Monday, June 27, 2011

Best Monday in a While

My first full day at Columbia University's Summer Program for High School Students! So exciting!

This morning was (yet another) early start as our suite headed down to the dining hall at 7 AM for breakfast, which I thought was very good, especially for a dining hall. The actual hall itself is also very pretty, with large wooden beams holding up a high ceiling and big windows with stained glass letting in a fair amount of light. After eating we headed to another nearby building for our orientation, which our RAs informed us was at 8, but didn't end up starting until a little after 9 AM and lasted only about fifteen minutes; it seemed a little silly to be woken up more than two hours before that point just to watch a small video and go over some of the guidelines to the program, which, to be honest, the RAs had done a better job of describing the day before. I had a feeling the orientation was really more for the parents who were dropping off the “commuter” students (meaning people from the area who weren't living in the residence halls) than an actual orientation. We did, however, all get our class schedules as well as a map; I was very pleased to learn that both my classes are in the building directly next to my dorm, so there's no trek across campus every morning for either me or for Eric, who is in the dorm just one building down from mine.

After orientation we all went straight to class and met our instructors. For Constitutional Law, we have three: Kelly Rader, Jeffery Lenowitz, and Kate Krimmel. Kelly Rader led my morning class, which was done almost lecture style in a small room holding I would guess around twenty students with plenty of space left over. I was impressed at how we just jumped right in; I used five pages of my notebook just during the two-hour session in the morning. Eric and I both sat near the front; I can't say for him, but I plan on making that seat my permanent seat as our instructor requires a seating chart so she can take attendance and mark participation much easier. That was another great thing about this class: 40% of the class is participation, which each instructor keeps track of each day, while the rest in divided between weekly quizzes and a “writing exercise” that hasn't yet been fully explained. I like classes where participation is a big aspect; it means you don't ever get (or shouldn't get) just a few people sharing opinions while everyone holds back because of shyness of because they are merely tired or, however far fetched it sounds, uninterested. Like I said before, our first session in the morning involved a lot of note-taking as our instructor found and filled the gaps in our knowledge about the Supreme Court and the judicial process in general. She also reminded us that, in this class, moral or ethical or even political arguments have no bearing (although she did make a convincing argument that the judicial branch is a largely political body) in this class, and that the only realm we were interested in discussing would be the legal realm, which can include everything from the specific wording of the text to trying to interpret law through the “spirit” of the lawmakers such as the founding fathers.

Lunch was quite a hub of activity. I met some of the other ILCers for lunch in the dining hall (burgers, fairly standard fair here my RA tells me), and we were given a coupon for free bubble tea (tapioca) which we immediately rushed to redeem. Pulling on our bubble tea, we made our way over the carnival that the RAs of all the dorms had set up on big lawn on campus; Milani and I tried our hand at “jousting” (aka whacking each other with big inflatable “spears” while trying to stay balanced on a small stand raised off the ground); it was very difficult to keep my balance on my wobbly surface while also fending off Milani's attacks and trying to disrupt her sense of balance. We had to quit before we could snag a snowcone since we had to be in class by 2 PM.

Eric and I both moved down the hallway from the morning session and had class with our second instructor, Kate Krimmel, in a much smaller setting; including myself and the instructor, there are only ten people in the room. The afternoon is meant to be a much more discussion-based section of the class, although occasionally we will meet up with the other three groups (both Kelly Rader and the third instuctor, Jeffrey Lenowitz, have similar small classes on Constitutional Law students at the same time) to either watch movies and documentaries or participate in debate. I'm hoping in those combined groups I can meet Jeffrey Lenowitz and get to know him a little more; while both of my female instructors are great (all three of them are in their fifth year of their PhD), they seem very professional and focused, whereas Jeffrey Lenowitz seemed like he would bring a more relaxed feel into the environment and would certainly have different views than either of my two instructors.

After class we met with Mrs. L and chatted a bit about our first day of class as well as our impressions of the dinners and any comments or suggestions we had. I suggested that perhaps the next batch of NY-bound ILCers should get an extra day here of lighter, puttering-about-the-city activities before they begin their grueling pace for the college visits, as that would give them at least a day to get their sleeping schedules straightened out; for me personally, the first few days of early risings and late turn-ins have really messed me up, sleep-schedule wise, and I'm getting used to attempting to function on four hours sleep, which is a deadly combination when mixed with the intense course I'm enrolled in. Also, I've been here almost a week and I feel like I've seen almost nothing of New York City, so maybe that extra day would give the students a chance to get better acquainted with the city in general, or perhaps more specifically the area around the University. Afterwards Mrs. L took the Presidential Powers to buy their textbooks (ours won't be in until the end of the week; in the meantime, we have a reader for the class) while Eric and I stopped by the admin building to try and fix his ID problems (no luck there) and swung by another bookstore to grab my AP Lang summer reading assignment book, Fast Food Nation.

I ate dinner with my suite-mates (the Hartley 8C girls are becoming quite the group) and headed back to my dorm after that to putter around, alternating between reading my AP Lang book, my reader from Constitutional Law, and whatever novel happened to be in arm's reach; I'm building up quite a collection on my desk, as every time we go into any bookstore I cannot help but window-shop and eventually find something that catches me I and my wallet. Then I met with Will, Milani, Beilul, and Eric again to run by the nearest convenience store for some odds and ends (kleenex and wrapping paper for me); all of us were in great spirits, happy to be in the city together and thrilled that we were keeping our little group in one piece even with all the people around us, even growing closer as a result. The making-friends vibe here is an odd one; very few of the girls are here completely on their own, so few people are actively trying to make new friends since most already have a built-in set; I'm hoping as the week wears on we'll get closer, at least with our other suite-mates. And hey, there's always trying to make friends with the guys through Will and Eric!

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