Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bright Lights for Sardines

You know that "fool proof" alarm method that I mentioned in the beginning of my last blog? I found out, today, that it was far more fallible than I thought. It didn't matter too much, as there was no class today, but I was a little late to our debate group meeting. We got a lot of work done, even with my tardiness. Look out, Tomi, we're coming prepared.

I'll admit, after the meeting, I was still really tired, so I went back to my room and took a nap. I woke up about an hour later, and I felt really refreshed. I spent the rest of my afternoon writing blogs and reading cases. I also began watching a documentary, but I didn't have time to finish it.

At 5:30 PM, I met up with the others at the gazebo. We joined a group of about twenty students and RAs, and made our way down to the Riverside Park, where we would watch fireworks later on in the night. On the way down, we stopped by Westside market to get food. I bought some tuna rolls and a soda; you know, health food.

We got to the park around 7:00. I took out my camera to take some photos, and found that I had forgotten to recharge it since last night. Needless to say, the battery didn't last long. Sorry, but there won't be any photos for this post.

We set up our blankets on the grass, and gathered into a kind of picnic arrangement. For the next couple hours we just relaxed in the park, by the water. As the time rolled by, more and more people started showing up. By night time, the path closest to the water was packed. Then, the fireworks began. I won't oversell them; they weren't mind blowing. Of course, they weren't terrible either. I ended up having a good time, not because of the show itself, but for the atmosphere. The smell of the water, the swarm of cheering people and the friends I was standing with culminated in a memorable experience.

Getting back to campus was difficult, to say the least. There were a lot of police officers present, and the scene after the show ended explained why. It was impossible to see anything in the crowd, because of both the sea of people, and the darkness. By the time we were back on the street, we were no longer one large group. I managed to stick together with Tomi and Aurea, as well as two other students. Not knowing where the others were, and unsure if we could make it back on time, we headed to the subway. I've never been so tightly packed in my life. I felt like a sardine. In the movie Fantasia 2000, there is a scene during Rhapsody in Blue in which a business man is jammed into an incredibly tightly packed subway car, where the people have to fit together like tetris pieces. I always thought that this was just an artistic exaggeration, but tonight taught me that, like many things about NYC, the over-the-top is accurate.

236 Years and Counting

Rather than sleep in to catch up on sleep or wake up early to go out and take advantage of the free day, I had to wake up early today to work. I woke up at 9:15 AM (in summer, anything before 10 AM is early) and went down to Starbucks to get breakfast (I had thought the dining hall was closed, but it turned out to be open). Now stocked with food for breakfast, I met up with my debate group in front of Carman Hall for a study session. Two days seems is very little time, in my opinion, to prepare for a debate, but, then again, the other group only has two days to prepare as well. It also helps that the 4 people in our group are all on living on campus, whereas the other group is made up of mostly commuters, so they most likely did not meet together today. Our group was outside (the weather is fantastic, by the way) for about two hours working.
After this, I went back up to my room and found that my roommate, instead of waking up early to go the beach, had slept until 11:30 AM and was stuck on a pretty empty campus. Because of the holiday, the majority of people were off campus using up their free time, and I saw only a handful of students that had stayed on campus for the middle of the day. As a result, it was just the two of us left, and even though I didn't want to spend the money, he convinced me to go get crepes at a place around the corner from campus. Don't get me wrong, I love crepes; but cafeteria food is free to me, and I like free.
After eating, we crossed the street to visit the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. While I am technically Catholic, I don't regularly attend church at home because I feel that we all have our own ways of worshipping, and God can accept that. I am not extremely religious, but I feel it very important to stay close with God, and whenever we (my family) are out of town we always visit a church where we can pray. I picked this habit up from my mom, and now that I am out of town, with my family thousands of miles away, I felt it especially important to speak with God and thank him for protecting my family, and pray that he would continue to protect them. In addition, though, the cathedral was a masterpiece of both art and architecture.

We returned to campus (across the street basically) and I promptly laid down to take a nap for about an hour and a half, as I hadn't gotten very much sleep the night before. On the other hand, I feel like I say this every day, so today was no different, I just had the time to sleep more this afternoon. Anyway, I took my nap, and then woke up and did some more work. I received some criticism for doing work on such a beautiful summer day when there is so much to do, but I have to have by tomorrow an essay topic (which I need to research), notes on 4 Supreme Court cases, notes/preparation for a 5 minute debate speech, and a quiz to study for. And this blog. I did not want to have "la pistola a la cabeza" ("a gun to my head") while I raced through my work, so I thought I'd get some of it out of the way earlier. I ended up using the majority of my time sleeping, but at least I accomplished something. Sleep is something I am always behind on, so anytime I can use to sleep is an accomplishment for me. I'd still say I accomplished quite a bit of work, though, and after eating, me, my and two of my suitemates went with about 100 other people and RAs to Riverside Park to watch the July 4th fireworks. As we reached Riverside Park, the group spread out, and the group of 6 I was with ended up around 91st Street. We were quite a ways from the fireworks, but it was a magnificent show nonetheless. More important than the fireworks, though, was that, 236 years ago today, the United States declared its independence from Britain. I know I complain about many of America's problems, but, at the end of the day, I am very very glad to be an American citizen. I only complain because I shoot for perfection; America is a magnificent country to be a part of and one I am proud to celebrate.

Happy Birthday, America!

A sneak preview from the subway.

Despite having the day off from school today, my morning started off as early as usual. Why would I ever want to wake up so early, you ask? It’s because today, the girls, Mrs. L, and I were visiting Coney Island!  Rather than spending the majority of my time getting myself ready, I spent it packing my beach bag—you can never be too prepared for a beach trip! When I was finished with everything, I met up with the girls at the dining hall for a quick breakfast, before heading off to the subway meet with Mrs. L.

After an hour subway ride, we finally arrived at Coney Island! While exiting the train station, we were met with the sight of the sponsor of the annual hot dog eating contest, the world famous Nathan’s, home to some of the best hotdogs in the world. We settled down for an early lunch of the Nathan’s prized hotdogs and cheese fries. The food really does live up to its hype; those were some of the best hot dogs that I ever had!  

Next came the women’s hot dog eating contest. The area around the stage was absolutely crowded; you couldn't so much as turn your head without bumping into someone! Not only that, but the announcers were giving away free towels, which made the crowd go crazy—someone even hit me to get to one of them! I honestly couldn't believe it; people were so passionate about this event that they were willing to fight over commemorative towels.If there’s one thing that I learned today, it’s that Coney Island’s hot dog eating contest is certainly serious business. 

In the end, the women’s competition champion, Sonya Thomas, took home the trophy once again. Sonya also beat the all-time women’s record of 41 hot dogs—a record that she set herself during last year’s competition—by 4 hot dogs, bringing the new record total to 45!

Instead of waiting around of the beginning of the men’s hot dog eating contest, we decided to head down to the beach, for some surf, sand, and sun.

My sandcastle--The impervious Fort Tomi!

We then set off towards the amusement park. Morvarid and Aurea rode the more thrilling attractions, while Adrianne and I were content with just riding the kiddie rides.

We ended up returning to the dorms for another trip, this time it was a RA trip to Riverside Park to watch the fireworks over the Hudson River. The trip left 5:30 PM, in order to ensure that we’d be able to get decent spots. On the way to the park, the RAs had us pick up our dinner from a nearby market. For dinner, I had picked up a turkey wrap and a bottle of water.

I enjoyed a picnic with my usual group of friends, Lenny, Adrianne, Aurea, Morvarid, and Demi as well as my new friends Francesca, Jimmy, Hinata, and J.J. We passed the time by playing games like Charades and Truth or Dare and enjoying various drinks and snacks.  

The fireworks were somewhat of a letdown. I had expected them to spread across the river, instead of just focusing on the end of it. That’s not to say, however, that I didn’t fully enjoy them! They were absolutely beautiful and I’m glad that I was able to see them in person. I’m also glad that I was able to spend these moments with my friends, both old and new.  

Unfortunaetly, my camera died in the middle of the show!
What I didn’t enjoy was coming back from the fireworks. Our RAs ended up leaving long before any of the students, so the rest of us were left to find our way back to campus by memory! Not only that, but we still had a 11:00 PM curfew, and we ended up leaving the park at 10:00. With the combination of the large, slow crowds, dwindling time limit, and looming fear of getting lost we were rightfully panicking. Fortunately, we arrived on campus safe and with half an hour to spare!

While hectic, today was also very fun, just as I had hoped. Today was high adventure, fast-paced day that I’d been hoping for lately! The change of pace was very nice, but now that I’m home and exhausted, I’m starting to miss my old routine. Here’s hoping for more exciting days such as this! And Happy Fourth of July!  


Splish Splash & BOOM!

Columbia Pride! Already growing passion for this school, I can't get it out of my head!
Last night I stayed up late reading and working on hard on my coursework, and this morning I woke up early to read even more. I've been working really hard this week, even harder than I've been the past week (if that's possible of course) but I still feel like it's not hard enough. It's just that I have so much to do in such little time in an intensively fast-paced schedule in this program. To be honest, I rememeber almost falling asleep after every paragraph while writing my blog because I was just so overwhelmed with my school work. It's not like my work is due tomorrow of course, but it's just that I don't want to procrastinate and I want everything to be done ensuring that I completed my work to to best of my ability. As for tonight, I have to finish preparing for my moot court debate tomorrow. Since I'm the second speaker which will be speaking during the rebuttal, there really isn't a way I can thoroughly prepare a speech, however, I can study the cases and prepare some potential counterarguments. I already did a lot of the work last night and today, but I still have a little more to finish by tonight. I know I will do fine and finish in time because I already did a lot of the work, so I'm not worried about that at all. Also, tomorrow morning at 9AM I have scheduled a group meeting with my team in order to ensure they are as ready as I, I hope our opponents are ready to go down!

Adrianne and Tomi's ride.
After working an hour or two on my school work, I exited my suite to meet with Adrianne, Tomi, and Aurea for breakfast. It wasn't soon until we all had to get up and approach the metro for our trip to Coney Island with Mrs.L. I, personally, can honestly say with passion that I had a tremendously fun time with the girls today. We ate at Nathan's hotdog place right before watching the world champion hotdog eater, "attempted" to tan and entered the water a few times, and last but not least, Aurea and I rode one (and only one) ride; THE SLING SHOT. Probably the most intense and thrilling ride in the park, we surely ended off today's adventure with a finale.

OUR ride.
The ride practically pulled on down while connected to two simple ropes from each side and upon pressing the button, we were released and the stretchy, black rope pushed us off into the sky, leaving us nearly suspended and twisting upside down and side ways almost hundreds of feet off the ground. From up above, I saw the ENTIRE park, the beach, and the parking lot right underneath me. Mrs.L later told us that ours went the highest compared to any other rider for the past 30 minutes that we were watching the ride. It sure was thrilling, and I really enjoyed the experience! The ride was so intense that we decided that that was all we needed to leave the park satisfied. On the other hand, Adrianne and Tomi did not think similarly. They weren't quite impressed with the "Slingshot" idea so instead, they went to the children's section and rode the dinosaur ride. The ride was very similar to the tea-pot ride in other typical amusement parks, but they too were finally satisfied with one ride rather than trying out all. However, in the overall sense, the rides all looked fantastic and I would definitely recommend readers to visit Coney Island. I don't want to spoil it for you all, but the rides sure are unique!

After our trip to Coney Island, we rushed back home and I went right back to work. I really am using my time efficiently and staying busy. No time is being wasted! Thus, I worked for two hours until it was 5:30PM and we met with the RAs at the gazebo. We were meeting there to attend the Riverside Park picnic event to watch the fireworks there at night. There were three RA's which gave the sense of security, and I met a lot of new people as well! It's crazy how it's been the second week of school but I'm still meeting dozens of people each day.

There we positioned ourselves on the grass and enjoyed our picnic meals. Jimmy, one of the students I met from Australia, was generous enough to buy us all snacks to enjoy! From around 6:00 to 9:00PM, we all played games such as sherades and mingled with one another until it was time for the 4th of July fireworks. I was actually the one to propose playing the game because everyone seemed so tense for the first 5 minutes. At first, they all looked at me with skeptical faces when I proposed the idea, but soon they all gave it a try and it ultimately served to make us all closer. It wasn't long until we were all having so much fun and laughter than we were rolling on the grass laughing and smiles were impossible to be erased from our faces. We truly were having a wonderful time and I was really glad I went on the event because a little before that, I had found myself in the crossroad of decisions as to whether or not to stay home and conduct more research or simply go to the event and enjoy probably the only 4th of July I will ever spend in New York. So in order to compromise, I worked really hard at night, in the morning, and any time I had in between. I didn't waste any time or rest today, but in the end I must say it was all worth it.

People awaiting the annual 4th of July fireworks.


It was a fun day and definitely a memorable night. Can't wait for class tomorrow, moot court I'm ready for you!

It's Amuuuurrrricaaa

I woke up this morning very happy. Why? Because it's the Fourth of July! Not only did that mean no class, but that meant a trip to Coney Island with Ms. L and then a fireworks show later on the Hudson River. Tomi, Aurea, Morvarid, and I woke up early to catch the subway to meet Ms. L, where we transferred to the train. Since Lucas and Leonard had gone to Coney Island this past weekend, they opted out of the trip. Nevertheless, we had an amazing time.

Once we arrived, Ms. L took us to Nathans Hot Dogs, which has been open since 1916! I got a hot dog with ketchup and sauerkraut, and it was definitely delicious. After eating a very early lunch, we walked around before returning to see the Hot Dog Eating Contest. To be honest, I think the contest is gross and the mass food intake turns me off. However, I decided to suck it up and watch the women's competition. By the end, even though I was still disgusted, I was rather impressed that the winner was able to eat 45 hot dogs in eight minutes and forty-five seconds. I think the rest of the girls were a bit skeptical as well, so we decided to skip the men's competition (I've seen it on TV before, it's worse than the women's) and go to the beach.

Lots of hot dogs, fries, and lemonade
Tomi, Aurea, Morvarid, and I
Entrance to the theme park
Tomi and I
The beach was great. It was very relaxing to be able to sit in the sun and tan, walk around and dig my feet into the sand, or wade in the Atlantic Ocean! We stayed at the beach for over an hour before packing up and finding Ms. L, who had opted to relax in the shade.

Taking pictures of myself like yeah...
Soaking up the sun!
We then decided to go on rides, with Aurea and Morvarid deciding to be daredevils and go on a ride that shot them extremely high into the air. Think of it as a bouncy beam. It's a bit hard to explain but due to my extreme fear of roller coasters and heights I decided to sit this one out. Besides, Tomi and I went on the kiddie rides after and spun around in a giant dinosaur, so it was nice.

We rode in the pink one (although I wanted to ride in the purple one)
It was an absolutely wonderful morning and afternoon well spent at Coney Island. After Tomi and my dinosaur ride, we all went back to the train, transferred to the subway and said by to Ms. L, and then went to Columbia. After getting a quick dinner, all of us except for Lucas went to the fireworks on the Hudson River with RAs and several others. We were there several hours early, so we took our time by playing Charades and Truth or Dare. I had fun pretending to be Paris Hilton and then had even more fun when I excepted the dare to belt out the first verse of "A Thousand Miles" by Vanessa Carlton to the rest of the park.

Then came the fireworks! They were absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, my pictures don't do them much justice because there were so many people in the way, but I had a good time enjoying them. However, getting back to campus due to the large influx of people was not fun. I made it back in time, though.

Tomorrow is going to be stressful - we have our second quiz and our first debate. Not only will I be up late studying, but I will also be doing more research for my paper and reading cases for homework. Time to get to work!

Statue of Eleanor Roosevelt outside of the park. Surprisingly, she's smiling without her mouth closed
Beginning of the fireworks!
Aurea and I

Sunburnt on the 4th of July

As you can tell from my title, I currently have a sunburn. And yes it hurts. A lot. But the pain is well worth the fun I had today.
Sonya Thomas during the competition

The Waiting

The Liftoff


Coming Back Down

To start my day, I awoke a little earlier than most people to venture to Coney Island. Today being the 4th of July, the beach and boardwalk was packed. Especially since Coney Island holds a very special event there every year; the National Hot Dog Eating Contest. So to begin our adventure, we ate at the Original Nathan’s Hot Dogs. After taking my first bite, I know now why people hold such high regards to the hot dog stand. Once we finished our meal, we wandered around the park, looking at various rides. What caught our eyes- mainly Morvarid’s and mines- was the Sling Shot ride. Two people are sitting a ball shaped contraption where they are pulled down to the ground and are let go to ricochet back into the air. Since we arrived early, the workers saw us staring at the ride in amazement and gave us a deal. Considering that we had just ate, and we preferred not to have vomit on ourselves, we left with a promise to ride before leaving Coney Island. We then went to watch the beginning of the Women’s Hot Dog Eating Contest; and the winner was former champion Sonya Thomas, who ate forty-five hot dogs in ten minutes! Since the men’s division did not start for another hour, we decided to go to the beach and enjoy the sunny day. Unfortunately for us we did not bring an extra change of clothes and made due with our attire for the day. At least the hot day dried us fairly quick. Finally we fulfilled our promise to ride Sling Shot and it was probably one of the best feelings I have ever had before. Or that feeling might be due to status as an adrenaline addict. Ms L. even said Morvarid and I definitely one upped the guys in trying the ride while at Coney Island.

Sadly our day of fun had to end and we traveled back to Columbia University. After hastily doing my laundry and showering, I met with a group of Columbia students to watch the fireworks at Riverside Park. After grabbing a quick meal at Westside Market, we took the subway to the park and luckily got a great place to relax on the grass. We talked and played “Charades” to pass the time until fireworks began. The fireworks were by the Hudson River and the beautiful colors reflected on the water and night sky.

After the show ended the worst part of the night began; the mass rush of people trying to leave the park. New York Police Department had to direct people to keep the flow of traffic moving. Fearing the traffic and packed subway stations, we ran to the station to make curfew. Luckily for us, we made it by a good twenty minutes which gave me time to obtain my laundry in the basement of Carman. Now to attend to my charred skin and unfolded laundry...

Vassar College Review

First Impression: We went to Vassar on a very hot day. The majority of the tour was outside, and the indoor sections were not heavily air conditioned. I know that the weather won't be like that during the school year, but this left a bit of a bad impression on me.

  • There are no required General Education classes, although freshman must take at least one writing seminar, one quantitative course, and pass a language proficiency exam.
  • Over 20 foreign language classes are offered.
  • Pre-Major advisers are assigned to each student for the first two years. At the end of sophomore year, when students declare, they are assigned Major advisers.
  • Each adviser advises only 4-5 students. Personally, although I think I can function well in a large class setting, I would like to have a lot of one on one time with a counselor or adviser, who doesn't deal with many students.
  • Work internships are a major part of the Vassar experience.
  • Class sizes average around 10 students.
  • 10% of students are international.
  • 12.5% of students are from California.
  • According to the info session, Vassar students tend to be independent and interested in many things.
  • There are over 300 approved study abroad programs.
  • Financial aid from Vassar is applicable to study abroad trips.
  • All housing is inter-year.
  • Student government is very important.
  • Vassar is in Poughkeepsie, a small city less than an hour from NYC.
  • Acceptance is need blind.
  • Vassar meets 100% of all demonstrated financial need.
  • They attempt to cover need with grants, rather than loans.
  • They super score for SATs
  • Leadership in clubs is very important for acceptance.
  • They want to see interest and commitment.
  • There is a "Your Space" section in the supplement part of the application. Here, you can submit anything that expresses who you are: trophies, artwork, videos, etc.
  • The dorms have recreation and common rooms.
  • The rest of the advantages are true of every school we have seen: excellent academics, a lot of support, etc.

  • There's no graduate school.
  • There's no research department. It's a college, not a university.
  • The student population is only 2450. That's a bit small for my tastes. 
  • No Greek life at all. I don't know if I want to be in a fraternity, but I'd like to have the option.
  • Transcript is the most important part of acceptance. Although I feel that I have an impressive transcript, I want a school that accepts me for who I am, not what I did, because that's more telling of what I WILL do.
  • The admissions officer said that 90% of personal statements neither help, nor hurt someone's acceptance to Vassar. I don't like that. The personal statement is supposed to be a reflection of my personality and interests. Once again, Vassar seems to be more impressed by accomplishments than by people.
  • I didn't really like the architecture that much. The buildings didn't seem to all belong on the same campus, and there was a lot of empty space.
  • There is only one major library. To be fair, it looks like a castle.
  • The rest of the disadvantages are true of every school we have seen: far from home, unreliable East coast weather, etc.

Final Thoughts: My opinion on Vassar is pretty simple; it's an excellent school, it's just not the right match for me. I want a bigger school, and Vassar doesn't offer a lot of what I'm looking for.