Saturday, July 21, 2012

Missing New York City

I spent an entire month in the city that never sleeps. Where do I begin? Instead of writing chronologically, I'm going to write in sections with included sub-sections to help the reader follow better.

A. Week One - College Tours, Dinners, Cohort Bonding 
Lucas, Aurea, and I in the limo on the way to the airport to leave to New York 
The first week of the trip was jam-packed. I knew Lucas from school, but I had only gotten few opportunities to talk to the other four members of our group at pre-summer ILC events. Fortunately, we were all able to get off on the right foot.

We toured five colleges - University of Pennsylvania, Sarah Lawrence College, Vassar College, Yale University, and New York University. I instantly fell in love with Sarah Lawrence and New York University, especially NYU, whose urban campus and academic excellence programs appealed to me. UPenn and Vassar didn't end up being fits for me, and while Yale excited me, I still couldn't see myself there. I really appreciated all the college tours. As a rising senior, I know what I'm looking for in a school - urban setting, middle to large sized campus, good extracurriculars and sports teams, and a great education system.

We also had three alumni dinners for UPenn, Vassar, and Yale. I really enjoyed meeting all the alums and gaining insight about the college application process. In addition, during my time in New York, I wrote the first draft of my personal statement and some of the alums reviewed my work and gave me pointers. Networking is an important concept to learn! People will always help you if you truly ask them to help.
Ms. L with Angela, Yohanna Pepa's roommate at Yale 
B. Columbia HSP 

1. Roommates/Dorm Life 

Lucas, Lenny, Morvarid, Aurea, Tomi, and I entered Columbia and were checked into the dorms. All of us except for Morvarid were in Carman Hall. Ms. L helped us find our dorms and we split up into different floors. I was quickly welcomed by my RA, Kristen. I then met my other four suitemates: Nas from Washington, D.C., Tori from New Jersey, Sangela from Hong Kong, Jennifer from Ohio, and Nathalie from Lebanon. Nathalie was my roommate, and Nas and Tori were in the room next to us. Jennifer and Sangela were roomed in the connecting suite. I soon met the other girls on my floor, who were all happy to be there and very welcoming.

Floor nights really helped me unwind and not worry about my work or the stress of the program. We would watch movies or TV shows, play cards, paint our nails, dance, eat pizza at midnight, and talk about our backgrounds. I would also take breaks from my homework to explain American economics to Nathalie, who was taking a business/economics course, and help her with her English. Everyone on my floor was really nice and welcoming.

2. Rules/RA Trips 

The Columbia program is fun but very, very strict. Curfew is taken very seriously. If you are one minute late, you are "grounded" and your curfew is set an hour earlier for the next night. The punishment worsens for each minute you are late. I did not agree with this strict policy, but followed it accordingly, and was never late to curfew. Security guards are posted in every residence hall, and each time you enter one, you have to have your security card swiped. Commuter students and guests weren't allowed in the dorms, and if rules were consistently broken students could be easily expelled. A boy was expelled the first week for being drunk on campus. This may sound daunting, but in all honesty the rules were easy to follow.

Since there is so much to do in New York City, the RAs went on trips just about every day! I participated in a couple of lunch/dinner clubs, went to the Museum of Natural History, witnessed 4th of July fireworks, saw Maroon 5 perform at the Today Show, and watched War Horse on Broadway! While all of these trips were expensive and expended my limited money, it was very worth it. I definitely gained new life experiences by going on RA trips. 

3. Constitutional Law - Overview 

I'm very personable and love to participate in class, especially history class, but this course was a different experience for me. I have high confidence so I won't say I was intimidated, but I was definitely surprised at the amount of high-level debaters and intellectuals in our class. I participated as best as I could and felt I did well, but I will say some of those intellectuals definitely stumped me and were great at shooting their hands into the air before everyone else. Nevertheless, I loved our discussions.

The class was split into morning and afternoon sessions. In the morning session, we would discuss the Supreme Court cases we read the previous night, which also led into a lecture and vocabulary overview. We had a fantastic reader and textbook that examined the flaws in the governmental system. During the afternoon session, we would either watch films, play constitutional jeopardy, participate in debates, or have another lecture. 

My team never won constitutional jeopardy, but I had fun nonetheless. The debates were a different story. I liked preparing for debates but never really had a good time participating in them. By the end of the course, I realized debating wasn't for me and I enjoyed watching one rather than participating. The films we watched in class were riveting. I learned about the Pentagon Papers, the Supreme Court system, and 9/11 Detainee camps. 

Going to the Southern District Court was another great adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Federal Judge Nathan and witnessing a case being presented in a court. It's all very different from television.

I learned so much from this course and was sad when it ended. I really enjoy political science and American history, and this was a perfect follow up from AP United States History and a great introduction to the United States Government. It was fascinating to see how much the Constitution has changed over time and scary to realize how contradictory and wrong our presidential administrations can be behind closed doors. 

One thing I especially learned from this class was this: I don't want to be a lawyer. Am I interested in political science majors and possibly becoming a law professor? Sure. But I can't argue for cases that I don't agree with. I have core values and trust me, I'll always stick to them. I don't like debating. I realized how much more I enjoy learning about the philosophical aspects of the cases and governmental system and writing legal arguments. I am grateful that I was able to discover my interests now instead of making a mistake in college and learning it then.

4. Research Paper 

Similar to Presidential Powers, we had to write a research paper for this course. However, there was a six page limit and not a 25 page one (thank goodness). The topic I chose was whether or not United States presidents should be allowed more powers during the case of a national emergency. My answer was a straight-up NO. 

I poured my heart and soul (literally) into this paper and proved my point by using Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, and George W. Bush. I stated that President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, interning Japanese, Italian, and German Americans during World War II, was unconstitutional because it violated the internee's civil liberties. President Johnson's continuous lies to the American public should have been considered a violation of the first amendment since the lies prompted a clear and present danger to the American public by sparking American anti-war riots and protests. Finally, President Bush's Patriot Act violates the first, fourth, and fifth amendments of the United States constitution by stripping Americans of several civil liberties. All of these past presidential decisions in times of National Emergency are unconstitutional, along with many, many more. I could've written a whole novel on my stance. 

I received an A- on the paper and was satisfied. I agreed with the comments citing refinement that my professor gave me, and realized how much I enjoy writing legal arguments. At first I thought it would be difficult because I've only written moral arguments in the past. However, I proved myself wrong and found how easily the words poured out from within me.

5. Friends! 

I spent the majority of my time at Columbia with Morvarid, Aurea, Tomi, Lucas, and our two wonderful friends Rowland and Brittany. Rowland is from Los Angeles and Brittany is from Texas. Over the course of our trip, we had all our meals together and went to amazing places (Brooklyn Bridge with Rowland, retail shopping at Forever 21 with Brittany). I'm so glad I met them and had a fantastic time with them; I really did value Columbia HSP and it would not have been half as enjoyable if they weren't there.

Retail Shopping Time/Charlie's Angles 
C. College Decisions 

This was my 2nd year participating in the Ivy League Connection. Last summer I took Women and Leadership at Brown University, a much different experience than Columbia HSP. As a sophomore, I began to figure out what I liked in a school and what I wanted to study. But as a junior, I definitely know. Some people may call me and the other 2nd-year's selfish for doing this program again, but I dismiss their comments and am glad I did this again because I learned so much more about myself and about college. I realized I will always be a writer, born and bred, but that I'm more into a school's specific writing major, such as Creative Writing, more than the specific English major. I also realized how much I want to continue with political science. When I got home I narrowed down my lists of colleges. Let me tell you, it's a pretty big list! I know I still have searching to do. 

I definitely enjoyed my time in New York City. It was a wonderful experience. But when I started looking at my college list, I was not sure if I would apply to Columbia. I'm still deciding. While Columbia is a wonderful school, their Core Curriculum is too rigid and confined to me. I want to be able to take the classes I want to take when I am in college. There are also more factors, but the Core Curriculum is the main one. 

At this point, I am looking into Brown University, New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Boston University's College of Arts and Sciences, and Sarah Lawrence College, as well as other colleges/universities spread throughout the nation.

Times Square at night 
D. Thank You's! 

-Ms. L: Thank you for being the greatest chaperone and surrogate mother I've ever had! This trip would not have been the same without your strict but understanding rules, making sure we were all fed and getting enough sleep, and taking us to wonderful places. Best chaperone EVER, by far. 

-Jeffrey Lenowitz and Luke MacInnis: My two wonderful professors. I learned so much from the both of you and I thank you for helping me realize how much I love political science. 

-2012 Columbia Cohort: I love you all! Thanks for being some of the greatest friends I've met. We may've had bumps along the road but I'm grateful we were all able to solve them in a calm and civil manner and keep on going from there. You are all wonderful people and I'm glad I met you guys.

-Don Gosney: Thank you for really instilling the importance of replying to emails in me. If you don't reply, people will think you are wasting their time and even their investments in you. You put so much into the program, supplying us with loaner items (without that ethernet cord I would've died since Columbia has NO WIFI IN THEIR DORMS -.-) and taking gorgeous pictures of us. 

-Dad (I'm sorry, I can't call you Mr. Ramsey. Too formal! =D): Thank you for instilling the importance of good work, education, timeliness, and manners in me. Without these four concepts I would not be the person I am today. You put in so much effort and work in the program, which inspires me to work hard. And to dispell all the rumors, yes, my father does get a good amount of sleep at night. All of Ramsey's do. Seriously! 

-Madeline Kronenberg: Thank you so much for flying to New York to check up on us, go out to dinner with us, and see Vassar and Yale with us. I really enjoyed our conversations and your persistence that we bring something back to the community. I've been talking with a couple others at my high school and they think that doing an ILC information booth at Club Day would be a great help to the program. 

-ILC Sponsors: I can't thank you enough for putting in so much money for the program. This is truly a wonderful program and without my Brown and Columbia experiences, I have no idea where I would be now. A HUGE THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU!

-Mom and Monica (my younger sister): Thanks for all the emails and phone calls with words of encouragement and wisdom. All the reminders to not stress and get enough sleep at night were very helpful. Love you both! 

E. Finale! 

My time in the ILC has been bittersweet and I am sad that it is over. But no worries, I won't be gone! If anybody has any questions/comments about Brown, Columbia, or the ILC, please feel free to send me an email or leave a comment on this blog. I'd really appreciate it and would love to help anyone in need. These past two summers have been the best.

Grazie! 
2012 ILC Columbia Cohort (from left to right: Aurea, Tomi, Lenny, me, Lucas, and Morvarid)

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