Monday, April 30, 2012

Me, Myself, and I

My name is Adrianne Ramsey and I am a junior at El Cerrito High School. I applied to the Constitutional Law program to gain a better understanding of the United States political system, learn more about the United States constitution, and discover the art of debating. My father is co-founder of the Ivy League Connection and I participated in the program last year; I took the course "Women and Leadership" at Brown University. I hope to gain insight about Columbia University and learn much more about the college application process and what college will be like. When I come back home, I hope to inform more students about the Ivy League Connection and hopefully talk to my senior AP United States Government and Politics class about my newfound knowledge of the United States constitution. I cannot wait to hold debates and mock trials; I've been interested in learning law since I was a child.

I participate in a lot of extracurriculars - I am the Editor-in-Chief of our school's Literary Magazine, write for the Time Out section of the West County Times and El Cerrito High School's school newspaper, am a member of ECHS' Varsity swim team, play classical and jazz piano, and do community service through my church. My nickname is Busy Bee since I am constantly running around doing something. I lead a very busy life but I would not live it any other way.

The college I chose to do research on is the University of Pennsylvania, which is an Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The school was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740 and has an undergraduate population of about 9,865 students. There are four undergraduate schools: College of Arts and Sciences (the most popular), School of Engineering and Applied Science, Wharton School of Business, and the School of Nursing. If I attended the University of Pennsylvania, I would definitely be in the College of Arts and Sciences and be interested in the psychology and writing majors. Some famous alums that attended the University of Pennsylvania range from Donald Trump to Leonard Myers.

Who I Am and Why I Am Here

Hey everyone, my name is Lucas Lochner Bravo and I am a sixteen year old junior currently attending El Cerrito High School. I was raised by two parents who, partially because they were not born in this country (my mom is from Chile and my dad from Germany), gave me a childhood a little different than most people toward growing up in America. I think this has been a fantastic thing, although that opinion may vary from person to person. Of course, I have still found my own way to blend in to this culture, as I finally joined Little League sports and became a passionate fan of American football. That being said, I still get funny looks from the majority of people when I tell them that I’ve never owned any video games or that I really do not wish to drive a car. I enjoy these looks, though, as I am very proud of the person I am and I don’t mind at all what others think of it.
Martin Luther King Jr., someone I find to be one of America's
most inspirational leaders.
All this being said, though, I still have a whole lot in common with kids my age. Like every teenager, I struggle every day to find the precarious balance between academics, health and personal interests, all while (trying to) avoiding the distractions flying at us from every direction in a world that becomes more and more complicated every day. There are days when I love school, when I am able to soak up information about the things I love, such as hearing the stories of World War II survivors and debating the numerous meanings of symbols in George Orwell’s 1984. Of course, there are just as many days on which I feel that there is somewhere else I could be, something else I could be doing, and a much better way to use precious time. When not absorbed by schoolwork, I spend the majority of my time pursuing personal interests, particularly baseball and some of the many issues concerning society. I am currently starting for El Cerrito’s Varsity baseball team and am a member of El Cerrito’s speech and debate team. I am extremely passionate about politics and issues concerning not only myself but every one around me, and if I were to have the opportunity to use my time differently, it would in some way be related to this passion.

People across America weighed in on whether or not they felt
the Occupy movement had taken the freedom of speech too far.
In fact, come this summer, I will have that opportunity. That is precisely the reason I applied to be a part of the Ivy League Connection; I was offered the opportunity to pursue some of my most passionate interests. The person I am and the goals I have drew me particularly to the Constitutional Law course at Columbia University. The course focuses on the role of the U.S. Constitution and its connection in the relationship between law and society on a variety of topics including freedom of speech, gun control and civil rights. This focus is achieved primarily through class discussion and debate, a format design to help students develop skills reading and interpreting Supreme Court documents and to sharpen reasoning and analytical skills through forming persuasive arguments. From the sound of it, this class is taught in a way which I feel will truly help me succeed in the course, and it covers a wide range of topics encompassing exactly what I was looking for when I applied.

With the help of the Ivy League Connection, students in the WCCUSD like myself are able to spend their summer studying what interests them at some of nation’s most respected universities, all expenses paid. What this experience means of course, is different for every student. Many will find themselves being guided toward a particular path in academics, others will simply find themselves changed as a person. Through offering the opportunity to experience college life and study a topic which fascinates me, I feel that the Ivy League Connection will help me to gain that knowledge of politics and law that comes with experience, get a taste of college life, and by studying something I truly love, enjoy myself! I enjoyed simply writing the application essay; now I will be taking an entire course on the topic! As a person, the Ivy League Connection will help me learn what it is like be away from the life I know, and, living in an area of predominantly Democrats, gain the perspective of others who live and view the world differently than I.

At the conclusion of this program, I will share my experience with others to generate more interest in college and the ILC, and describe to others what the unknown is actually like. Hopefully I can bring back advice on what an experience like this can do for one, and help combat any uncertainties others may have regarding stepping out of one’s comfort zone or challenging one’s self. I will also integrate what I have learned into my school and community, be it as a club leader at my school on a small level, or 50 years from now as a politician on a much larger stage.

Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut 
In addition to attending a course at Columbia, our cohort will be making numerous college visits in the days leading up to the course. In preparation for this, each of us was assigned a university to do some research on, and I was lucky enough to pick up Yale University. Yale, consistently respected as one of the top universities in the United States and the world, is a highly selective private school located in downtown New Haven, Connecticut. Applicants aspiring to be a part of Yale’s class of 2015 were accepted at a rate of only 6.8% --- one of the lowest rates in the country and Yale’s lowest acceptance rate in history. Roughly 5500 undergraduate students attend Yale, 12% of them coming from outside the United States.

Yale University was originally founded in 1701 as The Collegiate School by members of the colony of Connecticut aspiring to create an institution to train ministers and leaders for the colony. Originally the only college in Connecticut, The Collegiate School was for the sons of the elite. In 1718, businessman Elihu Yale of the East India Company donated a large sum to the college for the construction of a new building, and out of gratitude the school was renamed Yale University. Curriculum and culture at Yale University revolved greatly around religion in 17 and 1800’s, in fact, until the mid 1800’s it was considered a campus crime to express disbelief in the Bible or profanity toward the Sabbath.

Today, students are a little less restricted in their interests and beliefs, as they are given the opportunity to study roughly 100 majors over 13 different schools, all while boasting a low student:faculty ratio of 5:1. Were I to attend Yale, I would love to study International Relations and Affairs, Political Science and Government, or Sociology, although I would be grateful simply for stepping into a class for 10 minutes to listen.

John Kerry and George W. Bush during the a debate for the
2004 Presidential election. Both graduated from Yale.
Yale has produced numerous respected alumni over the years including 49 Nobel Laureates, 2 U.S. Secretaries of State, 19 Supreme Court Justices, several foreign heads of state and 5 U.S. Presidents (William Howard Taft, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush). Yale alumni are represented in all levels of government across America, in fact, Yale alumni were represented on either the Democratic or Republican ticket for every presidential election between 1974 and 2004. Both Bushes and Senator John Kerry were as part of the Skull and Bones secret society, although they refuse to reveal what their role was.

I acknowledge that I have a habit of overworking and staying up until ungodly hours, so I’ll wrap it up here. I also acknowledge that my titles are very uninteresting; I'm working on this.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Story of a Potential Lion

Greeting fellow bloggers. My name is Aurea Riboroso and I will be attending the American Presidential Power at Home and Abroad: From George Washington to Barack Obama course at Columbia University this 2012 summer. My motive behind applying for this course stemmed from my interest in social science. After realizing my appeal to social science from my AP U.S. History class, I was immediately drawn to the course. The fact that it will be held at Columbia University, a potential university on my application list, is an added bonus.

The reason I am able to attend the program is due to an organization known as the Ivy League Connection. The Ivy League Connection, also known as the ILC, provides students of the West Contra Costa Unified School District with opportunities to attend a summer program operated at an Ivy League university. With all expenses paid, students are able to further their education at an East Coast university while exploring and learning about themselves and their surroundings. Upon my return, I plan to use my experience at Columbia University to encourage younger students to challenge themselves by applying for the ILC. The depiction of college as the “hardest four years of one’s life” is a stereotype I’d like to break to encourage others to go to college and enrich their lives for a better and brighter future. And for those who plan on going to college, I intend to have them rethink about their college choices and inspire them to apply for more stimulating schools, such as an Ivy League university.

The Presidential Power class is a three week summer course at Columbia University instructed by Martha Zebrowski who has taught at Columbia’s Department of Political Science for about twenty years. The class is a research, writing, and discussion seminar on the development and transformation of presidential power in the U. S. constitutional and political system. Due to limited class space, students are given individual attention. The course is an enriching college level social science and humanities class teaching students research and writing techniques.

Columbia University is a private Ivy League university located in exciting New York City, New York. Originally settled on Park Place, the institution has migrated to Forty-ninth street and Madison Avenue and now resides at its current location at Morningside Heights on 116th Street and Broadway. The university encompasses six blocks of New York City, roughly thirty-two acres and houses about twenty-eight thousand students. The school was initially named King’s College when founded in 1754 by royal charter of King George II of England. After the Revolutionary War, the name was changed to Columbia College and has expanded to Columbia University. Columbia University is the oldest university in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the nation.
Columbia University
Columbia University has twenty-one different schools ranging from architecture to journalism. Undergraduate students must follow the Core Curriculum, a set of common courses deemed the necessary general education for students, regardless of  major. The classes include Contemporary Civilization, Literature Humanities, University Writing, Art Humanities, Music Humanities, and Frontiers of Science. Home of the Lions, Columbia participates in the NCAA Division I league in twenty-nine varisty sports.

If given the opportunity to study at Columbia University for college, I would be most interested in the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. Building has always fascinated me, even as a child, so engineering seemed the perfect choice as my intended major. Columbia ranks as the fifteenth best engineering school in the nation. The university offers civil engineering, a major dealing with the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of structures and the infrastructure. The construction of essential foundations in society, such as bridges, highways, and power plants, are headed by civil engineers.

Prisdent Obama, a Columbia Alumni
With an acceptance rate of about six percent for undergraduate studies, it’s no wonder to the great minds that have left Columbia University. Notable alumni include nine Chief Justices on Supreme Court and twenty-nine heads of state, three of which were U.S. presidents. Great minds such as Alexander Hamilton to Amelia Earhart have attended this prestigious university. By Nobel count, seventeen prizes have been awarded to Columbia alumni. Two Nobel Peace Prizes have been bestowed to President Theodore Roosevelt and President Barack Obama.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Little More About Me...And a Little About Vassar.

Hello everyone, My name is Morvarid Mehdizadeh, I am sixteen years old and an upcoming senior at Pinole Valley High School. I am an Iranian-American and was born in Iran, until my family decided to immigrate to America when I was only four years old. I am a fluent in both English and Farsi, as well as proficient in Spanish. On my free time, I usually draw, paint, or dance which are definitely a few of my favorite hobbies, tutor other students from grades K-9, or simply help my mom with daily activities. I enjoy debating, and take part in many extra-curricular activities such as Junior Statesmen of America, National Honor Society, Forensics Speech and Debate, Float Building, and Interact. Currently, I am  running for my school's SA Commissioner of Extra-Curricular activities as well as as also starting a new UNICEF club at my school. I consider myself a leader and take pride in my creativity as well as my hard-work. If I had to chose, three adjetives that would describe me are;
I. Diligent – No matter how hard a task may be, and in spite of all difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement, I am determined to see it through. My competitive nature allows me to embrace my work as a daily challenge. Although I may not be always 100% successful, I constantly give all my effort in all the things I do. I’m attentive and persistent towards the things I set my mind to, and careful and persevering in carrying out my tasks and duties. When I set my mind to something, I’m guaranteed to fully devote my all into it.
II. Optimistic – One characteristic that definitely describes me is optimistic. I always look to the future and hope for the best regardless of what happens. The past has proven to me that nothing is bad forever, and really all you can do is do the best you can and improve the future ahead. There’s really no point of sitting around constantly thinking about the negatives, what’s important is to think towards the future and work to make the future brighter not only for you, but also for everyone around you. That has been a lesson that has been proven to me in life. If you start off thinking you will mess up on a task, chances are you’ll never try hard enough to succeed. On the other hand, being optimistic draws you to focus and have faith in yourself and others. It allows you to commit yourself and invest a lot of hard work to reach your goals. Also, it’s important to understand that setbacks won’t ruin the rest of your life, in fact, some setbacks are just ways that life gives way to major comebacks.
III. Open-minded - I’ve encountered so many different people in my life from different areas of the world, that I’ve really come to admire different view points and ideas. I love hearing other people’s opinions, whether I agree with their points of view or not. My transition for Iran to America and the cultural changes that followed has allowed me to become very open-minded towards different cultures, beliefs, people, and all aspects of life in general. That in itself has allowed me to function better in groups, adapt easily to my surroundings, and connect very well with people regardless of their backgrounds or ways of thinking. I’m very curious and welcoming towards ideas and opinions contrary to my own. I appreciate others and what they stand for.
One may ask why I decided to join the ILC. Well first off, being the first generation of my family to actually be raised in the United States deprived me from the opportunity to look at back at my parents or family from advice when it came to my education in the United States. Almost everyone I know has always had a "role model-like" figure they turned around to when they had questions but I never really had that. My parents never took things like the "SAT" or the "ACT," so it was always more like me teaching them what went on. Thus, I was always limited to my own research to guide myself through. On the other hand, students that knew a lot about college and paths to take towards success, were usually really secretive to avoid competition. It wasn't until one day during my sophomore year, one member of the the Ivy League Connections sat down with me and taught me a lot of things that I never knew before. For example, I never knew about subject tests until I was informed by a friend. Throughout my high school career, I was never once told these things by any of my counselors or teachers, perhaps maybe because it was falsely "assumed" that everyone already knew. However, from that day on I was inspired by the member of the ILC that helped me learn the things I needed to know, and decided that I too, would like to be part of the Ivy League Connections. The Ivy League Connections urges members to become ambassadors in their own communities and spread messages to other students regarding things they know and their experiences. I was thrilled with the idea of helping other students like myself learn more about steps towards college and educate them on things they have not been introduced to. I wanted to make it possible for another student to avoid what I had to go through in the beginning of my high school career, and I decided, a perfect step to doing this would be through the Ivy League Connection. The Ivy league connection would grant upon me experiences and irreplaceable knowledge that would be impossible to achieve without the help of the organization. It would provide me insight on college life while attending one of my favorite, most prestigious college's in the world. Those were merely only a few of the many reasons I decided to become a member of the Ivy League Connection.

Today, the Ivy League Connection has given me the opportunity to take advantage of the "American Presidential Power at Home and Abroad" course offered at Columbia University in New York. 
The course itself calls for lots of research, writing, and discussion regarding the development and transformation of presidential power in the U. S. constitutional and political system as well as how the power was developed and operates today. The course will allow me to write a 20 page college research paper and help me prepare for these kinds of college papers in the future while teaching me college-level social science. United States history has always been one of my definite interests, and soon I will have the opportunity to learn through a dynamic "seminar-style" class in a college environment taught by Professor Martha K. Zebrowski who holds twenty years of experience in the field. Just saying "I am excited" is not enough to show how much I truly can't wait to take advantage of this course. Thank you so much Ivy League Connection!

However, before arriving to the University itself, we will all have the opportunity to visit many other Universities and colleges on the way. One of the colleges we plan to visit is Vassar University. Vassar is a highly selective liberal arts school founded in 1861 in the scenic Hudson Valley; Poughkeepsie, NY. The campus itself totals up to 1000 beautiful acres, including two National Historic Landmarks. The college itself bares an impressive facility ratio of 8:1, with almost 90% of those students living on campus. Fortunately, unlike many other schools, housing is guaranteed all four years for students attending Vassar. The total cost to attend this prestigious school is $52,270 including room and board, tuition, and fees, and admission is "need-blind." According to the website, "The college was founded in defiance of conventional wisdom." Matthew Vassar created the school as a single-sex college to promote higher education for women, equal to that of a male. Being a woman, that really caught my interest. Later, however, they opened their doors to men in 1969 and became coed. Interesting right? Yet still to this day, women dominate 60% of the school.
On campus, there are about 1,650 campus-wide events annually, and 23 different varsity sports teams being a part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III, Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), New York State Women’s Collegiate Athletic Association (NYSWCAA), and the Liberty League.
On the other hand, academically Vassar offers a variety of 50 different majors, including the Independent Major where students may design their own majors. However, the most popular majors offered at Vassar are English, political science, psychology, economics, and the biological sciences. Aside from requirements in each major, there are also four other graduation requirements for all Vassar students which are; Freshman Writing Seminar requirement, Quantitative Analysis requirement, Foreign Language Proficiency requirement, and Distribution Requirement. A full description of those requirements can be found on:
Nontheless,Vassar has given pride to many notable alumnae such as poet Elizabeth Bishop, actress Meryl Streep, Journalist Evan Wright,  and Flickr founder Catherina Fake.
Will you be next?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bon Appétit!

Last night was yet another step that brought us so much closer to our Columbia experience.
It was the first and foremost day that our Columbia cohort had the opportunity to meet one another and learn more about the experiences that await them on their journey.
Our Chaperon Mrs.L arranged for us a potluck last night fusing the Columbia cohort and the Brown cohort for the main purpose of getting to know one another and gaining a better understanding about what is going to happen in the next few months.
I was anxious for the potluck all week, and once it came to the official day, I could do anything but hide my excitement. I rushed to Trader Joe's right after school and did some last minute grocery shopping before arriving home. Upon arrival, I quickly washed my hands and went straight to business; preparing the food I planned to take a long to the potluck. I made chicken pasta that night, and I later noticed a lot of others that also brought Italian food.
I actually arrived early so I was there in time to help Mrs.L and the Brown chaperon set up and prepare for the gathering. We all wore name tags to familiarize others with ourselves, and I had the courtesy of meeting a few new people that I was going to attend Columbia with that summer. I was delighted to notice what an amazing cohort we had, everyone seemed like really nice people and that definitely made me feel reassured. The food on the other hand were splendid, there was such a wide variety of different foods. From sushi, to lasagna, to even lumpia, there were a lot of different tasty dishes that I simply found irresistible.
After an hour or so of eating and socializing with others, our chaperons gave us all a presentation about what our parents and I should expect from our trip. We talked about some of the activities we could take advantage of, the plans that were set for the future, and even the most simple things such as how life was going to be like and where we would be living. I was delighted to hear that we were going to all have our own rooms in a suite. Not that I would mind sharing a room, but I think it would be so much more comfortable having your own room and bed for an entire month. Aside from the course itself this summer, the second thing I'm most excited for after our presentation is fourth of July. Doesn't it just sound ten times more fascinating to watch fireworks in New York City? You make think it sounds cliche, but it's true!

Aside from that however, Mrs.L also discussed how much time professors will spend with students and how much attention is given to each individual. She told us how professors meet with us in the library and have a lot of "one-on-one" contact with us. That was probably one of the things I really liked hearing. Probably throughout the whole presentation, I was the one asking most of the questions. I was just so fascinated and curious about everything that will be happening!
One thing I can almost guarantee, my excitement for June 18th will grow daily, and every morning I wake up in New York I will wake up with a smile, because I sure know I will be proud to be a student that summer in Columbia University.

Yum, Yum, Yum, Delicioso!

Last night was yet again another step towards Columbia.

While attending a potluck with different delicious foods, I was finally acquainted with the rest of my Columbia cohorts. At last I have met the rest of the people I will spending the summer with; Adrianne Ramsey, Lucas Lochner, Oluwatomi (Tomi) Balogun, and Ms. Lilihanand. After breaking the ice with a few ILCers I had yet to encounter, the meal was quite pleasing along with a good conversation with my fellow Columbia partner and two Brownies participating in the Macroeconomics and DNA technology courses.
Brownie David  Fang and I
Once everyone was settled and well into their meal, Ms. Kaplan-the Brown chaperon-and Ms. Lilihanand-the Columbia chaperon-began the information portion of the evening. Information about clothing and luggage, college tours and traveling, and weather on the East Coast was revealed. We have learned the secrets to packing light (*hint not everyone will see one wear an outfit twice!), the counting system to ensure everyone is on the NY subway, and that NY rain in the summer is hot and muggy.

After the basic information, the two groups divided to get into better detail about our particular adventures on the East Coast. Ms. L laid down rules for us during the summer. The biggest rules of all were to a.) never leave campus by oneself and b.) always contact Ms. L of her whereabouts. She also advised us to open a Citibank account for easy access to cash while having the pleasure of not leaving the campus. Once my cohorts and I gained new knowledge of our future dorms and meetings, Ms. L discussed the exciting adventures we will have together as a group. What I really like is the group's freedom to choose where we get to go. We are all able to pitch in ideas on museums, landmarks, and other attractions of our interests.
Ms. Lilihanand, the Columbia chaperon
Ultimately, the evening ended and everyone parted ways. Now I'm even more thrilled of my trip to the Big Apple with such a great group.
2012 Columbia Group
We're raising the bar!

April 17 Potluck and Info Night

Today, I got just a little bit closer to spending four weeks of summer in New York studying Constitutional Law. Students from the Columbia and Brown I cohorts arrived at around 6:30 for a potluck dinner and an opportunity to find out more about what to expect this coming summer. The potluck was organized and hosted by our chaperon, Mrs. L, and the chaperons of the Brown I cohort, Ms. Kaplan and Mr. Crosby.

The many fine choices of what to eat - my sister's
macaroni casserole is here at the bottom.
For the event, my 15 year-old sister, a passionate cook, made a plate of macaroni casserole. I set it down on the table in the back, which, as more people began to arrive, began to fill up with more and more food. Being a passionate fan of food, ordinary or exotic, healthy or unhealthy, a potluck is an event I will always enjoy attending. On this day, I was able to serve myself a combination of the macaroni casserole, lasagna, chow mein and potstickers, altogether in an unorganized pile on my plate. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.

After getting my food, I was able to sit down next to some close friends of mine, Adrianne Ramsey, who is studying Constitutional Law with me, and Emily Hayashi-Groves and Nick Shebek, who will both be studying Macroeconomics at Brown this summer. Adrianne and Nick were both part of the Ivy League Connection last year as well, and we discussed their past experiences and what we should expect this year, along with a decent share of stories from last year. The potluck had a very loose atmosphere, with a constant buzz of conversation between different groups around the room.

At the conclusion of everyone's meals, Ms. Kaplan and Mrs. L gave a brief presentation on some topics that applied to both cohorts, such as luggage, laundry, and the the days we'll travel, but shortly after, the Columbia cohort was sent to the room across the hall so we could discuss some Columbia-specific information. After a brief introduction---today was the first day I had met in person a few of the other members of the cohort---Mrs. L went over some of the events at which we can expect to meet again, such as a Board meeting, a fancy dinner with Columbia alumni, and a full orientation roughly three weeks before our departure.

She also gave a rough outline of what our schedule would be like once in New York. The first Monday-Friday of our trip would be spent taking numerous college tours in the area by day, and some fancy dinners with a few special guests by night. I currently have about 0.5 outfits for these dinners, so it was nice to know that we do not need a new outfit for each one. Saturday will most likely involve a day out in New York, wherever that may be (anywhere is fine by me, I'd just be grateful to be there), and Sunday we will move into our dorms.

We discussed what life during our stay at Columbia would be like. We'd be placed in dorms with numerous other students studying at the University as well, many from outside the United States, and Mrs. L emphasized that we should meet as many people as possible. Being a social person, I cannot wait to learn the different personalities and backgrounds of the new people I'll be meeting. We discussed the Constitutional Law class, which will likely have around 10-12 people and will include a great deal of research and debate (two things I enjoy). One problem I'll have to find a solution to, though, regarding the college life is the fact that I have to wake up on my own! I currently have about 20 alarms set with numerous devices around my room, and every morning, I am unable to stop myself from pressing snooze and going back to sleep all 20 times. Better yet, I also like to turn the alarms off entirely so that I can get out of bed, except I decide not to get out of bed and I go back to sleep. That is what this information night was for, though, so that I can find solutions to potential problems BEFORE they occur.

Lastly, Mrs. L went over what we should expect from the city of New York. We can expect to go to a few museums, maybe a Broadway show, and possibly even a Hudson River cruise! Mrs. L set a very clear set of rules, the most important being that she must know where we are at all times (this rule in particular pleased my mom). She also said that dealing with the Subway in New York could be very stressful (the opinion of many, many people, not just Mrs. L), but I have actually been to New York before and I am quite comfortable with the subway. In fact, I really enjoy it. All of New York actually: the loud honking, the big crowded sidewalks and subway, and the general accelerated pace of the city, I felt like I fit right in. Before even knowing I would be a part of the Ivy League Connection, I had set my mind toward returning to New York City, where I felt at home. This summer, that is exactly what I'll be doing! Better yet, I'll be doing it while studying a subject that fascinates me at one of the world's most prestigious universities! I don't think it can get any better than that, and my excitement for this experience continues to grow every day.
Photo I took of the New York City skyline from across the Hudson River in Jersey City
Also, I expected to write about half the amount that I've ended up writing here; I am really enjoying  expressing my excitement.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Good Luck at the Potluck

From the very moment I woke up this morning, I was a nervous wreck. Today was of the Brown/Columbia potluck--the day that I finally meet all of my cohorts in person. I spent the whole day before worrying over everything and making sure that nothing about goes the potluck goes wrong with the food, my ride, or with sister, who would be accompanying me to the potluck--I didn't want to risk any sort of embarrassment due to my lack of preparation. 

I had brought Chow Mein to the potluck--but, unfortunately, so did two other people!
Because of my endless fussing, everything turns out as well as I had hoped. Or almost everything. Since my sister, the food, and my niece all had to be picked up before I was able to be dropped off. Needless to say, I was late when I finally arrived at my destination--El Cerrito High. It was about 6:45 PM then, and the potluck was supposed to start at 6:30 PM, meaning that I was 15 minutes late. I was starting to feel nervous again, and began to suspect the worst. The last time the Ivy League had a meeting,we were warned that those late the would locked out of the room.  Although no one ended up being locked out last time, I wasn't willing to risk the chance and began to rush towards the room where the potluck was being held. Luckily, I'm somewhat familiar with with El Cerrito High's campus since both my preliminary Ivy League Interviews were held there.  

My plate. All of the food was really delicious!
It only takes a few minutes to find everyone, and I'm glad to see that although I'm one of the last cohorts to arrive, I haven't been locked out. I walk in and I'm greeted by Ms. Kaplan, the Brown chaperone, and Ms. L, my own chaperone who will be overseeing the rest of my cohorts and I during our stay at Columbia. I quickly grab a name tag, and make my way to set down the food that I had brought with me--Chow Mein. As I walk towards the table, I notice a few familiar faces--Taylor, a classmate apart of the Brown group, and Adrianne, a girl I recognize from my interviews and a fellow Columbia member. I began to settle down a bit; seeing the familiar faces helps my nerves calm down. I quickly grab a plate and my food, and sit down to join my fellow cohorts.

Ms. Kaplan (left) and Ms. L (right)

After everyone had arrived and finish eating, Ms Kaplan and Ms. L go over some general information before splitting us up into two groups, according to our respective colleges. After we introduce ourselves, Ms. L goes into detail on what is to come including upcoming dates and dinners, our dorm and classes, as well as what sorts of activities and sight-seeing we'll be able to do in our free time.

I find all of the new information really exciting! Nearly everything is a new experience--we're talking about seeing fireworks, going on boat rides, living in dorms, partaking in fancy dinners. At that's only the things we have planned! Ms. L said that if we have the time, permission, and supervision we can go out to other places as well! And of course I can't forget what must be the most exciting part of it all; I'll taking classes at one of the best colleges in the world, that just so happens to be in one of the most famous cities in the world. It finally sinks in that I'm not going to be spending my summer at home, but in New York, a place I never imagined myself going before.

Soon, the potluck was over and it was time to go home. But before we left, we took a group photo, which I was unable to capture on my own camera, unfortunately. Overall, I think the potluck was very fun and a really great experience. I was able to get to know my fellow cohorts a little better as well as get a better idea of what to expect next--and I expect everything to be even more amazing than the potluck from now on.

Potluck, People, and Preperations

This evening, we had a fun, low-key event in the ILC. The students attending the Brown and Columbia programs, including myself, had a potluck with our parents at El Cerrito High School. It was hosted by the chaperones for the programs, for the purpose of answering any questions that we may have about our upcoming trips.

I'm sorry to say that I was the last one to arrive, but I wasn't too late to miss any of the great food or important points of conversation. 

After we ate, everyone broke up into different rooms depending on which school we were going to. In the Columbia room, Ms. Lilhanand (our chaperone) gave us a brief summary of  what we should bring on the trip, as well as what to prepare for when in New York. One point, which has been made very clear, is that it will be uncomfortably hot and humid on the East Coast this summer. It's recommended that we bring light clothes and hats, as well as an umbrella, because even in the heat, we're bound to see a few showers. Personally, I'm a cold weather person, but I think I'll be so busy once I get there that I won't have time notice the climate.

Our itinerary so far includes tours of other universities, dinners with Columbia faculty and alumni, trips to museums, and general site seeing. I don't know how we'll find time for classes, but I'm sure that we'll fit it in somewhere. 

I think I'm most excited about living on a college campus. I've toured schools before and even taken summer classes for a few years at UC Berkeley, but this will be my first opportunity to really experience life as a college student. From sleeping in my own dorm to studying in massive libraries, something about it just puts a smile on my face.
My mom (left) with the Columbia chaperone, Ms. Lilhanand

Meet and Greet: Columbia and Brown I Potluck 2012

What a pleasant evening it was to officially meet the rest of the Columbia 2012 cohort and the Brown I 2012 cohort!  This potluck was organized a couple of weeks ago by our Columbia chaperone (Ms. L) and two of the Brown chaperones (Mr. Crosby and Ms. Kaplan). Essentially, it was a relaxed, informative evening about both of the schools and a way to just sit back, eat, and talk about school and ILC.
Delicious food! And this was before everyone came, as well
Nick Shebek and Kelly Xi are part of the Brown I group; we sat close to one another. They were part of the ILC last year (coincidentally, in the same cohort!). Talking about stories from last year and all our ILC adventures was really fun. The ILC newbies carefully asked us questions about the dinner, attire, and our time back east. I was happy to be answering questions, being a leader, and providing advice. Not to mention that we were also eating delicious, delicious food. Meeting new ILCers is exciting for me, but I also really like to meet new people in a nice social setting. Even though every single member of the ILC wasn't there, I think it was good for everyone to loosen up and talk about how excited they are for summer to come.
Emily Hayashi-Groves - member of the Brown I cohort and will be taking the course Macroeconomics
(Left) Ying-An Wang (Brown I - DNA-Biotechnology) and (Right) Moravid (Columbia, Presidential Powers)

Delicious food ranging from macaroni to vegetable lasagna to potstickers
Even more food, this time ranging from lumpia to chow mein to noodle dishes

Talking with Nick Shebek (Brown I - Macroeconomics)
After about an hour of chatter, Ms. Kaplan and Ms. L began to talk to the group as a whole (each student had to bring a family member with them). Both chaperones went over components such as the East Coast dinners, having to do laundry, luggage, traveling back and forth (when Ms. L began to talk about the NYC subway system, I'll admit I got nervous!), and the college tours. I'm very excited to report that the Columbia cohort will be touring:
  • University of Pennsylvania (located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) 
  • Sarah Lawrence College (located in the Bronx, New York) 
  • Yale University (located in New Haven, Connecticut) 
  • Vassar College (located in Poughkeepsie, New York)
  • New York University (located right in New York City!) 
After this basic information was laid out, the two groups split apart into separate rooms to talk specifically about each school and the programs we will be participating in. Ms. L got us really excited about NYC by telling us that we'll be going on a Bay Cruise (I love boats!!!), possibly seeing a Broadway show (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and going to Coney Island for the Fourth of July. Ms. L is so enthusiastic about New York - this will be her fourth year chaperoning for the Columbia trip, so I already know that she has lots of knowledge about the city.

Ms. L is a very straightforward person, and I'm very glad that she told us of her rules and how much she will be enforcing them. I think it's great that we'll have meetings every day and that she'll really be checking on where we'll be going even when we're at Columbia. She's so knowledgeable about the city that she's definitely the first person that I would want making sure that I know where I'm going and if I'm okay!

I also found out that student's Columbia ID cards either gets them a discount when they go to places such as museums and that the university will have a lot of activities for us when we arrive. Ms. L told us about suite-mates and our classes (the course I will be taking, Constitutional Law, will have a lot of debates and be research based). I could not be more excited for the summer!

During the potluck!
During the Columbia 2012 Information Session
Our Columbia chaperone - Ms. L
Columbia 2012 (From left to right): Tomi, Adrianne, Aurea, Moravid, Leonard, and Lucas

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It's Only The Beginning

Today, a few of my fellow Ivy League and I attended a blogging tutorial at Hercules Middle High School. Despite the meeting being scheduled at 2 PM, my mother and I left the house at 12:30 PM, in fear of being late for whatever reason. Needless to say, because of our head start, my mother and I arrived over an hour early. But the early bird catches the worm, right?

My next problem was actually finding the room the tutorial was being held in, as I had never been to Hercules Middle High School before and the campus was slightly confusing at first. Fortunately, it wasn't too long before I found the classroom in questions, Room 106.

The tutorial itself was really informative and cleared up a few questions and concerns I had. Don went over some of how the next few months are going to go, upcoming events, on what we should pack for our trip, and, most importantly how and when to blog.
I learned how to add pictures to my posts too.
After Don had finished explaining everything to us, it was time for some hands-on experience and Don had us log into our Blogger accounts and try out what we had just learned. We had a few technical problems starting out, due to how old some of the computers we were using were, but eventually we got everything up and running. I learned how to do do things such as format, proofread, and accentuate my posts into what you're reading now! Soon enough, we had gone over everything that we needed to and it was time to clean up and head home.

Overall, I learned a lot from today and I really enjoyed the tutorial. All the information was a bit overwhelming, but also really helpful and informative. I think that I may have left the tutorial more nervous than before it began, but I also left more excited and anxious about all the other events that are coming up.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

On Your Mark, Get Set...

I guess this is where it really starts. I know I don't leave for another month and a half, but in the back of my mind I'm already in New York.

For those of you reading this blog for the first time, let me explain. I am one of six students in the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) who is attending a course at Columbia University in Harlem this summer. Tomi Balogun, Lucas Lochner Bravo, Adrianne Ramsey and I are taking "Constitutional Law," while Morvarid Mehdizadeh and Aurea Riboroso are taking "American Presidential Powers At Home And Abroad: From George Washington To Barack Obama" (lengthy, I know). This is all part of the Ivy League Connection (ILC), a program that allows high performing high school students in my district to explore their academic possibilities outside of the San Francisco Bay Area. This year, the ILC is sending students to University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, and Vanderbilt University.
Yesterday, we attended a tutorial session at Hercules High School. One of the main topics was what we should bring on the trip. This seems self explanatory, but I was surprised by some of the stuff that I didn't know. For example, I've only ever left the state of California to visit relatives. On these trips I always stayed in some one's home or a hotel, where bed materials were all available. For this reason, I was unaware that when staying in a dorm, you should bring your own sheets, because they may not be provided.
The other part of the tutorial was dedicated to teaching us how to blog. I didn't really think this part was important. I mean, when am I ever going to be blogging... All jokes a side, one of our major responsibilities on this trip will be to blog everyday about our experiences. We will describe what has happened, as well as post pictures from our travels and give our opinions on the coursework. Considering that I never know who might read this, I'll try to keep my writing professional, informative, and if I can help it, interesting. I look forward to both my travels and further blogging updates. Thanks for reading.

Another year with the Ivy League Connection

Last year, around this time, I was attending a blog tutorial by the Ivy League Connection. I would be going to be Providence, Rhode Island to take the course Women and Leadership at Brown University. Fast forward to yesterday - I attended a blog tutorial through the Ivy League Connection, this time preparing to take the course Constitutional Law at Columbia University in New York City. I am excited and honored to be given another opportunity to take a summer course at an Ivy League institution.
Columbia University

The tutorial took place in a computer lab at Hercules High School. I was excited to meet others from the program and learn about why they chose to apply for the programs that they have been accepted to. It was also a nice touch to meet some of the chaperones and see my own chaperone, Ms. L, again.

The tutorial consisted of going over a 30 page packet that detailed:
  • Blogging - I went through the Ivy League Connection last summer, so figuring out how to blog, appropriate content to put in blogs, formatting, and text sizes was not a problem for me. However, blogspot has recently upgraded and it was very good to have others help to figure out the site. In the packet, Don included "bad blogs" and "good blogs" - even though I recognized some of them, it was good to refresh and remember what not to put in the blogs. It was also really cool to find out how I can move my photos around the text and not just have them at the bottom of the text, a feature which I hadn't known before.
  • Responsibility - Rules are rules, and the Ivy League Connection is definitely tightening down on the rule that everyone has to be respectful, act like an adult, and, essentially, not get themselves sent home. I believe I present myself in a respectful manner, but at the same time, it's good to get a reinforcement of rules. I was also disappointed about the new rule for loaner items (having to enter codes for everything people check out). I returned all the items I borrowed last year and was disappointed to learn that Don lost 800 dollars worth of equipment because other members of last year's program didn't return the loaned items. Hopefully this new way of checking will be efficient and Don will get everything back at the end of summer.
  • ILC protocols - Of course, I was ecstatic to go over events like the dinners, school board meetings, and activities that will happen when we go out East. I enjoyed every event last year and am sure to enjoy them even more this year! 
Talking to Ms. L with Lucas and Lenny after the tutorial ended was a good touch and she really got all of us excited to go to New York City. I still haven't met everyone in my cohort, so I'm glad we're having a potluck with the Brown I group later this month to get acquainted with everyone. I know this will be a wonderful and nurturing experience.

"We're Going To Have A Fun, Fun Time Together" - Mrs. L

I arrived to Hercules High School this rainy morning around 8:55 AM, on time, but not without a little bit of discomfort due to Don's repeated emphasis on never being late. My ID and my passport, which included the now embarrassing photo of my 7th grade self, hair long and messy, were scanned, and I took a seat by a computer.

As the noise in the room died down, we were handed a thick packet (25-30 pages?) filled with the tutorial's agenda and about 10-15 pages of examples, good and bad, of previous years' blogs. I have never been one to write in a journal, so the blogging experience was a concern to me but after reading some of the previous years' blogs I could see that the process is much more simple than I thought. It seemed the most important tool to have is an active mind that can soak up information, something I'm sure the Ivy League Connection considered before accepting any students into this program.

Another skill emphasized was time management, and how blogging late at night or early in the morning will likely take more time and produce substandard results. It is the 3:45 AM, so clearly, I need some work on this part. The tutorial also went over photography techniques, what to bring to the East Coast and how to bring it, expenses and a few other topics, including a practice blog.

Upon its conclusion, I met with 3 of the other 7 members in my cohort: Leonard Eisen, Adrianne Ramsey, and our chaperone Mrs. L, who I was meeting for the first time. We discussed our upcoming potluck, and some Columbia and New York-specific information. Mrs. L emphasized that while the other ILCers would definitely be having a fantastic time themselves, we were in New York City and it does not get any better than that. She said of course, that academics would be the focus of the trip, but told us with a smile before we left that we would be having a fantastic time together this summer.

This tutorial, of course, will not be the highlight of my ILC experience, as it was mostly a briefing on how best to prepare for the experience itself. Yet I learned some very valuable information, and I am already counting down the days until our departure. To say I'm thrilled would be an understatement.

Today, a New Chapter Unveiled

Today, it finally hit me that I'm actually going to attend an Ivy League university. Attending an Ivy League University is a dream that I've always wished for to come true. This all feels so surreal!

I woke up this cold, rainy morning and packed my things to attend my SAT class in the Hercules High library. I arrived 30 minutes early, a little before the janitor opened the doors or even the instructors arrived. Outside I thought to myself, "Wow, with the help of the Ivy League Connection, I really am getting one step closer to my dreams for the future." Thankfully it wasn't long until the janitor arrived and opened the library door for me and I positioned my things, cracked open my book, and did some studying as I waited for the instructor to arrive. The course was from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM, and as soon as it was over I rushed myself quickly over to Room 106 for the Ivy League Connection tutorial.

Once I entered I saw a lot of new unfamiliar faces sitting behind the computer screens in the room. At that moment the first thing that came to my mind was that those are going to be a few of the many people I will meet before I attend Columbia University, and my excitement started from that moment. After waiting in line to get my school ID and medical card scanned, I took a seat at one of the open computers and anxiously waited for the tutorial to begin.

The tutorial itself was very informative and answered a lot of the questions my parents and I had in regards to our trip. However, many of the computers were very old and many of the software applications were outdated. This is why when the tutorial required practices online, I experienced a lot of technical difficulties because my computer did not open a lot of my files. Regardless, I managed to work through it and learn the topics that were being taught like how to blog on this website, or even how to upload pictures online when in New York. After learning all the necessary material, the tutorial finally ended at around 4:30 and everyone slowly gathered their things and walked outside. As the wind was fiercely hitting my face while walking towards the car, one thing that was surely going through my head was that I'm definitely looking forward to any and all challenges that await me. Today was just the start to an amazing experience.