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.