel companies; it's worth 20% of our grade. Thank you ILC events, because my wardrobe is now business formal-ready and all I have to worry about is the actual PowerPoint and oral presentation.

I never knew there were so many possible customization settings to format Word with, especially when creating one's own Word template. Word makes PowerPoint look boring, or maybe that's because I haven't yet discovered all the latter has to offer. That certainly was the case before this class revealed to me the technical side of Word. There is so much you think you know about something, but once you come to a place like Cornell, you realize that there's more yet to be unveiled and that the world has so much more to offer.

If you'll excuse me, we have to get down to the basement to ambush Vivi, the birthday girl, for a midnight laundry room celebration. When the fun and games are over, there's still a long night ahead.

Fast Times at Summer College

Today has been a very stressful day.  Even though I probably got more sleep last night than anytime else this whole week, I was extremely surprised when the seemingly light workload began to catch up.

As of right now, I am working on a few slides for a presentation on the 4th of July.  A presentation while the rest of the school is out -- it seems a bit weird, but I understand why.  After all, we do have to cover so much material.

This course seems to be getting more rigorous by the day.  But that is okay -- no pain, no gain, right?  Well, at least it will remain extremely interesting.  The lectures are still as great as ever, and Reneta and Mark make a great and effective team.

In other news, tomorrow is Genevieve's birthday, so that should be very fun.  It will be our first ILC birthday, with a second coming up near the end of our trip.  I hope she has a great one and that we will be able to get together as a group for the first time in a while.

Meanwhile, I also need to get a picture of my room with my roommate.  I will see if I can do so tomorrow or Friday -- can't keep our readers out there waiting for too long.

Good night all.

I Like Living in a Cave

While I was finishing my business memo, the non-Hotelies in Mary Donlon were either attending a fondue party or a "Create a Born This Way T-shirt" party. Today I was eating with a couple of new friends at dinner, and one of them asked me what program I was in. Upon hearing that I was a Hotelie, he immediately exclaimed, "Whoa! You're in the sunlight!"

Eating dinner before going to lab

Yes, we Hotelies live in caves.

It seems like all I think about lately either relates to what I'm learning or to missing home. Honestly, I enjoy it. I enjoy thinking about what I learn in class because I like what I learn in class. In a strange way, I like missing home because I know that when I get back to California, I will appreciate it that much more. I like being able to think about what I am thinking about, here, at Cornell University.

I must run along and perfect my business memo. Good night everybody!

PS I never posted a picture of my roommate. So here's one:

Me and my roommate Jacqueline

Memo Meltdown

I have always considered myself tech savvy (or a geek if you will) in life. However, after each day wanes in class, I begin to feel smaller and smaller in a pool of high-tech tadpoles. Microsoft Office is something I don’t use on a regular basis, and when Mark McCarthy throws some fancy trick up his sleeve, I was as confused, awed, and entertained as everyone else.

While we went over writing a memo template yesterday, we were focused on writing a letter template today. From all the headings to the closing, Mark introduced to us a really quick way to turn my memo template into a letter one. While the final template isn’t due until Tuesday, I think it’s safe to say the entire class and I now have a lot of Word knowledge under our belts.

He then changed gears slightly and went in-depth as to how to make a consistent PowerPoint presentation. He showed us how easy it is to make a consistent theme, style, and background for all the slides to ensure it looks professional. We were also taught various “SmartArt” tools like charts and graphs, image alignment, and even transitions (animations between slides) and builds (animations within slides).

After lunch, Reneta Mccarthy took charge with our group and showed us what goes into writing a highly professional memo. While the McCarthies brushed on a few things before, she went into detail on how a concise and informative intro is crucial, how headings contribute to how much someone can get from skimming the paper, and the grammar and tone in which a memo is presented in.

After seeing examples of various memos for our CHESS Hotel assignment, we were taught strategies on actually running out CHESS Hotel. We were showed how to ask important questions including “What kind of guests am I attempting to lure?” and “How much quality balances out cost?” This lecture in particular began popping more ideas into my mind about what I would speak about in my memo and what my own, virtual Syracuse hotel would offer.

During officer hours, I went straight into composing my memo for the business strategy of my CHESS hotel. In summary, innovative amenities that are not commonly found in most hotel rooms will be provided, towels-per-room will be reduecd by 50%, employees will be provided morale-boosting benefits, and we are an off-hands hotel in terms of external exposure. I am really looking forward to how my ideas will translate into a successful (or unsuccessful) hotel.

From Plato To The Legalization Of Gay Marriage

Today was our first day of getting into some heavy reading- by which I mean a large amount, since every canonical script or published works have been very enlightening. Our lecture’s itinerary consisted of just getting familiarized with the working of ancient Greece and democracy getting itself established. Next we moved onto Plato’s background and understanding his life before he started ruminating about politics. A really interesting allegory of Plato’s that I found fascinating was his “Myth of the Metals.”

This conjecture has to do with his criterion for the three classes of society, made up by the working class, guardians, and philosophers. In it, he states that everyone is born with a certain ore inside of them, and that at birth determines which class they belong to. Gold is of course the best, and accordingly works its way down to silver and bronze.

Our speaker's name was Richard Stumbar, an attorney who five years ago was trying to right of gay marriage, so the timing of its legalization in New York made it a triumphant guest speech, and really interesting personally. I was honored to get to hear about his work, and it was really interesting all the legal obstacles, and how you had to use "rational basis" to argue his case.

I’m finishing my paper on freedom as soon as I finish writing this blog, and we are going to have one to write on Plato starting tomorrow. I should also go and review my notes and the sections Professor Kramnick will lecture on tomorrow to finish off this Plato reading. I got to practice for a solid hour today which felt really good as class and its homework is so demanding. I’m look forward to tomorrow for more than one reason than one- an early let-out time, the beginning of a holiday weekend, and of course my birthday!

Plato: Take One

Today was Professor Kramnick’s first lecture on Plato. I must say even thought I thought I would fall asleep for lack of sleep (having stayed up late reviewing my notes on Plato), the lecture was far to interesting and kept me from snoozing. It was interesting to hear someone want so ardently to quit the ways of democracy for the ways of hierarchy. To me democracy, and more so in the way it was asserted by the Greeks, seemed flawless to the extent of being truly run by the citizens. Yes I admit as a feminist it is annoying that women were not considered part of the citizen class that participated in the democracy, but I still feel like the Greeks had it down a little bit better than we did. I understand it may not make sense to choose or officials randomly and say here you go you are now president of the United States but I do believe that the way in which our democracy works doesn’t really hold true to the saying ‘for the people, by the people’, but that is my opinion.

I think it would only be appropriate to mention lunch really quickly to mention that today, Thursday or the 4th day of the week, I had a burrito. I have now have had 4 burritos for lunch, or a burrito for lunch everyday. I guess I shouldn’t say ‘a burrito’ because I truly just get the same one everyday and now the lady that makes the burritos knows me, so I don’t even have to tell her my order she just sees me and grabs the beans, rice, and cheese.

After lunch, as is custom on Tuesday and Thursday, we had a guest lecturer. Today the speaker was a lawyer from New York who had taking a gay marriage rights case all the way to the Court of Appeals, which is the highest court in New York. He unfortunately did not win his case, but was happy to say that now, five years after he lost, the New York legislation had gotten the job done for him. He touched on the difficulties he faced during his trial days, and about the other issues gay marriages brings to life for the courts too consider.

Off to the gym to de-stress myself, until tomorrow. Over and Out blog readers.

Joe The Philosopher

I FINISHED MY FIRST PHILOSOPHY PAPER!!! Not the biggest deal in the world, since it's not going to be graded, but I am so happy about it! My first philosophical piece of literature has been written, and it's a page and a half of pure gold, haha. You can refer to me as Socrates if you'd like.

On that note, my day went pretty well. I woke up late so I didn't get breakfast, but I realized that I don't really eat breakfast at 8:00AM anyways. I'm usually not hungry until around 10:30AM, or 11:00AM, since that's when I usually wake up, so missing breakfast really isn't too big of a problem. It's really just extra sleep.

As for class, the lecture was actually really interesting. It was all about Plato and his views on society, and I felt really good about it because I understood everything before he lectured on it. I thought I would go in with one idea of what the text was about and come out with a completely different interpretation, but what he said matched up with my interpretation exactly.

The rest of the class was normal for the most part, and the rest of the day was layed back, besides writing the paper. Also, it's Vivi's birthday tomorrow! So we're going to have to do something nice for her. More on that tomorrow though, good night!

The Streak Is Over

Well, it looks like I jinxed my nights of good sleep with yesterday’s blog celebrating back to back nights of good rest. Last night we had about a hundred pages of reading, and heavy duty reading on top of that. Plato’s The Republic, although quite interesting, isn’t exactly a book one can simply plow through and get a good night’s sleep. Luckily I did get enough sleep to function today in class (an incredible 5 hours), but have been incredibly drowsy ever since class got out. It’s only around 3ish current time, and it feels like midnight already, so rest assured I will be taking a nap after blogging, before going right on back to rereading Plato, since that’s what our professor suggested since he is such a complicated subject.

Then we heard yet another brilliant lecture by Professor Kramnick and had an always enjoyable discussion with my section group, details of which I will cover tomorrow when I fully delve into all the teachings of Plato, since we will hear another lecture tomorrow on him. After our lunch we heard a guest lecture from a lawyer named Richard Stumbar, who fought to legalize gay marriage in New York around five years ago, and made it all the way to the Court of Appeals (sort of the Supreme Court for New York) before falling one vote short. He said he had worked on many human rights cases similar to that before as well, and it was interesting to see just how restricted such a “free” country can be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty big fan of most of the things America does, I just think that all these restrictions show that there really is no true freedom, although I’ll save that topic for next week. In Mr. Stumbar’s lecture, he pointed out many of the contradictions the judicial system makes with itself, which made me think, is there any form of justice that doesn’t contradict itself at some point? I’m still pondering that myself, but now it’s time for my nap, I’ll write about Round 2 of Plato tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wording is Everything

So it turns out that the real homework lesson began today. I had over 100 pages to read from Plato's Republic...I'm almost done though.

Anyways, today was kind of a long, drawn out day. I woke up a little later because I went to bed a little later, but I still managed to make it down to the dining hall for a quick breakfast. After that was class of course, where we received a lecture on the contradictions of the New Testament, and how great thinkers like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, who have nearly opposite views on humanity, can use different passages from the same text to prove their points. Being a Christian, this was all very interesting to me, especially when the two philosophers began to touch on human nature and whether or not we are born with sin or acquire it through vice.

Later in the day, we had our writing workshop where we got our papers on Freedom back. Mine was mostly marked up with "Why?" and "How?" but there were also a lot of arrows pointing to specific areas with only the word "Right" written there, which made me feel pretty good. However, I still wanted to talk to my TA before I revised the paper, just so I could be sure of what he was looking for, and so Taylor and I went to go see him around 4:30PM during his office hours.

He told me that my paper was pretty good, and that most of my arguments were solid, but that I did need to be careful with my wording. Apparently, when it comes to philosophy, wording is everything. He told me to give another example to help prove my point and also to provide my thoughts on the whole concept at the end. With these specific guidelines, finishing my revisions before Friday should be a piece of cake.

The rest of the night was really just reading and note-taking, so there's not much more to report on, unless of course, you would all like to hear about Plato's ideas on perfect society and philosopher kings... Assuming that is not the case, however, I believe I will get myself some sleep. Good night!


The fact that most hospitality students stick to some form of hospitality for their career is a bit discouraging for someone like me who feels intimidated in a completely different world. However, I knew when I signed up for the ILC that many of the skills I will pick up in Ithaca will certainly be valuable for any other career.

The main focus of today’s lesson was refining how we present ourselves in a professional manner through PowerPoint, Word, and actual presentations themselves. After sharpening our Word skills even further, the class and I actually managed to learn how to make our very own memo template. From my understanding, memos are very short and blunt messages which are normally used as a form of internal communication. Step-by-step, we learned what goes into a memo, how it is broken down, how everything goes into place, and how you are actually supposed to write one. After practicing on our own, we were assigned to make a personally customized memo template for ourselves.

Afterwards, we all watched a video on the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. I knew that hotels in NYC were grand and large, but the sheer scale of the Waldorf was absolutely ridiculous! From the thousands of staff to the scale of their rooms and facilities, it was fairly crazy that people could manage this well-oiled machine. It was really interesting to see the nuts and bolts of how a hotel operates behind the scenes. From operators to concierges, there is a large network of employees that work like it is the only thing they know how to do. For many employees, they have worked for more than a decade that it is perhaps one of the few things they know how to do like experts.

In the final hour of class, we were finally able to open the CHESS hotel simulation and I was finally able to put my plan into execution. I expected to either crash & burn poorly or to exceed very well, but it seemed as if I was average compared to other peers. Like many have said before me, just seeing occupancy levels and tweaking prices and expenses was really fun. I actually stayed in the computer lab after class just to try and perfect my small 250-room hotel in downtown Syracuse. Throughout the night, I tried to write down and record my planned expenses and rules for rate-selling. While trying it again didn’t work out as much as I thought, it was nice to dig deep and experiment to find the winning combinations to make the perfect hotel.

A Game of CHESS

It was another demanding day in the Hotel Operations Management course, but I'm adjusting. I find my self dozing off less in the middle of the day, so I guess the five hour sleep schedule is working for me. Goodbye jetlag!

It's so difficult for me to register that it was only a week ago that we left California. This has been the longest week of my life. I miss Chicago, I miss hanging out with the ILC Cornell Wolfpack, but oddly enough, I'm not a bit homesick. The summer has kept me busy, even if it's only been a week. I feel like, now that we're on Cornell Time, the days are going to pass much more quickly. But I don't want to wallow in how soon it'll all be over, when I have projects and presentations due left and right. I'm being challenged to new levels, learning about all this mind-boggling stuff, discussing them with people from around the world, and for the most part, I'm having the time of my life.

Today, I picked up a pair of Branta canadensis goslings grazing on the quad green. I finally had the opportunity to try perogies for the first time,after years of my Polish friend, Miranda's insistence. I made $8,190 in virtual hotel simulation money.

CHESS is quite a piece of sofware. I spent a good chunk of the past few days reading about it and taking notes, but experiencing it first-hand and being able to play around with the program is the best teaching tool. The goal is to get the highest occupancy, while making the most RevPAR by manipulating variables to change the success of a bankrupting mid-size limited service hotel in downtown Syracuse. On a side note, I wonder why Cornell has cancelled its use in the actual undergrad Hotel School.

There is so much of CHESS for me to discover and personalize, but I promise to write all about it as soon as I master it.

Waiting to Go Back to Class

Today as Mark demonstrated how to make a memo template on Microsoft Word, I frantically scribbled notes and attempted to actually physically follow through the process at the same time. I made my very own template for “Teril Inn Hospitality,” complete with a seahorse silhouette logo.

We also played the CHESS simulation for the very first time today. The virtual Teril Inn started out with an occupancy rate of 79% but over the course of one virtual week, that number dropped to somewhere in the fifties. Don’t worry- that was just a trial run. Tomorrow the Teril Inn will be much more successful. :)

Before we played CHESS, we watched a video about what goes on behind-the-scenes at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York City. The video followed various employees (a concierge, a runner, a wedding planner, etc.) in the hotel for one work day. It was actually so captivating that I forgot where I was. When the video ended, I looked around and for a second, was surprised that I wasn’t following around the Housekeeping Manager or the general manager of the Waldorf.

So far, every single thing we have learned in this class has been interesting. Mark and Reneta are already right up there on my “Favorite Teachers” list. Not only are they scarily brilliant and incredibly savvy about the hotel industry, but they are also warm and funny and super enthusiastic about teaching.

Yesterday, Reneta encouraged the class to hang on because students had confessed to feeling overwhelmed after her lecture. The following is almost exactly quoted. She said, “It gets easier. You’re going to do fine. We’re here with you. Don’t freak out. You’ll do fine.” It was the way she said it that did it. I teared up. I really did.

Mark makes the class laugh every other minute, but today he made me tear up too. He also said that students had gone up to him and expressed concern about the rigor of the class. Mark basically told us that we are here to learn, and that there is nothing to be ashamed about. All we have to do is ask for help when we need it.

I am making Reneta and Mark sound a LOT less interesting than they really are. I know people have said these things before, but when Reneta and Mark talk to us, their eyes light up and I know I have never seen such genuine people. I don’t even think it would matter what they were saying because they are so amazing. (Except everything they happen to say is amazing also.)

Anyways, the third day of class is over. Today went by way too fast, but I loved every minute of it. Tomorrow I have class again. I am so excited! I feel like a little kid waiting for the first day of school, except tomorrow isn't the first day of class. It's just another "regular" day of class, but I'm just so excited! I am very happy right now. I am looking forward to sleeping for seven hours, and I am also looking forward to waking up after that so I can go to class. I love this. :)

It's Wrong To Steal Right...? Not In A Perfect Society

Back-to-back nights of good sleep!!! Although my high school half is telling me that that alone was the highlight of my day, my newfound college side is telling me that it was hearing about St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas’ views on politics, more specifically one point St. Aquinas made. But to jump to that would be a bit off timeline, so back to the beginning of class.

Professor Kramnick started off the day as usual (feels a bit weird to be saying that on the third day of class but it’s true) with a lecture about last night’s readings, which were written by St. Thomas and St. Augustine. Kramnick spoke with his usual passion about the conflicting teachings of the two, which was easily explained by the difference in periods of time in which they wrote. While Augustine was in general a complete pessimist about human nature, saying everyone was forever sinful because of the original sin and that only the city of God could save them, he did make a few excellent points about the need of laws to control our animalistic nature, and to keep a check on the “city of flesh,” or of earthly desires.

Aquinas on the other hand, was very positive, and even proposed one of the most interesting ideas of society I have ever read about (although I have been reading Plato tonight so that might not seem so interesting in comparison), when he proposed a society in which everyone grew and harvested or made whatever supplies they were best at making. This may sound a bit like Communism, but the truly fascinating bit about his idea was that he maintained that these specialists should own all their surpluses as their own private property, and to store it to aid the poor when they’re in need. A telling quote about this belief was shown when he quoted Ambrose from the Decretals, “It is the hungry man’s bread you withhold, the naked man’s cloak that you store away, the money that you bury in the earth is the price of the poor man’s ransom and freedom.” At first glance it may seem like St. Aquinas was a terrible person letting the poor starve and freeze to death, if you interpreted withhold to mean kept away from, rather than held onto for. Since he did mean it as held onto, he made a later point that if those who stockpiled these goods didn’t come to the aid of the poor, the poor had the right to steal what they needed to sustain themselves. This immediately drew a lot of argument from quite a few of my fellow students, who thought of stealing not in this scenario but in our normal capitalist lives today. While I agreed that in today’s society it would be wrong to steal no matter the circumstances, I argued that since the only reason those who had had what they did was to help those that had not, those that had not had the right to take what should have been held for them, since that was the original purpose of the stockpiling. I would never have come to this conclusion before this class, and can already feel my mind starting to open up to new ideas. Off to Plato!

A Journey Through Word Processing

Yes, that title is right, as the main focus of my day became formatting a memo within Microsoft Word, through the many useful lessons that Hotel School professor Mark McCarthy have given us.  But, strangely enough, this whole experience was the result of strange circumstances.

But I am getting ahead of myself, so I will start at the beginning.  Today began like any other day at Cornell Summer College (I cannot but help to laugh at the fact that this sentence sounds like I have been here for an extended period of time even though it was only a week ago that I was at Chicago).  Breakfast with friends and roommates, then a nice, brisk walk to Statler Hall.

Once we arrived at the classroom, I reserved seats for the rest of my team, as per our recent agreements that the first one to arrive would do so.  Nothing seemed off.

However, when class started, we found out what had happened -- the program we were supposed to be doing, the CHESS simulation, had mysteriously disappeared from several of the computers in the lab.  So, we were given an extensive lesson on how Microsoft Word works.

Mark gave us a short quiz about formatting, followed by a tutorial on how to properly format a menu, with several colors, borders, tabs and styles.  The lesson turned out to be really interesting, if a little difficult.  However, most of the students got through it fine.  After, we watched a video on the famous Waldorf Astoria.  Video programs such as these usually make me sleepy, but this one was actually really great.

During lunch, we met up with Joe for the first time in days (which actually felt like weeks, to be honest).  It was nice discussing what was going on with each others' classes and planning to meet up soon.

Once we got back to class, Mark gave a very funny PowerPoint to illustrate what makes or break a presenatation.  Then, the computers were loaded with CHESS, and I began to simulate hotel management.  It ended quite badly for me, as the charts showed eventual lack of growth.

Till tomorrow all.

It's 60 Degrees?

Today was actually a cool one- respectively for Ithaca that is. Only 65 degrees at the day's peak, I could actually wear the awesome sweatshirt comfortably that I got courtesy of the wonderful ILC at the Cornell bookstore. I had my usual after-class routine of going to the gym, having a late dinner, and now blogging, but there was a slight difference.

Since we have a class assignment of writing an essay about Freedom, I was struggling with that. I went to my TA's "office", for in fact it is an old freshman girls' dorm room, to discuss a few passages from St. Augustine and get help with my writing. Unfortunately, I'm still having a bit of writer's block, especially in accordance to a specific part of freedom, being as its definition is so broad and can be interpreted in so many different ways.

Professor Kramnick's lectures are great. He really gets into them and tries to keep students interested. I'm looking forward to getting to have lunch with him as Taylor and Joe have had the pleasure of having.

In our discussion group we talked the difference between St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and what alot of their writings actually mean as some of the language and religious references can be hard to understand. One large topic was whether private property is good, and whether it can ever be moral to steal in any situation. Another is what rulers are really needed for as intermediates of God. Goodnight for now, off to read some Plato.

Two more days until my birthday!


I was at a loss for a creative title, this does not; however, mean my day was not creative or interesting. In fact my day today was extremely interesting.

Lecture today was about Augustine and Aquinas and their theories on political, naturally since it is a political thought or theory course; however I had never, before this course, heard of either of those men in my life so for me reading about them and hearing Professor Kramnick’s thoughts on what their text meant was very eye opening for me. Learning about the religious ideals of the time and their influence on the writings of intellectuals impressed me and challenged me to think about the major influences driving writings and politics today. I realize that the main major influence is in fact the ‘Old’ and ‘New” testaments. These ageless classics, more or less, carrying values that are desired and required (in a way) in today’s society. The two writers also have varying view on government and the purpose of government with respect to a community and also with respect to individuals.

In our discussion group we made comparisons between the Augustine and Aquinas’ thoughts on government and looked at how the ‘Old’ testament played a strong role in Augustine’s beliefs, while the ‘New’ testament played a strong role in Aquinas’ beliefs.

Then came lunch, which is a story in itself today. There are 60 students in the Freedom and Justice course; therefore Professor Kramnick has decided to eat lunch with 6 students each day. Today was my day. After finding and saving a table for the seven of us I ran to get in line for my burrito. I have gotten a burrito for lunch the three days we have had lunch here and now the lady knows me and knows exactly what I am getting when she sees me in line, it is wonderful. I was the first one back to the table but once we all were seated Professor Kramnick explained the drill; it ran like this: You had to introduce yourself, tell how you heard about the program, tell where you were from, where you wanted to go to college, and what you wanted to be when you ‘grow up’. After everyone had gone Professor Kramnick asked us what we thought about President Obama. To my surprise only two of the six said they would not vote for him if the election was tomorrow.

I began to realize today in class, during my lunch with Professor Kramnick, and again after I read Melissa Arciniega’s comment on my blog that I am so lucky to be here. I don’t want this portion to sound like I am sucking up, but I am realizing that this is an opportunity not offered to many. In my writing class today my TA talked about the difference between freedom and opportunity. In my mind I think of freedom (even though I have already mentioned I am not a real freedom believer) is the possibility to do something whereas opportunity is the ability to do it. I realize that everyone has the freedom to attend a summer college, but not everyone has the opportunity to be in a program like the ILC, which showcases our district’s many talents.

Time to meet with my TA to go over my paper. Until tomorrow, Over and Out blog readers.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Words Don't Paint a Picture

While the first day of class felt like a slap in the face, I felt like everything was going to mesh perfectly for my schedule.

For our first lecture and lab of the day, we were untaught by Mark McCarthy on Microsoft Word. The focus with utlizing business tools like Microsoft Office revolved around being "efficient and effective." We dug deep into the unknown functions of using Word from setting up boxes and borders to fixing up proper indentation. I am a shameful abuser of constantly using the spacebar, indentation key, and the enter key to get text in the way I strive to make it become. But Mark helped show us the proper way to do everything so that our memos appear professional and clean. While it may not be as simple as simply hitting Return, it certainly makes everything on the paper look so polished, and in the end, first impressions always make a difference.

Prior to our second class lecture, my group in class was taught by Reneta McCarthy in an introduction into the CHESS program that simulates a hotel. For our specific simulation, the hotel is a luxury 250-room lodging facility with no food & beverage factor added in. She taught us how to change rates, how to close rates, how to manage expenses, and how they can play a part in your hotel's revenue. We were also assigned a memo to explain our strategies for our CHESS Hotel on Friday and she has suggested that we be as creative and imaginative as we can as the simulation is not visually appealing. I have already started a game plan, thinking that the first factor I will monitor within my hotel is to block out the lowest rates available so that I can get more money from the more expensive rates. However, the lowest rates will not be completely closed off as they will be reserved exclusively for patrons that come in a group so that I still can attract all three types of hotel customers (business, leisure, and group).

For my office hours, I decided to get to the computer lab early since there is no time to complete anything else before then. Looking at the sky resulted in flashing bolts of lightning behind the clouds. The thunder was tremendously loud and rain began to pour in a sudden manner. Even despite an umbrella, my shoes and pants were absolutely wet, but through rain and shine, I managed to get to my office hours early so that I could get straight to working on my assignments. My four-member group and I had to compose our own memo to explain our rules and guidelines within our groups, and I spearheaded that project. I managed to get reading done on a narrative written by Donald Trump himself. He explained the story behind how his property on 42nd Street came to fruition and it was definitely a good read, explaining his struggles behind getting tax alterations and financing to getting the Hyatt to manage the hotel.

Everyone always argue behind whatever study method they think is the best. Some go for highlighting text while others believe that writing down actual notes is the victor. Because I have exclusively taken notes already, I thought it would be nice to just highlight different points for once. Many people have their own personal ways of studying, but a synthesis of taking good notes while highlighting important passages has become a very effective studying method for reading material. And to think that there are thousands of ways to properly read and understand the text assigned!

Both Sides of the Spectrum

Since it is rather late, I will try to be concise.  Tomorrow is a long day, and we are going to be dealing with a lot, so we'll see, I hope.

Today however, was extremely interesting and very extreme on both ends.  On one hand is was dry and hot and sweltering, while on the other, it was roaring with thunder and rain fell from the skies unrelentingly.  The good thing was that I was able to share an umbrella with Terilyn, which turned out to be really fun, if a "little" wet.

The lesson plans that were going by today were rather intricate.  During our lab sessions, Mark taught our class the ins and outs of Microsoft Word, such as the format painter and the many types of formatting available in page, paragraph and font sections.  He also challenged those that knew what they were doing to not use a mouse.   So I will resolve not to use a mouse.

During the lectures, Reneta taught the class about the CHESS simulation, a simulated hotel game that we will be dealing with to learn more about operations.  It seemed to be really fun, but quite complicated all the same.  Meanwhile, we also learned about corporate structures, such as c-corporations.  That in of itself was rather rigorous, and without much knowledge in economics, it turned out to be even more confusing.

It is quite strange because I feel like I have been here for weeks, but only really for two days.  Maybe time passes that slowly, yet that quickly around here.  Or maybe it is just me.

A Thundering Start

Day two of Freedom and Justice and I must say Professor Kramnick was better than I could have asked for. He is the first teacher/professor I have had who can lecture for an hour and a half without losing my interest or attention.

Today we talk about the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ testament. I put old and new in quotes because Professor Kramnick explained that there is a movement to change new to something that would not imply that one was better than the other. I personally could care less what the books are called, but do strongly feel that B.C and A.D should be changed to B.C.E and C.E because I am not religious and think that was a non secular nation we should separate ourselves from religion. I am going to use this as my intro into the lecture. Today Professor Kramnick’s lecture touched on how the ‘New’ testament is a canonical text. He referred to the many thoughts and quotes even that can be seen in the ‘New’ testament in our political system today. Along with talking about quotes and thoughts, he talked about the difference between the two books, about how in the ‘Old’ testament the continuous story was about God being the law making and judge, but how in the ‘New’ testament was more about love. As a nonreligious person, reading the text was very interesting to me. I had never seen the theories that drive modern day Christianity.

After lunch we had our first guest speaker. Professor Kramnick referred to her as Judge Judy to try and get some laughs and his joke was well received. The Judge talked to us about a recent case she was just working on and explained the process from start to finish of trial. As a “want-to-be” lawyer her lecture was incredibly insightful. I learned so many new things that my crime shows were lacking. I was aware that both sides had some say in who the member of the jury were to be but I was unaware that for the prosecutors to request bail the case had to be seen by the grand jury. This was news to be because from what I had “learned” from the all-too-many crime shows I watch I would have assumed that bail was set and decided on by the judge.

After all of this excitement my day took a turn towards athletics. For those who do not know I am a very committed soccer player who dreams of playing in college, so it was wonderful to have to opportunity to talked to the Assistant Coach for the Cornell Women’s Varsity team today. From my conversation with the coach I learned about the Cornell program, the Ivy League training rules, and most importantly what it would take for me to make a spot. I have to thank the ILC because if I were not in this program at Cornell I would never had this opportunity. The coach told me that my being here for the summer program showed my interest in the school and my taking the lead on communicating with her showed my dedication.

To top off that soccer experience I had my first Intramural soccer game today. I cannot tell you how great it felt to be back on the field running around. But it is time for bed because I have class tomorrow.

Until Tomorrow, Over and Out blog readers.

The Cornell Challenge

I've been working hard and eating well. The food at Cornell is pretty great. Once you get to a college campus, there's just so much variety; the dining halls are giant international buffets. I just wish I had more time to work out after sitting in class for nine hours a day.

When I’m not enjoying the food or feeling restless to go for a run, I’m definitely studying or catching some Z’s. Yes, we were warned that this was going to be the most intense course on campus, but there are some students, especially those who are part of the family business, who make it seem like it should come natural. I want their brains.

In the meantime, I will be taking some thorough notes (the Cornell Notes style we learned in school will come in handy on its birthplace campus) and attempting to think up intelligent questions so I don’t make a fool out of myself in class.

After a fair amount of reading assignments on it, we were formally introduced today to CHESS, our hotel simulation which will be running individually in the lab over the course of two weeks. I am anxious yet simultaneously cautious to test it out and experiment. It seems like a really interesting piece of software, and there’s a lot of decision-making and business strategizing involved. I never considered myself business-minded at all, but I’m willing to learn from mistakes.

Another thing I’m concerned about is how I’m going to manage my priorities. Getting in shape and maintaining it before the fall sports season is really important to me, and it’s a responsibility I take seriously. Maybe it’s not my responsibility as an ILC or summer college student, but I owe it to my teammates at home and to my own well-being.

When class runs until 9 PM, the 4-7 PM break we have seems inconsequential once the one-hour round trip from Statler Hall to the dorms and back, plus time for dinner, studying, reviewing notes, or napping is considered. There are group presentations, research projects, readings, business plans, and reviews to worry about.

I understand that school comes first, but I also worry about being healthy. Do I want to get up at 5 AM for that much-needed, therapeutic morning run, or should I rest up for the whole day of class ahead? Would it be worth it to chuck $65 on a gym pass I might never find the time to use? Or maybe I might find a balance by cutting dinner and studying time short to go for a quick afternoon jog? Learning to make my decisions, moreover to effectively and efficiently utilize my time will be the ultimate Cornell challenge. I hope you’re all rooting for me.


So today I have the pleasure of learning about college homework loads. That lesson is not quite over yet, so I will have to keep this blog brief if I hope to get to bed before 2:00AM.

I woke up at 7:00AM again so I could get ready by 8:00AM and then have breakfast with my cohorts and newer friends before class starts at 9:00AM. I believe this will become a pattern, and I honestly hope it does, because there are not too many teen-age boys getting up that early to shower here, and a long breakfast definitely gives me some time to wake up before class begins.

Today, class went pretty well. Professor Kramnick lectured for his normal hour and a half about Love, Law, and Christianity, which was very interesting, but at the very beginning of his lecture he announced the names of the six students that would be eating lunch with him today (he picks six students to have lunch with him every day so he can get to know us better). And I was on today's list.

As I said, the lecture went well, and the discussion group afterwards was great, but my mind was on the lunch the whole time. I've been dining with high-powered individuals all week, but this is my professor now! I have never had to do this before! I was hoping for an initial bias in my favor since he seemed to like Mr. Ramsey so much at orientation, but there was no way for me to really know what to expect.

Lunch did arrive eventually though, and Professor Kramnick actually turned out to be an awesome guy! We had to wait a while for everyone to get their food, but once the table was all situated, the conversation began to flow. We all learned each other's names, where we were from, what kind of school we went to, and why we were taking the Freedom and Justice Course. Professor Kramnick knew I was from the ILC as soon as I said that I was from El Cerrito, and he seemed to like me from that point on (biases can work wonders).

We found out from a lot of information from him too, but he said he wasn't too big on technology and I'm not sure if he would want his info on the web. Cool guy though. He's very lively and I really enjoyed the lunch. Hopefully this experience goes as well for our other ILC'ers.

So that was really the highlight of the day, and I have to do homework now, so I will talk to you all tomorrow! Good night readers!

Already Nostalgic? It's the Second Day of Class!

I am very prone to feeling pre-nostalgia. Today, our 1-4 pm lecture flew by and that scared me quite a bit. It’s the second day of class, and already everything is going by much faster than I would like it to.

At the same time, though, I also feel like I have been here at Cornell for weeks and weeks. It is incredibly easy to get accustomed to a routine, even if one has only lived according to the particular routine for 2 days.

Speaking of routine, I have gotten used to the bipolar weather here. It no longer surprises me when out of nowhere, thunder starts roaring and rain starts pouring, which is exactly what happened today. I enjoyed it. It was great being outside while the storm started and it was also great watching it from inside the Robert Purcell Community Center Marketplace, which is where I was eating dinner.

A large portion of the content we learned from Reneta today focused on concepts we could use to run our personal CHESS, or Competitive Hospitality Education Simulation Series I, hotel. On Friday, we will turn in a 2 page business memo stating our plan for our virtual hotel.

We were reminded to consider closing or restricting rates for our hotel during certain days of the week. I have yet to decide if my hotel, the Teril Inn (Get it? Teril Inn= Terilyn), will offer entertainment every day of the week, or only on Fridays, or what types of amenities I will offer in the rooms. We were also reminded that when setting rates, we must consider what types of customers would visit the hotel on a weekday as opposed to on a weekend. For example, more businesspeople would probably visit on weekdays, while more leisure travelers would visit on weekends. How many rooms will I expect housekeepers to clean during an 8-hour work period? Will I accept group reservations? Which particular ones will I accept?

I must consider all of these things to successfully manage the Teril Inn, a 250 limited-service hotel located (virtually) in Syracuse, New York. Hopefully, I will pull it off. Hopefully, I will find a way to fully immerse myself in the course without feeling like everything is speeding by.

Wait... That Judge Judy?!

Today I woke up on a whopping 8 hours of sleep, which was still way short of the recommended 9 and a quarter we learned was necessary at Sunday’s studying crash course, but I felt more refreshed than ever heading into the first true class this summer. I say first true class because unlike the Hotellies, our first day was more of an introduction to the course, and although we did have some enlightening discussions, it was nowhere near as rigorous as their class, although that was how everyone had told us it would be, so that isn’t much of a surprise.

After a quick breakfast I was waiting in the lecture hall, curious on just how these lectures would work after we had read something the previous night. Last night’s reading was the New Testament, and I was curious to see how our professor would show all the political ideas in what I had originally considered pretty much solely a religious text. Right away Mr. Kramnick explained that because the Bible’s ideas dominated throughout Western culture, those ideas also dominated politics. Even though we had only read excerpts from the “New” Testament, Professor Kramnick also explained the politics of the so-called “Old” Testament (Professor Kramnick included these quotations because new make it seem like it’s better than the Hebrew Bible).

I have never really heard someone speak with such passion about any subject, and it rubs off on all of the students in class. He made so many intriguing points I lost count, but the overall theme of his section on the Old Testament was that God commanded his people and gave them countless rules to follow, 613 laws in all according to a fellow student, and that in return, God offered his people protection. There are also contradictions of contradictions of contradictions throughout both the “Old” Testament and “New” Testament, which our professor cited as the most likely reason it has stayed around and important for so long, since its less sincere followers can pick and choose whatever aspects of the Bible they want to follow (although the rules are pretty mandatory of course).

We then discussed Christian ideas of justice, for both the final half of the lecture and among our discussion groups and it showed me just how ignorant I had been of political ideas in the Bible, and that with good teaching it was easy to pick it up and start making connections between the concepts of Justice in the Bible and our justice today. I personally found Jesus Christ’s interpretation of justice to be wonderful, because according to Christ, everyone should love everyone, and that is how one receives true justice. As Christ says in Corinthians 13 (and I completely agree), “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” This truly shows how Jesus believed in overall togetherness in a community, something that I at least, don’t see much of in the present day.

After our discussion and lunch, we headed back to the lecture hall, who Professor Kramnick had introduced earlier in the day as Judge Judy. In what ended up turning out to be a good thing, it ended up not being that Judge Judy, but rather a judge in Ithaca’s city Court, Judge Judith Rossite, who gave a bit nicer of a lecture than I would have expected from the TV Judge Judy. The Judge mainly told us about a recent case involving burglary and rape, and when she explained all the little nuances she had to deal with in cases like this, I truly began to appreciate all the hard work involved in making our judicial system run as smoothly as it does.

It was yet another wonderful class, and I had just finished studying St. Augustine and St. Aquinas, when in the middle of me writing this very blog, the skies just completely opened up on us, and an intense thunderstorm just now stopped after about an hour, although it is still raining. While many of my cohorts will write about this awful weather, I actually decided to go on a run in the pouring rain, which was much better than running in the humidity yesterday, so I fully enjoyed this “horrible” weather.

The Testament And Testifying

Since I blogged yesterday afternoon, I'm going to give a brief summary on how the rest of my evening went yesterday. I started to go to the gym immediately after blogging with Taylor to get membership passes for the duration of these three weeks, but it turns out we could only do that between 8 and 4 o'clock- so we went and did that this morning. Instead, we went on a short run around a small beautiful lake, did, some core, and met a new friend! The rest of the night consisted of just eating, practicing, doing homework, and hanging out with students from many diverse backgrounds in the lobby. It actually resembles what I have done so far tonight.

However, today did differentiate a little bit. It was the intramural day for soccer, and I got to play which was alot of fun and a good bonding experience with other peers. Because it started to THUNDERSTORM, it ended a bit early, but Taylor and I went to use our newly purchased gym passes to finish our workouts. After dinner there was a "diversity training" session, but was really not much more than some college students reviewing the rules with us; i.e. the dangers of the gorges and policies of dorm rooms. We all sat and thought about our goals for the next three weeks and how lucky we are to be in such a wonderfully different group of people who all are here to share a wonderful experience together.

Speaking of college experience, my class is truly a great learning environment. Today we had our first proper lecture that was based on the Old and New Testaments and the different kinds of love within them, as well as punishment in terms of justice and violence. This was appropriately the discussion of our study group. This topic is really interesting to me because I am not very religiously involved or well-versed in such texts, so it is really an enlightening experience.

Our guest speaker of the afternoon was Judge Judith Rossiter. You may call her Judge Judy! She had alot of experience and therefore insight into the New York court system, and discussed many legal terms and cases with us. One in particular had only occurred a week ago, and was about a rape case, but the defendant had additionally been charged with assault, kidnapping, and burglary. It was quite an interesting lecture, and I'm sure it will be a hard one to follow. On that note, sweet dreams everyone!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Never Seen Days Like These

Maybe the cloud cover is beginning to loosen, even though tomorrow's weather predicts a thunderstorm.  No matter what the case, I woke up this morning to piercing sunlight and a sense of insignificance.  Or was it nervousness?  I do not really remember.  But the cause was quite simple - it is the first day of school.

No orientations, introductions, opening handouts of the sort.  Oh no, this was the first real day, full of work and confusing lessons.  Today was no different, from the long walk to class to the office hours that closed our day.

My professors, Reneta and Mark McCarthy (who prefer to be called by their first names), gave the class a very interesting overview of the class.  They covered the essentials of the hotel industry, such as occupancy rates, average daily rate and the revenue per available room, all of which deal with the profit the hotel makes, as well as variable expenses, part of the quintessential "spend money to make money" clause.

I do not remember keeping up with the time throughout our lessons and lectures.  It was quite an exhausting experience, and the ideas sort of flowed through my mind as the words flowed through the air.

Another interesting thing is that the class is very enthusiastic when it comes to asking questions.  So much so that the lecture had to be rushed at certain parts, which did not really impede on the content that was being passed on.

At the end of the day, I was placed in a group, consisting of my fellow students Andrew Zhou, Daryna Deedee Dvirna, and Pearl Schroer.  The professors gave us our assignments and sent us off to our mandatory office hours, which were longer than I had thought.

To be quite honest, I was really not expecting to be this exhausted at the end of the day.  Furthermore, I do not think I have felt this sort of nervous fear/excitement before.  Maybe it is because of the first day, maybe because of the interesting material, maybe because I am just doing something or maybe, something else.  I just  want to find out.

Succeeding on the First Day of Class is No Easy Task

I have never had such a demanding first day of class in my life.

In elementary school, middle school, high school even, first days of class consist of not much more than receiving syllabi and reuniting with one’s peers. Not so in Hotel Operations Management. Of course, we did participate in ice breaker activities today, but only for a tiny portion out of the school day.

During the course of our first day, Hotelies discussed some of the brands and business models of the major players in the industry, including the Four Seasons, Marriot, Hilton, Starwood, Hyatt, Fairmont, International Hotel Groups and Accor, among others. I was intimidated by how much the other students knew about the different hotel companies and their brands. We discussed the benefits and drawbacks of exclusively managing hotels instead of owning them, and the benefits and drawbacks of franchising. We learned the difference between income, revenue (top line), and expenses.

We learned how to calculate Revenue per available room (RevPAR) and Average Daily Revenue (ADR), and also how to differentiate between the different types of hotels: luxury, upper upscale, upper scale, upper midscale, midscale, economy and budget. Corporate structure and its different positions were also covered.

After 3 hours of lecture followed by an hour and a half of lunch, we headed back to the classroom for three more hours before we had a three hour break for eating dinner and resting. After that, we attended mandatory lab hours from 7 to 9 PM, which is when we read about the history of the hotel business and practiced calculating RevPAR, ADR, and occupancy percentages. Professor Mark McCarthy, who also goes by his first name, briefly showed us how to use Microsoft Excel to organize and calculate the same problems instead of using a calculator.

In short, it was an incredibly intense first day. Anyone who said this class was “rigorous” was 110% correct. I know this class will be a challenge. It already is a challenge for me. I found many of the business concepts covered today to be difficult to understand. I’ll have to do some extra studying tonight just so I can keep up. (It’s the first day!) But that is also what makes the course exciting, and so, I am confident that I won’t be having any trouble waking up bright and early tomorrow morning.

Definitely Not "Summer Camp"

There’s just something about Mondays.

Well actually, our first day as Hotelies was alright, especially considering this is probably the one night that we aren’t completely loaded with schoolwork. The class seems pretty intense and that’s not just referring to the hours we’re working. It’s going to be a big challenge; my advice to future ILC students, is to pick a program you’re really passionate about.

It’s so amazing that a lot of the students know so much about the hotel industry. This is class filled with remarkably talented people, a place where no one is afraid to ask questions. It tells me that I really have to step it up to have a shot at being successful here.

We definitely come from a huge variety of different backgrounds, and everyone has their own unique set of skills. This one kid I sat near was a wizard with Excel. I’ve always been a fan of the calculator, and never imagined how easily Excel could calculate, formulate, organize, and input data equations all at once with a click of a button.

There is just so much I have to learn and so much potential for learning in this environment. Mark and Reneta McCarthy are incredibly engaging professors, and students hang on to their every word. Plus, the to-do list is never-ending, so I know I’ll never be bored taking the Hotel Operations and Management course.

I was not expecting that I would enjoy office hours so much. It’s really more like a place for after-class studying in the company of your peers. There are still assignments to complete and reading to be done, but in good company, time passes quickly, and I never feel like I’m going it alone. The resources and outside insight available will be a big help, and of course, eighty three minds are better than one.

Well, it is that time. Midnight is my cue to study for the first quiz tomorrow on calculating ADR and RevPAR (definitely some new words to add to my vocabulary) in relation to occupancy, and start prepping for that presentation on Interstate Hotels & Resorts, a corporation I know next to nothing about. But, I told my group mates that I was willing to learn. By the way, they are an awesome, hilarious group of people, and I cannot wait for all our adventures.

The "Best Eastern" Hotel Program

Today was obviously my first day of class and like many before me, I had no idea what to expect. Only with nervous thoughts of people reminding me of the rigor, work, and time the class takes, I was both scared and excited to see what this first session will bring me. We assumed that it would be wise to get to class early, and we happened to see one of our professors walk up the staircase as we entered the building. Because we visited the place yesterday, we knew our way around and we actually had twenty minutes to spare when we arrived.

Looking into the room were name-tags neatly arranged in front of every seat. I searched high and low for mine and found it in the side of the room. After everyone began to flow into the room like a symphony of backpacks and bags, the class actually commenced. Reneta and Mark McCarthy re-introduced themselves to the class and went into orientating the students to adjust to the specific course. We got a lecture on the norms of the class and what is expected in our nuances and behaviors, how the mandatory office hours from Sunday-Friday work, and the iteration that Hotel Operations Management is certainly not anything near a summer camp.

Our first lecture revolved around what the various types of hotel companies exist (franchising, ownership, and management), brand titles and how they can make or break a hotel, and specific strategies behind rates. While the book on Four Seasons and previous research have made me comfortable with the differentiation of the three lodging activities, the McCarthys further reinforced what they represented. They also went into detail as to what the major players and brands are in the industry such as Starwood (which we had a reading assignment of), IHG, and Accor. The brands were broken down in a list representing how many hotels they owned, how many they franchised, and how many they managed. And according to the top brands, the hotel industry is a predominantly franchising market.

I also learned of valuable terms including the "bottom-line" which is your raw revenue before expenses, variable and OTAs (online travel agents e.g. Expedia and Travelocity). The distinction between rates and rooms were absolutely distinguished in the latter half of today's lecture as well. People don't sell rooms, but rates, and more often than not, the rates are associated or linked to rooms. However, hotels are sometimes willing to sell more rates than there are rooms to accomodate guests, and when this happens, it is not uncommon for hotels to "bump up" or upgrade a guest's room into something better.

During our breakaway sessions between lectures, we participated in a Champoux survey to help optimize group combinations for the course. I was considered a Persuader-Stabilizer who cares sincerely about others in his group, but when it comes to communication, he always tries to avoid a specific point and just attempts to go around it. I feel it reflects me just well as I try to be everyone's friend, but there are always people who just can't get along with me no matter how I try.

Office hours topped off the cake of this very interesting day. Because of the three-hour block between class and office hours, I absolutely felt like time was my enemy. I only really had time to eat dinner, but at least it makes everything go by fast. Office hours was a good experience as this is not only where you can do your assignments, but this is an environment in which they should get done. Reneta and Mark McCarthy go through all of the rooms to see what everyone is doing, and the TAs are more than certainly willing to share their vast knowledge to assist us when the need desires.

I have learned that a smart professor doesn't necessarily make a good professor. By no mean am I trying to put down Reneta and Mark McCarthy since I find them to be very intelligent people, but they understand their audience. They know that many of us are extremely unfamiliar with how business and economics works and they tailor their program to ensure not that everyone catches up with the latest and most advanced lessons, but that everyone catches up because the lessons are amazingly refined.

T.P.O (Taylor’s Profound Observation)

Today was the first day for class, and like most first days of class it was spent introducing the course, the structure of the course, and the students in the course. There was no Freedom and Justice lecture only a note taking lecture. I must admit I was very grateful for Professor Kramnick’s “note taking 101” lecture because I have found that the only class in high school where I fine my notes useful for studying is math and I think that is because in math we do so many example problems whereas in my other classes I just try and fill the page with my notes in artistic styles, which isn’t useful. Professor Kramnick touched on the idea that not everything he says is note worthy and that he usually gives subtle hints when he is about to say something note worthy.

After Professor Kramnick’s lecture we, the 60 Freedom and Justice students, were divided into four small discussion groups. (Joe and I happen to be in the same group because we have last names that are located relatively close to one another in the alphabet). Once we were broken into groups we met with our TA (teaching assistant). My TA is named Simon and he was born in England but is both British and Australian. I have to admit he has an amazing accent, which keeps me engaged in class not that he is boring at all. In discussion Simon had us introduce ourselves to the group and then gave an overview of what discussion was all about. He told us that we would be discussing the topics Professor Kramnick had lectured on and would be asking clarifying questions and ultimately trying to fully immerse ourselves in political thought.

Then came lunch. I finally found my burrito place. I must admit that the burritos were not amazing, nothing to write home about (even though I guess this constitutes as writing home) but nonetheless it was a burrito and I had been craving one. For people reading this who don’t know me too well I love burritos, I would say I eat burritos every day. In my house we always have burrito makings so it is a common every day snack so going without burritos for more than a day is odd for me. So I found my burrito place.

Later on we had a writing class where we were given the question: “What does Freedom mean to you?” For me this question really made me question my own definition. I had never really thought about what Freedom means; I had merely just used it in conversation and class but never had I ever been asked to define in my own words. When it came time to write down what Freedom meant to me I realized that my thoughts were mostly formed from reading George Orwell’s 1984 in my AP Lit class. I realized that the point Orwell makes through a Party slogan: “Freedom is Slavery” captured what I was thinking. I don’t want to bore you with my pessimistic views on freedom but I was happy that the first writing assignment I was giving challenged me to draw on my knowledge as a whole and form my own idea.

Off to the gym to keep in shape! Until Tomorrow, Over and Out blog readers.

Freedom and Justice begins...

Today was the first day of classes and I am pleased to say that I actually enjoyed it. The class began at 9:00 AM in what I would call a medium sized lecture hall (I will try to get a picture soon), and started off with professor Kramnick's hour and a half long lecture regarding what the course is about and how it would be run. At the end of that, we took a moment to take roll and learn where everyone was from (I can now add Israel and the Netherlands to the list of foreign children).

For the next part of the class we were broken up into four discussion groups of fifteen kids each (sixty kids in the class) and moved to different rooms around campus. Each of these groups was assigned a TA who would oversee our discussions, give us topics, and coach us through our conflicting ideas. My TA's name is Simon, and I suppose I can add Australia to the list now too, because Simon is Australian and British and has an accent that somehow molds the two together. It was funny because at first I was really trying to figure out where he was from and I kept going back and forth between Britain and Australia, depending on what word he had just said, and then it turned out he was from both.

Our discussion began instantly though, as Simon gave us our first topic: What is freedom? He broke our group of fifteen into smaller groups of four (he included himself in one of them) and we began arguing about what makes a person truly free. The definition of freedom that I came up with, despite the views of some of my group members, was that freedom is the possibility to think, act, and be as you please. I don't know how someone could argue with that, and I certainly don't know how someone could beat me in an argument against that, but a girl in my group tried nonetheless and I thought it was extremely helpful to get someone else's point of view so I could better understand the different stances that people could possibly take on this matter.

After the discussion we had a rather long lunch, and then came back to our discussion rooms for a writing session. This portion was great for me, because going into it, I thought that we were going to be taught how to write and how to think, even though we all know how to do both of those things, but instead, we were told simply to write our views on the topic at hand. Our writing did not have to be structured, and it did not have to follow any person's opinion but our own. As much as I hate to admit it, I loved picking apart other people's arguments and showing how mine was better. I feel like I had some very good points and examples and I am very excited for my TA to read it. He said that we would be revising these papers as well, so that just means that I get to make a good paper great, which I also love to do.

I really feel like I am in a college level environment here at Cornell and I feel like the children around me are truly here to learn, unlike some of the kids back home. The many views here will surely stimulate my mind and enable me to expand my own ideas on what is right and wrong in society, since that is pretty much what the course is all about. I look forward to continuing this course and hopefully it will open my mind to new opinions so that I can grow not only as a student, but as an individual.

And by the way, I did laundry for the first time last night! Just thought I should let everyone know about my astonishing accomplishment. Shout-out to Taylor Doty for helping me.

Freedom And Justice For All

The building in which my class is held is on the left.
It's only the afternoon right now, but I feel such a strong urge to blog before I forget anything about my first class and while it is still fresh on my mind that I thought I would get an early start.

We arrived bright and early at 9 AM this morning to room G76 in Goldwin-Smith hall for Professor Kramnick's first lecture. As today was the first day, we mostly just talked about what the course is going to cover, as well as niceties and just plain basic college techniques on how to take appropriate notes during his lectures. Then we broke into discussion groups. Nick and I are in the same one, led by an under-graduate student named Vijay. For the first part of the session, we mostly got to know each other as there was not much material to discuss yet.
Then we went to lunch! Here is a picture of dining in Trillium hall. We got to see all of our cohorts from the Hotel and Management program, which was nice because our schedules will not be overlapping too much from now on as they work insane hours.

The second part of our discussion session was not only very interesting but fun as well. We started with a warm-up question of "what does freedom mean to you?" We had half an hour to write about our own opinion on the topic. I personally believe that there are limits to freedom, and it is more about what do all the rules actually allow you to do rather than ultimate freedom which would to truly always do whatever you wish.

Then we had group discussions about freedom, our TA posing different situations and having us deliberate our different opinions, many of which differed but was great to consider in the whole spectrum of levels and nuances of freedom itself.
On a side note, Ithaca truly is gorges. Haha. In fact today we saw a beaver making its way downstream! Though we have been warned consistently about the dangers of going down into them and even wading in, I can still appreciate their beauty.