Wednesday, July 31, 2013

To Infinity and Beyond

Just a couple years ago, I was an incoming freshman embarking on my high school career. Walking through my school's college fair, I came across a booth for a program called the Ivy League Connection. And there was former ILC Ambassador Dyana So, manning the table and talking about the ILC in all its glory. As a freshman, I was ineligible to apply, but had the intent of applying either my sophomore or junior year. But as my sophomore year came wallowing by, I did nothing while I saw others try it out. And after hearing about my friend Yessenia Reyna's days at VSA, I regretted nothing more than not giving it a try. So as I started my junior year, I started school knowing that I couldn't let this opportunity pass me by. 

I didn't need Don's information session to sell me on the idea of applying as an ambassador for the ILC. With each of the school's program's descriptions in mind, I had an idea of which programs I hoped to apply for. Applying for Vanderbilt University on a whim was one of the best choices I've made in my life. Because I'd be cutting it close with my submissions, I almost passed it up. But because of Yessenia Reyna's encouragement, I quickly wrote my essays and emailed them to Don. I soon found out I went through to the interview round and the rest was history. 

After months of preparation, I was out and about on the East Coast. Free from family and friends, I was in charge of my own well-being for three and a half weeks. And like former ILC ambassadors have said, being a part of the ILC is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Just as I had initially thought, I learned things in and out of the classroom. In doing so, I learned more about myself each and everyday. The knowledge and self discovery that came along this trip was endless. 

Acquiring knowledge is endless just as this body of water is. 
As a naive freshman, I was stuck inside the Bay Area bubble. Attending college in Southern California was drastic enough. I thought that was what all there was for someone like me.  But because of what the ILC has done to me, I know that there's more for WCCUSD students than UCLA or Cal. Although the UC system offers one of the best college educations in the country, students in our district tend to limit themselves only to UCs. And the same could go for anyone in the country choosing colleges that are most comfortable. Personally speaking, I was one of them. I would have never thought that someone from our district could ever venture off into the unknown like Dyana So has in attending the University of Pennsylvania. Not only is it far far away from Pinole, CA, but it's one of the best private universities in the nation. She's left all that was familiar to her and was fearless in doing so. And during her freshman year, she's tackled living on a different side of the country making a new home for herself.

Before arriving to Columbia University.
From the West Coast to the East Coast, to a public or private education, everyone has the opportunity to be in charge of their own destiny. Sky's the limit, and so is a student's future. No one should be bound to staying in a familiar environment if given other alternatives. Venturing into uncharted territory is part of becoming independent. And by leaving my family behind these past couple weeks, I got a taste of what being independent is like, free from comfortable settings. I want more for myself than I ever have. As a rising senior, the college application process is soon underway. And from my tours and dinners with former and current Georgetown and Vanderbilt students, I hope to look more into universities outside of California. There's thousands of colleges in the United States alone that no one can simply subject themselves to just applying to nine University of California schools and a couple California State Universities. But if it weren't for the ILC, I would have never heard of Vanderbilt University or Georgetown University, two schools I never would have heard about. And now they're two schools I may actually apply to.

Once arriving at Vanderbilt Summer Academy, I gained a wealth of knowledge in my Med School 101 course while discovering more about myself. Med School 101 has taught me the harsh realities of what it takes to be a doctor in our current healthcare system. While there were days that were depressing, it only compels me to want to do something about it. Although I'm not completely sold on the idea of being a doctor, I do know that that option is always there if I choose to act on it. I know that I'm not the only person who's indecisive in their career path, and I'm not ashamed of it. Because of my instructor Mary, I know I don't have to have all the answers in the world right this minute. Sometimes, it just comes naturally, and with time. All I know is that whatever I choose to pursue, I have to be passionate in doing it. Whether I become a doctor or whatever life has planned for me, as Mr. Hillyer would say, it has to have the "That's cool." factor. If not, there's no reason in pursuing it at all. 

With so many bright young minds of all different backgrounds, I felt slightly out of place. Coming from a school where I was easily in the top 10 percentile of my class, to VSA where everyone's just as intelligent if not more, is frightening. But this environment is something that's been both refreshing, and inspiring. It's okay to not be the smartest person in your class. I was surrounded by individuals who came to class eager to learn from our guest speakers and instructors, and from each other as well. It felt a lot different than any of the classes I've ever been a part of. I've learned more in this three week class than I ever have in some of my past classes. X amounts of knowledge was thrusted upon me in such a short amount of time. I'm more motivated than ever to push myself this upcoming year. Rather than taking it easy my senior year, by pushing myself, I hope to prepare myself for what lies ahead. I'm fully aware college won't be an easy ride, just as Med School 101 has proven not to be. I can't imagine being in a different course, let alone a different program. Getting a taste of what medical school is like, I was given an advantage not many students during their undergraduate years of study can say. Listening to the guest speakers and instructors that I did, I couldn't be any more grateful. Having been given my first choice program and course, I couldn't have been happier with the outcomes. 

My lovely Med School 101 class.

VSA all the way!
Before leaving for my East Coast journey, I was afraid of not making any friends at VSA. At least, I was a little apprehensive at the idea of it all. And I couldn't help but feeling that even more after arriving late my first day. And I was completely wrong. It would have been hard not to make friends in such a welcoming environment. Being at any summer camp, everyone is that new kid on block, let alone dorm room. I was forced to break free from distraught and make new friends. Given this amount of time, it's hard to think how I made so many friends, let alone close friends. From my proctor group to my Med School 101 classmates, to all the VSAers, we became a family. Not only did I enjoy their company, but I learned something about each about where each of these individuals came from. Never did any of these individuals show that they did have money. You would have never known about their financial circumstances right from the start. There, I met some of the most humble and brightest youth all gathered into one summer camp. I never felt on edge for being sent to VSA on a scholarship. Money was the least of our worries. Instead, we all hoped to make the most of our stay at Vanderbilt. Whether I met someone from my home state of California, or someone all the way from Shanghai, they all made my VSA experience unforgettable. 

One last proctor group picture for our last dance.

With that being said, the Ivy League Connection has definitely changed my outlook on college, let alone life. This journey has opened up my eyes and prepared me for college like no other. I knew that I was in for a life changing experience, but not to the degree that I was immersed in. I came into this experience wrapped in my cocoon, and now I come out of it, a fluttering butterfly. There's nothing but advantages to being a part of the Ivy League Connection. Sadly, not everyone from our school district can take part in this opportunity. But as an ILC ambassador, I hope my daily posts on this blog inspire students to look beyond the boundaries we've all been guilty of staying in. No one is preventing you from going after what you want but yourself. After all, everyone is in charge of their own destiny. This couldn't be more self-evident throughout my entire East Coast stay. Moving ahead towards my senior year, I plan on taking action and talking to students of Pinole Valley High about my ILC journey. And I hope eligible students jump at this offer. Besides, there's no hurt in trying. Given my experience, you'll never know unless you try.

Before leaving Nashville, dressed in our Vanderbilt apparel in front of VU's sign!

I can't thank the Ivy League Connection enough for accepting me into their program. It's done so much for me that I hope to give back in every way that I can. I can't help but feel blessed to have taken part in such a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'd like to thank everyone who has made this dream a reality: Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Don, the sponsors, Mr. Mannix, and my parents. I will forever be grateful and humbled to be one of this year's ILC ambassadors. With a wealth of knowledge behind me, I look forward to capping off my high school career and starting a new chapter of life: College. Although my East Coast experience has ended, my journey continues. As my S-House Space Jammers would say, to infinity and beyond!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Game Changer

The suit and tie life, "Professional Side."
When I think about what the ILC and the Vanderbilt trip has done for me I think of the words game changer. I say these words because the ILC changed my life. The first thing the ILC did for me was test my business and professional skills, which I loved because I finally got a chance to put my forensics' skills to use outside of debate. I feel that the ILC taught me and forced me to be way more independent than I usually am. Our independence was put to the test as we woke up on time, went to class, made our own decisions, all thousands of miles away from home. These were some of the tasks and responsibilities that the ILC trusted us to do, and it caused us to grow up and for-fill them on our own without any help. Okay maybe a little help from Don as he sent a couple of emails here and there. The ILC forced us to grow up as they made it clear to us that the things they instructed us to do were mandatory, or else we would be fired just like a business job. Us growing up began right from the first meeting in the school's library. We all found out the intimidating requirements in this first meeting, as some backed out of an opportunity of a life time like cowards, while others stepped up to the challenge like young men and women and blossomed like a rose in the crack of cement. This program obviously wasn't for everyone as there were a given number of people who were accepted. After the information session everyone who was still interested in the program had to put on their big boy pants and get ready for the ride as we were put through an interview that determined the programs finalists.

This was stressful waiting in class for the verdict of who made it or not, and I tell you when I made it I felt like a boy in a candy store as I tried my hardest to stay professional, which unlocked some inner self control. All of the events scheduled and tasks that were given to us required professional care from being on time, getting jobs done by specific date, checking your email, and most importantly following directions. I feel that I can go into, well almost go into a corporate job and be prepared for the life style.

The second game changer occurred when I stepped off the plane in beautiful D.C. Stepping off the plane in D.C. made me realize that I really wanted and need to go out of state for college. Discovering a new world in D.C. made me fall in love with the scenery, which led to one of my top two schools. Georgetown locked up the number two spot on my dream college list. The ILC strayed me from my plans of attending college close to home, as I fell head over heels for Georgetown and what they are about. Georgetown is a school that wants their students to give back to the community, and that's all I ever wanted to do growing up in San Pablo, California. Georgetown was the top of the top for me out of the colleges we seen. I really loved their internship program, and I later found out that the majority of colleges we visited didn't have this program to offer. When I ventured through D.C I began to see that it was a combination of forest and city life. This showed me the capital had a calm side I could always run to, but it also showed me that it had enough activities to offer like a city.

Trying to save lives in microscopic surgery.
When we got to Vanderbilt my engineering class made me realize I wanted to do something in life that required my mind and hands. I enjoyed my class, but I definitely don't want to do BME or Bio Medical Engineering. Before this class I thought that I wanted to do something that required me to wear a suit and tie the rest of my life, but I was way off. I really want to invent the next big thing, which I don't know of just yet. BME was involved too much medical background for me. It seemed to me you had to have all of the knowledge that a sergeant has if not more when being a BME. I feel that the VSA program interacted their students very well. Being at school for so long made me home sick, but it also made me connect with people bringing me out of my hard comfort shell. The people in my proctor group were very close knit kind of shying me away from my homesickness, and bringing me into my own person. At VSA I had no one kind of like an actual college at first, but refusing to be a loner forced me to venture out into new groups. They were actually friendly and I really connected. Some connections were so strong that I shed tears as they called me Bi-U and for the last time. My class showed me that a bunch of teens can get together for three weeks and be a family. 

I honestly believe that the ILC has made my mind up for a lot of things with this very expensive trip. I feel that with me experiencing this trip I know way more about what to look for in a college, I feel like I can now go off to college in another state without feeling homesick, and I also feel I can now live more independently then I ever thought I could. I feel that the ILC is a program that should be offered nationwide, because it teaches teens how to grow up in the prime of their high school lives. This program also allowed me to get a feel of what I need in a college in order to go there. I thank the ILC for everything for the trip, for the life time connections, and most importantly showing me a taste of the adult life. I can't thank the ILC enough; I look forward to seeing you next year. 


I was nervous throughout my time with the ILC. I was nervous about writing my essay, submitting it, the interview, the first few blogs, whether I would get the Med School 101 course, the trip, making friends, taking the course, and now writing this blog. I think I was nervous even before the first presentation Don give, nervous about whether or not I would be selected to attend the presentation. Back then I wasn't the most confident person. I didn't think that my essays or interview would stand a chance against the fellow applicants.However after each nerve-racking event, the feeling of relieving that flows through me makes it all worth it, it makes me a little more confident about the next. 

I knew I wanted to be a part of the ILC the minute I heard of it and there was no changing my mind. I knew exactly what my first and second choices were and I knew exactly what course I wanted to take. I was going to do whatever it takes to make it happen. I was prepared to grovel at my parents' feet and beg them for permission. I was prepared to put in hours of research to write a worthy essay. The parent begging part I wasn't too confident about since they have denied me of a similar trip before and it was only one week long. I didn't know how they would feel about a couple of weeks of independence. Of course as I mentioned I was also not too sure about my essays and interview. I reached out to my peers and upperclassmen to help me edit and revise my essays. I think it was close to 11 PM when I got the email from Don telling us that we are qualified for the interview. I immediately jumped from my desk and let out a yelp. I danced around for about five seconds before I heard my dad yelling at me to keep it down. I told him why I was being loud-ish and his reaction was a little disappointing, probably because he wasn't sold on the whole ILC thing yet. Once I knew that the interview was a 'go', I once again asked for help from my elders. I think that attending the mock interview helped me the most. I got a good outline of what to prepare for. 

I went from here........
I remember my friends and I talked about how early we were going to show up at the front of the library for the interview. We all joked and said that we shouldn't even leave the school and we should just go there. When the day did come I ended up waiting there one hour earlier than needed because I wanted to make sure that I was there before Don and that I didn't read the time wrong due to my nervous wondering eyes, so one hour seemed like a good buffer. From beginning to end, it felt like someone took all my nerves and muscles and twisted it repeatedly. I had a sick feeling in my stomach and I thought that I was going to pass out. As we were waiting for our turn and also while we were waiting for the final decision, I paced around in the small room while my friends were all sitting and looking extremely calm. For me, it was going to be the end of the world if things didn't go well. Luckily it did, and I hurdled through one of the biggest ILC obstacles. I think I also let out a yelp when the panelist announced my name and my heart pounded faster than when I was anticipating. Don explained to us repeatedly what was expected of us throughout the whole process and I had it engraved into my head. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with everything that was going to be given to me. Before getting the experience I knew that I was going to spend time convincing the masses of students to apply for next year. And knowing what I know now I would have included convincing them how awesome East coast colleges would be would be. I was going to anyway but not with the determination that I now have. I was prepared to be the mature, responsible, and punctual adult that everyone in the ILC expects me to be. 

The months that followed the interview really tested everything that was asked of me. I had managed to get my parent to flow with the whole ILC trip and once they understood everything about the program (after about a million explanation, even up to now), they loved the idea. Between my friends (those who were also at the ILC) and I, we had wordlessly setup a Don's Email Watch Group. It was an unsaid mutual agreement that we would alert each other whenever Don would send out an email.  Each time that I thought that an event was a a few weeks away, it would come speeding without my knowledge. Next thing I know the first blog tutorial passed, the school board meeting passed, the city council meeting passed, the alumni dinner at La Viola passed, the orientation passed and it was departure time.

I was prepared for a life changing trip but what I got was just beyond that. It's like comparing a ten (on a scale of 1-10) to an infinity. I cannot stress how important it was for me to be able to visit UPenn, Colombia, and Georgetown. To be able to feel that Independence Day spirit in DC that make me more determined to make something out of my future. I made a connection at Georgetown that had me prepared to put a ring on it. Unfortunately Georgetown does not have a binding policy but early decision is good enough for me. I knew that going out of state for college was an option for me even if my parent wasn't on-board with it yet.  The only thing was that I was pretty much going into it blind. I didn't even know that Georgetown existed and I didn't know that not every college is for me. I never thought about how the environment would affect how much I would like a college, I just thought that of the academic was good then I was good. I loved how Colombia valued their education but the campus itself felt a little suffocating. But as I step foot onto Georgetown University grounds, I knew that something special was awaiting me. As I hear the admission officer talk and the tour guide talked, each box on my What To Look For In A College list was checking itself. The dinner with the Georgetown alumni and current students not only let me explored GU more but it also prepared me for college in general. Aside from the academics the first week of the trip was mind blowing. I don't think I have ever had that much fun in my life. I have been to more states in one week than I have been in the eight years that I have lived in the U.S. here....
The knowledge that was given to me from the Med School 101 course was truly priceless. It was like my whole life I have been using the same brown, normal size, wooden door to get me to places but after the course it was like all the other doors, more colorful and varying in size, finally opened and I used them to broaden my path. It allowed me to think more about my career path and it made me more determined than ever to follow it. I know that wanting to help other is a good reason to why I want to be a doctor but medical school wants more than that. This course helped me find those reasons and pushes me to complete my goal. I was also exposed to other possibilities in the field of medicine. I learned that I don't have to major in science to go to med school, I can major in anything I want and follow my passion to make myself unique. The instructors were the best instructors anyone would have ever asked for. They did not baby us, they gave us a slightly water down and speedy version of what medical school would be like. They worked extremely hard to give us shadowing experience that will always be a part of me. My favorite lessons are the ones where I learn about the ethics that comes with pursuing the medical career. I hope to be able to use what they taught me  and what I experienced to help contribute to my own school's Health Academy. Not only was the information given in the course invaluable but the environment in which it was taught in was rare. Every single student in the class wanted to be there. They all wanted to learn, to explore, and to experience. We were all competitive and we all loved to challenged ourselves. I love it to death! 

Outside of the course, VSA did plenty to help us prepared for college. My favorite experience would have to be the one where I got to be a college admission officer for a night. They not only told me what CAO expects from a student, they showed us how the process works. I learned that personality and background play a big part in a college application. I hope to be able to replicate that experience and bring it back to my own school because everyone deserves to see what it's like. I also learned, from college info session, that I can go beyond medical school and law school. I could further my education by getting into a MD/PhD program. I could work to become a doctor and work on research to help us better understand medicine. Being able to hear about all the proctor's first year college experience felt like I was being pushed out of the way of a speeding truck. I know that college is going to crush me like the tiny ant that I am but they proctors told me that it was all a part of the experience and the growing. 

Making friends at VSA was one of the most amazing things ever. We all didn't care about how we presented ourselves and we all had a silent agreement of "Let's be more weird together". My friends and I was a pretty crazy and comical bunch. I have gotten closer with them in three weeks than most other that I have known for years, sharing such a great experience together really brings everyone closer. We fought like regular friends but no matter how serious we would be laughing and joking at the next meal. It was interesting to hear different stories about where everyone lives and while they thought that me living in California was the coolest thing ever, I thought that their life was awesome. Being able to live independently had taught me a lot of things. If there was no one complaining about the state of my room then I would leave it be, messy or not. I cannot wake myself up of I was given the option to not attend to something. All my clothing should be the same color for the sake of them staying the same color. here.
Ever since my return from the trip I feel like me but not. I look at most everything differently and think about everything differently. I still have more growing to do but I certainly have grown a great amount since the ILC have became a part of my life.  The journey came and went much too fast and I wished that I can relive this period over and over again. I have gone pretty far from where I started. I discover a dream college, new paths, I made some great friends, and learned unforgetable lessons. I went from being a shakingly nervous, under confident, uninformed, and lost little caterpillar to a chrysalis. From the outside nothing is happening but inside big changes are taking place. I'm not ready to be a butterfly yet but some day I will be. I know I will attempt to be a part of the ILC again to aid my metamorphosis.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Looking Back on My Adventure

Dawson (my math instructor) and I
Looking back on my ILC adventure, I realize that there are three big things I take away from it: 1) academic content from my math course, 2) a better understanding of the college admissions process/what I am looking for in a college, and 3) improved life skills.

First of all, the course "Special Topics in Math" was the whole reason I wanted to go on this trip. The course blew my expectations out of the water. When I applied, I was thinking, “That sounds like a good course.” I was wrong. It was an awesome course, the best math class I have ever taken!

In the class, we tackled a wide variety of math concepts from puzzles, to Trigonometry, to Combinatorics, to Game Theory, to Code  Encryption. Although we did a different Puzzler everyday, they always challenged me. I learned something new from each one that I can apply to other math puzzles and concepts. I always looked forward to them as a great way to start class.

My math textbook
Independent Study really helped me learn how to study for math. I have never had to study for a math test, but now, when the time comes, I will know how. Studying is all about being able to gauge what you know. Dawson (the instructor)  really helped us with that by letting us decide when we were ready to take the quiz, instead of having a scheduled quiz for each section.

Dawson’s lectures were always interesting, and highly educational. There was never a time when I wanted the lecture to be over. Through these amazing lectures, I got a sneak peek at the math I will tackle in the future from Pre-Calculus to college level math. Dawson’s awesome lectures were always reinforced by activities/competitions. Some of my favorites were Jeopardy and the two-hour Scavenger Hunt. These activities took already awesome topics, and made them 10 times more fun!

Over the course of the three weeks, we did two big projects. The “Teach the Class” project was by far the most fun and educational. It was fun to see my classmates try their hand at teaching. Some of the things I learned from teaching and watching other students' lessons include: a new way to factor a quadratic equation, how to deal with students passing notes, and how to deal with a lesson that completely failed. Dawson’s three pages of feedback afterwards were really helpful. I probably won’t ever become a teacher, but this will certainly help me teach others when they come to me for math help.

After lunch with Dyana in Philadelphia!
The second thing I got out of this program was a better understanding of what I want in a college, and the admissions process. Before going on this trip, I had no idea where I wanted to go to college. All I knew was that I want to become a Civil Engineer. Spending July 3rd with Dyana helped me make a huge leap from indecision to having a pretty good idea what I’m looking for in a college. Some of the things she discussed with us included: finding your passion, determining your interests/priorities, deciding your level of involvement, and making any given mistake once, and only once. That was just at breakfast. I learned even more from her UPenn tour and from eating lunch with her.

Talking with Kathleen (one of the Vanderbilt proctors) enlightened me about some of the opportunities in college. She is double majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Music Performance at Vanderbilt. Before talking with her, I had never thought of doing both music and engineering in college. Throughout high school, I have and continue to struggle to balance both music and engineering courses. I had never even dreamed of being able to do both in college. Now I want to go to Vanderbilt so I can do both! (Most universities do not have a School of Music and a School of Engineering, so Vanderbilt offers a very unique opportunity.)

The mock admission activity I did at Vanderbilt really helped me understand the process. In the activity, we read the profiles of four students who applied to “Red Brick University,” and then decided who to accept, reject and waitlist. What surprised me the most was that admissions officers (at least the Vanderbilt ones) practice positive advocacy. They try to find the strong points in everyone, not look for faults in everyone. I also learned that small committees narrow down the applicants, and then present them to the whole group. All the officers then vote on who to accept, reject and waitlist.

Thirdly, this trip taught me some very important life skills. One of the first things I learned was how to deal with a taxi (catching one, telling the driver where to go, paying the driver with an appropriate tip, and getting a receipt.) I got to practice this in San Francisco (for the Vanderbilt Alumni Dinner) and in D.C. to get between Union Station and the hotel.

Before the ILC, I had never written a blog before. Now that I am an experienced blogger, I realize how helpful blogging is. It really makes you think about what important things happened that day, and also gives you a written record of what happened. It may be very time consuming, but it is definitely worth it.

This trip really helped me improve my time management skills. During our week touring colleges, we got up early, and got back to the hotel rather late, but I still had to find time to squeeze in blogging. The first couple nights were a disaster: I stayed up way past midnight to finish the blogs. By the middle of that week, I was working on my blog during every bit of down time I had, so that I could get a reasonable amount of sleep. While at Vanderbilt, I used my free time wisely, so that I went to bed on time most nights.

Without the ILC, I would never have experienced dorm life until college (assuming I would go somewhere far from home, which would not be likely without my ILC experience.) Living with a roommate was definitely a unique experience. I was lucky to have a good roommate. He was very accommodating, reasonable and friendly. I was worried I would get a horrible roommate, but it turned out great instead.

I also had to do my own laundry. I help do laundry at home, but doing it full on your own is a different experience. I also had to decide when would be a good time to do laundry. This involved budgeting enough time to wash and dry, but also anticipating how crowded the laundry room would be.

Me with my proctor Hugh!
As the name suggests, the Ivy League Connection is about making connections. I made some very important connections through this trip. First and foremost, I made connections with Vanderbilt alumni at the Vanderbilt Dinner in May. If I have any questions about Vanderbilt, they were (and still are) happy to answer them. I also made connections with four Georgetown students/alumni at the Georgetown dinner we attended in D.C. One of the alumni even offered to read my college application essays!! My connection with Dawson (my math instructor) is priceless. He has offered to write me a letter of recommendation, if I so desire. I know that if I ever encounter a complicated math concept/problem, he would be able to help me. The final connection I made was with the VSA proctors, specifically Hugh (my proctor) and Kathleen. I learned a lot about college from both of them, and will definitely stay in contact with them. I will definitely take advantage of the connections the ILC helped me make!

Overall, the ILC was a life changing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything! I've learned a lot of math, learned about the admissions process/where I want to go to college, and gained a lot of important life skills. I would like to thank Don Gosney, Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg, Mr. Mannix and anyone else involved with this program for making this amazing experience a reality. I will highly recommend the ILC to every qualified student at PVHS. I’m sure going to any college with the ILC is an awesome experience, but of course, Vanderbilt is the best one of them all! I look forward to being able to participate in the ILC next year!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bittersweet Adventure

It was finally time to say our final goodbyes and go our separate ways. The heavy hearted feeling hit me after breakfast when people started to check out. I hung with my friends for as long as I can before they had to go. After they left I went to sit in my room and I just felt really really sad. I have made some very good friend at VSA and although we will be able to keep in touch through various social networks, we most likely won't ever see each other again. After Mr. Mannix came to pick us up, I took one last look at my home for the past three weeks. I'm going to miss VSA and everyone in it tremendously.

We made our way to the book store to buy ourselves some nice Vandy apparel. After we went across the street to a Vanderbilt University sign to take a few group pictures. Then we went to the admission office attempting to get into an info session but it was full. So we decided to visit the Nashville Parthenon. It's even bigger than I imagined it would be and it was just beautiful. For someone short like me climbing up the step was a bit of a challenge. Under the Parthenon is actually a little museum about the history of the place and the different artifacts from that time. On the upper level of the museum is actually the ground level of the Parthenon and it is the home of the famous Athena statue. It was definitely different then what I thought it would be, yet again. Turns out they recently colored Athena with a coat of gold (real gold)  and did her make up. I felt that it was a bit too flashy and she would have looked magnificent in her original white color. The snake beside her represent the people of Athen and her shield is protecting them. The room behind Athena had some iron cast doors with lions' heads on them. It turns out that it is lucky to pat/pet lion's nose, so I did.

For lunch we had breakfast food at the Pancake Pantry. We were lucky to have come at a time where there are line so we were seated quickly. I ordered a steak and egg but they mixed it up and I got bacon, eggs, and pancakes instead. I didn't mind because the pancakes turn out to be really delicious. I could never in my life make such a thick and fluffy pancake. After we had our fill of food, we planned where we wanted to go from there.

Since we still had some time left Mr. Mannix took us to downtown Nashville to walk around. I was a little sleepy for some reason but I was happy. The last time we came with our proctor I didn't get to see much and was really disappointed. This time I got to slow down a bit more and look around. We went into this shop that had a lot of vinyl records. I wasn't really interested in vinyls but also because of the no air condition state that the shop was in. Then we went to this really cool poster shop where everything is hand made. The store had two cats in it that reminded me if my dogs. I miss them so much and I couldn't wait to see them. I played with the cats and looked around but none of the poster really interested me. I don't really have any more wall space in my room for poster anyway so it would have been useless.

Finally we arrived at the airport and check in our baggages. I was so relieved that my suitcase made it through.  The security area that we went through had a really nice TSA officer that was ushering people through the full body scanner. She called everyone by an endearment and she had a nice smile on her face. I thought that there should be more people like her because she make things seem less intimidating. People in the south really are much nicer than elsewhere.

After a very emotional day of happy " Yay! I'm going home" and sad "I'm never going to see them again" thoughts, I was worn out. I was in and out of consciousness throughout the long flight but I made sure to stay awake for the landing because I wanted to see LA. From above the view was captivatingly beautiful! With all the light around the city. It felt and looked like I was staring into an ocean of stars. Our plane landed and we went to wait for our connecting flight. Unfortunately the Vandy team encountered another flight delay but thankfully this one was only by one hour.

The flight from LAX to Oakland was really short and I felt like it was only about half an hour long when it has actually been one whole hour. My parents were already there along with the others' parents. Standing there waiting for the luggages to come out, I shivered from the cold for the first time in four weeks and it felt good. As I walked through the doors I was hit by a nice cool breeze and I knew there and then that I was happy to be home.

Ready, Set, Don't Go

As soon as I woke up, I found out that Natalie from my proctor group was long gone. Without stopping by my room, she boarded the airport shuttle for Minnesota. I couldn't believe that I missed the chance of seeing her off.  And I would have missed Joeē's departure if it wasn't for my sprint down the stairs to the lobby. This was it, we were all leaving the Hank Ingram House for our other respective homes. That's  probably why I didn't care for  breakfast. My feelings suppressed my appetite for our last meal at the Commons. 

After having breakfast and exchanging autographs with everyone, Carolyn and I set our eyes for the foosball table. For the past couple weeks, we've played foosball after almost every meal. So naturally, we were inclined to play one last time. But as soon as we placed our hands on the table, we were told to go back to the dorms. With Carolyn and I on one side, and Nick on the other, we played for one match point. After winning, we headed back to Hank. You might think it's bizarre, but I've had some of my fondest memories and met some of my closest friends through the foosball tables at the Commons. I couldn't leave things undone.

Last look of my dorm room.
Kaila's last announcement.
Packing the last of my things, my dorm room looked just as empty as I arrived. I may have been all packed, but I wasn't ready to go. Since check out was from 9:00 AM until 12:00 PM, everyone left at different times. I was relieved knowing Mr. Mannix would come for us by 10:30 PM. I wouldn't want to be in the eye of the storm for that long. I wasn't prepared to cry while still at VSA. But once Carolyn prompted to leave, I couldn't help myself. Like one of the proctors said, Session III has the most emotional check out moments of all three sessions. With three weeks at VSA, everyone has developed close knit friendships. After spending as much time as I have with Carolyn, my tears couldn't be controlled for at least 10 minutes. I was an emotional wreck. Seeing people off has never been my strong suit. I felt like I was a little kid leaving Disneyland for the first time. 

One last look of the Hank Ingram House.
After seeing several of my friends off, it was finally time for my cohort and I to leave. Although I didn't want to leave, I couldn't handle the gloomy atmosphere. While some VSAers live relatively close to each other, I don't have the same opportunity. Keeping an optimistic mindset, I plan on staying in touch with my VSA family.

Statue of Athena.
Leaving Vanderbilt's campus, our cohort headed for downtown Nashville. Although we did visit as one of our proctor activities, I didn't actually get to stop and smell the flowers you could say. Walking through the pedestrian bridge and a couple shops, Mr. Mannix educated us on our surroundings. I had no idea the massive flood in the river was only three years ago. Seeing downtown Nashville in its current state, you would have never noticed. Just like Washington D.C., I've appreciated Nashville's natural and modern beauty, with its mix of modern and not so modern architecture. They each have a certain charm about themselves, and I've been fortunate enough to exposed to both. One of my favorite Nashville sites was the Parthenon. It's slightly odd to think of Nashville having the Parthenon. Still, it was beautiful on the inside and outside. Given our later departure, it was great to see a couple more sites and use our time with purpose.

Inside the Parthenon.
Leaving Nashville, a ton of emotions were going through me. While I'll miss the people I've encountered at VSA, it's time for me to head back to the Bay Area. I wasn't very ecstatic to leave, but it was inevitable. Good things must come to an end somehow in order for other things to come along. 

 Flying Southwest, I noticed how compact it is compared to Virgin America. With less elbow and leg room, I wasn't very comfortable sitting between Keli'i and Loan. Luckily for me, connecting from LAX to the Oakland Airport, there was an empty seat between Mr. Mannix and I. Although there was a slight delay connecting, it was nothing compared to our flight woes in D.C. There were no major flight problems today, thankfully.

Before I knew it, the plane landed at the Oakland Airport within an hour. It was nice to come back to my family after being away for three and a half weeks. But while I was walking out of the airport, I unintentionally cried again. When asked by my mom, I shrugged it off. I couldn't wrap my head around it either. It may have been because of the train letters my proctor group wrote to me and being back in California. Somehow, all of us wrote a letter to each person of our proctor group. Since it's a train letter, it's meant to be read while heading home. Even before I started reading their letters I was already sobbing. I'll truly miss each of Kaila's Sailahs. 

I'm sure bittersweet feelings arise to the best of people after coming back home from an adventure. This journey in particular has struck me hard. But after a nice cool shower without flip flops and settling inside my own room, I'm doing best to cope with my torn feelings. 

Stronger Than I Thought

Today began as a job, I just wanted to get in and get out. I woke up this morning and ate breakfast for the last time as I said bye to some of my friends on the kitchen staff. Once we went our separate ways I was still fine at that point. I sat down and ate breakfast with friends and classmates as we clowned around for the last time. So far so good with my day, after breakfast everyone finished packing and began to leave. Once I seen everyone crying and sheding tears I felt my eyes watering up. I tried my hardest not to let go of any tears the whole day as I said by to classmates, and it was successful for the most part except for the incident 30 minutes before Mr. Mannix showed up.

In this incident my new found brothers were balling in tears as they not only said bye to people, but as they also said bye to VSA seeing that they were seniors and this was their last year in the program after five years. This wasn't usual for them seeing that they were the life of the party and that they always carried a smile on their faces. I think what put this moment over the edge was the music that was playing in my headphones as I watched the breakdown process happen on them not too long before it happened on me. This wasn't the incident that caused my breakdown, but it was the incident to shed the first two tears.

My complete breakdown came when Mr. Mannix arrived to take us away. He came checked us out and I was fine, until I reached the front . In the front seven of my classmates caught me and said bye to me as we all hugged it out and joked about me being form the Bi-U from the last time. In this last time Jorge the funniest person I ever met and the inventor of my name got up, and squeezed me as he cried being one of my new found brothers. In that moment I broke down in tears as I felt the bond between the rest of my class and I. This was crazy because the night before I had no idea the bond between my classmates and I was that strong, I didn't even think I was gonna cry, but I was completely wrong. As I walked to the car they shouted out last minute gator jokes that made me laugh, but made the breakdown ten times worse.

Once I hit the backseat of the car I was speechless as I got in my deep thinking zone where I would just cry silently in the back. Until we got to the bookstore and got our Vanderbilt gear. We each got jackets on the ILC's tab (Thank you,) then took pictures infront of the Vanderbilt sign. At this point there were no more tears to be shead, so I returned to myself, but a reduced version. When I say reduced, I mean I was still myself but I felt like some spark was missing that I probably won't get back until tomorrow afternoon. After the bookstore we decided to go to famous pancake place. This place had the best pancakes ever as they were just sweet enough and had the perfect amount of vanilla. Then the Georgia peach sauce complimented the pancakes so well with the real peaches. The wierd thing about the pancakes is that they were served room temperature, and they were delicious. After the pancakes we decided to walk the bridge leading to the Tennessee Titans football stadium, we felt we needed a little excercise. We only went half way, but we did stare at the flowing river for a while. After this calming walk we ventured into some of Tennessee's record stores and poster shops.

In one poster shop we came across a mean kitty. Well we don't know if he was actually mean or if he was just mad he was awakin with a poke to the neck by Loan. What made Loan poke the cat was the fact it was laying in the record box not moving at all, so she thought it was fake. The cat went on a rampage scrathing and giving anybody who attempted to pet him dirty looks. The other white cat was soaking up love will the other orange cat was being a sour puss. After our quick exploring we went to the airport where there was not one delay, until we got to L.A. and had to wait two hours for our Oakland flight that was delayed. Once we got home my mom was waiting for me at the bottom of the escalator. She almost cried as we hugged. After I got home I fell asleep in the comfort of my own bed.