Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Vonnegut and Train Rides

I want to explain first that I'll talk about today in two blogs. The first (this one) will be a basic recap of what I did, what I think and how I feel. The second, which I will post in the next few days (when I have some free time) will be a full blog detailing my thoughts on and experience at UPenn. I took a lot of notes and photos while there, and I feel that it deserves its own separate post.

I woke up today at about 6:30AM and we all met up in the lobby at about 7:15. Today wasn't too hot, and we didn't have to wear formal clothes for a while, so I dressed very casually. We headed down to the subway and went down to Penn station, where we bought breakfast. In case you were wondering, I got an onion bagel with cream cheese, along with a glazed doughnut and a lemonade. Before I could finish eating, we had to board the train headed for Pennsylvania. On the way down I read Kurt Vonnegut's Jailbird. In between chapters, I snapped these shots.

We were going pretty fast

It took about an hour to get down to Pennsylvania. The train station in Philadelphia was beautiful.

After thoroughly exploring the edifice, we hailed a couple of cabs and headed down to Independence Hall. There, we met up with the Cornell cohort, who we took the tour with. In Independence Hall, a series of tour guides led us through the history that this place holds. For a time, this was the capital of our young nation, and was the site of many historic events, such as the signing of the Constitution, the first Congressional meetings and the transition of presidency from George Washington to John Adams.

Our group mixing with the Cornell students

After the tour, we caught some more cabs and headed down to Distrito restaurant, where we had lunch with UPenn students, alumni, and administrators who work at the office of admissions. I didn't take any photos during the meal, but here are a few shots that I took on the ride there.

I really like this photo

Morvarid in the cab next to us

I had a great time at lunch. Lucas and I sat by Ross, a current student at Penn, and Amy, a recent Alumni. They told us a lot about Penn's curriculum, and life in Philidalphia. They really peaked my interest.

After we ate, they walked us over to the campus, where we would attend an info session and recieve a full tour. Like I said at the beginning, I'll cover my thoughts on Penn in another blog, but I to sum it up, I loved it.

When the tour was over, we met up with the Cornell group one last time just to chill. After a few minutes of relaxing, we decided to make our move and go our separate ways. We made our way over to the train station and boarded our ticket home.

Back at the hotel, we got dressed in business attire for dinner. Once again, we went to a very nice restaurant to enjoy a meal with just the seven of us. The place was called Petrossion, and unlikely Keens Steakhouse, which was very old, this place was incredibly modern. I had the steak, and finished it off with some creme brulee.

Now, I'm back at the hotel, tired. I literally took over 400 photos today; I narrowed it down to about 100 and decided to only use these 30 for the blog. I'll put up the UPenn blog soon. Goodnight everybody.

"Motto-Leges Sine Moribus Vanae"

Laws without morals are in vain, that's the motto of University of Pennsylvania. I never expected myself to fall in love with the University to this extent. Long story short, I absolutely LOVE what UPENN stands for. It's a school built by pioneers, for pioneers, and actually is it's own form of "pioneer." It was the first school of medicine in the nation, first university in US with both undergraduate and graduate studies, first collegiate business school, and had the first student union in the nation. Of course, I would expect a college this amazing when it was clearly founded by Benjamin Franklin. He is literally my hero, and my life almost revolves around his philosophies and quotes; I admire bot only him, but also his leadership determination. He was a kite flyer, an inventor, journalist, founding father, ambassador, protagonist, and Mr.Hundred Dollar Bill whom was highly driven by his ambition despite unfavorable circumstances and failures. His amazing character truly reflects onto this amazing University that cherishes a lot of his morals in life and proves strives to prove to the world the variety of possibilities in our horizon willing to be discovered. Whether it was being the first University to award an African-American women a PhD, or attempting with determination to prove a cherished idea to be true despite disappointment (Building an auditorium that was believed to virtually be impossible to build), the students at this University all embody a character and personality that carried on the excellence that Franklin held valuable for generation to come. I felt like I shared a lot of the same passion and interests as the students of this university and every single thing that was mentioned in the information session that the University looks for in students completely portrayed my personality and characteristics in the most accurate way possible. I felt like this is my home, this is where I belong, and this is an environment where I can shine. I can honestly say that if it wasn't for talking to the students and alumni along with the tour that was provided for us, I probably would have never realized this or have grown such a passion for this university as a whole. Nonetheless, what it offers the students is absolutely superb. The university sets itself out by the attention, care, and support it give its students individually. The aspect of research at UPENN especially drew my interest because I simply love research. Last summer in Iran, I helped an Iranian doctor by the name Mr.Mozaheb contribute to an international medical research by helping her translate some of her documents into research, and ever since then, I've really been inspired to contribute to a particular research of my own in an area that I am most passionate about. Thus, another aspect about why UPENN will allow me to shine as both a student and as an individual due to the outstanding quality and quantity of the research that tops Ivy Leagues in it's overall spending in that category. UPENN has been associated with several important innovations and discoveries in many fields throughout its history, and I am determined that if the University of Pennsylvania ever honors me with acceptance, I can one day make my name to the list of these individuals that made some sort of change that will be equally as honorable for the University. After all, you will never fail, you may only just learn a thousand ways that do not work. (Benjamin Franklin)

Okay, I apologize, I spent a lot of time just writing about  the University. Well, aside from that, we had a splendid lunch with admission officers and current students in Philadelphia, toured the city, and had one of the most amazing dinners of my life with my cohort at Petrossian. I'm from Iran, the nation with the best caviar in the world, but I JUST tried it in New York City! Regardless, I must point out that I absolutely love our cohort. It's only been 2 days but we've all grown so close and I honestly wouldn't like to trade any of them for someone else, each and every one of them are amazing. Their really nice people and without them this trip would not be the same. If you guys are reading this, I just wanted to say I love you all, and thank you for the amazing start to this unforgettable adventure.

And last but not least, once more for emphasis, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA IS AMAZING. That's really the majority of what is going on in my head at the current moment...

"What Do I Know About Biology, I Know How to Make Tacos"

Oh happy day. I never realized how much of a day was ahead of me.

Penn Station
My day started bright and early at 7:15 AM departing for Amtrak to Philadelphia. Once we grabbed a quick breakfast at Zarro’s, we boarded the train and left. Although the train was crowded when we boarded, we were lucky enough to be in the same car. The train ride was very interesting; we passed through New Jersey and got to see all the different sights, from rural areas to tall buildings. Although I will admit, I dozed off for a while because the ride was so soothing.

Independence Hall
We finally arrived at Penn Station in Philadelphia and the building itself was a sight to see. The architecture and mass rush of people gave us a taste of East Coast life. We then took a taxi cab to Independence Hall with the Cornell cohorts. The feeling of walking through the same paths of some of the greatest minds is indescribable; from the signing room to the secret meeting place for the senate, I was taken through the colonial times of the nation.

After our tour, we took a taxi cab to Distrito in inner Philadelphia where we lunched with University of Pennsylvania admission officers and current students. It was such a pleasure to meet Monique, Ross, David, and Amy; the former two were current Penn students and the formers were admissions officers. The lunch was very informative for all of us; I got to learn more about the admissions process and what the university looks for as well as an idea of individual majors.

University of Pennsylvania

UPenn Auditorium

Once we finished lunch, we trekked to the University of Pennsylvania for our information session and college tour. Along the way, we were given our own private tour with our Penn liaisons who showed us the different buildings for academics and fraternities. When we arrived the information session, I was quite disappointed from the lack of volume from the host due to technical difficulties. But after the session, we were given a tour by current students. We walked along Locust Walk, a beautiful stone walkway surrounded by trees and different fraternity buildings. We visited my personal favorite the Engineering School Building Complex where the undergraduate engineering classes take place. We also toured the Wharton School of Business as well as the large Penn library. Although the information session was uneventful, the amazing tour of such a stunning campus.

Outside Petrossian
After taking the Amtrak back to New York, we refreshed ourselves for a lovely dinner at Petrossian. We took the subway to Columbus Center where we were all awe struck by Central Park and Times Square. Petrossian is an exquisite French restaurant which serves luxurious caviar. The meal was delicious; I had a Mixed Green Field Salad followed by Deep Sea Diver Scallops. What made the dinner tonight really special was the quality of conversation. I feel I learned more about my fellow cohorts in depth. Conversation ranged from potential colleges and majors to quotations we live by. We've cracked jokes and learned a vast amount. It’s only day two in New York but I feel like we’ve been here for much longer.

You, Me, and UPenn

My day began bright and early at 6:00 AM. Despite being dead tired, I was really excited for what the day had in store. Not only we would not only be visiting Independence Hall, but we would also be touring our first Ivy Le age college--the University of Pennsylvania. 

After everyone arrived in the hotel lobby, we quickly began to head off towards the subway; stopping only to pick up a quick breakfast from one of the local coffee shops. After breakfast, we boarded our train and set off to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Unfortunately, since I was so tired, I spent most of the train ride napping. However, when I was awake, I was able to see the beautiful landscapes of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.  

When we arrived in Pennsylvania, we quickly headed off to Independence Hall.  We were promptly met with a tour guide who provided us with a very informative, albeit brief the history of the formation of our country of course the Declaration of Independence. After our tour at Independence Hall we explored the nearby Constitution Hall where we learned about things such as the happenings of the original US senate, the inauguration of second president, John Adams, and the political mishaps and corruption of the late 1700s. When our tour of Independence Hall concluded, we then set for lunch.

For lunch we met with Admissions Officer David Toomer and current UPenn students Amy Smith, Monique Sager, and Ross Karlan at a Mexican restaurant called the Distrito. As I enjoyed my lunch of nachos ignacio and chicken tacos, I talked with Mr. Toomer and Monique about UPenn's admission procedures as well as what majors the school offered. After lunch our party made our way to UPenn, where we set to begin yet another tour.

As soon as I stepped onto the school's campus I was amazed by how big and beautiful everything was. One thing that I really love about UPenn is it's campus; the entire school is magnificent historical and  it's facilities seem to be both state of the art, while still being able to capture the school's proud history. 

We soon joined other tour groups in a informative seminar about the UPenn experience. Today I learned that UPenn is made up of four main departments--Engineering and Applied Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Wharton--which serves as their business department--and  Nursing, with Arts and Sciences being the largest of the four. I also learned that everyday, a service is held to commemorate their founder, Ben Franklin. During the summer, students are also expected to either take summer classes or take up a summer job on campus. 

After the informative seminar was over, we were assigned a tour guide and given an in-depth tour on UPenn's main facilities and their history. Places that we visiting included the University's many libraries, Wharton Hall, Engineering and Applied Sciences, and courtyard. During the tour, our tour guide, who was also a current student informed us about UPenn his experiences at the school as well as the many helpful student policies that made his stay to enjoyable. 

Another thing that I think is great about UPenn seems to really care about making sure that students' educational experience is as great as possible. UPenn provides services such as providing students with advisers and mentors to help provide the students with anything they may need help with, offering many financial aid programs, allowing students who would be living on campus to organize their own living arrangements, and even the option to request clubs or foreign languages that are currently not available within the school. UPenn's method of putting a lot of effort into making their school affordable, comfortable, and accessible is definitively one of the things that makes this school stand out.

When the tour finally ended at 3:15, we left to return to our hotel room to prepare for our quickly approaching dinner. Tonight, we dined at Petrossian, an elegant French restaurant in downtown New York. As my cohorts and I conversed over our thoughts of UPenn, our respective schools, and academics, I enjoyed a nice meal of pan seared duck. I even got the chance to try caviar tonight! Honestly, for unfertilized fish eggs on toast, it was really delicious and it was certainly better than I was expecting. For dessert, I shared a lovely little piece of chocolate cake and raspberry with Mrs. L. After dinner was over, we took the subway back home and returned to our rooms for some well deserved rest. 

City of Brotherly Love

Even though I was the only member of the cohort that received five and a half hours of sleep, I was still exhausted as I woke up for today's adventure. Tomi and I awoke at 6:30 and were down in the lobby by 7:15. Groggy but excited, our cohort walked to the subway and made our way to Amtrak, where we brought to-go breakfast from a nearby cafe as we waited for the train. Riding on the train was nice, I didn't spend a lot of time looking outside because I wanted to catch a quick nap. After about an hour, we had arrived in Philadelphia! The train station was absolutely gorgeous and looked exactly like I imagined it would.

Waiting for the train to Philadelphia
Amtrak Information
Welcome to Philly!
After taking a taxi cab to Independence Hall, we met up with the Cornell cohort. It was good seeing my friends from school - Alex, Calvin, and Eric Wilson - and seeing the other members of the cohort, including my good friend Eric Wang. After making small talk, we were escorted into Independence Hall, where we were given a tour and information session. The first tour guide gave a quick background on the importance of the Declaration of Independence and the men who worked very hard to have it signed. I also found a fact about Benjamin Franklin very interesting: his son, William, was a very serious Loyalist, whereas Ben was a true Patriot. William even became Royal Governor but was later jailed for being a Loyalist and lost his property. Ben never forgave William for his betrayal. I found it interesting but very sad about how differing politics can split up families. The second part of the information session and tour was led by a woman, who spoke about the history of the U.S. Senate, how the presidency started, and the inauguration of the second president.

Independence Hall
Portrait depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence

Our tour guide holding a replica of the Declaration of Independence

After the tour/information session, we said goodbye to the Cornell cohort (for now; we would meet up with them later for a bit) and took taxis to Distrio, a small Mexican restaurant. We had lunch with three U-Penn students and an admissions officer, David. I had the pleasure of sitting next to David and sitting at the same table as Aurea, Tomi, Morvarid, and Monique, a U-Penn student. Monique is a rising junior and has created her own major, which has to deal with energy. She applied to U-Penn through Early Decision after visiting the school and feeling very comfortable with the student body. David went to American University and majored in Political Science. I was eager to ask him how the admission process really worked, such as how long does it take for an admissions officer to read a file and what they look for. David said that at U-Penn, admissions officers typically take twenty-five minutes to read each file. He said that test scores are important but not as important as many people think, and that the admissions officers really look at the person and what they are about. He said there are so many great personal statements that he reads out there that he couldn't pick out "one great one", especially since everyone is different and has their own story. I found this to be relaxing advice, seeing as though I'm going to start writing my personal statement when I arrive back home in California. David also asked Tomi, Aurea, and I to talk about ourselves and state what we were interested in studying. If anyone hasn't read my bio on my info page, I am interested in studying writing, psychology, and possibly political science. Aurea is interested in study aeronomical or civil engineering and Tomi is interested in double majoring in English and astronomical physics. Ambitious, indeed!

Onward to the University of Pennsylvania! 

Lunch was only about an hour since we had to rush over to the information session, which was held inside of a cathedral. About one hundred people were at the information session. The information session was not the best because the microphone wasn't working very well and the speaker did not speak very loudly. After the information session, we headed out on a tour that was lead by Brian, a rising senior who is double-majoring in bioengineering and pre-med.

Interesting Facts about the University of Pennsylvania: 
1. U-Penn was founded in 1754 by Benjamin Franklin. Ben felt that education should serve a purpose, which is why so many Penn students are invested in service projects around the campus. 75 percent of Penn students conduct research projects as well. Benjamin Franklin is also credited as really started the liberal arts and sciences education by insisting on courses ranging from philosophy to religion. 

2. Penn has a 12-14 percent acceptance rate for a freshman class of about 2,400. There are about 10,000 students in the school. Penn students are cited as always questioning themselves and looking at how things intersect in the world. Many students are involved in extracurriculars, such as writing for The Daily Pennsylvanian or joining a sorority. 

3. There are four undergraduate schools at Penn, and when applicants apply they have to apply into a school (students apply through the Common App and complete the Penn supplement): 
  • College of Arts and Sciences - The most popular school within Penn. C.A.S. has over fifty majors, ranging from anthropology to psychology.
  • School of Nursing 
  • Wharton School of Business - Penn is the only Ivy League school to have a business school. Wharton is also the oldest undergraduate business school in the United States. 
  • School of Engineering 
Undeclared is the most popular major coming into Penn. This perked my interest because I have decided to apply into all colleges undeclared since I want to explore classes when I am a freshman. Students have to chose a major by the end of their sophomore year but are welcome to change it if they feel the need and are also given peer advisers to help them choose classes and figure out their major. Minors are offered at Penn, such as photography and American public policy. Penn also has distribution requirements, but I did not hear too much about this during the information session or tour. Penn strongly suggests students take classes in schools other than their own and have a proficiency in a language.

4. Penn only offers need-based aid like the other Ivy Leagues. If students receive a full scholarship due to financial issues, it is expected of them to work on campus or get an off-campus job as the "trade-off", which I felt was fair.

Welcome to U-Penn!
Nice fashion sense, Ben Franklin...
It IS called the City of Brotherly LOVE
Where the information session was held

Basking in the inner beauty of U-Penn

Penn Engineering
Aurea and Morvarid
Rachael Redlo (ILC Cornell 2012 - Hotel Management) and I
Last picture of University of Pennsylvania. It truly is a beautiful campus
While the rest of my cohort members were ecstatic about Penn and relaying how their wanted to start their applications already, I did not feel the same. I really loved the campus and felt excited about Penn during the lunch, but the information session and the tour did not connect well with me. Do not get me wrong, Penn seems like a wonderful school and has a vast array of majors that I'm interested in but I believe that the problem was that the tour and information session didn't scream to me THIS IS U-PENN AND THIS IS WHY WE'RE SPECIAL! I especially look for that during tours and information sessions and I was disappointed that this set didn't do that much for me. Fortunately, we are having a dinner with Penn alum and students Wednesday night, so hopefully that can spark some more interest in U-Penn for me.

After taking the train back to New York City, we had less than an hour to get ready for a fancy cohort-only dinner at Petrossian. The dinner was wonderful and the food was absolutely fantastic. We had great conversation about our schools, possibly senior quotes, what we all look for in a college, and had many great debates. Here are the top three things I look for in a college:

1. Diversity - This is very important to me. I went to an elementary school that had over fifty percent of one race, and I got made fun of for not being a part of that race. I do not want to go to a school like that for the rest of my life. I own the book The Best 367 Colleges in America and I like looking at the percentage rates for each race. If a school has a 2 percent minority rate for each minority group, that does not interest me. I feel like diversity should be a very important part of my college experience.

2. Programs for my major - Even though I am going in undeclared for every college I apply to, I am looking into schools that have good programs and classes for my interests. I feel like this is really important because even if I end up changing my mind for my major, my interests will always be my interests and I want to enjoy them when I go to college.

3. Location - I am interested in a school that is either in a city or a quiet-town that still has a city. I am not interested in attending a school that is deemed to be in the middle of nowhere.

Where we ate dinner!
Group Photo!

Black caviar - very salty!
Split pea soup
Filet Mignon with mashed potatoes and mushrooms
Apple tart with cinnamon ice cream
Ms. L!

We get to sleep in tonight, which makes me so happy I might cry of joy. Sleep is needed! Tomorrow we see Grand Central and tour Sarah Lawrence, which I have been interested in due to hearing about their great writing program!