Monday, June 25, 2012

Lights, Cameras, Action!

Today I woke up to the sounds of my suite-mates getting out of their rooms and ready for breakfast. I had already prepared my necessities into a black backpack to make sure I don't forget anything, so I was ready in almost no time! After everyone finished getting ready, we finally approached the cafeteria to enjoy breakfast for the first time with the girls of suite 5A. I had a lot of fun with them and the breakfast food actually wasn't that bad! The dining hall was pretty packed and high school students swarmed rapidly past one another. The mouthwatering aromas danced underneath our noses and the warm, sizzling food transferred their heat to share with the atmosphere. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves together for an hour or two until we eventually had to attend our first-day orientation. On our way, Sofi and Efrat handed us our new Columbia IDs and a folder filled with important information.

Now the orientation itself was located within Lemer Hall and hosted a few passionate speakers, one being my very own RA! Darlene Giraitis, the Executive Director of the Secondary School Programs at Columbia University gave a very inspirational speak in particular. She spoke to us about the reasons for our acceptance and how all those selected are outstanding, accomplished, and clearly interested young people. Approximately 40% of the students within the program are also international so we have not only competed for these opportunities within our state, but also the entire globe. She later reminded us about how much of an extraordinary academic experience this is and how we will be working with such an intense curriculum. Following her speech, Sofi (my RA) spoke about the activities and the cooperation of our students in particular. I was actually really surprised to see her because she did not tell any of us about her surprise speech! We all smiled with excitement to see our very own girl up on the stage, she's really a sweet girl! I like her a lot. Of her speech, one thing that particularly interested me was the "Community Outreach." From 12-2PM we have a lunch break between courses and as part of a "mid-day activity," a few students can participate in daily community service. Although this is far from my community, I'm definitely interested in sacrificing my own time for something important and as precious as helping others. Although I'm only going to be here for a month, a month is still a month and anything counts.

As soon as she concluded her speech, the assistant dean, Kiristine Millmyer presented herself on stage and talked about how much of a talented young scholar we all are studying at a world-class institution. Students from all over the world-wide globe were here today with similar interests working with Columbia University to deepen their understandings and their discipline. Each and every single one of us will be taking advantage of the deep and broad intellectual resources while living and studying both independently and collectively. She discussed with us how much of an intensive program we have become a part of and the rigorous academic experiences we will achieve. Finally after boosting both our morale and our excitement for our upcoming course, we proceeded towards our classrooms for the very first day of college class. Aurea and I met outside by Butler Library and walked together to our class in Schermerhorn room 652. We've decided to meet up at the steps of Hartley every day from now on and walk to class together, which to me sounds like a great idea! Tomorrow she might decide to try out the gym though, but if my time permits, I just might join her.

We had a lot of trouble finding the room because it was in an "extension hall" which is a door to a totally secluded hallway on the 6th floor. Regardless, we still managed to make it to class on time and appropriately positioned ourselves in seats around the conference table. The room had a very chilly, awkward mood and the silence was the only thing one could hear. That is, until I came into the room. Personality wise I'm very outgoing and social, I love meeting new people and I'm definitely not a shy person. I tend to approach people very easily and I am told by a lot of people that I connect with people very well. As soon as I walked into the door and put my stuff down, I introduced myself and shook hands with the professor. Professor Porwancher was actually really hard to notice at first because he looks so young he almost blended in with the other high school students! Immediately after introducing myself to the professor, I sat back down at the round table and I noticed that everyone was just playing with their pens and hands, looking down or at the ceiling. So I leaned forward, smiling of course, and introduced myself to my new peers. I asked them a little about themselves and at first they were kind awkward in response because I guess I was the only one eager and "engaging," you may say, but soon we all connected pretty well. By making the first move confidently to start the conversation, I guess with me I brought ease to the other students whom in fact were very scared considering it being their first class within the United States as exchange students.
While we were speaking to one another, the teaching assistant, Kelsey Kearns, passed around several packets for us to read each day and study before discussion seminars. Each day we will have 2 hours of discussion, and 2 hours of research in the library. Today we had our first glimpse of the class routine after the professor took a seat right on my left and began a preview of our discussion seminars. He told us about the guest speakers he will bring to class and the debates that we will have. As soon as he said "debates" Aurea and I automatically looked at one another and smiled with both excitement and confidence. We are Policy Debate partners and debating is something we are both very passionate about, so we truly are excited for the debating aspects of our course.

After quickly going over important information, we all gathered our things and ultimately headed towards Butler Library for an introduction to the Columbia Library Catalog. The information session was very informative and as soon as it was over, it was already lunch time! I grabbed a little bite to eat but I ended up in my suite for the rest of the hour. I originally planned to take a nap but I ended up rearranging my furniture! I'm not completely done with it, so it's still going to be a surprise. However, once I add a few touches, I will definitely upload it onto one of my posts and share with you my new arrangement.
I later left my room at 1:30 and made my way back to Butler library for the research portion of our course. There we began preparing for our 25 page research paper. I honestly have no clue what to write about now because I thought we were suppose to write about a particular president, but in fact, its actually only asked to be about a presidential topic. Now their are so many options I cannot choose from! I was recently thinking to write about the ways that media has altered our perception of presidents and the presidential power as a whole. Today, presidents are more worried about their physical appearance, how they are portrayed to the public, and how they actually present their plans. American politics has swayed away from quality and quantity to a world of competing powers in search for the perfect "front."

Overall, I admit I really enjoyed the class and the serious environment. I also like the professor a lot as well! He has a very humorous and humble personality that so far I really enjoy. He seems like a person that is very easy to talk to.
After class was over all the ILC students gathered around to speak to Mrs.L for our daily meeting. We talked about everything we liked and how everything has been feeling so far, and everyone had lots of positive impressions. The meeting was very short and ended around 5PM where we all decided to go for lunch. However, we first all decide to visit the Alma Mater. One of the ILC alumnus that I met in our very first dinner in San Francisco challenged me to find the owl hidden within the Alma Mater.  Here is the message he had sent me with this particular challenge;
"Before you go, here's a little challenge for you and the other ILC Columbians: on Columbia's campus there is a statue called Alma Mater. It's hard not to miss. Legend had it that, each year, the first incoming freshman at Columbia who was able to find the image of an owl on the statue, would become class Valedictorian. When I used to be a tour guide at Columbia, I would challenge the visiting prospective students to see if they could find it. So now, I ask you and your cohort to see if you can find the image of an owl on the statue of Alma Mater. If you may just mean great success for you."

Not to mention, I was really excited to have passed this challenge and succeeded in finding the owl within seconds. Lucas and I were the first to find the owl, but he announced it out loud nearly one second before I did. I would joke with him and say, "Gosh Lucas, you cheated!" It was all fun and games though, and we were just kidding around. Right before we saw it we were all wondering whether or not it would even be possible to find the owl at all, but the Ivy League students actually did find the owl with pride. Now we shall pass on the challenge to the future students of the Ivy League Connection to carry on this new tradition of being the first students in the program to find the owl within the Alma Mater of Columbia University. Success shall forever rein amongst us.

Right after finding the owl we all went to the dining hall for dinner and later my room for an intensive study session. We all actually agreed that the study session was very beneficial and productive, we talked minimally and worked diligently. Before arrival to the room, we all promised that we shall not talk or socialize until all our work was complete and we obeyed those rules perfectly. Midway through our session we took a very short, yet relaxing break where us girls (Adrianne, Aurea, Tomi, and I) ordered pizza and lounged right on grass in the middle of the quad. As the sun set down, we enjoyed the peace and quiet picnic after a long day of hard work.

Now I am sitting in my dorm with the sound of laughter and fun outside in our living room space with all the girls socializing and I'm really tempted to join them. However, I must always remember that time management is really important and although socializing is really fun, studying is the most important aspect of this trip and socializing comes second. I have wasted no time today, all I've been doing is readying our articles and writing my blog tonight. The only reason I'm up relatively "late" is because I spent more time analyzing my article and actually taking the time to fully understand its content rather than just read it because it's assigned. I have color-coded highlights, summaries in the margins, and positive and negative marks pertaining the argument. I really want to be prepared for each of our class discussions!

From now on, we must play hard and work even harder.

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