Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summer of a Lifetime

My journey to New York did not begin on June 18th. It began in October, with the Pinole Valley High School College Fair, at the ILC booth run by Alex Elms and Don Gosney. This was not my first time hearing about the program or meeting Don, but it was when things really began. The road from then until now has been a long, difficult, and undoubtedly rewarding one, that I know will have a lasting impact on my life. 

I think I can break up my trip into two chronological sections: the first week, and then the following three. They differed greatly. When we first arrived in New York, we were constantly on the move. It was really exciting. One moment we would be at UPenn, and the next we would be having dinner by Central Park. We did so much in each day, that I honestly thought more time had passed than actually had; every time I thought of "yesterday," it would feel like several days ago.

The highlight of that first week wasn't the extravagant dinners, or the excitement of NYC, or even learning about amazing schools. For me, it was getting to have conversations with the students and alumni of the colleges we visited. It didn't matter if it was at a Cuban lunch, a Greek dinner, or while walking through a Universities quad; the profound insight they can give us into what life at their school is like is priceless. 

On a brief side note, I also enjoyed the train rides. I wish public transit in California was as extensive and mainstream as it is back East. It's a far more efficient, Eco-friendly, and enjoyable way to travel. I know there are a lot of factors limiting such a system existing out West, but it would be nice to have. 

The second portion of our trip was very different from the first. While before, we had been constantly on the move, we were now spending most of our time in one place. That's not to say that it was less exciting, but it was certainly more relaxing. 

I spent my last three summers taking classes at UC Berkeley in the Academic Talent Development Program. It was a great experience, but it doesn't even compare to my time at Columbia. The sheer number of different regions and cultures represented made the population a micro-UN. 2/3 of the residential students were from other countries. I can't say that they come from ALL backgrounds though, as nearly everyone there was a private school student and came from a privileged home. You need to have a high income to be able to send your child to the program, especially if you are from out of state. It seems that the ILC is the only program of its kind, because everyone I talked to said their parents were paying for the trip and were amazed to hear that my school district sent students there for free. This is yet another opportunity to thank the sponsors. I'm realizing more and more how lucky I am to have had this experience. Most people can't say they took a class at Columbia while in high school, let alone with the expenses paid for by benefactors. 

I made a lot of friends in this program. Thank goodness for the internet, because it's the only way we can stay in  touch. I'm still in contact with people from New York, Florida, Canada, the Netherlands, India, China, Australia and farthest of all, Los Angeles.

The high light of my trip was definitely the class. I may have already said this, but this was the best coarse I've EVER taken. Everything about it was fantastic. The material was interesting, and I've already been able to apply what I've learned to my conversations back home. The other students were all brilliant, though most would never admit it. A large portion (if not the majority) of the class time was spent on discussions, which were intelligent and constructive. When opinions came into play they were always backed by solid logic. Most importantly, the teachers were amazing. They were a really dynamic combination. Jeffrey usually led the teaching of the cases, while Luke led discussions concerning the theories behind the Constitution. They were always really good at explaining things, and usually did it with a sense of humor. They understood that many things about our nation's history seem ridiculous to us today, and they both capitalized on that to keep our attention. I'm still blown away by how much we all enjoyed and thrived in this environment. 

It wasn't all study, though. I found time nearly everyday to explore the city with Resident Advisors, fellow students, Ms. Lilhanand, and of course, my cohort. I saw the beach, parks, museums, restaurants, Time Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, NYU, and plenty of upper Manhattan, I only saw three of the five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens), but I can't imagine having had time to see the other two. I think my favorite experience was going to the Neon Trees concert. The rush of being so close to the bands, surrounded by friends was, for lack of a better word, awesome. 

In general, I loved New York. The skyline, the art, the performers in the subway, the food: it was all fantastic. That being said, I don't miss it. New York's a great city, and I may even want to live there some day, but right now, I'm glad to be home. There's something different about the atmosphere in the Bay. People seem more relaxed, even in the cities. Maybe it's just because I grew up here, but this area is just more comfortable for me. I may have gotten used to tall buildings and an unforgiving sun, but I think I still prefer, homes in the hills and a nice cool breeze. Sorry NYC, but Bay Life is where it's at.

I guess that pretty much wraps up my experience out East. This is the most amazing summer I've ever had. I think the most profound thing I've gained from this trip (besides memories) are the ideas that have formed in me. I can't really show this through my blog, but I've grown over the last month. My class and my experiences have taught me so much, and I'm beginning to develop opinions and beliefs based on them. I have a better idea of what I'm good at and what I'm passionate about. For example, I now believe that the Constitution needs to be reformed. I didn't want to write about any of my views on this until I had completed the class, but I now think that if the Constitution is to accurately reflect the beliefs of the people it has power over, it needs to be re-written every generation. The morals of the current American people are different from those of the very limited pool of legislators back when it was written. I also believe that the Supreme Court has too much power when it comes to Constitutional interpretation, so we need a more specific document that is easier to change. This will most accurately reflect the changing views of the people. I don't think that the beliefs of the hundred or so rich, land and slave owning, white, christian and male writers of the Constitution reflect that of our extremely diverse nation. Of course, this is only my own opinion, and I'm sure the other students in the class came to their own unique conclusions. I just wanted to express my beliefs in what may be my last blog entry.

I'll sign off by thanking you, the readers. Who ever you may be, you are the reason we wrote this. Wanting to impress you is what kept us trying to outdo ourselves with each new entry. I hope my posts stayed interesting and that you enjoyed and learned from them. Sorry that this one lacked photos, but I've already shared most of them with you. If it's any consolation, below is my favorite picture from this trip. I took it on a train returning to Manhattan from New Haven, CT. Once again, I hope you enjoyed what you read. Thank you.

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