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.