Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Farewell Brown

This blog, the “reflective blog,” is what might be the final blog in a series that chronicled the adventure of a lifetime. It must encompass the past three weeks on the East Coast and at Brown University. I have to explain how this wonderful opportunity given to me by the ILC has changed and shaped my future. Given the weighty topics I’m dealing with here, maybe you can see where it might be difficult to begin…

Honestly, I’m going to have a hard time summarizing all the events and impressions of the past weeks in a single blog, but I’ll give it my best shot. Please bear with me.

I was actually very nervous when I boarded the shuttle at El Cerrito High School. I’m not at my best at 4 in the morning, so this probably contributed to my anxiety, but a lot of my stress was simply that I didn’t know what to expect. I had been away from home (translation: away from my family) a couple of times, but I had never been away from both home and close friends for such an extended period of time. I knew Adrianne, Ava, and Caroline only slightly from classes and extracurriculars, and I knew Josie, Cynthia, and Rebecca barely at all. I was also worried about my class. I had looked up the Women and Leadership course online, but even after reading the description and watching Kisa’s video I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. (Funny, but this seems to be a recurring theme.)

I have to say that all of that has changed. I now feel very close to my fellow W&L Brownies, and I hope they feel the same. I know that I will call them for advice or just to hang out! It was great to bond with my fellow El Cerrito High students, but I was especially glad to get to know the De Anza girls. I’m pretty sure that I would never have met you three if not for this program, yet these past three weeks with you have been wonderful and enriching. My life is better with you in it!

My new circle of friends goes beyond the ILC–I have to include all 14 non-ILC students from my Women and Leadership class. We were pretty open with each other, both in class during workshops and in our dorm. A major part of this was the very clear atmosphere of acceptance. I have never been in such a comfortable “safe space” before. As demonstrated by one Ropes course exercise involving “trust falls,” I believed that everyone else would catch me and hold me up; I can only hope that everyone else felt the same way about me.

We all became so close by the end of the two weeks that it felt incredibly cruel to separate us. Despite our different experiences and points of view, everyone in our class had become friends in only two weeks. So much of the differences seem to melt away once you really get to know someone. Yet, once you find the similarities, you begin to see the differences again in a new light. The things that distinguish people become interesting, quirky parts about a friend, instead of barriers keeping two strangers apart.

I won’t go into all the details of our departure from Brown; I think that my cohorts have said enough about it. Let it suffice to say that it was terrible and the sight of my friends’ teary faces made me wish that I wasn’t flying home that day.

I must thank Tiffany and Laura for helping make my two weeks at Brown so enjoyable. Both TAs were amazing at facilitating discussions and fostering an open, supportive learning environment. I know that Kisa made every effort to support this attitude both in her TAs and in every one of us.

What can I say? Kisa is the best teacher I’ve ever had and one of the coolest people I have ever met. She made a huge effort to get to know each of us as a student and as a person, which is tough when you have 21 kids and only two weeks. She created an atmosphere in which we could feel comfortable speaking up. She encouraged the “talkers” to listen and the “listeners” to talk, while acknowledging that it was okay to be either option or neither. Kisa is warm and engaging but she doesn’t hesitate to give her honest opinion, but she phrases it in a way that isn’t hurtful.

There’s that thing that you say sometimes when you’re little: Hey I want to be her when I grow up! That’s the way I feel about Kisa. Thank you for the best two weeks of class I have ever taken.

This entire experience has helped me to grow to be a better me. I learned so much about “women and leadership” this summer, and so much more than that as well. On one hand, I learned about other people, people who come from different backgrounds but who are all beautiful and brilliant in their own unique ways. On the other hand, I learned a lot about myself–how I deal with pressure, how far I can push myself, and how much I can actually accomplish if I put my mind to it. Everything that I learned this summer will be valuable in my future, and I am so grateful that I was able to go to Brown this summer.

Of course I must thank the ILC for giving me this opportunity. Without the chance to go to Brown, my life would be so different right now. I wouldn’t have any ideas about East Coast schools; I might have only started to think about college. Now, thanks to the extensive college touring, I have a bit of a better idea of what I’m looking for in a school. I definitely plan to apply to Brown. I know that Providence really reminded me of some of my favorite aspects of the Bay Area, which was comforting when I was in a new place.

So, thank you ILC. Thank you sponsors and administrators. Thank you Brown alumni and Brown mentor program for getting me interested in such an amazing school. Thank you for offering me this amazing opportunity. I hope that in the future I continue to prove to you and to myself that I was worth it.

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