Monday, June 25, 2012

Lights, Cameras, Action!

Today I woke up to the sounds of my suite-mates getting out of their rooms and ready for breakfast. I had already prepared my necessities into a black backpack to make sure I don't forget anything, so I was ready in almost no time! After everyone finished getting ready, we finally approached the cafeteria to enjoy breakfast for the first time with the girls of suite 5A. I had a lot of fun with them and the breakfast food actually wasn't that bad! The dining hall was pretty packed and high school students swarmed rapidly past one another. The mouthwatering aromas danced underneath our noses and the warm, sizzling food transferred their heat to share with the atmosphere. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves together for an hour or two until we eventually had to attend our first-day orientation. On our way, Sofi and Efrat handed us our new Columbia IDs and a folder filled with important information.

Now the orientation itself was located within Lemer Hall and hosted a few passionate speakers, one being my very own RA! Darlene Giraitis, the Executive Director of the Secondary School Programs at Columbia University gave a very inspirational speak in particular. She spoke to us about the reasons for our acceptance and how all those selected are outstanding, accomplished, and clearly interested young people. Approximately 40% of the students within the program are also international so we have not only competed for these opportunities within our state, but also the entire globe. She later reminded us about how much of an extraordinary academic experience this is and how we will be working with such an intense curriculum. Following her speech, Sofi (my RA) spoke about the activities and the cooperation of our students in particular. I was actually really surprised to see her because she did not tell any of us about her surprise speech! We all smiled with excitement to see our very own girl up on the stage, she's really a sweet girl! I like her a lot. Of her speech, one thing that particularly interested me was the "Community Outreach." From 12-2PM we have a lunch break between courses and as part of a "mid-day activity," a few students can participate in daily community service. Although this is far from my community, I'm definitely interested in sacrificing my own time for something important and as precious as helping others. Although I'm only going to be here for a month, a month is still a month and anything counts.

As soon as she concluded her speech, the assistant dean, Kiristine Millmyer presented herself on stage and talked about how much of a talented young scholar we all are studying at a world-class institution. Students from all over the world-wide globe were here today with similar interests working with Columbia University to deepen their understandings and their discipline. Each and every single one of us will be taking advantage of the deep and broad intellectual resources while living and studying both independently and collectively. She discussed with us how much of an intensive program we have become a part of and the rigorous academic experiences we will achieve. Finally after boosting both our morale and our excitement for our upcoming course, we proceeded towards our classrooms for the very first day of college class. Aurea and I met outside by Butler Library and walked together to our class in Schermerhorn room 652. We've decided to meet up at the steps of Hartley every day from now on and walk to class together, which to me sounds like a great idea! Tomorrow she might decide to try out the gym though, but if my time permits, I just might join her.

We had a lot of trouble finding the room because it was in an "extension hall" which is a door to a totally secluded hallway on the 6th floor. Regardless, we still managed to make it to class on time and appropriately positioned ourselves in seats around the conference table. The room had a very chilly, awkward mood and the silence was the only thing one could hear. That is, until I came into the room. Personality wise I'm very outgoing and social, I love meeting new people and I'm definitely not a shy person. I tend to approach people very easily and I am told by a lot of people that I connect with people very well. As soon as I walked into the door and put my stuff down, I introduced myself and shook hands with the professor. Professor Porwancher was actually really hard to notice at first because he looks so young he almost blended in with the other high school students! Immediately after introducing myself to the professor, I sat back down at the round table and I noticed that everyone was just playing with their pens and hands, looking down or at the ceiling. So I leaned forward, smiling of course, and introduced myself to my new peers. I asked them a little about themselves and at first they were kind awkward in response because I guess I was the only one eager and "engaging," you may say, but soon we all connected pretty well. By making the first move confidently to start the conversation, I guess with me I brought ease to the other students whom in fact were very scared considering it being their first class within the United States as exchange students.
While we were speaking to one another, the teaching assistant, Kelsey Kearns, passed around several packets for us to read each day and study before discussion seminars. Each day we will have 2 hours of discussion, and 2 hours of research in the library. Today we had our first glimpse of the class routine after the professor took a seat right on my left and began a preview of our discussion seminars. He told us about the guest speakers he will bring to class and the debates that we will have. As soon as he said "debates" Aurea and I automatically looked at one another and smiled with both excitement and confidence. We are Policy Debate partners and debating is something we are both very passionate about, so we truly are excited for the debating aspects of our course.

After quickly going over important information, we all gathered our things and ultimately headed towards Butler Library for an introduction to the Columbia Library Catalog. The information session was very informative and as soon as it was over, it was already lunch time! I grabbed a little bite to eat but I ended up in my suite for the rest of the hour. I originally planned to take a nap but I ended up rearranging my furniture! I'm not completely done with it, so it's still going to be a surprise. However, once I add a few touches, I will definitely upload it onto one of my posts and share with you my new arrangement.
I later left my room at 1:30 and made my way back to Butler library for the research portion of our course. There we began preparing for our 25 page research paper. I honestly have no clue what to write about now because I thought we were suppose to write about a particular president, but in fact, its actually only asked to be about a presidential topic. Now their are so many options I cannot choose from! I was recently thinking to write about the ways that media has altered our perception of presidents and the presidential power as a whole. Today, presidents are more worried about their physical appearance, how they are portrayed to the public, and how they actually present their plans. American politics has swayed away from quality and quantity to a world of competing powers in search for the perfect "front."

Overall, I admit I really enjoyed the class and the serious environment. I also like the professor a lot as well! He has a very humorous and humble personality that so far I really enjoy. He seems like a person that is very easy to talk to.
After class was over all the ILC students gathered around to speak to Mrs.L for our daily meeting. We talked about everything we liked and how everything has been feeling so far, and everyone had lots of positive impressions. The meeting was very short and ended around 5PM where we all decided to go for lunch. However, we first all decide to visit the Alma Mater. One of the ILC alumnus that I met in our very first dinner in San Francisco challenged me to find the owl hidden within the Alma Mater.  Here is the message he had sent me with this particular challenge;
"Before you go, here's a little challenge for you and the other ILC Columbians: on Columbia's campus there is a statue called Alma Mater. It's hard not to miss. Legend had it that, each year, the first incoming freshman at Columbia who was able to find the image of an owl on the statue, would become class Valedictorian. When I used to be a tour guide at Columbia, I would challenge the visiting prospective students to see if they could find it. So now, I ask you and your cohort to see if you can find the image of an owl on the statue of Alma Mater. If you may just mean great success for you."

Not to mention, I was really excited to have passed this challenge and succeeded in finding the owl within seconds. Lucas and I were the first to find the owl, but he announced it out loud nearly one second before I did. I would joke with him and say, "Gosh Lucas, you cheated!" It was all fun and games though, and we were just kidding around. Right before we saw it we were all wondering whether or not it would even be possible to find the owl at all, but the Ivy League students actually did find the owl with pride. Now we shall pass on the challenge to the future students of the Ivy League Connection to carry on this new tradition of being the first students in the program to find the owl within the Alma Mater of Columbia University. Success shall forever rein amongst us.

Right after finding the owl we all went to the dining hall for dinner and later my room for an intensive study session. We all actually agreed that the study session was very beneficial and productive, we talked minimally and worked diligently. Before arrival to the room, we all promised that we shall not talk or socialize until all our work was complete and we obeyed those rules perfectly. Midway through our session we took a very short, yet relaxing break where us girls (Adrianne, Aurea, Tomi, and I) ordered pizza and lounged right on grass in the middle of the quad. As the sun set down, we enjoyed the peace and quiet picnic after a long day of hard work.

Now I am sitting in my dorm with the sound of laughter and fun outside in our living room space with all the girls socializing and I'm really tempted to join them. However, I must always remember that time management is really important and although socializing is really fun, studying is the most important aspect of this trip and socializing comes second. I have wasted no time today, all I've been doing is readying our articles and writing my blog tonight. The only reason I'm up relatively "late" is because I spent more time analyzing my article and actually taking the time to fully understand its content rather than just read it because it's assigned. I have color-coded highlights, summaries in the margins, and positive and negative marks pertaining the argument. I really want to be prepared for each of our class discussions!

From now on, we must play hard and work even harder.

Madison Blue Skies

Today was the first day of classes. We all had to be out the door by 7:00 AM, for breakfast and orientation. Normally, we only have to be out in time for our class, at 10:00, but they had to make time for the assembly.

I want to make it clear that I love it here. My class is great. My suite-mates are cool. The campus is beautiful. I'm having the time of my life. I just wanted to address that before I make any complaints. The first, is that the breakfast in the cafeteria is terrible. Some of the things, like the fruit and drinks were fine, but the eggs, pancakes and sausage patties were all awful.

The assembly took forever to get going, but it at least left me time to converse with some people from my dorm. When it started, the head of the high school program and the dean of Columbia spoke about life on campus. It turns out that 40% of the students here commute (the other 60%, like me, are residential). Also, 40% of the students are international. That means that 2/3 of the people in dorm life are studying abroad.

After the gathering, we took off for our classes. As would be expected, most of the people in Constitutional Law are U.S. citizens. The two professors, Jeffrey and Luke are PhD candidates. They'll alternate between teaching in the morning and afternoon, but there's no set schedule. Today was all taught by Jeffrey, so I don't know what how Luke teaches, but they both seem pretty charismatic. Jeffrey's very funny.

At lunch, Lucas and I went with a group from our class to get the textbook from a local book store. The reader was supplied by the teachers. The store had a limited supply, so I couldn't get one today. The staff told me that they would have more either Thursday or Friday (they'll call me). We don't need them until Monday, so that's fine.

I hung out with some students from our class at lunch. The food in the afternoon was better.

Class, today, focused on the Bill of Rights and law terminology. We were given some reading assignments, but that was our only home work.

After class I hung out in my dorm and got started on the reading. I've read some difficult philosophy before, but our first piece was down right incomprehensible. I had to read some sentences four or five times. It wasn't uninteresting, it's just that the language could be equivocal at times, and I had to look up new words, often. The work was Federalist No. 10 and No. 51, by James Madison. My RA is a political science major, so he took a look at our syllabus. It turns out that this standard Constitutional Law literature.

That was basically all I did today, besides talk to people. I took a ton of photos, but I only wanted to post a few. An RA is running a NYC photography contest; I plan on submitting a few things. If I win, I'll post the picture.

Law and Learning

I awoke at six this morning; you would think that since this bustle of college tours is over that I would be sleeping in. But not this time! Breakfast started at seven, following orientation at nine. Nathalie and I both awoke somewhat groggy and both irritated at how early it was, but overall in good spirits and excited for the day ahead of us. After taking showers and getting dressed, we met Kristen and the other girls in our suite and left Carman to go to John Jay for breakfast. Since everyone would be eating breakfast at the same time, a huge line occurred and it took us a while to get food. Not only that, but it started pouring rain! I knew I had a long day ahead of me.

Breakfast was pretty standard. I got a heap of scrambled eggs, pancakes topped with maple syrup, sausage, and grape juice. Kristen then took this time to pass out our folders, which contained our IDs, a brief history of Columbia, two maps, listing of where my class would be, and some documents regarding residential trips. After eating breakfast, we waited in a long line to be let into Lerner Hall, where orientation would take place. Once we were seated, it took a while for the orientation to begin. I dozed off a bit but fully awoke when Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" began blasting over loud speakers and a PowerPoint containing pictures of past summers through Columbia's high school program. Once the PowerPoint was over, Mrs. Kristine Billmyer, the assistant dean, gave a speech instilling her confidence in us, restating the important behavioral standards, and giving us a brief history of the program. It has been going on for almost thirty years! Right after, Sofi, an RA in Hartley, spoke on behalf of all the RAs and listed some residential trips that will happen soon, including a trip to Times Square, another trip to the beach, etc. It all sounds so exciting!
Soon after, we were dismissed and I went to Hamilton Hall, where Constitutional Law is being held. About thirty students are in the course and two graduate students teach the course. Our instructor for today was Jeffrey Lenowitz, who just completed his 7th year for his PhD with a focus in political theory and constitutional law at Columbia. Luke MacInnis is our other teacher, and while I don't know much about him yet, he did say that he just completed his 5th year for his PhD at Columbia. Since I do not know much about Luke yet, I will speak about Jeffery (both prefer that we call them by their first names).

Jeffrey is fascinating. He has a certain charm to him that is serious yet on the brink of sarcasm to keep the humor flowing. He also definitely knows what he is talking about, as he rattled off notes for over an hour and barely looked at his notes. I can tell he is definitely passionate about political science and that we will have a lot of fun in this course. The first thing we did was pass around a syllabus, which gives details about the course:

"You will be introduced to the Constitution, the fundamental concepts of constitutional law, the role of the courts, and the legal limitations on governmental policy making. We will discuss and analyze topics including separation of powers, freedom of speech, affirmative action, and civil rights."

Participation is the main bulk of the course, as we will be having two formal debates but also playing a lot of "Constitutional Jeopardy." We will have three quizzes and then have a 5 to 6 page research paper "in which you will construct a legal argument on one of the topics discussed in class." We will also be taking an all-day field trip on July 10th to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. I can't wait to see what this class has in store for me.

After brief introduction and a quick read-through of the syllabus, Jeffrey jumped right into notes. The pace almost shocked me but I was able to get my pen out in time. We went over:
  • Intro to the Constitution - This is the hardest document of alter, but judges can alter the law, especially in the Supreme Court. The constitution is robust, vague, and very hard to change. The American Constitution is also the shortest one! Constitutional Law sets forth the laws of our country and questions our government and society
  • 2nd Amendment (Right to Bear Arms) - No one takes this amendment literally since you can't just go around carrying guns
  • Supreme Court - This was created by the judiciary act of 1789. There are 9 members of the Supreme Court: 1 chief justice, and 8 associate justices. John Roberts is the current Chief Justice and Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American associate justice (appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson). John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the United States. Justices serve for life until they retire but have to commit high crimes to be impeached. 7 to 8,000 cases are petitioned to the Supreme Court but usually up to 100 cases are accepted. Most times the justices do not agree with one another.
  • First to Fourth Components - The first component states the facts and how the case got to the Supreme Court. The second component lays out the law and defines the legal questions. The third component addresses the legal principals and the fourth component announces the disposition.
  • Articles of Confederation - This document gave too much power to the states and was even more difficult to interpret than the constitution. Creating the constitution was illegal because the creators of the constitution didn't amend the Articles of Confederation.
  • Bill of Rights - The bill of rights are the first ten amendments. It all began when the Americans freed themselves from Great Britain's rule and started their own central government and Continental Congress. Anti-federalists used the Bill of Rights to create fear against the constitution because they claimed the Bill of Rights eliminated the rights of citizens, and the first version of the Bill of Rights was rejected. However, the Bill of Rights eventually was accepted.

Lots of notes, right? There are way more than that but then I would be writing a novel (kidding). After we finished notes, Jeffrey let us out over an hour early since he wanted to make sure we used all of our time in the afternoon session. After leaving class, I was going to go to the first-day festival, but it got canceled due to the cloudy and rainy weather. So instead, I went to John Jay and had a meal of chicken wings and salad with Morvarid and Aurea, who both seem to be enjoying Presidential Powers but are conflicted about what to do their research papers on. After conversing with them, I went back to my dorm and took a very long nap. Then I awoke and went back to Hamilton for the afternoon session.

During the afternoon session, we dissected the first ten amendments and figured out the clauses, as well as defining vague terms. We then had ten minutes to memorize (not really) seven pages filled with legal terms such as acquittal, trial jury, felony, and habeas corpus. We then played Constitutional Jeopardy, a game in which Jeffry either:

    •    says a term and has us define it
    •    gives us the definition and have us figure out the term

My group tied for second, which made me a little sad at first because if we had gotten first place we would've gotten an extra point on Friday's quiz. But I held my head high and happy since we got majority of the questions right.

After class ended, the ILC cohort went to Lerner Hall and met up with Ms. L! It was nice to see her again. She asked us how our classes were and confirmed that we will be having two dinners soon but that we will be back before curfew. Also, to my and Tomi's dismay, we discovered that the textbook for our class, Constitutional Law and Politics, Volume 2: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (8th edition), sold out! Our only option is buying it on Amazon if we want it by next week (when we actually need it). Ms. L graciously offered to help us pay for it, which I really appreciated.

After the meeting, Tomi, Morvarid, Aurea, and I went to the dining hall and ate a wonderful dinner of spaghetti and garlic bread. After leaving, Lucas actually came to get dinner, so we sat with him to eat ice cream and watch him eat. Once that adventure ended, we four girls went to Morvarid's dorm carrying work so we could study. She lives in a single and her room is huge, so we didn't have to worry about possibly disturbing a roommate.

We were assigned a reader, which contains several analogies and different Supreme Court cases. For tonight, we're supposed to read three analogies and two Supreme Court cases. It's a lot of reading but I think I can handle it, after I finish this blog I'm going to finish reading the Supreme Court cases. Here is a list of our reading for tonight:
  • Federalist 10
  • Federalist 51
  • Marbury v. Madison
  • Ex Parte McCardle
  • McCulloch v. Maryland

My dissected reader
The first of tonight's reading
So many notes!
I'll admit that I did not know that Constitutional Law would be this much ready, but I'm up for the challenge. Besides, study groups make everything more fun. After over an hour of studying, we ordered a pizza and ate out on the green near College Walk. Even though it was dark, the main library looked absolutely gorgeous and it was a very relaxing night.
The view from Momo's dorm
Delicious pizza
I'm a true pizza addict
Girls! (= (minus Aurea)
After the pizza break, we went back to Morvarid's room and studied for about forty minutes more before calling it a night and heading back to Carman. I thoroughly enjoy Constitutional Law and cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings me. At Columbia, every day is an adventure.

Back to (Summer) School!

At 6:15 AM my roommate and I woke up for yet another mandatory meal with the other High School Program students. Initially, the idea of waking up that the morning for breakfast seemed a little ridiculously, but when our RA led my suitemates and to the dining hall—especially since the dining hall was in John Jay, which was only about two buildings down from our dormitory.  However, when we actually arrived at the dining hall, I realized that she had the right idea. 

The place was packed—and it wasn’t even 7:00 AM yet! Ultimately, we spent about 20 minutes waiting in line just to get into the cafeteria and then another 10 minutes waiting in line for food.  After that experience, I don’t think that I’ll be going back to the dining hall for breakfast anytime soon. Though, I have to admit, for cafeteria food the meals there are pretty good!

After breakfast came orientation. Or rather, after breakfast came an hour and a half of waiting and then orientation.  Before the start orientation we were given our ID cards, maps of the school and city, and most importantly, our class schedules. While I have only one class, it meets two times a day—once beginning at 10:00 and ended at noon, and then another session at 2:00 PM to 4:00 with a two hour lunch break in-between. Before and after school, students are allowed to do whatever they please as long as they obey the rules and inform their RA of their whereabouts.

When the orientation did begin, it opened with a slideshow showcasing students from previous High School Program sessions, as well various pictures of the campus itself. After the slideshow came the speeches of our assistant dean, Mrs. Kristine Billmyer, and a representative of one of our many RAs, Sofi. Mrs. Billmyer’s speech was mainly about her expressing her confidence in us as well as how she expects us to meet, if not exceed, her expectations. Initially, I felt somewhat unnerved after hearing Mrs. Billymeyer speak. I personally felt like if we were unable to meet the Program’s expectation, I would not only embarrass myself, but the ILC and the entirety of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, considering that I’m somewhat of an ambassador for both groups.

After Mrs. Billmyer had finished her speech, she let Sofi, the RA of Hartley Hall; speak on the behalf off all the RAs. As Sofi spoke about the importance of communicating with your RA, as well as what the jobs of the RA’s were, which mainly includes supervising the whereabouts of students and accompanying them on off campus trips. After Sofi finished speaking, the orientation was over, and it was time for class.
Hamilton Hall

I then met up with Lucas and Adrianne, my “new” classmates, and began the trek to our new classroom in Hamilton Hall. We were soon met our two instructors, Mr. Jeffery Lenowitz and Luke MacInnis.  Not only are Jeffery and Luke are both post-grad students, but they have also taught this is course last summer as well. They went onto explain that since there were two of class meetings a day and two of them, they went onto to explain that it would either be one of them teaching both of the day’s classes or the two of them switching off between breaks. Today, however, it would be Jeffery that would be teaching us.

Jeffery started by introducing the course. Our course mainly focuses on how controversial court cases result the varying interpretations of the US Constitution, along with the power and role of our government’s judicial branch. Our class is mainly lectured, with Jeffery asking and answering a few questions between note taking. Our performance is graded upon or participation, quizzes, and our “final”—which shall be a 6 page legal case brief due at the end of the semester. Also during the next few weeks, we shall be partaking in debates going on field trips, and watching educational films.  For our lesson, we went briefly went over the structure and power of the Supreme Court. However, since it was the first day, Jeffery let us out an hour early, resulting in three and a half hour lunch for the day.   

For lunch, I decided to just return to my dorm and start on my homework, which were four reading assignments on the formation of constitutional law and the Supreme Court.

Once again, Jeffery was our teacher for the session. We class resumed, we went over how and why the Constitution was created. When the main lecture was through, Jeffery had us silently go over legal jargon vocabulary list. After about ten minutes of silent reading, we played “Constitutional Jeopardy” , and needless to say my team won.

When class was over, Adrianne and I met up after class and headed off to me with Mrs. L for our daily meeting. During the meeting we discussed how we felt about the school so far, whether or not we need any more school supplies, and where we would like to go in the upcoming weeks.

When the meeting was over, Adrianne and I went back to the dining hall for dinner. Later we were met with Aurea and Morvarid, and eventually Lucas. After we finished eating, the girls and I decided to return to Morvarid’s dorm for a makeshift study group. About an hour and a half into our study session, we ordered a pizza and ate a second dinner outside in the courtyard.  Eventually, we returned to our respective dorm rooms for the night after a long day of school and fun.

Overall, I think today was a fantastic day, even despite a few mishaps here and there. I’m also really excited for tomorrow class. Because of all the assigned reading we have tonight, I’m sure that the discussion portion of our class starts tomorrow, and personally, hearing other people’s interpretations and opinions is what really forward too. Hopefully, tomorrow will be just as fun as it is informative.  

Class is Now in Session

First day of class; it feels exactly like the first day of the school year. The hustle and bustle of students trying to find their classes. Some even getting lost and being late to class. The anxiousness was almost unbearable.
Orientation inside Lerner Hall
To start the day off, my residential advisor, Jennifer, and our group woke up bright and early to go to breakfast. For the orientation purpose of today, everyone was to eat breakfast at 7 AM. By 9 AM all students were to be seated in Lerner Hall for the orientation to begin. The Dean, Kristine Billmyer, gave a speech welcoming all the students, residential and commuting. After her speech, a residential advisor, Sofi, talked about the rules and protocols once again so embed them in our minds.

Once orientation was done, it began; the trek to class with six hundred other students running around trying to find their classes. Thankfully the campus is huge, so buildings weren’t as crowded as expected. Morvarid and I have our American Presidential Powers class in the Schermerhorn building. As we ascended up the stairs to our class, my excitement grew even more. We are finally partaking in the reason as to why our cohort is here. After walking back and forth on the same floor, Morvarid and I finally found our classroom. When we entered the room, the atmosphere was quite tense at first; we were all strangers to each other and no one would start a conversation.

Well, that is until Morvarid started talking.

After a few introductions, the atmosphere definitely became more tolerable and friendly for all of us. The instructor introduced himself as Andrew Porwancher. He teaches at a university in Ohio regularly but is teaching at Columbia University for the summer. He attended Northwestern University, then went to graduate school at Brown University, and gained his PhD at Cambridge University in England. We went over the syllabus for the course. The Presidential Powers class is divided into two blocks; the 10 AM to 12 PM block is a discussion seminar on the articles we were given today while the 2 PM to 4 PM block is done at the library to work on our research paper that pertains to anything that involves the presidency. Halfway through our first block, our class migrated to Butler library for an information session on how to use the computers and resources that the library had to offer. Everything was straightforward, so the concept of that was not very hard to understand.

Inside Butler Library
After class, I headed straight for the dining hall to avoid the rush of hungry people after class. Thankfully there weren’t that much people when I arrived. After a quick lunch, I headed back to my dorm to begin part of my homework for the night. I started reading “The Fable of the Allegory: the Wizard of Oz in Economics,” before I suddenly fell asleep on my bed. Luckily I set my alarm just in case of my exhaustion catching up to me, and I wasn’t late for class. We once again gathered at Butler Library to research for potential topics or even start our paper. As of right now, I am stuck between two topics. One is Woodrow Wilson’s failure in having the League of Nations which in turn led to the success of the United Nations while the other is presidential myths that affect society and the way people view the presidency. To get a second opinion on what fit more as a topic for me, I emailed my past AP U.S. History teacher for advice since he has had first had experience with me and my writing. I actually enjoyed the second block more due to the open atmosphere in the library.

After class was over, the downpour finally came. Morvarid, Lucas and I ran to Lerner Hall, which is right next to the Carman dormitory, to meet with Ms. L and the others. We had a brief meeting on how felt so far, it only being our first day. It seems everyone is settling well into their respective classes. Then we talked about upcoming events we would all partake in together, such as the upcoming dinner with the current Columbia students.

As Ms. L departed from the campus, the group, excluding Lenny, went to the Alma Mater statue in front of the Low Memorial Library. Apparently the person who finds the hidden owl will be class valedictorian. And guess who won? No, unfortunately it wasn’t me but Lucas. After a few teasing comments about cheating to find the owl, we all went our separate ways. Adrianne and Tomi went to the dining hall to have an early dinner while Morvarid and I explored more of the campus. Thankfully we found the building I have been looking for since we arrived on campus; the Dodge Fitness Center. Morvarid and I explored the center for a while to see what it had to offer; so far we have seen four basketball courts (Yay for me!), an eight lane swimming pool, a running track with three lanes, and three levels filled with exercising machines.

After our mini exploration, we went to the dining hall to have dinner, which consisted of meatballs and spaghetti. Once we had our fill, we all grabbed our stuff from the Carman dorm to do a group study in Morvarid’s room in the Hartley building. Fortunately for us, we were very productive for once. Well that is until we ordered some pizza as a late night snack. Seeing as how the rain stopped and the night was partly clear, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to eat outside on the lawn in front of Low Memorial Library. But we started once again after our snack and now here we are. It’s only been day one in Columbia University but the feelings of anxiousness and nervousness are far away. It’s time to work hard, study hard, and maybe even play hard.


A picture of the Low Library from this morning
We woke up at about 6:15 AM today. Most days, we'll probably wake up around 9, but today we had to attend an orientation at 8 AM in Lerner Hall and our group had agreed to meet at 6:50 to head down over John Jay for breakfast a little earlier than other groups (1000 kids would be waiting breakfast at the same time). We got our breakfast on time, and finished and got in line at about 7:40 to enter the auditorium. The breakfast was ok, there were plenty of options but most were pretty dull, although my breakfast at home is usually pretty dull anyway. We ended up waiting in line for 20 minutes and then in the auditorium for over an hour for the presentation, which was only about 30 minutes. We were also given our schedules, maps of the campus, subway and bus, and information about activities, among other things.

The Furnald building, where my dad stayed when he was
attending Columbia
At the conclusion of the orientation, we walked to our first class; my class was with a guy named Jeffrey Lenowitz (I'm not going to be formal, because he prefers to be called just "Jeffrey") on the 7th floor of the Hamilton building. We (all the other Con Law students) all introduced ourselves to each other, and after a few minutes, the teacher (professor?) showed up. We entered, and the class turned out to have 29 students, still small enough so that you don't feel at all like a number, especially considering that some of my suitemates' business and engineering classes have something like 80 or 140 kids. The 10 AM class, it turned out, would be short, as he was simply giving an introduction to the class, and an introduction to the first topic we'd be studying, the Bill of Rights. I don't remember exactly, but I believe our teacher is in the 7th year of trying to get his Ph.D, and it has something to do with the different ways in which constitutions are made. He has a sense of humor and seemed like a very intellectual guy, definitely somebody whose class would probably have an atmosphere I would enjoy.
This class, on the other hand, did not start off well for me. As our teacher/professor (I'm not sure which to use, but I'll refer to him as my teacher from now on because that's what I'm used to) got into the introduction of the Bill of Rights, he began to go over a lot of the history of the Bill of Rights, and while I followed everything he was saying without a problem, I was unable to participate just because I didn't know the majority of what he was saying until after he said it. I love to participate in class (and I also NEED to because it's 40% of the class evaluation), but was unable to because I just didn't know the answers to many of the questions he was asking (ex. He would give some information, and then basically ask what happened next). For anyone reading this because they googled the name "Jeffrey Lenowitz" or "Columbia's High School program on Constitutional Law," I'll tell you before you get the wrong idea that this would completely change; I would end up loving the class.

But I didn't know that yet. Anyway, I knew we would be learning about Constitutional Law, but, to sum up my problem in a nutshell, the questions he was asking everyone seemed to be more about what we "know" than what we "think." I am a person that definitely would have more success in a class about what we as students think than what we know (not that I don't know anything, just that I like to give my opinions and thoughts). I was frustrated and a bit concerned because, while I had learned, I has sat quietly taking notes the entire time and had not answered any questions. The class ended up getting out at 10:45 instead of 12, and I used my free time to get started in my blog and walk down to the bookstore to get my class textbook, which looks and weighs about the same as a brick. It looks interesting though. ( )

I used the rest of my lunch time to blog and eat in the dining hall; lunch was good, but not great in taste, but fantastic in that I didn't spend any money for it. I went to my second class of the day at 2 PM. This class is usually taught by Luke MacInnis, but today was taught by the teacher of our first class, (Mr.) Jeffrey Lenowitz. In this class, we spent the entire class on the Bill of Rights and some of the class' law vocabulary. Going over the Bill of Rights, though, was not simply just reading; the majority of the class asked a question at some point or the other, and many students asked more than one. While discussing how the United States' judiciary branch was the only branch of government who's leaders were not chosen by the people, I asked what reasons the U.S. government had given(and/or gives today) to justify this in a nation that was supposed to be a democracy. Anyway, going over the Bill of Rights fascinating to me; I had a general idea of what they did/said, but I had never spent a full hour going over each of them with class discussion, and to be honest, I was not as familiar with them as I would like to be.

By the end of the class, though, I felt completely comfortable with what I was learning, and I had even applied it to real life already. While I was not as informed on the Constitution as I would want to be, I feel very informed about some of the issues in society, and off of the top my head I could think of numerous laws and issues in our society that were direct violations of the Constitution. There are numerous violations all over society, I feel, of the First Amendment; to name one, California Penal Code Sec. 407 states, “Whenever two or more persons assemble together to do a lawful act in a violent, boisterous or tumultuous manner, such assembly is considered an unlawful assembly.” By definition, anything "loud" can also be considered "boisterous," and by that line of thinking, any police force who finds a protest to be "loud" can criminalize an assembly, which, while loud, is peaceful, meaning it is protected by the First Amendment. Just a quick example I came up with, although there are many others: the death penalty I feel is a blatant violation of the 8th Amendment, although that is completely a matter of opinion. On that note, that was another thing we learned today, that the Bill of Rights is EXTREMELY vague, and as times change, so does the meaning of "cruel or unusual punishment."
The sky about 5 minutes before a downpour - conveniently right when I was walking outside
After class, our cohort met up for a recap of the day and any concerns (my internet, although it's been fixed now) we would like to express. We are all enjoying ourselves, though! After that, we all went to check out the statue in front of Colombia's main library; we were trying to find the owl because, according to a friend of Morvarid's, the person to find the owl will be his class' valedictorian (or something like that). I actually got extremely lucky and found the owl in about 20 seconds (I won't say where), which of course brought out instant accusations of cheating. I actually just got really lucky, and I think it must be something good, although I've probably countered all that by upsetting the Columbia gods for not knowing the name of their statue or their library or for not knowing the rules of the game. Maybe an hour after that, I ate dinner with a few other members of the cohort, which was fun as usual. The food (spaghetti and meatballs) was very good, although not as good as my mom's.

By the way, I named this blog Kindergarten because today was similar to the first day of Kindergarten in that I was extrememly excited to try something important I had never done before. Pretty random, but it probably caught your attention more than "First Day of School." And it makes sense, right?

Anyway, I'm really enjoying the class, and although I have homework, I'm actually looking forward to it just a little bit because I actually enjoy learning these kinds of things!

"Cutting the Umbilical Cord"

This blog, although posted today, is from June 24th. I would’ve posted it then, but for reasons beyond my control (problems with my internet) I was unable to. It turns out my ethernet plug thing (I have no idea what it's called, but it's where you plug your cord into the wall) does not work, but my roommate's does. He's currently out of the room and I'm using that plug right now.
Yes, the past week has been fantastic, but after all, today was the day we had all signed up for. Today was the first day of what we had written numerous essays for, the first day of what we had interviewed for, and the first day of what we have been blogging night after night for. I woke up at around 9 so that I could get a good night’s sleep before my first day on my own (the again, I DO have 3 friends on campus, so I’m not actually on my own) and so that I would have enough time to pack the giant mess that had accumulated and formed a pile in my corner of the room. We went down to breakfast at around 10:30, my clothes and things now organized, but yet to be packed into my suitcase. After eating, we went back up to the hotel room and I hurriedly stuffed everything into my suitcase, finishing only a few minutes before the checkout time of 12 PM. I doubt they would have charged us extra for being a few minutes late, but it was better not to test them. We hailed two taxis and as a group went about 40 blocks north up Amsterdam Avenue (a block over from Broadway, where out hotel was). 
My room in Carman Hall
After arriving at Columbia at 116th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, we crossed the street and entered John Jay Hall, where we checked in and received our room keys. I’m not sure if it was coincidence or not, but five of us (not Morvarid, for some reason) were assigned to Carman Hall, and each of us somewhere on the 9th to 11th floors. We all went up to our rooms, and I was surprised to see that my room was a double, not a single as many of the past ILCers at Columbia had received. It ended up working out just fine, though, as my roommate is super chill. I can’t think of a word that perfectly describes “chill,” so I’ll just go with the slang term. If no other word than the slang term can say what I’m trying to say in the same way, though, then I guess “chill” should be added to the dictionary. Anyway, he’s from Northern New Jersey and knows quite a bit about sports and all of the things going on around the world and in our country, so it was very easy to hold a conversation with him. After settling into my room, we gathered as a group again to go get some ice cream and then buy our supplies and a sweatshirt from Colombia (the bookstore did not have our textbooks). After that, we said goodbye to Mrs. L and went on to live on our own for the first time (the first time for me, at least). Mrs. L referred to it as “cutting the umbilical cord;” I thought that was pretty funny.
The view from my room
I returned up to my room, made my bed, and then walked out into the hallway, where I found a group of about 5 other guys watching the Euro Cup in a room at the end of the hall. I don’t follow soccer extremely closely, but I am a fan and so I stayed and watched the reminder for the Italy-England game as it went into overtime, and eventually, into penalty kicks. I really had no preference as to who won, because whoever wins will get to be destroyed by Germany, who will win the entire Euro Cup because they are the best and because I’m part German. I’ve had my conversations with tons and tons of people in the Bay Area about sports, but it was cool to hear what people from New Jersey and other parts of the country thought of my teams. It turns everyone thinks my teams suck, which is partially true but….but yeah. To many it might seem like no big deal to have a conversation about sports, but I thought it was pretty cool; I’ve never heard an actual Jets fan’s perspective on Tim Tebow.
Later, at 5:30 PM, we all met for an icebreaker between my RA and suitemates, a barbecue, and then orientation, which involved going over the rules and discussing what living at Colombia on a daily basis would be like (when breakfast is, when certain events will be, who to contact, etc.). I have students in my group coming from places like Turkey, China, Chicago, among other places. After the barbecue, we returned to our rooms, where I got started on this blog and discovered that the wi-fi is there one minute and gone the next. Later, I went downstairs, where there were a few activities going on, some which I found to be very strange and not for me (some cowboy singing game). For the most part, though, people were just throwing themselves into random conversations just to try to meet new people. I’m not exactly an expert (is anyone?) at walking up to people I have never met and starting a conversation at random, but the fact that it was weird for everyone made it much easier for all of us. I returned to my room about 15 minutes before curfew, and the RAs on our flow brought about six tubs of ice cream for all of us to eat.
By the end of the day, I’d say I had met anywhere from 25-100 people, depending on what qualifies as meeting somebody. Nearly everyone was very open and easy to talk to, with plenty of interesting things to say and an interest in learning about you. I had expected this to be fun, but this experience now seems like it will easily exceed those expectations; I’ll be on campus with over a thousand other intellectual kids my age, which is much more than I expected. Of course, I knew there’d be plenty of intellectual kids to talk to; however, I was completely unaware of all the things planned on and off campus. I’ve heard everything from carnival to laser tag to visiting Coney Island and Central Park. These three weeks seem like they’ll be even more fun than I expected.