Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Looking Back

The Ivy League Connection is a unique program. It offers students an incredible opportunity to visit colleges and experience a little of what college life is like themselves. Most students would never be able to afford to go to the East Coast for a summer program at an Ivy League school, and many don't even bother to investigate them as possible college choices. The Ivy League Connection not only changes the lives of the students who are accepted into the program, but also all the other students with whom those students talk about their experiences and what they learned.

I participated in the ILC the summers before both my junior and senior years, and it has been a truly valuable experience for me, from the application process and the interviews to the college tours and the courses themselves. My first year, I applied to the Vanderbilt program, my first choice, but didn't even get an interview. Nonetheless, I applied again that year, to the Physics program at UPenn, and was accepted. I didn't know what to expect, and the whirlwind of college tours and information sessions seemed to fly by in a blur. I came home at the end of that summer a little more knowledgeable about the college applications process and what I wanted in a college, a little more experienced, a little more mature, and a little more independent.

The next year I was determined to succeed where I'd failed the year before, and I applied again to Vanderbilt after double- and triple-checking my essays to make sure there was nothing I could do better. My determination paid off, and I became part of the Vanderbilt ILC cohort of 2015. Determination in the face of failure was the first lesson I learned, but far from the only one. This year I was much more invested in the college information sessions, knowing that I was only a few short months away from applying. The whole experience was incredible, with a wonderful cohort that bonded immediately, a class on math, and a program that was fun and exciting. I flourished in the atmosphere of the Vanderbilt Summer Academy. I learned about college and admissions, and got new ideas for majors I'd be interested in. I came home ready to go off to college and learn about everything... unfortunately I'm not quite there yet. I still have the whole admissions process to get through, not to mention graduating high school.

I returned home with my excitement for learning rekindled, and I'm excited to talk to friends as well about the incredible opportunity the ILC is, and everything I learned from the experience.

A Mind of Infinite Wonders

If you were to have told me my freshman year of high school that I would have traveled across the country to study at one of finest universities in this country and world, I would have not believed you. If you were to have told me that I would do that two summers, I'd seriously doubt you. Well, now I am on the other side of those statements and I can't feel anything else but extremely grateful. Right up to now, I have not previously noticed how close my affiliation with the Ivy League Connection was. I was introduced to this as a shallow and insecure freshman, thinking that traveling  to the other side of the country without any family for just about a month and have come out of this experience as a seasoned, rising high school senior. What I have made of these experiences surpasses what I would have ever thought this program would do for me; I would have never even imagined such perspective as the one I have now gained through this program for that matter. What the ILC provided is truly invaluable. From pre-essays, course-specific essays, interviews, and failure, I can proudly say that this has been one of my greatest triumph as a high school student and young adult.

How could I have ever imagined myself going to a school across the country for college if I never would have thought that I would make it through a month alone? This program has expanded my horizons beyond what I would have imagined as a freshman. I would only think of leafless trees, snow, and cold weather at the thought of Ivy League schools. When I first went to Brown University last year, I was astounded at the beauty of the summer campus. I was astounded at the many great things at Brown. I marveled at the classrooms, the prestige, the surrounding city, the Open Curriculum, and even after going back and doing research after my Summer@Brown program, the many other qualities and benefits of a Brown education. It opened my mind to possible majors and overall a chance to engage in the world surrounding me. My experience there alone gave me an additional option of schools to apply to besides other top schools close to me like UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and Stanford. After my experience there, it gave me a glimpse of independence ad far as being away from home and basically obtaining a grasp at collegiate life far from home.

Similarly, I explored different places in the South through this year. One of the greatest ideals I think there is is having the gift and opportunity to travel. This program allowed me to do that more with the states and school we visited. Though Rice wasn't my cup of tea, I can still remember the active vibe along University Avenue, the laid-back quality of Rice Village, and the welcoming humidity upon our arrival. I also got the chance to visit a school that I once thought was totally not for me. It's so mind blowing, I can't even put it into words, how one visit can completely change your view on a school. At Emory, Atlanta, I found yet another school outside of California that I fell entirely for. From the majors and programs, to the uniqueness of their residence halls, to the city, the academics, professors, clubs, extra curriculars, traditions (like Wonderful Wednesdays), to their student initiatives, undergraduate focus, and plethora of further opportunities, I found a potential home for 4 years in Emory and I wouldn't have had that experience without the ILC. Being a part of the ILC has broadened my vision of my own academic future and has opened my mind to further pursue greatness through the excellence that the ILC reflects in its students' subsequent academic success. I feel less afraid and actually much more confident and comfortable in classroom settings with all the academic, social, and life skills obtained through my experiences on the East Coast in the South.

Through my classes, I have learned things from super in-depth studies in biotechnology and rising medical advancements such as gene therapy, yet I have also learned so much about the social, cultural, economic, and political sides attributed to health. Things like these have encouraged me to think not just in a scientifically or sociocentric lens, but through both. They have made me take interest in Human Biology (a fairly new major, which few schools, like Brown, offer), Global Studies, International Development Studies, Anthropology, Global Health, and sub fields of Biology like ecology, botany, herbalism, and environmental science. I know that though all are important, it is also very important to know the relationships between different focuses of study, making me lean towards taking on interdisciplinary majors or fields of study. These classes have further reinforced my ideals and vision of being able to use my knowledge and use it as advocacy for under-served community like mine. There's so much to learn out there, and these classes have only merely satisfied my curiosity for such pursuit of knowledge, rather these classes have further ignited the spark of interest that began a couple years ago when I has simply thought that all I wanted to be was an MD, dietitian, or dermatologist. They have have also encouraged me to want to somehow take action and apply and actually share all of my knowledge with others. Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt has so happened to reinforce my preconception that a lot of the beauty of a globally cultural perspectives are hidden by the promises and double-sword duplicity of Americanization.

As a result, MHS has made me want to advocate for more awareness on issues in the intersection between medicine, health, and society. Based on the professions I have previously mentioned, it can be said that I have had an interest in health, so what I have learned through this course has encourages me to build upon what I learned. As part of an assignment last year, I have come to form a club at school pertaining to health, so I find the combination of a new club and MHS as the perfect opportunity to do just that. Hopefully, as a senior, I have the skills to manage classes, an internship, several extra-curriculars, and clubs like this new project of a club I have made. Whatever the case, I know that even despite the circumstances, I will always carry a spark for these topics and the issues that comes from them wherever I go. My only hope after having this opportunity of learning what I have is that I can take it to a new level and add more meaning and purpose to them within my school and community.

If you were to have asked me what I wanted to be when I was younger or where I wanted to go to school, I would have said, "A doctor. UC Berkeley." That's really all I knew. Because of the growth I was able to experience through the ILC, I now have many more options as far as school and also have a newly gained perspective as to what I think I might want to pursue throughout my collegiate studies. I know that I might not only want to be a just a doctor. I have had a closer look at the systematic structures that sometimes limit the power and say that doctors get to make in practice. In the same way, I have also learned many alternative ways and topics of study that lead me to what I would consider for myself a fulfilling profession in regards to health. The ILC has given me an opportunity to get outside of the Bay Area and actually engage with people from all over the U.S. I would have never imagined that I would meet people and make friends from places like Philadelphia, Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Florida, and even places like China. it has given me the opportunity to heighten my abilities an ambassador for my community. I have also been able to hone my social skills and ability to meet with other like-minded and motivated individuals, an opportunity I do not take for granted. I truly feel blessed for everything- for these two summers of amazing experiences, new places, amazing cuisines, different environments, unique institutions, and diverse vibes. I don't know how I would have ever had the chance to take on something similar like this otherwise, but I can't even conceive the thought alone, because it brings be back to how I thankful and fortunate I actually am for being blessed with being chosen as being one of the selected few to take on these challenges and journeys. I can't believe I am where I am today through the help of the Ivy League Connection, but all I know is that I wouldn't have had it any other way. Words do not satisfy my gratitude and the true effect the Ivy League Connection has had on me. Perhaps I will live to know the future benefits of having been part of this, but for now all I know is that I feel like one of the luckiest people and first-generation college students for having the chance to do everything I have been blessed to be able to do. After two years with the ILC, I can't be happier with the path it has helped me step foot on. This has only been the first step in the many crossroads I'll embark on as a young mind full of infinite wonders. Perhaps it is true that some of the best things are yet to come, but I say I have lived some of the most beautiful, most invaluable moments and experiences of my life already. Thank you so much, Ivy League Connection. Thank you so, so much.
A piece of us stays back at VSA. Thank you for the opportunity, ILC.
Much love and gratitude.

The Final Post.

The Ivy League connection is one of the many things that make the schools in the West Contra Costa Unified School District so unique. It gives students that otherwise may just consider local schools an opportunity to get out of the state and be immersed in the "college life" of a place they may never have otherwise considered. I was new to the school district as a freshman, so I only found out that it existed during the middle of my sophomore year. I remember sitting in the theatre, glancing around at the juniors and the other sophomores and being completely unaware of what I was going to...eventually get myself into. A handful of my peers stood on stage, talking about the experiences they had while being a part of the program and going over to the East Coast. I didn't really know any of them, but one of them was in my Advanced Theatre class, although I had never spoken to her before. 

So, during a lunch break, a few days after the presentation I walked over to her and asked her all of the questions I had regarding Women and Leadership, since that was the program she had participated in that summer, and the one that intrigued me the most. She told me everything there was to know about the campus, the class and the program, and eventually our conversation turned to other things. She is now one of my best friends, and was the first person I talked to after I found out that I got the scholarship for Vanderbilt. I did not end up getting in for the Women and Leadership program, but I resolved to get into the ILC the next year. I had put a lot of effort into presenting my best self the previous year, but I somehow broke past that this year. This year, I prepared for the interviews from the day I found out that I was on the list of the seven people being considered, to the hour before the interviews were to be held. So, the first lesson that I learned through the ILC is that staying determined truly does pay off, and the other is that through the program, you can find people that you'll form strong bonds with, and I had the second lesson reinforced almost daily for three weeks since I met so many amazing people in Nashville. 

I have always considered myself a fairly independent person, but I think I had the chance to prove it to myself while at VSA. I advocated for my opinions during classes, even when the general consensus about a subject tended to be leaning in the opposite direction. As strange as it may sound, I also learned that at least for me, eating three meals at the same time every day doesn't really work for me, and that I usually was only hungry enough for two, which may be helpful in about a year when I am choosing my meal plan. Although I have never found it hard to connect to people, being around so many like-minded individuals in a college setting was fantastic, and I can't wait to feel like that around this time next year.

I plan to be the kind of person that gets others excited about this program. I now have the experience necessary to help others figure out the skills they might need to get into this program, but my knowledge can extend past that. I can help my peers figure out what they might want in a college. I have done a few tours outside of the ILC, but after touring two schools with my cohort and spending so much time at Vanderbilt, I now know what I would probably enjoy in a campus. I think the thing that stood out to me the most were the schools in relation to the cities they were in. For example, at Rice and Emory, the campus is in one area. At Vanderbilt and UC Berkeley (for example) the campus blends in with the city. Before this trip, I did not really take that into account and just assumed that I would probably be happy, without regard to exactly where the campus was. I think that being able to experience what I do and do not like about a campus for myself was such a valuable experience.

Most of all, I want people in my community to be aware of how beneficial the Ivy League Connection is to students. I feel like since it is such an amazing program, other people my age should be able to experience it even if they don't live in the same area I do. Even though I have plenty of experience writing about my experiences, I think I find it hard to put the effect that being a part of this program this summer has had on me. I am incredibly grateful to the Ivy League Connection for all the wonderful things that they have exposed me to. 

From the first fabulous day of blogging...

To our (at this point mildly overused) final shot together.
Thank you for the memories, ILC.
Much love,

My ILC Reflection Shows Who I am Inside

Based off of the past experiences from others who participated in the Ivy League Connection, I have heard nothing but great compliments about the program. I applied my sophomore year, but unfortunately did not get accepted. I am so glad that I re-applied a year later. I was and (still) am highly thankful and grateful for the chaperones and administrators.

The ILC program has for sure opened up my eyes to schools over on the East Coast. By being a part of this astonishing program, I learned to push myself continuously. As vigorous as the competition is, I am glad to have gotten used to getting interviewed and repeatedly revise my essays. I can now apply the same skills to other things like college applications. I never even had heard of colleges like Rice, Emory, or Vanderbilt University before I had applied. After looking at what the program offered, I looked more into the prestigious colleges. Then, once I had actually visited the campuses, I had a better idea of the type of environments that I wanted to be surrounded by. I would prefer a school that is relatively close to a city, knowing the fact that I can still be in touch with civilization when I go out a mile away from school. I like college campuses with a lot of space in between, but not so much on a large campus where I would get lost easily. 

I did not want to let anyone down, so I let myself act as a sponge and absorb as much knowledge as possible throughout all of my classes. Right as I was on the place ride back to California, I started thinking about what I was going to tell my fellow classmates at school and try to re-enact the experiences to them, so that they can feel what I had felt. I was a part of the Medicine, Health, & Society course at Vanderbilt University, so I am planning on teaching and showing others in the Health Academy more about the subject, but from a different perspective (like non-American cultures). I know that it had changed a lot of the other students' minds about medical school in my class (of only 18 students). Imagine what could happen if I was able to spread that mentality around the entire Health Academy (which is comprised of some of the freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior classes). I want to be there for the aspiring pharmacists, like myself, and assist them with all of the information that I had retained from the VSA program. There were also various debates in class and our T.A. is going to become a lawyer, so I learned somethings about the techniques and I am looking forward on expanding those to my Forensics Speech and Debate team.

As for school in general, I want to motivate the others to apply for the ILC program because it is definitely worth it. This trip was life-changing for me, and I think that it would be for others as well, especially because it is only exclusive to our school district. I want to tell all of the underclassmen about how important it is for them to keep their grades up in order to be qualified for this program. To all of the upcoming sophomores and juniors, although it is a large amount of work, there will be learning from the mistakes made, as I did when I applied. To all of the incoming seniors, there are schools on the other side of the country that will look at college applications holistically and wants diversity from different states. All of the Ivy League schools are outstanding and ignites their standards from above and beyond. I hope to promote as much awareness about the ILC as possible because I believe that it should be available for more school districts, students that worked hard all over the country deserve to apply for scholarship offerings and experience the time of the lives at college that might not be known as much in their community.

I was more independent than ever when I was on this trip. I had to do my own laundry and learn how to take care of myself. I got to have a taste of what college-life was like, with the repetitive food and procedures in Commons. It was different to see a class that is less than 20 people in it, which kind of pushes the whole class together onto one big group. At home, I was always dependent on my family members, but now I have to try to teach my siblings to do the same as I did when I was away for the summer program. I know that my parents have learned a great deal from my participation in the ILC also. They found out more about college trips and how they work, researched on college related things, and continues to support us on wonderful opportunities such as this one.

In my community, I want to bring more diversity together. It is always nice to learn more about the different things, the ones that usually stand out. I want to show that it is okay to step out of your comfort zone and experience with new things because it is better than no experiences at all. Everyone learns something out of a new things, like fencing or the art of henna. I had never worked with henna before in my life nor held a sword in my hand for fencing until the VSA program. Even though I am not an expert at either activities, I am still encouraged to teach others what I had learned on my trip. Just because I might not be 100% successful with the two, somebody else might be the next one to become a professional at fencing or doing henna. For example, I know that there is a big gap of fencing clubs in my school district and area, so by trying to start one, fencing might be able to grow from California and to other states that might not have as much popularity on fencing.
Can you try guessing what kind of swords we're holding? (Answer: They're all foils.)
Overall, I was able to gain a better grasp of my social skills, to reach out to others and open myself up to them more. The experience that the ILC has given me taught me how to adapt to a new environment and make my own mark or influence wherever I go. Going to Vanderbilt for the summer has brought me to great, new lessons and friends.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Wonder of a Rainy Day

VSA was a wonderful experience for me, and I got a lot out of it. From the challenging class on an unusual branch of mathematics, to the scavenger hunt and the juggling class, it seemed tailor-made for me. It had everything I could have hoped for in a summer program. It allowed me to stretch my intellectual capabilities in discussions with classmates about the fourth dimension, as well as honing my riddle- and problem-solving skills both in class and outside of class, during scavenger hunts and when just spending an afternoon exchanging riddles with some of the proctors.

I talked to TAs and proctors about college classes and majors, and received some valuable advice, such as making sure to take as few classes as possible the first semester so that there's time to settle in and make friends. I also learned about the importance of diversifying your classes and taking lots of classes that look interesting to you, even (especially) if they have nothing to do with your major, because there's still plenty of time to realize that your passion is in a different field entirely and you want to switch majors--maybe even multiple times. Talking to my TA, who is majoring in psychology, and my proctor, who took some classes in psychology, got me interested in it for the first time. I realized that how people think is fascinating to me, and even if I don't major or even minor in it, I want to learn about it. Learning more about myself, like the fact that I find almost everything very interesting, makes me think that I would be happier at a liberal arts college, where I would be encouraged to take a wide variety of classes, rather than just a small core curriculum and classes related to my major.

I had an excellent teacher who cared about the material, and it showed in class. She was invested in students understanding what was going on, but also in everyone being able to learn at their own pace. She made sure that even when I finished before the other students, she had extra, more in-depth work that I could do, so that I could keep learning.

But VSA didn't stop at academic excellence for me. I loved learning how to make more complicated patterns on friendship bracelets with Amy, playing four-square in the pouring rain, watching the lightning, making friends inside and outside my class and proctor group, walking to get ice cream during soft nights, mutually failing to dance, and talking to new friends about every topic imaginable.

From the Beginning to the End

Ever since the day that I started packing up for the 3-week long trip, my energy has been completely built up of excitement and eagerness. On the other hand, I was unsure of what I would get out of the whole trip. I guess in a way, everything took me by surprise.

On Day 1 of traveling, Don had a limousine come to transport us to the airport. It was out of the ordinary, but we still enjoyed the ride for as long as we could. We were on our way to Texas and was given a “very warm welcome” (like one of Gwennie’s blog titles) indeed. Rice University was the first college campus that I had visited, so the whole experience was very new for me. I did not know how the tours would work, but after going to one informative session, I eventually caught on. I learned more about the Texas culture from being in a taxi cab ride for about 10 minutes, I remember that we asked for recommendations on where to eat and he said, “You should never ask a skinny person on where to eat, that is the motto around Texas.”

A couple of days later, we landed in Atlanta, Georgia, where we visited famous sites like the Martin Luther King Jr’s Memorial Site and Emory University. Emory’s tour was very similar to Rice’s, except in my opinion, better. Everyone was much more engaged and friendly (I think that group activity really made the difference) and seemed happy around the campus. I was able to see Emory’s claims on emphasizing on how important researching outside of class was. There were libraries everywhere and new creative clubs, activities, and discoveries made by the students themselves! I was really amazed with their progress and ecstatic to walk around the campus to view more of their accomplishments and changes. Before applying to the ILC program, I was completely unaware of Rice and Emory University, and after visiting both of the schools, I have a better idea of what schools I would want to apply to during my senior year for the college applications season.
I sure hope that our friendship (and bracelets) last for a lifetime. (My cohort and I, V's for Vanderbilt!)
Our final destination was at Vanderbilt University. At this point, I felt a little bit homesick after going out for so long, but I knew that this experience was going to be worth it, and I was definitely right. The instance that I walked into my hall, I was greeted by one of the proctors and as confused as I was, I later found out that one of the proctors would be my own residency advisor. My roommate showed up and I asked her if she had participated in this program before, and to my surprise, it was going to be her fifth year (the maximum amount of years that you can participate in the VSA program). Based off of that statement, I knew that this program must have been an extraordinary and fantastic one because there were returners who still came year after year. Each proctor has their own group of around 10 people, so I had to put my social skills to work. I learned that I have become more social and comfortable around others. I am more open to meeting new friends and getting to know them better. Whenever I would see somebody that I did not know around me, I would introduce myself and then ask what class they were taking or if they had been in this program before. Now, I feel like it is a part of my natural instincts to do so.

By the time that I had gotten used to how the system worked at Vanderbilt, I was left with a large group of friends (other than those in my cohort). I learned about the different perspectives on bio-medicine and ethno-medicine (traditional). The first week of class was focused on medical anthropology and the different things that tie into it, like other cultures that would treat diseases like epilepsy, or cultural construct with the use of compliance. This narrows down to parts of the detailed theories of the body: the mindful body, the knowledge of the body, the cultural construction of the body, and the individual body. We learned more about the Hmong and !Kung cultures as examples of traditional medicine. The second week was centered on the stigma of disabilities. The main occurrence was when all of the students were set to a challenged that none of us had ever thought of doing before, being in a wheelchair for 24 hours. I was taught a whole new perception of being disabled without a whole lecture about it, I was able to experience the whole thing and then reflect on it along with the rest of my classmates. The last week was about pharmaceutical sciences, not exactly what I had expected about the topic, but it was good to learn about a new view about the pharmaceutical industry. To watch films on true stories where kids that are still 4 year olds are being diagnosed with bipolar syndrome (these are children that are put on 8 different medications each day).  

As for my Arete classes, I learned how to fence during the first week and more about the art of henna in the second. My fencing instructor was the President of Tennessee’s large association of fencing and he taught me how difficult this sport can be. At first, I had imagined that it was going to be relatively simple, and that I should start a fencing club of my own when I come back to my school. Then, I was completely wrong. This whole sport is difficult strategically and physically. Since I am a small person, when I go against someone who is bigger than me, their sword will reach me better than when I would try to reach for them. In my henna class, I discovered new designs and details about the typical designs that would appear on henna on others. The most basic designs would comprise of swirls, flowers, petals, leaves, and peacocks. I learned how to draw each of those figures and apply it to human skin. My henna teacher is very talented at doing henna, she has done at least 10 weddings ever since she started to do it as a job (from a few years ago) and still does it to this day. I watched her mimic a design from Google images no problem, and found out that her hardest design to imitate was of a tiger’s face. How astounding!
A reposted picture of the Kat(hy, thryn, threrine) crew for fencing. 
Overall, the major changes that I found in me was that I enjoyed reading a lot more, increased my appreciation for writing, and saw myself grow from the challenges that went against me. I saw myself going against the top 1% students from each of their schools and got better from being around them for so long. I was surrounded by the top students and still felt like I was not good enough when compared to them, but this inspired me to try to improve even though I continued to struggle. What helped me the most was all of the experience that I had gained from almost a month's worth of work. This trip has unquestionably forever impacted my life and changed me.
Friendly faces that I could never forget! 
Some of the people that made me feel extremely emotional when they were leaving for departure day. From the East
Coast to West Coast! 

And the Nostalgia Sets In

My time an ambassador for this prestigious program, the ILC, was completely unexpected this year. I remember attending the presentation towards the beginning of the year, telling the invitees what it was like and the grand opportunity that it is, not knowing that I would decide to do it again. It was about two days before the deadline for the Vanderbilt application. I was feeling very ambivalent. "Should I go for it?" I would ask myself. With time passing up on me that night, I knew it then and there: these opportunities only come once in a lifetime. I was grateful to have a second chance for this and I fathom how I would regret it and hate myself for not pursuing this opportunity once more. With a couple days worth of time left and school, I put in the extra effort to type up my essays and make sure that I could secure a spot for an interview.

When I found out I did get one, I was the happiest person ever. Medicine, Health, and Society seemed like the perfect class for me and I was beyond thrilled that after not making the cut during my first ever interview with the ILC for Vanderbilt, I had a second chance for redemption and for pursuing that sparks a sense of passion inside me. With preparation from my previous two interviews with the ILC, I was determined to make it where I wanted to be. My efforts led me to yet again, an absolutely unbelievable summer.

I am so thankful for the ILC for the help they provide to open opportunities. I can still remember everything from Katherine crying tears of joy when we were informed we were chosen for this, to the other not so fun times when we had to learn protocols for the program or how to blog. I still remember the fancy dinner in San Francisco, because ILC gives you the best, and even the brunch my cohort had at no cost, also due to the ILC.

Back to the beginning...
I remember getting on the plane one morning at 3 AM. I was sleep, excited, nervous, anxious- all at once. I had an idea of what to expect, but Vanderbilt was so much different from the Summer@Brown program. I knew I was in for a challenge yet again, but I know that despite being pre-college summer programs, I got many things out of this experience. It has helped me grow as in many ways, like a thinker and a person. Words can't describe the overall experience I had, but it was a roller coaster of a ride to say the least. That night, on July 8, 2015, I met my cohort: Katherine, Hummd, and Gwennie, along with our parents, chaperone, Jenny, and Don. We made last minute checks to be sure we were ready to go and even, a limo shuttled us to the Oakland Airport like royalty. That's where it all began.

Without a doubt, I began exploring colleges, learning as much as I possible could, ever since the end of my trip at Brown last year. I mean, I have been researching like crazy, looking at websites, to forums, to videos, and just about anything I could. It opened me to the world of all these schools. Knowing that Rice was one of the ones I began researching, it was surreal knowing that was out first stop of the trip. I'd never been in Texas, so it was mind-blowing I would get the chance to visit it, let alone that I would visit Rice. I remember being introduced with a warm welcome from the intense humidity, but loving every second of it- maybe a little too much if you happen to ask my cohort members. Nevertheless, I got a first-hand look at the campus and even had the chance to talk with some students. The end result was: Rice wasn't nearly as heart-capturing as I thought it would be. Takeaway one of the experience. I know I can cross one school off the list; when you feel it, you just do. Rice isn't the school for me. Moreover, I still remember the beautiful things we were able to do in Houston, like longing for all the chocolate at the Chocolate Bar, trying savory crepes with Mayan Iced Chocolate, to walking through all of Rice Village. It was our first stop, but it was only the beginning.

Emory shirt on... + wheelchair perspective
In Atlanta, I had one of the best times ever. I was able to continue our cohort tradition of swimming in the hotel pools after our long days, some of the best times of the trip, but also the cohort and I were able to visit another school: Emory. I had only looked at this school a couple of times, but it honestly never stood out to me... until we visited it. I could make lists as to why I LOVED Emory, like I did to a college mentor of mine, but, really, it just blew my mind. For than, I am sooo thankful. It's yet another school on the list of those I want to apply to. Everything else in Atlanta was great, from the food, the vibe, the historic sites, and yes, the Southern hospitality! I'm not so sure if I see myself moving so far away fro 4 years, but I'm definitely open for the idea of spending them at such school like Emory.

Now, to VSA, There is so much more to talk to about it, as if I didn't already write enough here yet. Anyhow, it was just great. Though the schedule hindered my ability to have the perfect night at times, it was the people that I met that made it one of the best experiences ever. With so much, it's so difficult to recall everything that was great, but I savored every memory and took all of my experiences to heart.

I remember learning so much and taking so many notes the first week in class, learning about things like Cultural Relativism, Anthropology, Biological Reductionism, disease and illness, Culture Shock, Cultural and Biological Hegemony, and so much more (take me back). I remember how the first days even got slightly heated simply because it was such a culture shock of class material and knowledge that we were learning. I remember Hummd going on about how much she LOVED it and I remember how much all of that and more is what I wanted to learn. Then, I also remember that by the next weeks we immersed ourselves into two books (The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and The Illness Narratives), learning about the Hmong and medical anthropology, two things which have influenced me into what I want to do. I remember being set on a Human Biology and Society major at first. After this class, I am still not certain, but I know I am curious about learning more about globalization, cultures and anthropology, still some science, and who knows what else. I do know that I have a sense of a humanitarian purpose, if that says anything, but the world around us is so complex and imbued with so much and it's a shame that many times it is simply overlooked at due to this one thing about "globalization," which is more like Westernization, of this world we live in. Anyhow, the class itself did also present some other interesting things like the wheelchair experiment. Again, I can go on and on, but the experience and my newly gained perspective still lingers in the back of my mind, reminding me to stay conscious of ubiquitous inequalities that are so very often overlooked at most of the time. My time in class had it's ups and down,s but overall it helped open new doors of thought.

Missing morning walks to
breakfast like this...
Oh, the friendships. Back to the day our cohort was told we were chosen for this program. I remember having no idea who my cohort was (personally), but I now contemplate on how attached I became to them, especially with the 3-person buddy policy at VSA. I feel like I made great friendships with the people I met, that it even feels like I've known them for a while. When do you ever meet strangers and then become close to them in such short amount of time? Only with the ILC. Also, I can't forget the people I met at VSA, from my proctor group, that I now have come to love, to my friends from Philly and Chicago (Raymond, Kelly, Lee, Johnathan, Cesar, Kathy, and more), not to mention my proctor, Tonny, and other friendly staff I was able to connect with. I can't forget any of that, and I can't fathom how thankful and critical and important that Open Mic, CoffV House Night was in making my bond with some of the friends I met grow. All of these were just so invaluable to my time over at VSA (note it is no longer, "here at VSA," [tear tear]). I'm just so thankful I had the chance to do it all- and with great people. Katherine: the sweet, kind young Katherine I saw shed tears the first time I met her. Hummd: the theatrical theater that I will forever remember for such light liveliness . Gwennie: the one who always made moments hilarious (cough cough, Cau-lee-flower!!!) and who always gave the best, most memorable piercing glare anyone could make. And of course, Jenny: our fabulous chaperone who always radiated such powerfully bright energy and laughter to the group.
In the end, there was just too much to every put into words what the '15 ILC Vanderbilt experience was, There were the ups and downs, but in the end, it was an invaluable experience. If I try to think more, the nostalgia will only sink deeper into my conscience and make me think of how I will probably never had an experience like this again (summer during high school). On a more positive note, though, as some may quote, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." That I will. I'm just beyond nostalgically thankful and blessed to think that for some reason, out of so many other applicants, out of so many capable people, I was blessed with being chosen for something like this. I don't think I will ever fathom that thought. I probably never will. The ILC pays well over $10,000 on each individual for these few weeks, but the value of the experience is so grand because experiences like these are some of the most beautiful treasures life has to offer. And in the end, the value of this opportunity we have been given to live such a thing like experience is beyond what I can phrase into words.

It's priceless.

Thank you ILC. Thank you so, so much.
Bonding, blessed, and very, very tired...
Much love, ILC. Thank you for everything.

Thanks For The Memories.

It feels like far more than nine months since I started this journey. I remember frantically editing my ILC application essays on ten separate occasions before I could entertain the idea of submitting them. I remember a late night call from Don, telling me that I would be applying to VSA before my ILC interview since Vanderbilt has extremely early deadlines. I remember sitting in an almost empty classroom, breathlessly waiting for the interview panelists to reveal their decision to us, hugging the people who were to be in my cohort, all the ILC events, and gathering around Don at 2 AM on the night of our departure.

All of this feels like mere hours ago, instead of months.

The campus tours opened my mind up to so many possibilities in the types of colleges I would be considering. I was previously just thinking about applying to schools in California, New York and Massachusetts, but this trip opened up possibilities for me in the south. I now know how large I want my future university to be, what type of housing arrangement I would prefer, as well how urban I would like it to be. 

The weeks I spent at Vanderbilt included some of the most intellectually simulating days of my life. I found myself hanging off of Monte's every word since I found medical anthropology so fascinating. VSA was packed with incredible activities, and I can honestly say that I was never bored. I could travel to the city around the campus, paint, play sports, write, explore the campus, and do so much more. Every day was vastly different from the one before, and I can't possibly choose my favorite day or my favorite lesson. I feel so privileged to have been a part of this fantastic program. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Look Back and See All the Memories We Made

Where do I begin with the last two days of VSA? They seem like they were about a week ago with such long days that we had there in the South, yet it feels like they were memories made just yesterday. It's now Saturday and I'm coming to terms with the end of this experience, but the memories still stay. They always will.

On Thursday morning I woke up late. I was conscious of how it was the last day for class, but inside the debate for sleep overcame having time 'till breakfast time. After some downtime resting snooze after snooze, I made it through the morning for just about the final time: picking up my lanyard, towel, shampoo and such, slipping into my sandals, and making a sluggish drag down the hallway to shower. At 8 AM, I was ready for breakfast one last time as a entire group (ILC cohort, Corry, and our friends from Philly).

That Thursday I was finally able to go to the organ recital at the Vanderbilt Medical Center, a short walking distance from Wyatt. Today we went as the second half of class with our TA, Zach. There we met the Med School 101 class and has had a medical student present to us some information about the lung and abnormalities that comes from disease. Soon after, two more medical students came to visit us and sat in while we began to examine real organs. In the middle of our circle, we took turns looking at two separate lungs, a liver, and the most graphic of them all, a severed foot. Out of respect, we were not able to take pictures, but the image is still set in my mind. It was one of the grossest things I have had the chance of doing, but it was well worth it. It made me wonder and wish I would have taken that class, given that they fully immerse you in so many things that med students go through. After examining the organs we were able to speak with the medical students about their experience. I was glad to know that it isn't as bad as Doctors' Diaries, which was discouraging, but rather the students made it seemed like becoming and life as a doctor is rather a tough, but feasible job. Whatever the case, I'll give myself more time for deciding what I will pursue in the future.
This is the first time I stepped into Vanderbilt Medical School territory...!
Monte and me.
Left to right back row: Alijah, Griffin, Ryan, Hunter, Tariq, Clay, Josh, Corry, me
Left to right front row: Wilson and Noah
Back in Wyatt with the entire class, we wrapped up the rest of the morning with evaluations for the class followed by a final ceremony up Wyatt in the Rotunda. There,  Dr. Dunn, Rosie, Rachel, and the head of each house recited their speeches to their respective house and everyone in general. After 3 weeks competing for the House Cup, I was extremely surprised that S House (my house) won!!! We followed that by our final, very fervent, house cheers and a 10-15 minute slideshow of everyone's time at VSA. With all of that, we were dismissed into the final free time of the summer. Imagine that. It hits me as I write. That was like hearing VSA say, "Go have fun before time runs out." Nevertheless, I finished packing with Lee and Raymond hanging out with me in my room. I changed for the dance too. This was our last night together. We were having a Masquerade. We headed out in proctor groups to the Rotunda once again and made the most of the night. This was honestly one of the highlights. It was just the entire group there. We had the cohort and our friends from Philly, Angel, and others together just dancing unashamedly for our last moments together, sweating tears in disguise before we would be prone to inevitably shed them in cries of distress. For the rest of the night, we began creating the final memories of our time in Vanderbilt.
On our way back, we tidied up the Rotunda and made our way down the stairs. On our way to Hank, the sprinklers for the lawn were on and of course, I couldn't just pass by it without enjoying them, so with Lee, we ran back and forth for just about 4 times. On the last one, I got splashed in the face and I can still remember how it felt like one of those commercials that splash water in the camera (it was actually so perfect, like such a perfect commercial moment, but in actual real life, haha). To end the night, we had out final proctor meeting and it was one of the most emotional moments I've experienced in these past 3 weeks. We went around sharing our feelings about our experiences for the final time, some of us bursting in emotion, expressing our gratitude and sorrow at the same time. We also gathered around a table and passed papers with our name in the middle, writing notes for everyone on theirs. We also got a very mournful and touching letter from our proctor, Tonny. I spent some more time with  Ryan, Noah, Alijah, and Wilson, talking about our times there and then about society. With no regrets, I do think it would have been nice and it would have added more to this experience if I did let myself open up more to my group aside from my own group of friends. Nevertheless, I savored the final moments and some more hang out time with Raymond and Lee before heading off to sleep.

That night I happened to wake up at 4 AM, tired and hungry, but went back to sleep before I woke up again at 6 AM to say my saddest goodbyes of the day. Given that it was pretty early and without expecting it, I became very emotional when I had to say my goodbyes to Kelly, Raymond, and Lee. Katherine and I gave each other our final hugs and waved out saddest goodbyes as their shuttle drove them away to the airport. For the next 6 hours or so, I was a hot mess, shedding emotions left and right every so often. That morning, breakfast was one of the saddest moments. I was the first at the table first of all, but also I knew it would stay incomplete without three of the group. Especially when one of our own from our proctor group left, it became surreal. In the end, Jenny got to Hank and it was my time to give my farewells to my floor and I met down in the lobby with my cohort and Corry. Being the great person and proctor Tonny is, he came down to say goodbye one last time before we too headed off.

We had brunch at the Lowe's hotel restaurant, where I so coincidentally happened to see Ryan from my proctor group again. It was our last time as a cohort where we shared some sandwiches and pizza among us for one final time. Afterwards, it was time for the airport. We were disappointed to learn that our flight was cancelled, so we stayed for a while and got ourselves either smoothies or coffee and hung out with Jessica, one of our friends who was also waiting for her flight. We had a long 4 hour flight, but we made it safely to Oakland. We picked up our luggage and went all the way to the D4 side of the parking lot, where our shuttle people told us to go. Apparently the shuttle driver was at G4, but we asked he'd come to the "D4," especially since it was a shorter drive for him than it was a walk for us with our luggage.

No longer Vanderbilt Victims,
rather, now we are Vanderbilt Victors...
Once at ECHS, we saw parents there. The girls went straight to them, then we all took a final cohort picture and stayed together for a while, while their kind selves waited for mine to come (I called really late since my phone had died earlier). At last, all of our parents came and our we said our farewells as a cohort. We were a great bunch and I wouldn't have had it any other way. From the interview to the tutorials, to the meet and greet brunch, and our trip as a whole, we made the memories I longed to make and had experiences that made lifetime memories.
At home, I was welcomed by a homecoming by my sisters, brother, nephews and nieces, balloons, and lots of cake. I settled in real quick once again and had some more downtime before I settled in my home sweet home for the night. It's surreal that just yesterday I was making my distressed goodbyes and now I am back home, settled in as though nothing happened. It's crazy what has happened these past few weeks, how they're in the past, and how it all passed up on us so fast, but it's the memories, the experience, the friendships, and the love that stays with us, and will stay with us, for as long as we remember.

My Time Elapsed in the Past Two Days

Thursday morning, I woke up early to go eat at Pancake Pantry with my proctor group. We decided on wanting to do something together on the last day, and also Koral (one of the girls from my group) had been waiting to eat there for 4 years. When we went there, there was actually no line so the wait was not as long as the first time that I had went there. I only ordered a waffle with orange juice and finished the majority of it just in time before walking back to the campus (we were almost late due to the delay in the food arrival). 
The L^6 proctor group! 
In class, we watched the film "Sick Around America." Like "Sick Around the World," this was about the health care controversy, and its changes throughout time in America. By the time that the movie finished, it was 10:30 AM, so Monte let the class go on a 20 minute break, and by then it would be the same time that the other half of the class would come back from their organ recital with Med School 101. Once the whole class regrouped, Monte handed out two surveys to fill out, one for her own evaluation, and the other for VSA's evaluation and feedback. 

After we came back from lunch, the wheelchair company came to pick up the wheelchairs, so we brought them downstairs outside. When everyone settled down again, Monte started to explain more of what she does for her work, research-wise. She worked in the Brazilian Amazon for a few years and looked at the way that the families had lived because of child labor. In Brazil, the children often are the ones who work the most during Acai season since they are much smaller than adults and can reach the top of the Acai trees to harvest them. They do not have any safety harnesses and climb up trees with a machete in their hand or mouth to cut off the branch of Acai berries. It seems sad, but the children's work are vital to the family for enough money to live off of. 

There was not any study hall because there was going to be a closing ceremony from 3 to 4 PM. We said our goodbyes to Monte and took pictures with her for memories. Zach walked the class to the Rotunda and got us all seated. John, the head director of activities, announced the house cup which went to "S" House! Although "A" House came in last, I still had a lot of fun participating in the friendly competitions. Each head of house did their speeches and then they played a 10 minute slideshow of everybody's experience at VSA since the first day that we came. After the ceremony, we were released to our dorms to pack and clean up, and then get ready for dinner. After dinner, everyone went back to the Rotunda for the masquerade themed dance. I am not really a dancer, but I tried to join in on the big group dances during "Cupid Shuffle" and other similar songs. I saw the difference between this dance and the first one, everybody seemed closer with each other and actually seemed to want to be engaging. Once the dance ended, a proctor group meeting broke out right away on our respective floors. In my proctor group meeting, we finished off the last of the po(sitive)-go(ssip)'s and did group superlatives. Lizzy also handed out our term-books out and then dismissed us. I went to different floors to get others to sign my term-book and made more friendship bracelets until 12:30 AM, which was lights out. 
3/4ths of the cohort and Monte Talley!

The next morning, was a very sad one. I woke up at 7 AM, to see that my roommate was getting ready to leave for her shuttle to the airport. I walked her down to the lobby where they were supposed to meet and helped her with her stuff. My Pennsylvania friends were leaving at the same time too, so Arnold and I said our goodbyes and shared a few tears. I know that we all have grown close bonds with each other, but I did not want to believe the fact that we were probably not going to ever see each other again (unless we end up at the same college). After all of the hugs, it was time to meet at our proctor's doors to walk down to the last breakfast together. 

I finished packing up after breakfast and then Jenny came to check us out! We went to the hotel to drop off our stuff and ate in their restaurant to save some time. Then, the airport shuttle came to pick us up and drive us over. We went to check in our luggage, go through security, and then saw that our flight was delayed. We went to the C7 section, where we would go to in order to board the plane, and asked the front desk about how long the delay might be. It was delayed by a whole hour. So, we went around to get some drinks (I got a smoothie) and bumped into a girl from my proctor group, Jessica! We invited her to tag along and hang out with us before the final goodbye, her flight was not leaving until after us to North Carolina. The time came to depart and we went onto the plane and flew for 4 and a half hours. We got off the plane, took in a deep breath of the Bay Area air, and retrieved our luggage. We walked out to the parking lot to get picked up by the shuttle and there was a little mishap with the area, since one driver had told us to go to the D4 area, and the other driver was at G4. The driver came and dropped Jenny off at where her car was in Oakland, and we continued on the road to get to El Cerrito High School. 

The moment had finally came, we were finally back. As much as I missed Nashville, I missed the Bay Area as well and it was nice to see all of the reunions with my cohort and their families. We took a couple of last pictures with the Vanderbilt flag behind us and said some more goodbyes. I will forever remember and cherish the times that we all had with each other and our new friends at Vanderbilt, everyone was so nice and friendly! I think that I can say on behalf of the cohort, we all definitely had a blast. It had been a very long day and going back home to my bed had made me realized that I was way more tired than I thought that I would be over the past couple of days. No matter the distance, my cohort and I (as well as our friends) will still be connected. I really believe that it is the works of the connection in the Ivy League Connection.
The fabulous four hugging good bye (missing Jenny).

All Good Things Must Come To An End

Thursday was essentially the busiest day of the program, but at the same time it wasn't busy at all. It's a strange dichotomy, I know, but it makes sense to me at least. Our final few hours of class were devoted to two things, going in depth with Monte's research, and continuing our discussion of body image. The second is a lot easier to explain than the first was, since she went into such great detail. It gave me a lot of insight into the world of an anthropologist, which I think I might start considering as a possible career choice (at least a minor in anthropology?) She explored the relationship between the economy of Brazil, and the education of the children that live there, as harvesting Acai makes it very different for children to attend school. There are child labor laws prohibiting them from working, but when the welfare of the family depends on the children working, many families have no choice. In the final few minutes of class we watched a speech that Angel had presented to her school district a few years ago about body image. It showed some deeply personal parts of her life, and I was so glad that she shared that with all of us.

We wrapped up by writing evaluations of Zach and Monte. Afterwards, Monte took me aside and told me to keep in touch, since she "expects to hear great things" from me, and wants me to keep her updated. The final ceremonies were to be held in Wyatt, which was convenient, as MHS is held on the second floor of Wyatt. After saying my final goodbyes to Monte and Zach, I trekked up a few flights of stairs and walked into the rotunda. During the ceremonies, Rosie, Rachel and Dr. Dunn all made speeches to VSA as a whole, and the heads of houses made speeches to their respective house. I know that I may sound biased when I say this, but I do believe that Victoria's speech was the best. Something she said really stuck with me. She told us to "Choose people! If you are stuck between getting to know your roommate a little better or an extra hour of sleep, choose your roommate." As well as a few other situations in that vein. I hope that I managed to choose people as often as I could during my time at VSA. 

We were dismissed to clean up our rooms, so that we would not have to during our evening activities. Sofi and I discussed how strange it was to be stripping the room of everything that made it ours, and I felt this more profoundly, as Sofi has already unpacked by the time I had arrived at VSA that first afternoon. Seeing it look so bare was a bit of a shock. The masquerade came upon us quickly, and Gwennie and I both had our hair intricately braided by Victoria (sadly, I did not take a picture. Just imagine the prettiest braid that you have ever seen on someone, and this one was a hundred times better!) As the night came to a close, I reflected on all the wonderful people I had met and managed to say my goodbyes to them in case I did not see them the following day. 

I am glad that I did that. The next morning, our friends from Philadelphia left before anyone told me their departure time. One of the bright sides is that I mentioned Speech, which I am the team captain of at my school, and found out that Taylor, one of my proctor group members, would be visiting a tournament in Berkeley during the school year!  I found as many people as I could to wish them a wonderful year, and Jenny practically had to drag the cohort out of Hank so that we could arrive to the airport in a timely manner. I don't really know if it has hit me yet that I probably won't see most of the people I met at VSA any time soon since we all grew so close, but I am glad for every moment of this experience.
I know that everyone else used this picture, but I love it!
When you have spent an average of 15 hours with someone every day for three weeks, it is hard to say goodbye.

Bittersweet Goodbyes

Thursday was a very busy day. It was the last day of class, and the last full day of VSA. In our last few hours of Knot Theory, we talked about careers for math majors and mathematicians, and what companies are hiring them. Most are related to statistics, computer science, or engineering, but there's a huge variety. (There was also that one kid who suggested "starve" when asked what mathematicians do.) We also filled out evaluations of our teacher, TA, and proctor. After class was the closing ceremony, a bittersweet occasion for everyone. The directors and heads of Houses gave short speeches about some of the memorable events in the past three weeks, and there was a short slideshow at the end with pictures from throughout the program.

Open Mic at Coff-V House
A different kind of knot
Everyone was dismissed to their rooms to pack before dinner so that they wouldn't have to stay up later doing it. After dinner was the dance. Technically it was a masquerade ball, but since masks don't really work with glasses (and a lot people didn't want to wear masks anyway) for most people it was just a dance. Before the dance, Victoria (Hummd's proctor and the head of V House), braided my hair, and it turned out amazing. (Conner, who was in my Knot Theory class, remarked that it looked like a knot.) I'm not really a dancer, and when I twirl I tend to almost fall over, but it was fun anyway. (I'm not the only person who can't dance, so I had fun failing to dance with other people.)

After the dance was the last proctor group meeting, during which we talked about, instead of highs and lows of the day, our highs and lows of the whole program. My low was probably the dining hall food, but there were too many highs to pick one. Finding the egg with Miranda and Hummd, going to Jeni's ice cream, making friends in Knot Theory, the scavenger hunt, learning about graph theory, Coff-V House, dancing in the rain...

Soon enough it was Friday morning, and though it seemed as though we'd only arrived a few days ago, it was time to leave already. It was sad to leave all the new friends we'd made over the last two weeks, and I'm glad that, unlike most, I'll still be going to school with one--Hummd.

As our plane landed at Oakland, the first thing we all noticed was the fresh, cool, dry air flowing in from outside. We had all been sad to leave, but we were all happy to be home again, too.

Home At Last

Par for the course this year the plane scheduled to wing our Vanderbilt cohort back to the Bay Area was delayed nearly an hour.  Fortunately, though, this was a direct flight so there were fewer opportunities for further delays.

The good pilot had a lead foot and pushed his airplane to go even faster than anticipated so the plane arrived earlier than expected--always a good thing.

Coming from the Oakland International Airport, the shuttle should have inched through the Friday night commute traffic but actually arrived earlier than expected.

When they arrived, most of the parents were there waiting but even those who came after the shuttle arrived in a matter of minutes.

It’s always fun to watch these joyous homecomings.

After the photos were snapped--we can’t have an ILC event without photos--the cars were packed and the Vanderbilt cohort went their separate ways--back to the beds they know and the home cooking they’ve grown up with.

The coming home event wouldn't be complete, though, with out a group hug of the four Vandies who have spent so much time together over the past month.
Welcome home.

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