Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Answering Opportunity's Call

The opportunity of a lifetime. Being given the chance to fly across the country to explore everything that seems to be faintly an untouchable reality in my school- the Ivy League Schools. Prestige. Renown. Brilliance. Superiority. The schools are far out of Richmond High' School's sight, but here, were selected students who were given the chance to have the opportunity no one would imagine they would have. My 4.2 GPA allowed me to be fortunate in being one among them.

My story with the Ivy League Connection began my freshmen with an intimidating presentation from someone we all know now, Don. Utter intimidation and a slight sense of fear lingered all throughout the room. I wasn't too interested after that, but my curiosity was what made me attend the next presentation the next year. Still, I wasn't convinced about the ILC, yet I always found it to be wandering amongst all my thoughts. I'd begun to look at the courses offered by each of the schools. Columbia, Cornell, UPennn, Brown, and Vanderbilt. I had no geographic background as to where the schools were, other than that they were on the opposite coast of me, let alone did I know the true meaning of their prestige behind their names. Their names meant nothing more than names alone. The picture painted before me was a mess. It wasn't black and white as hearing a familiar UC Berkeley, Yale, or Harvard was (hence my inexpertise). Ultimately, though, I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to apply to Vanderbilt, which among the several classes it offered, had Med School 101 and Health, Medicine, and Society that I was completely interested in. My work and effort led me past the application stage and into the interview round, but was adversely not accepted as one of the 4 chosen ones of the 9 interviewees. Some devastation took a toll on me, but I had another chance at Techniques in DNA-Based Biotechnology offered by Brown (I was and am interested in health/medically related studies). When it came down to it, about a month and a half later, I applied newly. The process was the same as applying to Vanderbilt, only this time had a happier ending. I was accepted. I had no idea what would be in store for me, but all I knew is that I was being given a rare opportunity that I could not neglect.

The first milestone events leading up to acceptance of the ILC were over with and a new side of the ILC was introduced to all the new ILCers. There was a tutorial where my cohort got together for the first time and worked on creating our blogsite and our meet and greet dinner with the entire cohort. For the first time, the entire cohort came together once more as we enjoyed what is only now such a wonderful memory. Especially looking back at it from now, it was so great. I can still remember being there. I remember all of us sitting down, introducing ourselves to each other, getting to know each other better, and enjoying great food. Things were looking promising and I was just waiting 'til the day that we'd all head off. The only milestone left that stood in between then and the time we'd set off was the final orientation with our parents. Though it was nothing new to us ILCers, we went over what needed to be said and done, had our parent(s) meet our chaperone, Ms. Scott, and get a roughly planned itinerary for the upcoming summer trip of a lifetime.

Okay, so with all of the milestone events done, let me lead up to what this program is all about. The day for the Brown-I cohort came so soon and before we knew it, we were at El Cerrito High School at 3 AM ready to take off. It was such an exciting and surreal moment, but it was what we were all waiting for. We left everyone and made it to SFO, where we departed to Chicago and then Providence with our head in the clouds and our minds on the endless possibilities of Summer@Brown.

I can remember feeling the intense humidity the second I stepped foot outside PVD and making our way to Biltmore Providence. From the first dinner, to the first night there, everything was amazing. We made sure we made the best of it, particularly in enjoying the luxury of the hotel, as we'd only be there for less than a week. Blogging was always a trouble, especially from coming back to the hotel after an entire day of exploring colleges and still having to write a 3-hour-to-write blog. (It was only difficult and took that long because it was new, so I'd recommend new ILCers to practice, practice, practice, and ASAP.) The late night blogging get-togethers were fun on their own, though, so I really can't complain about anything regarding the hotel days.

If I can continue this story chronologically, that'd be great, but I'll sum up my entire experience in a few more paragraphs or so.

Everything about the ILC was great. There were only the exceptions of blogging (which is both good and bad), many events to go to, the difficult application process itself (a pre-essay, course-specific essay, then the interview), and tightly packed schedules from beginning to end. The moment I became involved with the ILC was when I actually began checking my emails so constantly, so in an indirect way, you could say, it helped me become more responsible in a sense. As all you may figure though, every struggle was worth the experience we had.

As I've mentioned, I would have never imagined that I'd have this opportunity, let alone that I'd apply, and fly out to do everything we did, but I did. There were so many aspects that helped me get the hang of what true college life is, and as a result, had a college experience.

In my school's environment, being pushed isn't as much of a priority as making students actually attend class and pass is. However, the extra effort I put into earning my grades wasn't much compared to the effort I found myself putting towards my course. I'd taken a class at a community college last summer, but this class still drove me a bit crazier, yet I didn't fail. I definitely have to say that that was one of the most valuable skills I was able to get from the course. To never give up. Never quit just because something is difficult and seems impossible, because most likely it won't be. I may have not gotten as much as other students did, as they already knew more than I did prior to beginning the course, but the skill of perseverance is something that cannot be taught by anyone else. It wasn't the easiest path going to all, but one, office hours and staying half and hour to over two hours to catch up on what I didn't understand, but now I see why it was the better one. I don't know how I couldn't see it in the past blogs I wrote, but as I write this one, I'm finally realizing what was in front of me all along. If this is supposed to be anything like that glorious epiphany I mentioned in one of my blogs, then this is probably it. As I write this, I can understand that this may possibly seem like any other "never give up" story, but it's that work, frustration, and effort that made this experience that much better.

Not only is reflecting something to do on your own, but it's worthwhile to take time and share your experiences with other. That just happened to be the case for one of my sisters and I reflected on our struggles. By looking at it, it was a challenge that I didn't expect taking, but was a giant leap in doing, specially because I had taken Bio a year ago, while, again, many students had just recently taken AP Bio or have taken it at the least. Through the struggles of the class I was able to make the best of it in being able to come out triumphant and doing my best to not only get through what I needed to get through with, but actually learning and developing on a skill in doing so. As my sister said, it was something unfamiliar to dive into, but in the end, the clouds cleared up and the path looks a lot clearer (at least for now, and I say that personally).

In terms of college exploration, I was also given the opportunity to explore colleges, as one, if not the most important, aspect of this trip. As I've mentioned, I had no idea how to differentiate each of the schools we could apply to, until we made it to Providence and explored colleges/universities one day at a time. At first thought then, I'd only affiliated arrogantly intelligent people and a cold, cloudy, dark, unattractive climate with them, which was terribly closed-minded on my part. I'm only trying to speak my personal truth, here, so I do apologize for (very false) assumptions. However, I am more than glad and thankful for the opportunity of exploring because first of all, visiting each of the schools we did proved my assumptions wrong, and I was able to meet great people along the way and make lifelong memories. As you may recall, I sort of had this rave over Dartmouth (and still do!). My 8th grade teacher actually graduated from there, but I had absolutely NO idea as to what it was, let alone that it was an Ivy League, or any other details regarding it for that matter. Now I am actually looking forward to the opportunities that it offers. It was really unexpected, but it was just a school I have become to have interest and ambition for. Alongside Dartmouth is also Brandeis. As the school that I blogged about, I thought I knew everything, but was quite wrong. Though I knew they liked to create a cohesiveness between liberal arts and academics, I didn't know how serious they took their majoring ambitions (they really encourage triple-majoring if you're guessing). In any case, I come to think of how great of a school it is, and how the history and foundations of it really shape it and its community today. Great schools that are in definite consideration.

Raving over how great the schools are is kind of fun, but I do have to think about being away for 4 years. I can decide to be close to home, but that wouldn't serve the purpose of this trip too well. This trip has actually given me a first-hand experience on being away from home and taking on a new challenge. Not only being several hundreds of miles away from home, but literally being on the opposite side of the coast. It's given me the chance to step out of my comfort zone, quickly adapt, take on new experiences, challenge myself, make amazing memories, meet fantastic people, and ultimately, grow as an individual. I don't really know how to phrase it, but I probably won't be able to understand the importance of this experience to its full extent until I do get to my college years and find myself benefiting from it. That said, I will benefit from this in terms of college exploration and finding a school for me. Emotionally, this has helped me in its own way too. I might have not felt homesick throughout my time there, probably because there is just so much going on, but after just one time video chatting back home with all of my family, I can see more clearly how home is where the heart is. My heart was still back home, and I could tell from the couple of completely unexpected tears during the call. In any case, though, the experience was just an opportunity priceless to have (though I and all other fellow ILCers owe all our dearest thanks and appreciation to the benefactors who did make this opportunity financially possible for us).

It's been a very bumpy and brutal road for me ever since the application and interview days. The tutorials, sessions, loaner items, endless emails, responsibilities, expectations, effort, occasional restlessness, perseverance, and filling out all the documents was worth everything we've all been able to do from this experience. I find myself very enthusiastic in sharing my experience to the other students of my grade and incoming sophomores. In fact, I strongly see myself applying for this program again (particularly to get into one of Vanderbilt's courses) and further narrowing which colleges I'll be applying to. It's been an incredibly amazing 3 and  half weeks and I couldn't be any more grateful and satisfied that I've had the great privilege and honor of having this opportunity and unique experience. Like the Ivy League Connection's motto says (which I used to see as intimidating, but now see as a good thing), "When opportunity knocks, some people answer the door while others just complain about the noise" Thankfully, I happened to answer its call and make the best of it.

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