Friday, July 22, 2011

Final Thoughts

Now that I'm home, my time in New York seems so unreal, in the best possible way.

Everything was incredible. Everything. Being at Columbia, a top class university, to live, actually live, on the campus. Walking around Manhattan, laughing with new friends I feel like I've known my whole life. Endless train rides with Mrs. L and everyone from back home, watching the scenery flit past through the window. A whirlwind of information those first few days, with serene college visits punctuated by glimmering dinners with college reps. Sitting in class, learning the scary truth behind our Constitution and the justice system. Rigorous debates with classmates in the early afternoon, with clashing philosophies being wielded like verbal swords and shields. It all seems such a distant memory. And yet, it was only a week ago that I left New York, and I feel like I've changed so much since I took off from SFO in June.

My father said over the phone to me one night, while I was sitting in my dorm pretending to clean, that every time he spoke with me I sounded older. Different. And the truth is, I was. Different. But it didn't feel that way to me, not at first. Being at Columbia, in class, on campus, in the city, I didn't notice myself changing. But I was. I can see that now. I was, in an odd way, getting older. Not wiser, exactly; that's not quite the right word. More self-sufficient. More confident. And more self-aware.

All of these things, these changes, I feel are a permanent part of me now. This experience has changed me, made me see things in a new light. I'm not the same person I was. I can take criticism easier than before, knowing that being critiqued is a part of growing. My feathers aren't so quick to ruffle, and I do a better job of smoothing them down now when I need to. I can think things through in a way I couldn't before; I've learned how to spot holes in my arguments and shore them up before they can be used against me.

I've also figured out that I definitely do not want to be a lawyer. Law professor? Sure. Poli-sci major? Definitely. But not a litigator. One day spent arguing a fictional case for a side I whole-heartedly disagreed with was plenty for me, thanks. No way could I do that in real life. I may not have that many core values, but the ones I do have, I stick to. And I'm grateful that I was given the chance to figure this out now, as a high-schooler, instead of spending huge sums on college education to finally realize that I was on the wrong track. It's changed where I'm considering to attend school after high-school; whereas I was eying Yale as a potential leg-up on the competition for their post-grad law school, now I'm more interested in the Political Science PhDs offered at Columbia University, or the philosophy and language under-grad programs at Vassar College.

I learned the most about myself, and the world, through my class. The Constitutional Law course at Columbia is utterly amazing. I know that Eric and myself were testers for the ILC and this specific course; I strongly urge them to send some of next year's batch to this program. Its phenomenal. My entire world view has been altered because of this class. Why? Its mostly the material. Don't get me wrong, the instructors are great; but they're more like guides, people to point out what to look for, or someone who throws in questions for us to debate over. They don't teach so much as expose. Just knowing the things I learned in that class has changed me. Going over the Patriot Act in detail and seeing just how scary it really is; watching the meaning of the Constitution change over time and, through watching that change, figuring out just what it means to me as a person and as a citizen; listening to the arguments people have made to the Supreme Court and why they worked (or didn't). All of this and more. Because of this class, I'm more aware of my world. I'm more alert to the rationalizations this country is so very prone too, and more self-aware when I catch myself making those same rationalizations.

I've also learned things about myself, and a bit about life. I'm happiest when I'm busy. I do well on my own. Don't make best friends the first 48 hours after arrival: they tend to flake out within a few days, and you replace them with better ones within a week. I don't get homesick, at least not in New York. I love Manhattan (so very, very much). I over-edit. Giving 48 hours to a paper doesn't make it better. My sentences tend to be too long. You can't procrastinate on reading until the last minute; it makes you a sleep-deprived wreck at best, or an idiot at worst. Basements freak me out. I'm a fair hand at schmoozing, but being honest is better, even if its not quite the whole truth. I really can't function without coffee (Mrs. L and the rest of the cohort will attest to this).

This whole experience has got my wheels turning for my college essays. Even if I don't directly write about my time at Columbia, it'll definitely get a mention. Those three weeks are important enough that, with an entire 17 years worth of life to pick and choose from, they're heading the list of life-changing events. And I am so incredibly, speechlessly grateful for being able to have experienced that. There really aren't the proper words to convey my thanks. This whole program is incredible. Everyone involved is phenomenal: the school board, the sponsors, all the alums and officers who came and spoke with us, the chaperones, Don; even the older students who are so willing and ready to lend their advice. The students who will be a part of the Ivy League Connection is the coming years are in for a treat, and I'd love to be a part of helping them get connected with this program if the ILC asks me too.

Ending things has always been my weakest trait, and this is going to be no exception. Hitting “post” in a few minutes will be the end. But, perhaps also the beginning, in a way. The beginning of a new “me” here at home, the beginning of a changed life and a new way of seeing things. All thanks to the ILC. It may be cheesy, but there you have it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

To End an Experience

This is it. Well, that was it, about five days ago.

New York was an experience in more ways than accountable for on my fingers. From the subway, to the M.T.A., to the taxi, to the dorm life, to the classroom, to the homework, to the library, to the food-stands, to the attractions, to the entertainment, to the shear national acclaim of the Big Apple, New York City and Columbia University intertwined to provide me with the experience of a lifetime.

What I was able to learn and cultivate in a mere three weeks is comparable to what I gathered in the past three months. It's unfortunate that the Ivy League Connection cannot provide for even more students than it does, but those who are able to experience the immense opportunity presented in front of them should have the utmost appreciation for those who make it possible--the administrators, the sponsors, and the supporters. We may only hope that the I.L.C. is able to grow in the future as it has in the past to provide more students this experience, for it is an opportunity to learn as much about yourself than about the situation surrounding you. I'll elaborate.

To begin, the dorm life was just what I expected, but it was incredibly helpful to experience the expectation in mind. It was shocking to find out that Columbia University dormitories were not already equipped with wireless capability, but they did have an Ethernet slot to allow Internet accessibility. The dorms cam with bare minimums: one towel, one pillow, one blanket, one mattress, one room telephone, one trash can, two desks, one chair, and three shelves--for books. With just one carry-on and one check-in bag from California, however, I was able to disperse my belongings throughout the room and give it some homely essence. The dorm is intended to be utilized with such simplicity, I believe, because it is not intended to be an eternal sanctuary. In college, there's too much to do, too many people to meet, and too many places to go. You have no time to flirt with your dorm, nor would you want enough time to do. Given, my experience was in New York, so the area is a natural activity safe-haven, I'm pretty sure there are few colleges out there that emphasize dorm occupancy for the majority of the day. I myself was given a single, so I have no experience with a roommate. Of course, I do have ideas after sharing an entire floor with about 50 other students.

I definitely viewed the dormitories in a positive light: I loved them! I can't wait to settle down in one in the near future when I head off to college myself. There's something neat--not to mention convenient--about having that instant community surrounding you to draw upon. It's an innate college attribute that removes the possibility of a lone-wolf and highlights the accessibility of a social life.

The classroom was, in contrast, everything I hadn't expected. It was rewarding, and even fun at times, nonetheless. I always had it in my mind that college work was abundant, that academia would keep you busy the majority of the time spent at college, but I also thought that I was going to be able to handle it with relative ease, which was certainly a naive mentality in retrospect. Don't get me wrong, I kept up. I did what I had to do. I did more than what I had to do in some cases. But, by no means was it easy. It took a great deal out of me, and it definitely took away from some of the time I could've spent exploring the city and socializing with new and old friends. But, I believe that is simple a high school flaw. I only had a problem squeezing everything into a tight schedule because I was in New York for the first time, and I was only going to be there for three weeks. Had I enrolled in a New York college in actuality, I think I would have had an easier time managing needs and wants, because four years would have been a lot more spacious than three weeks.

Aside from the classwork and time management, the professor was wonderful. Dr. Z. was incredibly down-to-earth, practical, and humorous. She was not what you would expect from a college professor, but that relates to our knowledge of high school teachers. She was always around to lend a helping hand. She pushed us to do our best work and to do it in a timely manner. And, she taught us not only how to be knowledgeable in the subject matter, but be knowledgeable as college students as well. I hope that the course is provided for the future I.L.C. generations; it really allows you to learn as much about yourself as the American presidency.

Student peers and classmates were by far the most stretching change for me, personally. Using my class as a prime example, the students were so educated. I am around the top of my class at Richmond High, as I'm sure the vast majority of other's are as well, and to be in a classroom full of kids that have learned and pushed themselves as hard as you was different--in a good way of course. It was a pleasant surprise to have such high ability within my own classroom. It was easy for the students to thrive off one another, I thought. It was a huge plus.

As for my floor=mates and other friends I was able to make over the course of the course, it was also contrary to expectation. Some of the wealthiest, preppiest individuals in the summer program were also some of the most spectacular students and people. Sure, there were some individuals who spoiled the lucky batch, but many were really cool to meet, and I am grateful to have been given such an opportunity.

As for New York City, it was different, but not entirely astray from my familiar route. It was more busy and more purposeful, definitely. People moved in abundance with such celerity. The route from A to B was shortened at every possible opportunity, or so it seemed. Everyone just had a place to go and wanted to get there as soon as possible. That's something I admire. What else became blatantly apparent to me was a sense of pride. It's a lot easier to notice a New Yorker than a Californian--they just have a certain style and atmosphere around them. They pop, for better or for worse.

I like both New York and California, and I am considering college and post-college lives in both areas, but I dare not say I have a more passionate love for the East Coast than the West Coast. I don't think a three week trip can accomplish that kind of a goal. It did, however, put my geographic loyalty into perspective though. I had always thought of living and pursuing interests outside of California, but it was nice to have experienced such before even exiting high school.

All-in-all, the trip/experience/opportunity was a total success. I experienced much and learned even more, and I could not be more grateful for such. So, thank you for everything. I have become a more successful student and a more well-rounded person. I cannot wait for next-year's students to be able to experience what I have myself, and I look forward to advocating for the I.L.C. in my upcoming senior year. It's been swell!


Looking Back

Now that I have completed my class and experience on the east coast, the time has come to reflect – on the whole ILC experience. The entire process has been a period of growth for me, and I am truly appreciative of the sponsors, Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Ramsey, Don, Mrs. L., Beilul, Milani, Irene, and Will for providing me this opportunity and teaching me along the way.

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

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Ivy League Connection
Columbia University Program for High School Students
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.

Columbia University:

New York City “The City That Never Sleeps”

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.

My Dorm:

The Suite Living Room:

Class “Do You Want to Be President?”

Doc Z told us the American Presidential Powers course was based on her upperclassmen course at Columbia on the same subject matter. Our high school summer class was very small with 12 students at the beginning and 8 at the end – 3 of which were ILC students. We were treated to plenty of guest speakers including a journalist, a congressman and a lawyer. All these speakers had very interesting careers to tell us about and plenty of advice for us in our later life. Class time was divided into discussion of our reading in the morning and library research in the afternoon. The class discussions were facilitated by our amazing professor Martha Zebrowski (or Dr. Z) as we discussed the founding fathers intention for a limited executive branch, the game-changing presidency of Abraham Lincoln and the modern American president, Barack Obama. I learned a lot about presidential power. This is my first political science course and I found that I enjoyed the material very much. And, of course, the centerpiece of our presidential powers course was our 20 page research paper. It was daunting at first but with all the drafts that were due and the advising of Dr. Z, I felt I learned a lot about my topic and how to properly write a research paper.

Our Reading:

Our Morning session:
Our Afternoon Session:

University Libraries “CLIO and the Stacks”

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:

The Butler Library Stacks:

College “Not So Far Away”

As I enter my final year of high school and begin my college applications, I will definitely be influenced by all of the information I have received this summer from the admissions officers and alums. I learned that all “optional material” is not really optional and that admissions officers spend more time with the essays than they do with test scores. After visiting an incredibly diverse group of colleges including both liberal arts colleges and universities, I now have a better idea of what I am looking for in a college.

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.

Columbia University:

Two Very Different ILC Experiences

I consider myself to be very lucky to have been a part of the Ivy League Connection for two years. Having attended summer programs at Cornell and Columbia, I have had a chance to compare and contrast the two in terms of setting, course-style and living arrangements. I have come to the conclusion that an urban setting (especially New York) would be far too distracting for me. I found I focused well in a rural environment. And though Cornell and Columbia are amazing institutions, I find I am drawn to smaller colleges rather than big universities. At Cornell, the class had 80 students amongst 2 professors and it was lecture style learning with plenty of TAs. By contrast, Columbia had 8 students and it was a seminar/discussion course with one TA. This is a huge difference. I like seminar courses more than I like lectures, but 8 students is a bit too small for my comfort.


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.

So this is it?

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

A Very Long Day

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.

The last day, but not the least...

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.

So Long New York City, Hello Bay Area

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.

Goodbye, New York

Today, I said goodbye to the 3 weeks I spent studying at Columbia University. Goodbye to my RAs Meghan and Ashley. Goodbye to my dorm room. Even goodbye to the Subway system.

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.

Shifting Gears

Today was brutally spectacular. The lack of sleep combined with the amount of activity served to further exhaust the already exhausted, but not without some fun along the way.

I was more prepared than Irene in terms of sleep, which is really ironic considering she works considerably well--and better than me--under significant sleep deprivation, but I was still riding a roller-coaster throughout most of the day.

Going to bed at 5:00 A.M., waking up at 8:00 A.M., and leaving Columbia by 9:00 A.M. took its fair toll. But, from then on, the day was just as exciting as it was exhausting.

From Rockefeller Center where the view of New York's skyline is extraordinary, to Central Park and their lake-side, boat-house restaurant, to a long trip between J.F.K. and S.F.O. Intl., with a minor detour to Oakland airport, even our last day was jam-packed.

I was relatively fine throughout most of the day. Between caffeinated beverages and a short nap on the plane, I've been functioning quite well.

But, as soon as I dropped my bags off inside my room and took a seat on the bed, all of that weariness hit me. I am fighting pretty hard to write this blog right now as is!

Farewell, New York. It was nice knowing you. We had some good times--some great times--but there's only so much fun to be had and knowledge to learn before the well begins to run dry. I'm definitely relieved to be back in California. And, I've got a lot of commitments to tend to. I dare say I have more to do out here than in New York!

But, I think New York has definitely succeeded in priming my summer work ethic and behavior, and I am more than ready to begin work on the rest of my summer projects.

It's a slight shift in gear, but we're still in the fast lane.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Early Packing

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

Almost Gone

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.’

Will, Milani and I with our Presidential Powers Teaching Assistant, Pavel.
Will, Milani and I with our professor, Doctor Zebrowski.

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.

Going Out With A Big Bang

The time has come for our amazing adventure to end, and for us to return home. It may sound gengeric, but it's true. Today was bittersweet because I'm going to miss all the new friends I've made, the class, New York City, Columbia, and being independent. At the same time, I'm looking forward to being back in the Bay Area and sleeping in my own bed. This was truly an marvelous three weeks and I would like to thank everyone who made this trip possible and fun. First off, I would like to thank the administrators: Don, Mr. Ramsey, and Mrs. Kronenberg for volunteering to organize this program -- and doing a marvelous job. Next, I would like to thank all of the sponsors who through their generous donations send the best and brightest students from our district to tackle a new environment and learn bundles of information in amazing classes. What would happen to our cohort if we didn't have Mrs. L.? The answer is that we'd be totally clueless about what to do, where to go, and how to get around the city. For that, each and every member of our cohort is grateful that you were are chaperon. And finally, I would like to thank the members of the Columbia cohort, Beilul, Milani, Irene, and Will for making this trip fun, hanging out with me, and for going on our own excursions together. you guys rock!

Now, to why I my last day in New York was a bang. First off, yesterday afternoon Kate, my afternoon professor, handed back our papers and I received an A- on my first college level paper. This good news only prompted me to work even harder on my preparation for my debate. Overall I think our debate went well. The opposition refereced one case in particular several times, Gratz v. Bollinger. The case is very similar to the case we were debating because of the following:
1) It involved a white male claiming that the University of Michigan violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment
2) The university also used a 150 point scale to determine how good an applicant is.
3) The university also awarded points if one was a minority race.

Gratz wasn't admitted while so called equal or less qualified applicants were accepted. The key issue was whether the fact that Univerity of Michigan gave an automatic 20 points to minorities for their application was a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Gratz. When the opposition brought up this case and why the judges (our professors) should vote against my team because the cases were almost exactly the same. In my closing statement I argued that the cases are similar, but there is one key difference. The University of Michigan awarded 20 points out of 150 points for race -- a very significant amount. In our case, the University of New York only awarded 3 out of 150 possible points to Lopez because of his race. The three points count for a mere 2% of the whole application -- a negligible amount. My team won by a vote of 2-1 and the judges explained that the key difference between the two cases was the fact that UNY only awarded three points for race. So, I was flying high and just relaxed for the rest of class and enjoyed the other two debates. In my opinion, class ended with a bang.

Since I haven't seen a Broadway show yet, I proposed earlier in the week that after class on Friday that our cohort rush a Broadway show. What rush means is that we go to a tickets office either at Seaport or at Times Square and wait in line for tickets to a Broadway show that are up to 50% off. After class, our cohort minus Irene, who wanted to go to the dance, hopped on the subway with Mrs. L. and headed to the less crowded Seaport box office. When we arrived we decided on Billy Elliot because of the amazing review Irene gave it and the fact that it won 10 Tony Awards. There was virtually no line, a stark comparison to Time Square's long line, and we were in an out.

Let's just say that the show was absolutely fantastic and amazing. The story is about a child, Billy Elliot, who's entire community works for a mining company. The company goes on strike and the relationship between union and government isn't thriving. During this time, Billy decides he wants to become a ballet dancer...something his brother and dad scorn him for. The young boy continues to follow his passion and be himself. This leads to Billy getting an audition for the Royal Ballet School, only to be forbidden to go by his father and brother. However, as the strike goes on for a year, Billy's father has a change of heart when he realizes that the strike is hopeless and that Billy has a chance to go big and leave this community. Together, the community raises enough money to send Billy to London for his audition, and is admitted to the school. The ending is bittersweet in that Billy will probably never come back home and see his family because they don't want him to be brought down by this hopeless community, but he now has the opportunity to become a star, and truly do what he loves. I loved the show, and I think I can say that I'm leaving New York with a big bang!

Tightening the Loose Ends

It's not all that gloomy today. Sure, it's definitely a change to leave New York City and Columbia University. But, I'm excited to come home.

I've gotten a lot done today.

I turned in my paper.

I finished my course and said my goodbyes.

I got one more glimpse at New York with a final Broadway show and Times Square visit.

I did my laundry and packed my bags.

And, I am able to say that I am grateful for having gone through this entire experience.

I'm far from unsatisfied with my time here, and I look forward to carrying such productivity and knowledge back to the West Coast--to California. I look forward to seeing my friends. I look forward to fulfilling some of my other summer commitments, and I look forward to starting some new summer projects. I look forward to relaxing in my own bedroom. And, I look forward to the upcoming school year which, in reality, is not too far from today.

I've had a blast, but there's only some much of an explosion one can handle. I'm ready to reload the cannon, so-to-speak.

Goodnight, Blogspot, and goodnight, New York.

Closing Night

I'm pretty sure in most shows, once their period of shows ends they have a closing night. I'm no expert. But, that's what today was. The closing night of an amazing show called the 2011 ILC at Columbia University.

It was bittersweet departing from our class. I felt like I had just gotten comfortable and now I'm gone. I was happy to be done with class, done with the readings, done with my paper. However, I wasn't done with the learning experience I got there. I hadn't learned everything I possibly could have from my professor and TA, but I know that I did make the best of it. I feel like the best party of the whole class experience was the motivation and the caring that was given to us by Dr. Z. and Pavel our TA. They were interested so much in each of us as individuals. I was not expecting that and it was hard to say goodbye.

We ended our night by going with Mrs. L. to our last Broadway show. We went to Seaport and rushed our tickets (getting them for discount, but not guaranteed good seats) which I learned from going to see Phantom of the Opera was way more convenient than standing in Times Square for hours for tickets. We saw Billy Elliot and got pretty good middle mezzanine seats. The musical was fantastic! I wanted to get up and start dancing during some of the musical numbers. Now I know why it won 10 Tony awards... It's true; no one can put on a show like NYC!

I packed most of my things last night in fear of pulling an all nighter. It's hard to accept that these three weeks have come and passed, and now it's time to move on and say goodbye. I feel like yesterday I was unpacking all of my things and looking around my dorm saying "how am I supposed to live here for 3 whole weeks???" Well, this chapter is almost at a close, but it has created so many chapters I can chose from. So this is definitely not the end, but only the beginning...

See you tomorrow San Francisco!

As the Sun Rises

And just as you all thought I had forgotten to post a blog, I did too!

But, I remembered, and that is what is important.

Perhaps, what is more important is why I had forgotten: my research paper. Essentially, it has been finished for a while today, but "finished" is a very loosely defined term when it comes to high school and college comparisons. "Finished" is logistically there, but not conceptually, maybe. "Finished" is that extra moment of touch-up spent on the smallest portion of the paper, perhaps. And, I still cannot claim that I have "finished" my paper to my own standard (which is never a static object; I always move the goal post on myself).

But, I do not have to be "finished" to be satisfied. I believe my paper came out as best it could given the context, and I will not lose sleep thinking I haven't done enough of the work, or I haven't put in enough time. On the contrary, I've put in more than most!

My paper is 30 pages and over 100 footnotes long, and with requirements of 20 pages and 15+ footnotes, the end-result is slightly exaggerated, I find.

But it is a reflection of my academic character, for better or for worse. I definitely feel as though I could have done a much better job (and a much shorter job), but I think any serious student—and certainly any I.L.C. student—always keeps in mind the self-defeating theory of "not good enough." And, that serves as both a benefit and detriment.

Either way, the assignment is complete. I am satisfied. I am exhausted. I am excited. And, I am relieved.

Early mornings—I love them.

How to Succeed.... in College

College was a reoccurring theme today.

Our guest speaker, Chris Riano, is one of the most entertaining speakers I have ever come across with an extremely unorthodox life. He began as an engineering student at Carnegie Mellon but quit after 2 years. He then moved to New York City and became a high fashion model before transferring to Columbia University where he was elected as a Student Senator and then Chairman of the Senate (or something to that extent). He went on to attend the Washington and Lee University Law School and currently, Riano is beginning his own higher education consulting firm with offices in New York City and Washington D.C. After telling us about his life experiences, Riano asked us all to explain our research topics. Then, he moved on to a discussion about our college thoughts, asking us where we wanted to attend.

Incidentally, the mid-day activity today was a college fair. It was absolutely packed and there were plenty of great colleges in attendance and I picked up a lot of great brochures.
In the evening, Irene and I attended the Broadway musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. It was absolutely, positively brilliant. I have previously only watched one professional theater production Wicked in San Francisco so this is my first official Broadway musical.
John Larroquette
It is also important to note that the show stars Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame. As a huge Harry Potter fan, I opted to attempt to get an autograph from Daniel, but I was one row too far from the fence to reach out to him for an autograph and too short to see him at all. But I did get an autograph from John Larroquette.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Home and a Musical

Okay, I've changed my mind. I want to go home.

I love it here. I love this city, and this class. But I'm getting addicted. Today, I went outside in 70 degree weather and shivered. Shivered! As if I was cold! I've stopped using the air conditioning in my dorm. If I was here too much longer I might actually start to like the heat.

And I miss home. Everything is so damned green here. And wet. Even in this hot summer, the parks are all emerald and lush, covered in stately trees and moss. I miss rolling hills flaming in the sun. I miss gnarled oaks providing shade for yellowed grasses. I miss breathing in and not drinking at the same time. I miss the sprawling lawns in Berkeley that just invite you to lie down and have a nap. I miss California.

Its funny, how differently people react to things. I know when we got here, I wasn't homesick at all. The thought that, eventually, I would have to go home wasn't much more than a hypothetical situation. I was so busy with the now that I forgot, just plain forgot what it was like. Others in the ILC group were homesick, I'm sure, and some of my suite-mates definitely felt the same way. But for me, now that actually being back in California is only about 48 hours away, I realize I want to head home.

I even miss my dog.

I'm sure everyone else's blog tonight talked about the college fair we had on campus today, which was quite the experience: I stopped by at some booths, wandered about for a bit, wrote down my name for any and all schools I'm thinking of applying for, and got some nice practice pushing through crowds. That certainly helped tonight!

After class today I just lounged about with friends here (one of our suite-mates had left earlier in the morning, so we were all feeling a little incomplete) before heading off with Beilul and my RA to see “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” which is a mighty funny musical. While it wasn't as good as Billy Elliot, the show was really great, with a gorgeous set, funny writing, a good plot, and brilliant casting. For those who didn't know already, this is the Broadway show that Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe stars in, and he was really quite good. Not at all Potter-esque, and he certainly wasn't trying to coast on his fame, which is what I had been afraid of before going to see the show. Sidenote: Radcliffe is actually a terrific dancer. After the show finished, everyone rushed outside to wait by the stage door for Radcliffe to come out: while everyone else wanted to be right by the railing, I opted for a scenic spot across the street, giving up my prime real estate four feet away from the guy for less pushing and fewer girls screeching right in my ear. Even though there was a car in the way, I did get a few brief glimpses of Radcliffe, although I was plenty happy just seeing him on stage.

I must be brief tonight because I'm in the middle of my research for tomorrow's (erm, today's) debate. Again my side is incredibly hard to argue: I'm on the side of the United States government in a Guantanamo case. Right. Because that's a totally logical avenue for an absolutist stance. Anyways, I must get back to that if I want to get any sleep today... Good night!