Friday, July 13, 2012

Being a College Student That Will Soon Be a Senior at High School

My suite mate was teaching me how to do the "waltz." Efrat took
 a picture of us while we jokingly posed like we're "dancing."
For a month, we had the opportunity to live the same same dorms Columbia students live, eat at the same dining hall, go to school in the same classes they are taught in, and learn from highly experienced professors who usually teach at prestigious universities.

My RA and I.
I had such an amazing time the past month, and I'm really sad that it's finally time to depart. More than anything, I'm sad that my class is over because I actually enjoyed the course! The daily challenges it provided and the critical thinking it constantly required allowed the course to be both engaging and interesting. Before coming to Columbia, I remember being really sad in the car knowing I won't be home for a month and I will not see my parents or family. However, now I'm really sad that I'm leaving Columbia because I now consider Columbia my home. 

I have deeply fallen in love with every aspect of this university. Overall, I just feel like not only is the school a perfect fit for me, but I'm also a great fit for the university. Columbia University is definitely on my list of top choice universities, and I really hope that I can one day attend. 

I made a flower with my napkin!

Today in class, Dr.Porwancher told us that he had taught the course the same exact manner he teaches his regular courses to upperclassmen in university and the same manner and pace as courses taught in any private ivy league institution. He told us that in fact, a lot of the things we did were a lot harder than what college students do. For example, many students graduate Columbia University never having written a 20 page paper. This, of course, is a fact. Last week from the admission office, I picked up a sheet that gave student perspectives in regards to the Columbia curriculum. One student commented on the core University Writing course stating, "Although the prospect of writing 10 page papers intimidated me, University Writing definitely helped better prepare me for college work." To be honest, I wonder what this student felt if he/she had to write a TWENTY page paper rather than just 10. To me, 10 now seems like such baby work. Our paper had to be at least 4000 words, but maximum of 5000. I actually had trouble staying within that 5000 boundary! Our intense course this summer really allowed me to become a more prepared student. Thanks to Dr.Porwancher, I know now that I will definitely be a more successful student in college next year knowing that I have already participated in a course that had been more challenging that a typical ivy league college course. 

Today was a good day to end off our exciting college experience. We all visited Highline park and ate our last dinner in New York at an attractive Italian restaurant. Later, we ended our night by walking on the famous Brooklyn bridge, catching our last glimpse of the city I now call "home." Hopefully soon, I will have the opportunity to return to Columbia University.


That is the word I can associate to my last full day in New York. Just to think, the Columbia cohort was anxiously anticipating for the plan ride here twenty-five days ago. Now we all have mixed feelings about returning home- or at the very least I do.

I awoke at 7 AM from a short sleep; I finished my paper at around 2 AM and couldn’t fall asleep until 5 AM. So I worked through my day with only two hours of sleep. Thankfully, the Presidential Powers class was very calm today. After turning in my paper, Professor Porwancher informed us about the film we were going to walk. Unfortunately we faced a few technical difficulties when trying to play the movie. After an hour of fruitless attempts, we were finally able to watch “JFK.” The film was about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and a conspiracy theory behind the murder. A district attorney from New Orleans, along with his colleagues, try to find the truth behind the assassination, finding evidence to support the idea of a multiple attack on Kennedy.

Because we started the movie later than expected, we were given the option to watch the movie earlier at 1:15 PM than the usual 2 PM session. So after our last lunch at the Columbia dining hall, we headed to Starbucks for some refreshments. Today’s humidity was not comfortable. I can’t wait for the seventy degree weather in the Bay Area. Along the way to Starbucks, we passed by the Carman building. And guess what we saw? A filming for the show “Royal Pains” in front of my dorm! It’s amazing to know that the cast came all the way to Columbia University for a shooting; maybe I’ll be in the show’s next episode.

After satisfying my cravings for cake pops and frappicinos, Morvarid and I made our way to the Hamilton building to continue the movie early. The plot of the movie was very intriguing; it makes the audience question the government and the legitimacy of news. I even recommended it to my AP U.S. History teacher as well congratulating him for such a good job on teaching the class. Once the movie ended, Professor Porwancher wished all the rising seniors with the college applications and gave us a few sentimental departing words. Now I’m anticipating my critiqued research paper.

Once class ended, I decided to head back to my dorm to do some laundry and squeeze in a quick nap. Sadly I spent most of my time racing around campus to find change for the coin washers and dryers. After finally doing my laundry and taking a quick shower, I met with the Columbia cohort and Rowland to venture towards Highland Park and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Highland Park is built on old railroad tracks that overlook part of Brooklyn. Ironically we saw Ms. L and her son Bryan while walking. And we met a woman who was shooting for an album about the peace between strangers.

After taking a few pictures of the incredible views, we headed for the subway station to ride to the Brooklyn Bridge. But before our trek, we ate at a quant Italian restaurant a couple of blocks from the entrance to the bridge. Although our meal was delicious, we stayed a little too long at the restaurant, giving us taste of the weather ahead of us. Thankfully it was only sprinkling for the night, so our walk on the bridge was very relaxing. Brooklyn Bridge is absolutely beautiful; from the architecture to the view, it gives off such a calming atmosphere.

It’s so surreal to know that I’ll be back home in less than twenty hours. My experiences here have opened my mind to new paths I could take in life. Although my time here is about to end, one thing’s for sure; the 2012 Columbia cohort will always have New York.

Dawn of the Final Day

This was it; the final day of class. When I woke up this morning, I could hardly believe that three whole weeks had passed by since I first stepped onto campus. I’ve come to love my class, so knowing that today’s class would be the last was very upsetting.

The morning class played out like any other. Jeffery went over our last set of cases: Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Gratz v. Bollinger, Grutter v. Bollinger, Richmond v. Croson, and Adarand Constructors v. Peña. The final topic was Affirmative Action.

Jeffery also introduced us to the Scrutiny Test, which is a set of requirements that help decipher whether a law or policy is constitutional or not. In total, there are three level of scrutiny:
1.       Rational Basis Scrutiny:
·         The challenged law or policy serves a legitimate “state interest”. A state interest is defined as anything that the state wants to do and has the power to do.
2.       Intermediate Basis Scrutiny/Exacting Scrutiny:
·         Serves an important state interest and or something that is substantially related to serving that interest.     
3.  Strict Scrutiny:  
·         Serves a compelling state interest.
·         Has a narrowly tailored to serve interest. A narrowly tailored inters is a really specific purpose that does not go on to accomplish other peripheral goals.  
·         Accomplishes it goal by the least restricting means possible.

By using this test, the court was able to decide whether the method used to abide by Affirmative Action was constitutional or not. The decision varied case by case, depending on the methods in questions.

For lunch, the others and I decided not to eat out in order to savor our last few moments on campus. After I had finished eating, I went to the library in order to meet with my debate team. Before I went to the library, I stopped by my dorm only to be met with an interesting sight.   In front of my dorm room, Carman, there was a cast and crew filming for a television show called Royal Pains. While I had never heard of the show before today, it was still really exciting to see a real film set. While exciting, it was also somewhat of a bother; since the filming was going on both inside and outside Carman, it made going in and out of dorm quite a hassle.

The afternoon session was entirely devoted to our debates. This time, our only judges were Luke and Jeffery. My group went last, and due to time restraints, we ended up having to stay after class in order to finish. In the end, we tied with the other team, and since there was no time for a tie-breaker we were unable to decide a winner. With class officially over, the others and I said our goodbyes to Luke, Jeffery, and classmates before heading back to our dorms to rest and pack.

Despite the sad farewells and undecided debates, one good thing came out of today’s class—I got an A on my paper! I’m really glad to see that my hard work paid off, considering that I spent a very stressful day on that assignment.

After school, Lucas, Rowland, Aurea, Adrianne, Lenny, Morvarid, and I decided to spend one final night together by walking along Highline Park and the Brooklyn Bridge.

As much as I missed home, I think that I might miss New York and my new friends even more. I can always go back home, but trips like this are once in a lifetime, which makes me wish that this trip could be a little bit longer.

As of now, I’m completely packed and ready to leave in the morning. All I need now is a goodnight’s sleep and a one final glimpse of New York City.                                                                                              

It's Really Over...

It's official. Constitutional Law class has ended and so has HSP. I'm really sad that it's all over. It feels like I checked into my dorm and met my roommate yesterday, not three weeks ago. I've probably stated that so many times but I can't reiterate how fast time flies. Last night was so much fun; one of my floormates painted my nails and we had an in-depth conversation with an RA and two other girls about Jersey Shore. It was a really fun night.

My nails! 
Emma and I - she did my nails 
Mary and me
After getting breakfast, I went to class and we discussed last night's cases. They all either dealt with affirmative action or equal protection.

  • Regents of University of California v. Bakke - Alan Bakke, a white male, applied to medical school at UC Davis. 16 spots were reserved for minorities. Bakke had been denied admission twice and decided to challenge the constitutionality of the admission policy for minorities. It turned out the minorities had lower scores than him. The superior court held that UC Davis' program violated some of the Civl Rights Act and the constitution. 
  • City of Richmond v. J.A. Carson - In 1983, Richmond, Virginia, passed an ordinance requiring non-minority contractors to subcontract 30 percent of all city-awarded projects to minority-owned businesses. This quota was a remedy for past discrimination.
  • Adarand Constructors Inc. v. Pena - Adaranad Constructors, a highway company specializing in guardrail work, submitted a low bid to Mountain Gavel. But Gonzales Construction Company, a Hispanic-owned company, was selected for work instead. Mountain Gavel picked the Gonzales Company instead of Adarand based on affirmative action policies. Adarand Inc. filed suit.
  • Gratz v. Bollinger - The University of Michigan gave preference to applicants from underrepresented minority groups but in the 1990s set aside a number of seats in each entering class. In the late '90s they starting using a 150 point scale. Ms. Gratz had a 3.8 GPA and ACT composite score of 25 but was put on the waitlist. All minorities who had that GPA and ACT score were admitted, so she filed a lawsuit. 
  • Grutter v. Bollinger - The University of Michigan Law School adopted an admissions policy based on an index score representing a composite LSAT score and the undergraduate GPA. This policy also used affirmative action policies towards minorities. Barbara Grutter was an unsuccessful white applicant who challenged this law. 
  • Rational Basis Scrutiny -  Challenges the law/policy that noticeably serves a legitimate state interest.
  • Intermediate Scrutiny - 1) Serves an important state interest and 2) Substantially related to serving that interest
  • Strict Scrutiny - 1) Has a compelling state interest, 2) Narrowly tailored to serve interest, and 3) Least restrictive means possible 
  • Reasons for affirmative action in medical school - 1) Increase the number of minorities in medical school, 2) Counter effects of social discrimination, 3) Increase number of doctors in underserved areas, and 4) obtain education benefits of diversity.
The end of the morning session was really hard because I had to say goodbye to my three friends from Cairo, Khadijah, Talia, and Nancy. I will miss them so much and I will definitely keep in touch with them.

Four of us (: 
I had lunch with 4 girls from my suite and my RA, Kristen. It was relaxing to just eat with them on the last day and enjoy each other's company.

(From left to right) Me, Jennifer, Nas, Nathalie, and RA Kristen 
Belgium waffle with ice cream, cinnamon crusted apple slices, strawberries, maple syrup, and whipped cream 
Roomie love! 
The afternoon session was fun. We presented our debates and got our research papers back. In terms of this debate, I did a lot better with this team. We did not win, but we did not lose either - we received a split decision from the jury. I felt we presented our case well but definitely could understand what Jeffrey and Luke wanted us to work on. I was really proud of Lucas for winning the second debate! He definitely knows what he is doing.

I was the first person to get my research paper back, and I didn't even want to look at it at first. But then I turned it to the last page and started jumping down at my grade: 

My grade! 
This is going to sound overdramatic but I really poured my heart and soul into that paper. I was so happy that I received an A- and completely understood the comments Jeffrey gave me (Luke didn't grade my paper. I was also happy because both admitted Jeffrey was the harder grader!). I've really proved to myself that I can do challenging work and still come out on top.

And then it was time for goodbyes. Saying goodbye to the students was really hard, as I've made friends with majority of them. I will definitely miss them but will keep in touch with them in the future.

Jeffrey, myself, and Luke 
Suzanne and I 
After class, the Columbia cohort and Rowland all went to Highland Parks, where we were filmed to be in a music video (I think) and even bumped into Ms. L and one of her sons! Then we went to Brooklyn  and got dinner, and then we walked on the Brooklyn Bridge. The Bridge is absolutely beautiful and I loved the sights.

Beautiful artwork at Highland Park 
Empire State Building 
Group photo at the Italian restaurant we went to 
Selfies on the Brooklyn Bridge 
View from the bridge (1) 
View from the bridge (2) 
Upon return to the campus, Rowland and I decided to attend the final dance. Brittany joined us and we all had a lot of fun. The song selection and drinks were really good, and it was nice to release and spend time with my fellow Lions. After the dance ended the three of us went to my floor and had good conversations with the other floormates.

Saying goodbye to Rowland and Brittany was really hard. I'm not sure I'll see them in the morning before we leave but I know I'll miss them so much. I'm so glad I met them and have had so many fun times with both of them.

Tomorrow we go back to California, which just sounds so...odd. I can't believe we're going home! This time has flown by so fast. I just...can't believe it.

Rowland, myself, and Brittany at the dance 

Cookie Williamson Deserves to Live

Man, the days have really flown by. I wake every day at around 8:45 and go to breakfast and get the same thing like I normally would, but I treasure each moment because the number of days remaining of this experience is dwidling rapidly. I find it difficult to meet new people whenever I sit down at breakfast just because this will probably be the only time I talk to them; a little more than a day from now; I'll be on a plane headed back to the Bay Area. Of course, that's not to say I'm sad to return; I miss very badly my family, my friends, my nice warm bed, the view from my living room. Yet, I still find it so difficult to think that these friends I've made the past few weeks I will only be seeing for a few more hours. After that, they remain a Facebook friend, but an internet connection with someone is nothing in comparison to sitting in the grass with them talking, laughing, or playing frisbee, or going to lunch with them before our second class, or going out to get ice cream. So while today was a normal day in terms of what I did, there are some emotions that I know everyone on campus is feeling right now.

Anyway, today in class, we discussed the constitutionality of abortion and contraception, as determined in cases such as Roe v. Wade, Griswold v. Connecticut, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Because the Constitution not once discusses issues such as contraception and abortion, such matters are grouped into a broader topic of "privacy," and the constitutionality of such laws abriding this privacy are determined either through the interepretation of the Constitution, or through the fact that the Constitution says nothing at all about it (meaning that states have the right to regulate it).

You know what I did during the midday period. I took a nap, ate lunch, did a bit of work and then went to class. The usual.

In our second class, we first discussed with Jeffrey some of what we discussed in the first class with Luke. After that, Lizzy and Caroline, two girls in the class, gave out class awards to every member of the class. It was a very nice way to bring to a close what has been a fantastic three weeks, full of new friendships and intellectual discussions. Anyway, I received the "Most Likely to Kill Lizzy in a Game of Manhunt" award, because, apparently, when we were playing Manhunt, an obstacle that I had jumped over (a chain) was just a bit too tall for her to jump over. I was running for my life and no knowledge of what happened until the next day; however, it turns out that she was ok so I don't feel bad. If anybody watches "The Office," today's awards ceremony was very similar to the awards ceremony for "The Dundies."

After the awards, we broke off into random groups for our final debate tomorrow. My group had only four people, one of which will not be here tomorrow (so 3), but we ended up with, of the six sides for the three cases, the position I felt most strongly about: the death penalty. If you read yesterday's blog, you would have seen that I wrote about the death penalty just for fun, because I am passionate about it. Now, I'll just do it again, except this time it is required and I have to make more legal arguments than I do on my blogs. I'm still thrilled to be arguing this case, though, as it is something I am extremely strongly against. Anyway, here is our case:

Cookie Williamson v Texas

Cookie Williamson, a black member of a violent drug gang, was convicted in 1987 of the murder of two five-year old boys that were caught in gang shootings. He received the death penalty as his sentence. Since then, he has been going through the appeals process arguing that the death penalty was unconstitutional. In prison, he became a spokesperson against gangs and violence and was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. He is going before the Supreme Court to get his case overturned, arguing that the death penalty violates his 8th and 14th amendment rights.

You are defending Mr Cookie Williamson

The squirrel - that's Adrianne in the top corner keeping at
a safe distance from the mercilous predator.
I won't go into details just in case the opposing side might happen to stumble across this blog; however I'll have more on how I argue, and how that goes after it occurs tomorrow. I am giving the gorup's opening statement, which is 5 minutes long.

After class we had our final meeting before catching a cab to the airport on Saturday. The meeting was no different from most meetings; however, there was a squirrel that Adrianne felt was going to tear her to shreads but which Lenny felt strangely inclined to pet. After this, I had dinner with all my ILC buddies, and after that, I walked to get some ice cream with a few friends from my class. After that, just work. You'd think the last day we might have a bit less work, but I have to write a 5-minute opening statement for tomorrow. And read 50 pages. And write this blog.

But I am very excited for tomorrow. We have our first class, then a debate, and then as a group the six of us will go out for one last night in New York City. I just need to finish my speech!