Thursday, July 21, 2011

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.

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