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.

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