Friday, June 22, 2012

That's Why I'd Choose Yale

Last night, Lenny and I stayed up until about 4 in the morning working on blogs, Lenny on his University of Pennsylvania blog after finishing his daily blog at about 3:30 AM, and me on my daily blog. It's not that we had left them to the last second, or spent hours wasting time, quite simply, we arrived at the hotel at 12:30 AM with about 3 hours left of things to do (Hang up/fix my suit, upload photos to computer, blog, upload photos to MediaFire, etc.). The problem we were facing reflected across the entire group; nearly every blog was entered somewhere around 3-3:30 AM. One night of this would be no problem, but I had gotten more than 5 hours of sleep once all week (the rest of our group had a similar experience), and it was beginning to take  toll on each of us. Don't get me wrong, we have been having a PHENOMENAL time, but this morning, Lenny and I both slept through the alarm, and woke up to call from Aurea at 7:38. We were supposed to be in the lobby at 7:30. Anyway, I'm not sure if Mrs. L decided right then or if she had already decided just by looking at everyone's faces, or if she has been feeling the effects of our schedule herself, but she told us that today would be a much more relaxed day.
Even after leaving 15 minutes late---Lenny and I leapt out of bed, dressed and got our things together in about 5 minutes---we were able to comfortably catch our train to New Haven, Connecticut. Today was projected to be a much more comfortable 88 degrees with some possibly severe thunderstorms in the afternoon, and in our haste Lenny and I forgot umbrellas. I have no real idea what the train ride was like, because I slept through the entire trip. We all did; everyone was out like a light after only about 10 minutes.
View of Long Island City from the train

It's tough to see due to the light coming through the window,
but this is a photo of Lenny, Tomi and Adrianne, and
Morvarid and Aurea all sleeping on the train. I took this
roughly 5-10 minutes after the train left.
We arrived in New Haven at about 10:15 AM, and after a short taxi ride to Yale University's campus, we entered the Admissions Office. The reason I have been in places like Philadelphia, Poughkeepsie, and New Haven in the past week is to see not only if I would like to study there, but if I would like to live there. For this reason, I have been judging cities/towns just as much as I have the colleges, and from what I saw of New Haven, I thought it was very nice. I have heard things about New Haven having some issues with safety, but the areas I explored I found to be very nice and safe. I looked online and saw that New Haven has 129,000 people, which is not very large; however, I found out that the New Haven metro area has nearly one million people. I found the city to be adequately large for my liking, as well as a very nice and safe enough place for me to live in (at least near the Yale campus, which is all I really need to worry about).
After entering the Admissions Office, we took a seat in a separate room to watch the video a large group of Yale Students made as an introduction to the university. The video, titled "That's Why I Chose Yale,"  ( was a musical video in which students sang out the countless reasons, which, as the title probably suggests, were why they chose Yale. The video made a fantastic first impression on me; the fact that all the information was presented in a musical way was a completely new approach to trying to attract students, and as a result it really captured my attention. The video itself also seemed to depict a sort of strong community that Yale has, and an atmosphere of students who really enjoy the time they spend at the university. Additionally, the video presented a number of examples of campus organizations and sports and clubs, and there seemed to be endless options for students to try to fit into; there seemed to be countless places where every student could pursue their interests.They say first impressions are huge, and before I had even attended the information session or seen the campus, "That's Why I chose Yale" had already made a huge impact on me.
The information session was good, but not great. I found out much more about what Yale valued and what they were looking for than I did about what life at Yale was actually like (although I'd find out more about that later). The session told me that Yale was looking for students: (I'll basically just list them off of my notes) who have engaging minds, who will see options at Yale on how they can engage (such as raising questions, proposing alternative methods, finding solutions, etc.), who will take initiative and who have something that excites them, who plan to continue to train their mind at Yale, and who create/help community and to make a better world. In a nutshell, Yale is looking for talented, well-rounded, motivated students who, after studying at Yale can help not only themselves, but their peers in the world around them. I cannot say how much I would love to study in an environment filled with students like this, and I feel that I am very much one of those students myself.
The small amount of information given about how life at Yale was actually like concerned mainly Yale's living situation and its core curriculum. Yale University has a residential college system, a system in which each student is assigned to one of 12 colleges, and students stay in this college for the entirety of their college life. It can be compared to a Hogwarts of a social, intellectual community. The residential college system is yet another reason I love Yale; I feel it really helps to integrate the social, racial and economic backgrounds that many aspects of society have trouble mixing together. Yale's core curriculum requires you to take courses in each of broad academic areas but each of these can weave into your interests.

After the information session, we met with a former ILCer and current Yale student Yohanna Pepa and walked to a nearby Cuban restaurant, where met with two other Yale students and friends of Yohanna. We discussed mainly life as a student at Yale, Yohanna about some of the classes she was taking, including classes about political philosophy and about ethics, among other things. As a group we all discussed a number of different scenarios in which you can learn at Yale, and overall I got the message that Yale was a fantastic place to learn just about anything that interests you (over 2,000 courses to take) with some unique aspects to learning that I hadn't heard of before (Yohanna mentioned that ethics classes were somewhat rare). I also understood from that Yale was extremely integrated in terms of socioeconomic backgrounds; many students actually hide the fact that they may be well-off or that their entire family graduated from Yale, all simply because they would like to avoid the pretentious image that can make many college campuses a little segregated at times. This is just another reason I would choose Yale. After finishing our delicious meal, we went to take a short tour of Yale's campus.

Yale's campus was spectacular; I thought I had seen some amazing architecture but Yale left everything else I've ever seen in the dust. In addition, the campus is in a pretty urban area, which I love, has a ton of green space and trees and truly spectacular architecture. 
We somehow managed to avoid the rain in New Haven, and in New York, we beat the rain by literally about 30 seconds. For about an hour after we returned to the hotel, the rain was absolutely coming down in buckets, and then after an hour, it was gone. The sky was very impressive;

For dinner, we went out to a place called Stardust at Broadway and 51st Street. Today, we mixed it up a little and went to the complete opposite of what we've been doing; we went to a very relaxed, casual restaurant. The restaurant was something I had never experienced; the waiters and waitresses at the restaurant, in addition to waiting tables, also sang and performed. The idea is that on some days people from Broadway shows come in looking for performers, and these waiters and waitresses all aspire to one day be on Broadway. The performances, though, as well as the food, were fantastic, and the experience was one I didn't even know existed until today. After dinner, we spent a little while visiting Times Square. Times Square was amazing, but the true highlight of the day for me was Yale University.

Partly Cloudy

Today's tour was the most anticipated: Yale University. Despite our excitement, Lucas and I were about ten minutes late getting down to the lobby. We got very little sleep last night, and Lucas' alarm didn't go off. Eventually, the rest of the group became worried about us, and had Aurea call our phones. We had so little time to get ready, that I wasn't fully awake until we were already in the subway. On the ride to Penn Station, we realized that in our hurry, we had left behind our umbrellas. Despite the heat wave, today's forecast called for thunderstorms.

I fell asleep on the ride to Connecut. So did everyone else, apperently. We took a cab to the office of Admissions at Yale, where we picked up some reading material and sat down for what we thought was the info session. It turns out, we were just watching the student made film "That's Why I Chose Yale." It's entertaining and informative, but we had already seen it online.

After the video, we moved into a large auditorium for the info session. Most of what the speaker said, I had already learned from watching the video, reading their info booklet, researching online and attending the UPenn info session. Nevertheless, he got me excited about the tour.

When the session concluded, we met up with Yohanna and two of her friends, as well as Ms. Kaplan for lunch at a Cuban restaurant. I'd never had Cuban food before, but I quickly learned that it's excellent. I ordered the cubano, which is basically just a great deli style sandwich. We discussed Yale curriculum and social life, as well as possible majors and interest. Yohanna majors in E,P & E (Ethics, Politics and Economics). Yale developed this program based on the major, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, which is offered at schools like Oxford. This sounded interesting to me, so I asked her questions about it. What is a class on ethics like? How is it different from philosophy? How are the three disciplines intertwined into one major? etc. I might look into it further.

This is a cubana. It's reminiscent of a philly cheesesteak.

When it looked like everyone was done eating, we began the on campus tour, led by Yohanna's friend Lorenzo, who is, in fact, an official tour guide. Just as we began, we felt the first drops of rain. Knowing that it could switch from a light drizzle to downpoer in a matter of seconds, Lucas and I went to by umbrellas at a nearby store.

The tour was great. Lorenzo was very funny at times, but he never forgot to be informative. Yale's campus is amazing. Every building is a work of art. Vassar may have had a castle, but Yale was its own kingdom. Their main library is designed like a cathedral. Statues, bust and gargoyles watch you, everywhere. A gigantic Gothic style clock tower looms over the whole campus. It would be scary if it wasn't so beautiful.



On the train ride back, I added photos to the draft of my thoughts on UPenn blog. Wow, I just blogged about blogging.

These are photos from the ride back:

One of my favorites

Right when we got out of the subway a couple of blocks from the hotel, it started to drizzle again. Literally seconds after we entered the building, it turned into a full fledged storm that lasted about half an hour. I have never experienced weather like this before. Looking out of our half-open hotel room window, Lucas and I felt heat, saw sunlight and blue skies, watched rain fall and heard thunder, all at the same time.

The view from our window. It's raining, but you can't tell from the photo.

Instead of going to a formal sushi restaurant tonight, as we had previously planned, we decided to relax at the Stardust Diner. All the waiters and waitresses there are prospective Broadway performers. While not serving customers, they take turns giving live renditions of popular musical numbers. They sing and dance while walking past, and even standing on, tables. The atmosphere was great, and it was nice to not dress up for once. I like wearing suits, but it gets tiring.

This was called the "Walter Cronkite"
The best part of the diner was its location; it was just a few blocks from Times Square. Ms. L. and Ms. Kronenberg allowed us to go off and explore the stores around there for 30 minutes. Ms. L. assured us that we will come back there again, and that this was just to get a feel of what's there to explore. We spent most of our time in Toys R Us. I bought something called a Squirmle, which I can perform tricks with. It's hard to describe, but basically it's a little fuzzy worm that you can manipulate to crawl around you. We also met an up-and-coming rap artist who performed a quick free style piece for us. We were all impressed, so we each pitched in a couple of dollars to buy one of his CDs.

I had a great time today. Yale was amazing, and the time in the city was a blast. It was nice to have a more relaxed evening. Tomorrow, we tour the UN (and possibly NYU) and have dinner with Yale alumni.

Yale University Musical

After yesterday's long day of touring, hot weather, and late trains, it was very nice to be able to sleep in until 7:15. The only problem was that Adrianne and I needed to be down in the Lobby by 7:30. The two of us rushed got ready and to the Lobby, knowing that we would be late not matter what. What we didn't know, however, was that everyone was running late--we were even the first group downstairs!

When everyone had finally arrived downstairs, we quickly walked to the train station; stopping only to pick up our usual breakfast of bagels and beverages. After we finished buying our food, we boarded our train started towards our destination--New Haven, Connecticut's Yale University. 

When we arrived by Yale I was impressed yet again. I was instantly captivated the school's grandeur architecture and landscaping--and I had only seen the Admissions Office. When we entered the Admission's Office, we meet with a familiar surprise.

Instead of beginning with an informative seminar like the other schools, the people of Yale University decided to grab our attention singing. Yes, singing. Through the collaboration and expertise of Yale's music, drama, technical departments Yale was able to produce a 15 minute musical to convey "That's Why [They] Chose Yale". Although the musical wasn't live, it had the same energy as if it were so. I had seen the video once before and I still find it as amazing as ever. With it's fantastic actors and vocalists, wonderful script, great editing, and catchy melodies the video was easily able to capture both the enthusiasm of the students and the essence of Yale. If you would like to watch the video yourself, you can do so here

The video was then followed by our Yale's informative seminar. During the seminar, I learned that currently Yale has 5,200 undergraduates and 6,000 graduates. Students are given a large selection of courses to chose from, with over 2,000 course, with a student taking 4-5 classes per semester. However, while Yale has over 75 majors they do not offer any minor courses. The first two weeks into the semester students are allows to "shop around" for their courses. Meaning that they initially just sit in a class and witness what the class is like to help gauge their interest in the course. While Yale does not have a core curriculum, student must meet distribution requirements--meaning that all undergraduates are required to take courses that may have nothing to do with their major. For instance, while a biology major is taking their major-specific courses they are some point in their academic career required to take at least two mathematics courses as well. Due to Yale's wide selection of courses, students rarely have trouble completing their requirements before graduation. Instead of having traditional dorm rooms, Yale uses what they called "residential colleges" which serve as the students' living quarters for all four years. n total, there are 12 residence halls and they house about 400 undergraduates each. Students are randomly placed within their college, with no regard for the students major, extracurricular, or background. This is Yale's way of having their students reside diverse communities rather have students only mingle who are very similar to themselves. Residential colleges come accommodated with their own courtyards, game rooms, and common rooms. 

After the informative seminar concluded, we met with Yohanna Pepa who is both a current Yale student and a former ILCer from Pinole Valley High School. Together with Yohanna we walked from the campus to Soul de Cuba--a local Cuban restaurant. When we arrived at the restaurant we met with two other Yale students, Lorenzo Labitigan and Chris Marnell. During lunch, we conversed with the students about their time at Yale, their application process, and why they chose Yale, although this time there was no singing. 

With the end of lunch came the beginning of our tour, which was lead by Lorenzo. For the tour we explored one of the residential colleges, the dining hall, courtyard, as well as both the main and Beinecke libraries. When our tour ended, we said goodbye to our kind Yalies and returned to the train station and later the hotel.

On the way home, we encountered a quick change in plans. Instead of going to Bar Masa, which is an upscale Japanese sushi restaurant in NYC, we decided to take the rest of the night easy and go to a more causal restaurant for dinner. And so, after resting at the hotel for about an hour, we decided to go the cabaret the Stardust Restaurant.

Most, if not all, of the staff are aspiring singers and or actors. The gimmick of the Stardust Restaurant is that the waiter and waitresses take alternate between severing and entertaining their customers, in hopes that one day a producer may enter the restaurant and offer them a gig on Broadway. The staff at the Stardust are so amazingly talented that it's almost mind blowing, were even shown on one of the Square's television screen! Overall, I think that today was one of my favorite days of the trip. 

Lux et Veritas

“Light and truth,” that is the motto for Yale University. But before I get into more about Yale, let me tell you about my day. We started once again at 7:30 AM, and rode to Penn Station to depart on Amtrak for New Haven, Connecticut.

Undergraduate Admissions Office
Before rendezvousing with Yohanna Pepa for lunch, our group watched the “Why I Chose Yale” video. This video was a musical documentary on why students from Yale University chose the school over any other. Factors such as the great support from faculty and students was the most common reason for students; from freshmen counselors to college advisors, Yalies feel the love when it comes to their school. After watching the video, we headed to an auditorium for an information session due to the large crowd that arrived today. The information gave us all a better idea of Yale is looking for; they search of curious and engaged individuals who will always question methods and explore what is given to them. Also Yale is the most flexible with building their courses; with two thousand different courses, Yalies are able to satisfy the needed requirements for the liberal arts program to become well-rounded individuals.

After the information session, we met up with Yohanna, who took us to a Soul de Cuba for lunch with her two friends. Chris Marnell is a rising junior, along with Yohanna, studying Neurobiology and Lorenzo Labitigan is a rising senior studying Biophysics and Biochemistry along with Linguistics. Conversation during lunch varied from interests and majors to the wonderful support Yalies receive from the university. During lunch, Lorenzo spoke of why he chose Yale; the enthusiasm and welcoming feelings Yale alumni, students, and faculty provided him made his choice between universities almost none existent. For me, I am definitely fond of the support and aid Yale offers its students. Although Yale University did not have my intended major, the advice from the current students made me rethink my liking to Yale.

Yale University

Yale Law School

Kent Hall Entrance
Glowing Walls inside the Beinecke Library
After lunch, the three Yale students gave the group a tour of the campus. Although we passed by a few buildings with Yohanna before lunch, I was amazed the amazing architecture and design of the campus. The rain could not deter my awe to the Kent Hall courthouse or the Sterling Memorial Library. We also visited the inside of Beinecke Library, where many original copies of manuscripts and books lie. What stunned me about the library were the marble walls that glowed due to the passage of sunshine through the stone. After our tour, we all said our good-byes and headed to the train station.

After the ride, we were allowed about an hour to relax before going out to dinner at the Stardust Diner. The unique aspect of the diner was the live entertain by the waiters and waitresses who sang Broadway songs. The diner is known to be a hotspot for potential actors and actresses who want to perform on Broadway.

Once dinner was done, we made our way to Times Square. Although there was a light drizzle, that did not discourage our fun on the intersection. We walked the streets looking for potential shops and attractions we would visit later. The Toys R’ Us is the only store we entered, where the sheer size of the building amazed us as well as the trinkets and toys. Lenny was the only one of us who bought a toy; a Squirmle is a worm like toy that wraps around your hands and follows your movements without batteries. Want to know the secret? Well ask Lenny because he won’t tell anyone. After our short, but certainly not last, visit of the night, we made our way back to the hotel. Now we all look forward to a relaxing Saturday when we will be visiting the United Nations Visitors Center.

That's why I like Yale

Getting up today was especially difficult. We got back from the dinner after midnight and I didn't get to sleep until about three in the morning. Tomi and I woke up at 7:15, allowing us only 15 minutes to get dressed and head on down to the lobby so the cohort could depart for New Haven. We had to wait for about twenty minutes because some of the cohort members overslept, but we were able to make it to the train station on time and pick up breakfast as well. Then we were off for the two hour train ride to New Haven, Connecticut.

My first impression of New Haven was that it looked rather run down. I was wary about the town because I'd read articles about how it was very dangerous, possibly more than Oakland, California. However, I decided to put on a smile and be positive about Yale. We took two taxis to the university and before we knew it, we had pulled up to the beautiful campus.

After going inside of admissions and picking up brochures, we went into a separate room and watched the now famous video "That's why I chose Yale." The video begins with an admissions officer answering questions in an information session about Yale. Just as he is about to finish the session, a woman asks him, "Why did you choose Yale?" The admissions officer then breaks into a song and sings about all the reasons why he chose Yale. The video then switches to several other Yale students/alum who belt out why they love Yale, along with interesting facts about the university. At the end, the admissions officer and all the students/alum run out onto the green and break out dancing. Then it switches back to the information session, where the shocked adults compose themselves and give him a round of applause. The video was hilarious but the love for Yale shone on.

After the video was over, the group walked to a nearby auditorium for the information session. The session was held by Keith Light, an admissions officer. I have actually seen Mr. Light give information on other colleges before back in California and was definitely surprised to see him again. Nevertheless, the information session was very informative and I learned a lot about Yale.

Interesting Facts about Yale University:

1. Yale was founded in 1701 and is a co-educational and residential liberal arts university. Yale makes good use of the undergraduate education and wants students who help others yet question themselves. Yale also wants to help develop their student's minds and prepare them for life at and after their four years at Yale. There are about 5,200 undergraduates and 6,000 graduate students, but Yale truly focuses on the undergraduate experience. All faculty members teach undergraduates. 

2. Yale is on the semester schedule, which means there are two semesters a year and students usually take 4 or even 5 courses a term. It is very hard to pick courses because Yale's "Blue Book" contains about 2,000 interesting courses to choose from. Freshmen are assigned a Freshman Adviser to guide them and help them with their classes, though. Students usually get the classes they want, except if a professor really aims the classes for seniors (and the student isn't a senior) or for students who need that class for their major. 75 percent of the classes at Yale are lower than twenty students, and 30 percent of the classes have less than ten students. AP credit is offered to students for scores of "4" and "5" but often given for placement instead of "skipping" classes. Yale doesn't want students to graduate earlier than four years; they want students to truly immerse themselves in the Yale experience.

3. Yale students don't have to decide their major until the end of their sophomore year, and the amount of classes at Yale definitely gives students a good base to figure out what they would like to study. There are no minors at Yale, and twenty percent of students typically double major. There are eight hundred labs for scientific research and many libraries; Yale has so many opportunities for research and learning. 

4. There is no core curriculum at Yale but there are distribution requirements. Most of these requirements cover writing, a quantitative course, humanities, science, etc. It's advised to students to not spend their first two years at Yale filling out requirements. 

5. There are lots of study abroad opportunities at Yale. Students are given an ISA (International Summer Award), which is a scholarship that is pro-rated the same way as one's financial aid that Yale allows students to use during one of three Yale summers to cover the cost of study abroad. Students still can spend a semester or year studying abroad. Many Yale students study abroad to immerse themselves in a new culture or find a way to travel. Students can even live with a host family! 

6. There are 12 residential halls at Yale that house about 400 undergraduates. Students are in these houses for all four years (think of Hogwarts housing system!). There are also four cultural houses at Yale. Students don't live in dorms, they live in two-bedroom suites with four roommates with two sharing each bedroom. There is also a kitchen and a common room. 

7. Yale's acceptance rate currently ranges from 6 to 9 percent, meaning it is a highly selective university. Yale is looking for the best and the brightest! Applicants fill out the Common Application and the Yale Supplement, which has short answer questions and then an essay (two if you are applying as one of the engineering majors). There are two decisions in terms of Yale, Early Action (non-binding) and Regular Decision. Yale also provides need-based financial aid.

After the information session, Yohanna Pepa met us outside the auditorium. Yohanna participated in the ILC during the Summer of 2009 and took the Grand Strategies course in the Yale Ivy Scholar's Program. She even won an award during this time. She applied Early Action to Yale and was at first deferred but later admitted in the regular pool of applicants. She graduated from Pinole Valley High School in 2010 and will graduate from Yale in 2014 with a major in Ethics, Politics, and Economics (it's all one major). I have seen Yohanna grow so much from when I first met her about two months after she had finished the Grand Strategies course. She is a smart, sweet, and definitely sharp woman. In her time at Yale, she has participated in the year-long Freshman Directed Studies (er, "Directed Suicide") program (a program that focuses on Western Thought, requiring students to write a five page paper every week, take three year-long courses, and read novels such as The Peloponnesian War), participate in many clubs, maintain great grades, and even teach a seminar at the Grand Strategies program (last year she taught the seminar “Everyday Machiavellianism”). 

Yohanna took us a restaurant called "Soul de Cuba Cafe", where we met two of her friends, Chris (a rising junior) and Lorenzo. Chris a biology major that has a focus in neuroscience, whereas Lorenzo (a rising senior) is a Biophysics & Biochemistry and Linguistics double-major. All three of them gave fantastic advice about the application process and Yale life. Lorenzo advised the rising seniors in our group to really start working on our essays when we get home from New York and told us that we definitely didn't want to go crazy during the first semester of our senior year. Chris told us that he had never met humbler people at Yale and that he didn't even know that four of his roommates were legacy students. Chris, Yohanna, and Lorenzo all stated that they felt very comfortable at Yale, with the people, faculty, and professors. Chris also advised us to sign up for interviews with the colleges that we really like and that it can only help us. I expressed concerns about New Haven to Yohanna and she assured me that the area about Yale - the "Yale Bubble" - is very safe and her only caution would to not venture out at night alone, and Chris agreed with her. My fears were soothed.

Gooey black beans, fried onions, white rice, and sirloin steak
Yale is absolutely GORGEOUS

(From right to left) The Yalies - Lorenzo, Chris, and Yohanna

It rained during the tour but that didn't take away from the utter beauty of Yale's magnificent campus

Harkness Tower
Outside of Yale's biggest library

Commons, Yale's Hogwarts-esque dining hall. A scene from Indiana Jones was filmed here and one of Lorenzo's professors was an extra in the film!
Outside of a Yale residence hall
One of two volumes of a Guttenberg Bible
Even though it rained during the tour and one of my flip flops broke, Yale was absolutely incredible. I loved the campus and the sense of love, care, and community I got from hearing Yohanna, Chris, and Lorenzo's testimonies about their times there. I am definitely applying to Yale. It seems like such a magnificent university. I couldn't be more excited for the Yale dinner tomorrow! 

We were originally going to go to Bar Masa for dinner tonight, but Ms. L has become concerned at the obvious lack of sleep we have been getting. Instead of going to Bar Masa, we decided to go to the Stardust Dinner, a local and casual diner on Times Square. Majority of the waiters and waitresses are wannabe singers who each sing when everyone is eating, hoping that a producer or agent will be in there and take them to stardom. After getting back to the city and resting in the hotel for an hour and a half, we took the subway to the diner. The songs were great and we all had a great meal. Afterwards, we spent thirty minutes on Times Square, basking in the greatness of the city. 

Outside of the Stardust Diner

My dinner of crisp fries, chicken fingers, and onion rings
Malted chocolate milkshake
Morvarid, Aurea, Lucas, and I
Times Square!
Lucas and Momo!

We're at the very bottom left corner :D