Friday, July 22, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
To me, the ILC is far more than just taking a college class at an Ivy League institution. Had it not been for this program, I would still be a small shy teenager quietly minding my own business. I applied to the program, knowing what I observed about my sister who was part of the ILC for two years. I feel that she has become more confident, and more willing to speak in front of other people besides our family and friends. I think that the same change has happen to me. I remember what Milani told me on our last day at Columbia and I think it sums up the change that has happened to me because of this program. She told me, “When I first talked to you at the dinner I thought you were this shy kid who hiding in a shell. I’m so happy that you came out of your shell.” Going through the interview, writing formal email to Mrs. Kronenberg, Don, and Mr. Ramsey, reaching out to admission officers, talking to alumni, talking to professors, and interacting with top notch students from across the globe has made me a much more confident person. I would say that I am now more willing to initiate a conversation with a stranger and has made me less likely to walk away and just mingle with who I know well.
In addition to exploring the Big Apple and meeting new people, I was sent to Columbia University to take a class called Constitutional Law. Let me begin by saying the class was absolutely amazing. I firmly believe the ILC should offer this course again next year. Why? When I first applied for this class I thought that it was going to be centered on how to be a lawyer, and I was completely wrong. The class focuses on understanding Supreme Court opinions and how the justices develop their opinion. The most important lesson I think I’ve taken away from this class is to make legal, not moral arguments. Now when I watch the news, or read newspapers and come across a case, I ask myself, what would be my argument. I learned so much from by professors about the Constitution in these three weeks than I ever did in all my years of school. This class taught me that the Constitution can be interpreted in radically different ways, because of the origionalist, textualist, and developmentalist. I learned that differences about key topics such as capital punishment stem from these different beliefs. While our professors were very knowledgeable, the part of the class I found to be the most enjoyable were the discussions. A typical class would begin with our professor discussing the facts of the case and explaining the reasoning behind the majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions. After that, it was pretty much open discussion about whether or not we agreed with the court. When we had exhausted one case, our professor would talk about another case, which was similar, but had different reasoning or an entirely different decision. We were then asked something along the lines of why do you think the reasoning changed?” I think through these discussions, I’ve learned so much more than just from reading a dull textbook. These discussions allowed me to be exposed to ideas I would have never thought of. For example if someone asked me in the beginning if I supported interpreting the Constitution taking in account social factors or just by following the Constitution word by word, I would have undoubtedly said follow the Constitution word by word. However, as we read and discussed cases such as Schenck v. United States and Abrams v. United States, I realized that I’m more of a person who would interpret the Constitution taking in account social factors. Participating in discussions has brought to my attention the dangers of having truly free speech. If we had an absolute right to free speech then, one could scream “Fire!” in a crowded theatre with no aims but to cause harm and would be protected by the law. It is these controversial issues such as should the government be able to regulate free speech, Supreme Court decisions, and their reasoning that I wish to bring back and share with my peers.
I think it is critical that I share what I’ve learned at Columbia with my peers because it is o the upmost importance that everyone knows about the Constitution that we live under. I believe that everyone needs to know about how the Supreme Court has interpreted the vagueness of certain parts of the law, and how certain parts of the Constitution can be manipulated. I plan to share this information by first telling my friends and teachers at school. Hopefully, they will also find this material interesting and share this with their friends and family and more people will be aware of landmark decisions. Next, I would like to found a club where member would debate matters such as the commerce clause or the right to privacy. As the debates become more and more interesting, then I hope to get more members and soon, there would be many more people from grades 9-12 who are aware of the Constitution and how it has been interpreted.
The ILC has truly provided me with an amazing period of growth. I have become much more confident and have learned so much from my peers as well as my professors at Columbia. I cannot thank the sponsors, Mrs. Kronenberg, Don, Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. L., Beilul, Milani, Irene, and Will enough because it has really been a mind-blowing experience.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
American Presidential Powers At Home and Abroad
Beilul Naizghi's Reflection
The Experience “The Most Exciting Summer of My Life”
Only through the Ivy League Connection was I given the opportunity to take a trip to New York City to study presidential power at Columbia Universities, one of the best institutions of higher learning in the world. My time at Columbia was filled with countless new experiences. Throughout three weeks, I wrote my first research paper, participated in a seminar discussion course, explored NYC, got “cultured” at a museum and so much more. I am now absolutely sure that I want to go to the East Coast for college.
I now understand why New York City is called the city that never sleeps. During my time in NYC, I went to see so many sights and shows. I went to different boroughs of NYC including SoHo, Times Square and Coney Island; many shows on and off Broadway including How to Succeed in Business Without Trying, the Blue Man Group and Billy Elliot; and spectacular sights including Top of the Rock, a cruise around NYC and 4th of July Fireworks over the Hudson River. The types of events and activities that occur in NYC are unparalleled anywhere else. It is the most exciting city I have ever been to and there were so many things to do that I did not have the time to do. I will definitely be back.
Dorms “The Suite Life”
The girls at the Columbia program all lived in suites. My suite (which I was lucky enough to share with Milani) had about 12 girls under the care of our two Residential Advisors: Meghan and Ashley. The living space was equipped with two refrigerators, 2 microwaves, a kitchen, a television, a living room and 4 bathrooms and shower stalls. I must say, I do prefer suite life more than regular dorm life because it felt a bit more homey. During some of our midnight pizza parties, I enjoyed getting to know the girls in my suite. Our conversations were particularly interesting because half of the suite was international students from Indonesia, India, Spain, Singapore and Sweden.
One of the eye opening parts of this amazing experience was my discovery of the magic of a university library system. The university stacks and online databases were all very new and incredibly extensive. I enjoyed the hours I spent roaming around in the stacks looking for certain books I had found on the catalog CLIO or browsing ProQuest and the other online databases for articles. I have fallen in love with university libraries and Columbia University was the absolute best place to do this.
The Butler Library:
Besides her infinite wisdom on all things presidential, Doc Z had some great advice for us to keep in mind later in life. Essentially, she told us not to feel pressured to go through the typical life plan – 4 years of college, maybe graduate school and then get a job – and do what we want to and feel is right for us. I really appreciated this advice and I will definitely keep it in mind when I am contemplating my next step in life.
I really hope that more Hercules (and WCCUSD) students apply to ILC programs next year- I will be urging them to do so. It is a priceless opportunity for us as students to expand our minds in a college environment. To meet people from other states, other countries, and other continents. To be exposed to new ideas and new slang. To experience college life at a world-renown institution. To study where world leaders, industry tycoons and incredible minds have studied before us. And, most importantly, to explore our options that go beyond West Contra Costa, beyond UC Berkeley and beyond California. To open our eyes to the plethora of colleges on the East Coast (and other regions of the U.S.) that have reputations that cross oceans and endowments the size of our national debt. To explore these institutions until we find the right fit – a school we will eventually call home.
I cannot express my gratitude enough to the exceptionally generous ILC sponsors for funding this life changing program. I would also like to thank the heart of the Ivy League Connection: Don, Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Kronenberg for the countless hours they work on our behalf. Finally, thank you to the amazing teachers and staff at Hercules High School (and throughout WCCUSD) for helping us reach our highest potential and my parents for always supporting me.
And, of course, a thank you to my amazing Columbia cohort: Eric, Milani, Will and Irene as well as our fabulous chaperone Mrs. Lilhanand.
When I first was accepted into the ILC as part of the cohort that would go to Columbia University, I thought to myself what now. Yeah, I had heard the stories about how great it was to leave home and experience a whole new world on the other side of the country, but part of me didn’t want to believe it.
Before I left, I thought I had everything figured out. I planned on going to UC Berkeley just like everyone else and I was going to be happy staying at home. Those 3 weeks on the east coast pulled that rug from underneath me and forced me to realize, that’s not all that’s out there. There is so much more that people don’t even know about. Had I not been accepted, I would have never known or believed those who had told me. It was the wakeup call I desperately needed.
My first week was a whirlwind. I found out things about myself that I hadn’t known before. I learned that I thought I was independent but I really wasn’t considering the homesickness I had for a while. I wasn’t used to sleeping in the quite with only the street noise once my suite mates went to sleep, since I’m used to my family being up way past my own personal bed time. I thought of myself as outgoing even though in the beginning I was extremely shy. I learned that I wasn’t comfortable going outside of my comfort zone although I had known this before I left. However, most importantly I learned I can overcome it. I learned that that is not a barrier I have to break down anymore because this opportunity taught me that I can deal with this. I’m no longer afraid to go into a college environment, let alone step outside of my comfort zone to get what I really want.
The college course was on another level. It was a complete 180 degree turn from high school life. Of course, they have these classes that are called “Advanced Placement” classes that are supposed to be up to par with a college class but I personally saw no resemblance. I was lucky enough to have professor that could work closely with me and frequently asked me how I was doing. Overall, the college class knocked me into reality. I was used to procrastinating in almost all of my classes with my school work. I’m happy to say, that was the old me. Thanks to this class. If you procrastinated you were embarrassed the next day when you had nothing to input to the conversation. It wasn’t just things I improved on that made the college class experience worthwhile. I am a rising senior in high school and I have written a 20 page research paper with footnotes and extensive bibliography in 3 weeks and read 6 books along the way as a real class. I know how to get around a college library and I fit right into the college environment. That in itself is my biggest accomplishment. Being able to have this college experience before I actually take off on my own.
One of the most important things I learned was about competition. This whole world runs on competition and it’s a matter of can you compete or not. I believe that with the ILC putting students from our area out to compete with the best it gives all of us who are applying to competitive colleges the hope and the confidence that we can compete with students who have pretty much everything handed to them. It is extremely hard to be accepted to a university. But, I learned it’s not about resume building. The college’s want that you are not who you think the colleges want. I learned you have to go after it, not matter what the obstacle is that is put in front of you. The best words of advice my professor gave me was let the college decide, don’t decide for the college. Go for it. The worst the can say is not right? And there are plenty of other colleges that would want you. Also, don’t think about the name of the school. You make the best out of wherever you go, even if it means a school you’ve never heard about. You make it what you want it to be. Before this trip, I wouldn’t have even considered any of this information true. You have to go out there and be yourself. That’s what the colleges ultimately want. They don’t want someone with a 5.0 and tones of community hours and 6 different school activities. They want an average student but one that stands out. They want someone who is dedicated but also knows how to be curious because they want you to be curious at their school. They want someone who is intelligent but not one that has SAT prep on their list of hobbies. In the end, the college will pick you but don’t ever decide for the college.
In the very beginning of the trip I realized that there are opportunities that people don’t even think of out here. I was very stubborn in thinking I already had my life planned out. I’m glad I took this trip because all the stories that I’ve told my friends, their response was that they should have gone. They should have tried harder to get in the program or they know that there are choices out there. My biggest push so far has been to my little sister. If I can convince her early that California is just one of a million places that offer colleges and choices in life, there is one person who can tell the younger generation. Most of my friends are eager to know about my experience, so there goes another way of sharing what I’ve learned. One at a time, this information will get out there.
I can’t thank everyone enough who was made this trip possible. To the sponsors, the administrators, my chaperone and my parents: thank you! You’ve given me the chance not only to see what else there is out there, but the chance for me to grow as a person. I’m happy to say that I am an ILC alum and I represent all of the students that wanted to but couldn’t go. This program opened doors for me that I never intended to open, but I’m glad it did. I told my mom before I left I wasn’t sad to leave and it’s true. I’ll be back Columbia.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
My am I exhausted. Today has been very long indeed.
I’m not sure where exactly it started. Probably at 7 AM, when I woke up my suite-mates Adeline and Neha and the three of us stumbled sleepily down to the gazebo to see two of our friends off. We had all stayed up far too late the night before, and so everyone was perfectly happy to take a collective nap together in the Hartley suite after the 7 AM send-off. At quarter to 9 I shook myself awake once again to make the rounds and give my goodbyes to everyone before heading down with my luggage to meet Mrs. L and the rest of the cohort. Our duo of taxis took us down to Mrs. L’s hotel, where we stashed our luggage before hopping on the subway a little ways to Rockefeller Center. Although I’d already been before at night, the view from Top of the Rock in the daytime was spectacular, exchanging the glamour of bright city lights against inky black for breathtaking clarity and detail in the sunlight.
A stop at Magnolia’s quickly followed, with me investing in a small cheesecake (delicious!) that I ended up eating on the plane. Then our last subway ride, a trip over to Central Park, where we had a lovely lunch at the Boathouse before leisurely strolling through the Park back to our hotel. A shuttle took us to the airport, and I kept dozing off even in the midst of the cacophony that is New York traffic. We grabbed dinner at the airport cafeteria after checking in (I ended up checking two bags instead of one, and bringing two others on the plane with me) before boarding about an hour later. We had thought that our flight was delayed because the announcement board had been claiming so, but we ended up boarding early, leaving a little early, and arriving in the Bay Area airspace earlier than the flight had intended. I cat-napped a bit on the plane in between reading chapters of the AP Lang summer assignment book, Fast Food Nation, which is so far a very interesting read based solely on the type of language and word choice that the author uses to bring home his point about the evils and dangers of fast food.
Because of the fog in San Francisco we had to wait a very long time before we could get a runway; so long, in fact, that the plane made a quick pitstop at Oakland airport to refuel. When we landed all of us were very happy to see our families come greet us: I was glad to see my parents, and even my brother. Our drive home was filled with (of course) political conversation, with me being able to bring the legal side of thing to the table thanks to the Constitutional Law class. That right there made me realize just how much I got out of this course and this experience, and how grateful I am that I was a part of the class and the Ivy League Connection program.
My last day in NYC was enjoyable. We checked out at 9:00 AM and said our goodbyes to our new friends and our RAs. Most of my RAs plan on staying in touch with us and offered to hang out with us if we’re ever in town. It’s hard saying goodbye, even though it’s only been three weeks. When you’re put into a situation where you must adapt quickly, you learn to get attached quickly. I realized when I looked into my room for the last time that that was home for the past 3 weeks. It had become part of me, along with Columbia for that matter. I had just started to get used to the campus and city when it was time to go.
We spent the remaining time before we departed by visiting the Rock. We went to the Top of the Rock where we had an amazing view of NYC. I never realized how large the city was until I could see almost all of it and it was huge! It made me start to miss New York because that was one of the last times I would see the city before I left.
The rest of the time we wandered around Central Park. That park is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen and to think that it’s in the middle of a city is pretty weird. Every part of the park is different. You can’t find two parts of it that are the same. We had lunch in a restaurant that was on the edge of the smaller lake. We got a table right on the water and enjoyed our lunch looking out at the view of the lake. I wish I would have known that there were boats you could have rented and paddled yourself around the lake in. That would have been cool to do.
I can’t believe that this is over, even though it’s not really over. This memory will live on forever. I can’t thank everyone enough who let me go on this unbelievable experience- the administrators, the sponsors, our chaperone, and my parents. Without any of your help, I would have never thought of going to the East Coast to go after my dreams. I would have stayed at home and would have never known what was out there, calling my name. There are no words to describe how much this whole experience means to me. And for that, I thank everyone who helped make this trip possible.
On our way back, our flight was early but had some sudden changes that caused it to be late about an hour and a half. First, there was no room for us to land a SFO. We circled around probably 5 times before the pilot announced we were out of fuel and had to land in Oakland to refuel and then head back to SFO. I’ve never seen a more useless moment than that. To get fuel just to fly 3 minutes back to SFO to land. It was ridiculous. On the way there, problems occurred landing which delayed the flight into Oakland even more. In the end we all arrived on time and we welcomed by our worrying and overjoyed parents.
Of course, I might be back. Who knows? I could be flying back as a freshman next year at Columbia or UPENN or Yale or Vassar or Cornell or Brown. The opportunities are endless now, and this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for so many people backing me up.
I’m coming home. Man, time flies. It’s hard to believe that three and a half weeks ago we at El Cerrito High School waiting for our shuttle, and now I’m typing as we fly over Sacramento. Our final hours before our flight home, Mrs. L. was nice enough to take us to the Top of the Rockefeller Center Observation deck because we had quite a bit of time between when we checked out and when we had to arrived at the airport. After checking out of our dorms, I think it’s pretty safe to say that our entire cohort was exhausted. Each of us had stayed up past 1AM and Irene didn’t even sleep at all. Regardless, we all summoned our last bit of energy and made our way to the Empire Hotel to drop off our luggage, and board the subway heading towards Rockefeller Center.
The Top of the Rock is amazing. I admit, prior to coming to Columbia I had seen Top of the Rock on top tourist attractions and each time I saw the name, I always wondered “who on Earth would want to stand on top of a rock in New York?” From the Top of the Rock, One can see all of Manhattan, the Hudson, New Jersey, The Statue of Liberty, and a long list of other famous attractions. Today, we were extremely lucky because there was almost no line to go up, and the weather was absolutely amazing. What struck me the most about view was the sheer size of New York City. I knew that the Big Apple was a large metropolitan area, but seeing Manhattan from the top really put it in perspective. Another thing I found interesting was a point Mrs. L. raised after she showed us the flight path of the plane that landed in the Hudson. The question she asked was “Can you imagine what it would have been like for the people on the top when the 9/11 attacks and the miracle on the Hudson happened?” I cannot imagine what it would have been like. The only thought that came across my mind was that I would have felt a mixture of hopelessness, anger, and sadness.
After our visit to the Top of the Rock, we rushed to grab lunch at The Boathouse, a restaurant alongside a lake at Central Park. From where we sat, w had a clear view of the lake, and the beauty of the Central Park. It was really nice to see people taking a break from the hustle bustle of New York life and slowing down to take in the sights and relax. Another aspect of Central Park that I really enjoy is that it is literally a large patch of green smack dab in the middle of Manhattan. It is a great place just to unwind and admire the nature, trees, and characters. I think that eating lunch alongside the lake in Central Park is the best way we could have gone out. I’m going to remember this trip for the rest of my life, and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity was given to me. This trip has really opened my mind to consider schools on the east coast. Through this program I have learned so much about being independent in addition to constitutional law. I absolutely loved my class and I hope that future participants of the ILC will have the choice to apply for this fabulous class.
After checking out of our dorms and storing our luggage at the Empire Hotel, we went to the Rockefeller center. The view from the Top of the Rock was incredible, as are most of the sights I have seen of New York.
Here are some highlights:We then ate lunch at a fabulous boathouse restaurant in Central Park.
Our flight back to California felt really long to me. That may have been partly because we were in the air (and the ground of the Oakland airport) for an hour longer than we were supposed to be, but also because I felt the distance between myself and New York growing as we got closer to California.
I am forever grateful to the generous Ivy League Connection sponsors who made this trip a possibility. I simply cannot describe how incredible this experience has been.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Done! Done, done, and done!
Before all of you freak out at the ridiculous hour I have stayed awake until, I'd like everyone to know that I like getting things done early in the morning. As in 4 AM early. Especially when traveling. As of this moment, I am almost completely packed, with only my pajamas, toothbrush, and this computer still left to be put in a suitcase or bag for travel. I love being packed early. It means I have that much less to worry about come the morning and the subsequent chaos that ensues. I've been finished for almost an hour now, and almost went to bed without posting this blog!
Today was a good last day, although I'm very sorry it had to end. I got off to a bit of a rocky start: I'd been up until the wee hours of the morn as per usual, trying to find something, anything that I could use to justify the Patriot Act as constitutional and, well, nothing appeared. The entire Act is one blatant violation of the Bill of Rights after another. There isn't a single argument that can be made in favor of the Act that doesn't have an immediate counter-argument against.
Due to the difficulty of the case I would be arguing, I didn't really spend much time with my friends, either in the morning or at midday, which was unfortunate.
The afternoon debates were much better this time around than last time, for the entire class. We were better at forming opinions, citing precedents, and thinking quickly on our feet. Whereas before, watching the other teams' debates was quite the chore fraught with sympathetic embarrassment, today's other debates were a lot of fun to watch. My side lost the debate, though not for lack of trying: the case at hand was extremely difficult to prove on any grounds, frankly. I remarked to a classmate after the debate but before the verdict that I would be mad if the other side didn't win, but I certainly wasn't going to make it easy for them.
The afternoon was a lot of fun. I met up with some friends on the campus after the brief meeting with Mrs. L (she and the other ILCers were heading out to try and score some cheaper tickets to a good show), and we went out to a great dinner of pad thai and later cakes from magnolia before shopping for some masks for the dance tonight. That was quite a lot of fun too: much quieter and less rowdy than other school functions I'd attended back home, but definitely spirited and enjoyable too.
After the dance ended, we all slowly made our way back to the dorm halls, playing ping pong and pool for an hour before curfew, just killing time until we had to say goodbye. Then came the real challenge of the day: my room.
I cannot really convey to you the incredible state my room was in early last night. It certainly wasn't pristine, that's for certain. And I had to clean it good and proper, putting everything back where it belonged, before I could start packing my suitcases. It seemed like I'd never finish, but here I am, five hours later with happy exhaustion to show for it, with a clean room and a packed suitcase. The second I post this blog all my cables will go into my bag along with my computer, and I'll changed out of these un-slept-in pajamas into the clothes I'll wear on the plane and pack everything else away too.
Twelve hours from now I'll be in the air on my way home. I can't wait!
Friday, July 15, 2011
On our last day of class, we continued our discussion of current president Barack Obama but also discussed library systems and reflected on our research papers. A 20 page paper is no small feat, Doc Z assured us. She also encouraged us to let her know which college or university we eventually matriculate to. Then, in the afternoon session we watched a fascinating movie called ‘Wag the Dog.’
A nice trick I learned today was “rushing” Broadway (or off Broadway) shows by going to the ticket counter in either Chelsea Piers or Times Square and getting discounted ticket prices (usually 50% off) for shows that evening or the following morning (matinee).This is the ticket stand we went to today:
Milani, Will, Eric, Mrs. Lilhanand and I bought tickets to see the Broadway musical Billy Elliot.
Billy Elliot is absolutely, positively amazing. The quality of the performers, especially the kids, and the set made it obvious why the show has won 10 Tony awards. The play, despite me having watched the movie many years ago, made me laugh and, during certain scenes, cry. It is such a powerful story and it was a great end to our stay in New York City.
I have now seen two Broadway shows: Billy Elliot and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Both shows were fantastic and I cannot wait to see more on my next trip to New York City.
Looking back on all the events and activities of this trip, I realized there is still so much that I didn’t do during my time in New York. The city is just so big and so exciting that 3 weeks is not nearly enough time to attend all that I would like to see. But, I definitely plan on coming back.