Monday, July 23, 2012

It's Officially The End

“Leonard Eisen. Lucas Lochner-Bravo.” One by one, they announced the names of the Ivy League Connection’s newest members.  “Adrianne Ramsey.”  As the room filled with applause and congratulations, I found myself inching towards the exit. There was no way that I had been accepted—all of the other applicants were much better choices; they were far more gifted than me, not to mention more articulate and charming. I braced myself as the interviewers began to announce the fourth and final name. “Oluwatomi Balogun.”

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly half a year since my name was called that day. The process following my acceptance into the Ivy League Connection was certainly a long and stressful one, but the end result was certainly worth all the effort. Now that a little over a week has passed since returning home, I would like to take the time to reminisce about my trip.

The first seven days of in New York were arguably the most eventful part of our trip. Each day we visited one of the nation’s most esteemed campuses, each one with its own breathtaking landscape and unique atmosphere.  I’m really apprentice of our tours and information seminars, as it was through theses means that I was able to realize what kind of school I would like to attend.

This trip has helped realize how close-minded I’ve really been. Before this trip, the only school I wanted to go to was UC Berkeley. I couldn’t even give a legitimate reason as to why I wanted to go besides “It’s a good school.” Through my experiences, I’ve come to ask myself a very important question: “Do I want to go to UC Berkeley because I think that it’s right school for me or do I want to go to UC Berkeley because everyone else wants to go to UC Berkeley?”  While I still plan on applying to UC Berkeley, I also would like to apply to Columbia University, UPenn, and New York University. Not only because they’re great schools, but also because I love their environments and I can honestly see myself being successful whilst attending anyone of these schools.

One thing that I certainly won’t forget about this trip would be the dinners. I honestly can’t remember a time where I was even a little bit hungry; if I wasn’t already full from a previous meal, then I was sure to more than make up for it during the next. I was treated to some of the best food that I’ve ever had in my entire life. Not only was the food always cooked to perfection, but their presentation was fabulous as well. However, I think that my favorite part of our dinners were the conversations. Thanks to our entertaining and knowledgeable alumni, our dinners were able to become as fond and memorable as they are today.

Our first week in New York ended all too quickly; it was hard to believe that in the timeframe of just one week I went from touring some of our country’s top schools to actually attending one.  My time at Columbia University is something that I will never forget.

I already find myself missing my friends and suitemates. I spent three weeks getting to know them, and knowing that we’ll most likely never see each other again is rather upsetting. While it’s true that we’ve exchanged contact information, it’s certainly not the same as sharing a room or dormitory.

I absolutely adored my Constitutional Law class. My classmates and instructors were amazing; I thoroughly enjoyed our class discussions and debates; it was a never-ending battle of wits in that class. Needless to say, I was able to fulfill my goal of exposing myself to new viewpoints. Whether or not I agreed with the opinion at hand, I would take the time to compare another person’s views with my own views in order to get a better idea of my own beliefs.  Because of this class, I was able to learn about both constitutional law and the importance of opinion and interpretation. Personally, I believe that it is necessary to be versed in both fields in order to become a model citizen, making the things that I learned in this class valuable both in and out of the classroom. As I said before, I really loved this course; a part of me even wishes that it have been a year-round, rather than just three weeks.

As for trips, I’m sad to say that most of my Top 15 Picks were left unfulfilled. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t have fun regardless. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I was able to visit so many famous sights, some of which that I had never before thought of going to. Some of my favorites were the Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock, Central Park, and the fireworks display on the Hudson River. This trip also marked many firsts for me, such as my first time on a boat and my first time on a skyscraper.

Never in my life would have I ever imagined myself in New York City—but as luck would have it, I was just there a week ago.  This trip was probably one of the best experiences in my life, and thanks to this blog, I’ll be able to remember practically every minute of it.While there's still a few weeks of summer vacation left, there's certainly nothing that can top this trip. 

Although, I thanked everyone in a previous post, I would like to make a few special mentions. I would like to thank Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Ramsey, and Don Gosney. Without their time and efforts, the Ivy League Connection wouldn’t even exist. These three people have helped countless students expand their horizons and achieve things they may have thought impossible. I also like would like wholeheartedly thank them for impacting my life for the better. I’m incredibly grateful.

In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen

We waited anxiously in the room for minutes, but they all felt like hours. We waited, the time ticked away as we clicked our pens and glanced around nervously, wondering who was ultimately going to be chosen by the panelists. We stepped inside the silent rooms one by one, hoping to impress our interviewers with our personalities and ideas. The room was silent, and around the dark wooden conference table sat 6 worthy individuals, from lawyers, to experienced teachers, acting as our interviewers for the day. One seat stood out, however, one seat was completely empty. Every gap around the table was filled with one individual, but one. That was left for us. We sat at the head of the table, across from a tripod. On that tripod was one of the most intimidating factors of the whole experience; the video camera. While our every move, our every breath, and our every stutter was recorded on tape, it did not just end there. Our every smile, glance, and gesture was also documented by the flashing camera that cased around us while we spoke. The questions were all equally challenging and thought provoking, but we all endured the intimidating environment while also answering each question impressively. Once the 10th and final question was answered and the last drop of nervous sweat secretly glided down our foreheads, we rose with confidence and pride, shaking each and every hand in that room and walked out that room with bold smiles. We emerged into the waiting room once more, the hours now felt like days as it was finally approaching the time where the six panelists chose the worthy ones for admission into the Ivy League Connection and redemption of the generous scholarships granted by the independent sponsors. Finally, they chose us all to re-enter the room, this time, all together. One by one we entered, our hearts beating rapidly, our minds filled with doubt; was I really going to be the one chosen to attend Columbia University? Suddenly, in the midst of her speech, Mrs.Kronenberg said my name. I felt like the world around me just stopped, no sort of sound glided through time, no movement emerged, nothing. Everything just stopped. A tear of joy ran down my cheek; I was one of the only two chosen in that interview for Presidential Powers to study at Columbia University in the city of New York.

From day one, my experiences as a proud member of the Ivy League Connection has never seized to amaze me. On June 18th 2012, my fellow cohort and I left to New York city in a stretch white limo. From the start of our  trip, our journey began with luxury, a reward for our accomplishments thus far you may suppose. Our first week in New York, we toured from restaurant to restaurant, visited different colleges, met with different alumni, admission officers, and students alike, speaking to each in regards to their experiences at different universities. There, we not only enjoyed the rich, tasty meals at each of the best restaurants in the big apple, but what we enjoyed even more was the rich conversations we had with each unique individual.

My Suite
After our first week, we took our first steps on the campus we soon called home, the campus to Columbia University. We walked that day with baby steps, and we soon left that campus emerging like giants that had gained their height by soaking up all the information and the rich culture around them. It wasn't only that we were studying at a world class institution, we were also in a new world that was so different from the one we came from and for the first time, we were completely independent and alone. Our parents left us the time they said their final goodbyes at El Cerrito High School, that entire month we were alone, and our responsibility, maturity, and independence took over in the bustling city know as New York. There, us 6 teenagers soon learned a life time of experiences with endless challenges on each path we took.

At Columbia university, Aurea and I studied Presidential Powers at Home and Abroad with Dr.Porwancher whom had received his PhD from Cambridge. He was a very intelligent professor, of course, but he also had a bright and humorous personality that never allowed for a dull moment in his class. Each morning, Aurea and I would wake up, eat breakfast at John Jay dining hall, and head to Schermerhorn for our first two hour session of class. There we sat around the conference table for our "discussion seminar," where we discussed each challenging article we read the night before. Every night before class, I would sit in my room under the dim lighting of my work lamp and read the articles assigned to us. However, I would not just read it, I would analyze it, make inferences based on my reading, and draw conclusions and evaluations as well. Then the next day in class, I would constantly raise my hand and contribute the most I could to the class at all times. Each and every day, I never failed to come to class unprepared.

After those two hours, we would take a break for lunch and then went straight back to work. This time, we spent the remainder of our two hours at the beautiful Butler library. This was probably my second home at Columbia University, the place where I spent the majority of my time on campus. There we went from room to room looking for our books and our sources. Why? Because throughout or month in Columbia University, Aurea and I were writing a 20 page research paper for our class. The amount of time we worked on those papers far exceeded the two hours we spent at the library each day, however. Many times Aurea would go back to her room and nap, then later come to the library and work for the rest of the night on her paper. I, on the other hand, never enjoyed the luxury of napping throughout my stay, but I constantly stayed in Butler library until closing time simply working on my paper. The topic I chose was definitely a hard one, nonetheless. I chose to write about how media affects political images and success because I wanted to challenge myself. However, I failed to realize that a 20 page college research paper is definitely a challenge within itself (especially since it was the first research paper I had ever written). The topic was challenging because it was almost like merge between media studies and political sciences, and aside from that, it was really difficult to find primary sources. Others chose to write about one particular president or once particular incident, but my topic went into detail in regards to a few different presidencies and incidents alike. Thankfully, after all the risks I took by choosing that topic and the hard work I put into the development of my paper, it all finally paid off. My professor sent me my paper back in the mail with a personal comment at the end written, "Morvarid, you've done some very solid research and amalgamated a lot of interesting material into a coherent and explanatory framework." Those words were the words I really looked forward to every day I typed away my nights on my laptop in Butler library. Later, he also mentioned in a different message, "I was very pleased with your performance." These simple phrases carved a smile on my face that I will never forget. The feeling of success that blossomed in my heart was a true feeling of joy, and for that I was very thankful.
Our first session class.

I remember the first day of class, I walked into the room when everyone was very stiff as they were still very unfamiliar with their new classmates. While everyone was looking down awkwardly and played nervously with their hands, I walked in with a smile and sat at the end of the table and introducing myself to those who had been sitting at the same table for quite a while but probably did not each other's names.  From that moment on, we all became very good friends despite the fact that we all came from different areas of the world. Some were from China, others from Korea, and some were very local and lived in New York. To my surprise, one was very close to my home, he was from Southern California. Another, was even closer to where I consider home, he was Iranian. The rich and varied culture we created in that class allowed us to not only learn about the topics discussed in class every day, but also from each other, our cultures, our identities, our ways of thinking, and our different beliefs. 

Every night before sleeping at Hartley Hall, I could count with my fingers the amount of new students I had met. Every moment before I closed my eyes and fell deep into my sleep, I could count the different cultures I had been introduced to. ILC students can all say they attended a prestigious university, but no one but the Columbia students had the advantage of the New York experience. It wasn't just the different environment, but it was also what we were exposed to as well that created such an impact.

My lovely Cohort.
As for my cohort itself, I'd like to take this time to thank each and every one of them for the great time we had together. Our time in New York felt like months rather than weeks, and I'm so glad we have all became so close. Without all of you, this trip would have definitely not been as fun as it was. You were all what made every second what it was. I can't remember one day not laughing until my belly hurt without you all, or even one day where I wasn't looking forward to seeing your smiling faces. Seeing you all brightened up each of my days from June to July, and I definitely cannot wait to see you all once again. From Lucas, to Lenny, Aurea, Adrianne, and Tomi, I'd like to take the time to tell you guys that you all have special place in my heart and I care for you all tremendously. I hope you all enjoyed my company as much as I did yours. I hope I never offended anyone or hurt anyone in anyway! If I did, I deeply apologize. You are all like brothers and sisters to me, and with Mrs.L, we complete a family. Thank you so much Mrs.L for the amazing time we had with you throughout our trip. You have such a beautiful smile that made every day even better than it was. Thanks for being patient with us and taking care of us in New York City, just as if we were your own kids. I miss you already and I hope to see you soon! Nonetheless, thank you so much to the sponsors that made it possible for us to have this life changing experience, and the Ivy League Connection, Don, Mr.Ramsey, and Mrs.Kronenberg that believed in us and created the Ivy League Connection for students like us. Last but not least, I would like to send a great "thank you" to my professor and TA, Professor Andrew Porwancher and Kelsey Kearns for being the great instructors they were and giving us the best possible experience in our classroom environment. I truly enjoyed the course and they were both very inspirational. All I look forward to now is to apply to Columbia University, this time as an official student. Long story short, I always liked the school, but now I passionately love it!

The key to my dreams.
Now on a different note, we may be back from our trip outside of California, but our adventure does not end quite there. We have just finished a chapter in the new book we have unveiled, and now a new chapter will emerge. In this chapter, we will use the experiences we have acquired in Columbia University to give back to our community and the students in our schools. Everything we have learned will now transfer to our students for we are ambassadors in our own community. The Ivy League Connection has allowed us to absorb all of this information and now it's time to clench the thirst of the thousands of students at home that were not chosen by the ILC and inspire them on their journey towards college by giving them all the necessary information we can for their success. Like Columbia's motto,  "In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen"(light shall we see light). Now it is time for our students to see that light, and we will act as the transfer to guarantee this to happen. With our dedication to both our school and community, we will hold ourselves responsible for this and will not give up until we see this through.