Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kathleen's Reflection

Get ready for a long one.

My Summer@Brown was, hands down, the most memorable summer of my life. The entire experience was filled with memories I will cherish for a lifetime, memories that include the amazing friends I made, the wonderful time I spent with my cohorts, the informative college tours we went on, and the valuable dinners we had with admissions officers and alumni. I lived at Brown University for a mere three weeks, but I became so acclimated with the college that I felt at home there. Now that I’m actually back home in California, reflecting on the past month, I feel homesick for Brown.

I’ll start from the very beginning of my Ivy League Connection experience, which seems like a distant memory. I had applied last year for the Yale program but unfortunately was not accepted. Maybe that was for the better. I matured a great deal since then and learned from my past interview mistakes. I rebounded this year with the Macroeconomics program at Brown. This program was actually reserved for Pinole Valley High School students only, but it was the only fit for me—I plan to major in economics. Don allowed me to interview but not before I typed up a thousand word essay on what strategies I would employ over a three year period to eliminate the school district deficit. My interview greatly improved from last year’s, and I was one of the lucky three selected out of eight.

I couldn’t have been more delighted to become a part of the ILC. Since the moment Ms. Kronenberg called my name after the interviews, I have been on a long but rewarding journey with the ILC that included attending mandatory dinners, blog tutorials, orientations, school board meetings, and city council meetings even before we departed. These events all built up to the day I looked so forward to: departure day. Looking back, I remember how unfamiliar I was with Andrew, Erin, and Frank—I knew Erinn from middle school—but over the past month, our group, including our chaperone Ms. Larson, has become so close. I couldn’t have wished for a better cohort.

We kept busy during our first week on the East Coast with college visits. In California, we hear about schools on the East Coast all the time, but few make the effort or have the resources to fly across the country to visit them. As an ILC member, I felt it a responsibility to learn all that I could about New England colleges and share my experiences with the students in my district. Most students living in the Bay Area stay in California for college. I want to let current high school students know about the opportunities outside of our state borders and encourage them to consider out-of-state schools.

All of our college visits included an informational session and a tour. The informational sessions were, as they should be, very informative. I noticed that most of the institutions are similar in that they all have “need-blind” admissions and meet “full demonstrated financial need”. This shows that colleges are moving towards making higher education accessible to everyone, not just those who can afford it. I learned from admissions officers and students alike that colleges look at an applicant as a whole, not solely focusing on any particular aspect, although some dwell heavily on the transcript. Touring different campuses has allowed me to discover the characteristics I like in a college and separate the ones I like from the ones I don’t quite fancy. After touring Yale and MIT, I found myself preferring traditional architecture as opposed to modern. Although I am a nature person, I’m looking for an urban college environment like Boston, which wouldn’t be difficult as Boston is home to more than 50 colleges.

Dinners were an important part of the ILC. Not regular dinners but important ones at fancy restaurants with admissions officers and alumni. The dinners weren’t intimidating, despite everyone having dressed their very best and the large number of utensils set by our plates, making me second guess every time I reached for one of the several forks. We were able to have casual conversations with our guests while still learning about college life and the college admissions process. The alumni were able to give us a clear idea of the student life at whichever college they attended, sharing personal experiences about the course load, extracurriculars, and school traditions. We also had the opportunity to directly ask the admissions officers: what are you looking for in an applicant? These dinners allowed us to make connections, Ivy League connections.

I’ll never forget first settling in at Brown. I was disappointed of having a single at first, but I later enjoyed the privacy after hearing unpleasant stories about my friends’ roommates. Although not at first, I eventually grew very fond of my room. I didn’t bother decorating it so it looked very plain, but if I had to live in that room for a year, I would have done some retouching here and there. I didn’t enjoy sharing a bathroom with my entire floor, but I scraped through without any major problems. It feels much better to shower at home though. The living quarters were acceptable; so was the food. Contrary to what I’ve heard about dorm food, I actually enjoyed it. We had the option of eating at V-Dub or the Ratty. V-Dub had a cozy feel to it and was located right outside of my class, so I usually ate there. The Ratty, which offered more variety, was right next to my dorm so occasionally I would eat there for dinner. Nothing compares to home cooked meals of course, but I was happy with my meals every day. If ever I was tired of dorm food, I just went on Thayer Street, which has a number of restaurants that offer a range of food, from sushi to crepes to frozen yogurt.

The key difference between high school and college is that after high school, we’re on our own. We don’t live with our parents anymore, giving us all the freedom and independence we could possible ask for. Some people might not want so much freedom, but I found it liberating. However, with independence comes responsibility. For me, this responsibility included doing my own laundry for the first time, buying certain necessities such as water bottles and detergent, and handling my own money. I had never been away from my parents for more than four days before so I was unsure of how I would adjust. I soon found out that I enjoyed being on my own and taking care of myself. Of course, three weeks is nowhere near four years, but I think I will like college independence just the same.

Classes are also different in college than in high school. Even though my macroeconomics class was only three weeks and taught by a graduate student, it was still more rigorous than any of my high school classes. My professor, Mr. Coleman, compared the class to the AP Macroeconomics course, condensed into three short weeks. Mr. Coleman taught the class well; he knew what he was talking about and obviously had a passion for the subject. The one aspect I didn’t like about the class was the constant use of PowerPoint for lecture. I preferred it when he taught using the chalkboard. While we only had four written homework assignments, they were long and required applying the concepts we learned in class to realistic situations. I formed a study group with a few other students, and we had a great time working on the assignments together. We were also divided into groups for group presentations. I teamed up with four other students, and we picked “globalization and China” as our topic. We faced some obstacles along the way that involved disagreements and tensions, but we finally pulled through and produced a finished product. What I take away from working with my group is that conflicts must be settled in the beginning and projects should be started on early. After completing my macroeconomics, I feel more enlightened on the financial system, supply and demand, government policy, and the recent recession. I was already steered in the economics direction, and this class gave me a sense of what an economics class in college is like.

Meeting new people was one of my favorite parts of Summer@Brown. Never before have I interacted with so many different people, who come from across the country and around the world, and whose backgrounds shape their beliefs. In my class, 16 out of 31 students were international. They came from nations including China, South Korea, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, France, Great Britain, and Sweden. This diversity allowed the class to discuss issues on a global scale, with the international students voicing their opinions stemming from different backgrounds. I have made so many amazing friends, inside and outside of class, who I hope to continue to keep in touch with. The last day of the program was somber because we had to say goodbye to everyone. I saw some people bawling their eyes out; I myself shed a few tears. I felt sad that it was over but grateful that it had happened. For me, Summer@Brown and the ILC were nothing short of life changing experiences. The entire experience was well worth the competitive application process, mandatory events, and daily blogging. I’ve come out a more mature, independent, and outgoing person and am ready to make a difference in my community, starting with my school.

I was the only student from Middle College High School to take part in the ILC this year. Maybe this is because the program isn’t highly publicized at my school or because we can only apply to district-wide programs, but certainly not because students are unqualified. I hope to increase the number of Middle College participants for next year by encouraging juniors and sophomores to apply, to show that my school is capable of cultivating bright young minds. I will advocate for the ILC and speak about it at freshmen orientations and school meetings.

Very soon, I will begin a long, arduous process called college applications. But first, I have to narrow down my college list. I have always considered colleges on the East Coast but actually visiting colleges there has given me a clear idea of the types of college I’d prefer. I love the East Coast, I really do. I wouldn’t mind going that far away for college, even if my parents want to keep me close to home. I’m considering college in California, but I’m looking more into New England colleges now. I will definitely apply to Brown; it is one of my top choices. I also liked Yale, Harvard, and Dartmouth out of the schools we visited. By the end of this year, I will already have submitted my applications. I’m excited and apprehensive by the thought that next year, I’ll be heading off to college. But I know I’ll be ready because Summer@Brown has prepared me for what lies in store for me in college.

This summer has been so incredibly amazing, and it could not have been possible without the hard work of Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and Don Gosney, so I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I also want to give a big thank you to those who joined us for dinners and meetings. I especially want to thank our sponsors, whose generous contributions made this whole journey possible. Lastly, thank you to you, the reader, for taking your time to listen to what we students have to say.

1 comment:

  1. Kathleen,

    It's not the quantity of the words you use but the quality. Whether you use 10 words to express yourself or 1,940 (like you did), it's what you say that matters.

    Your reflection was lengthy but it never felt long. You wrote a magnificent tome that expressed so many thoughts about the ILC, about Brown, about your experiences and about what lies ahead for you.

    We can certainly use your help promoting the ILC at your school. It amazes us that with the caliber of students you have at your school that the interest in the ILC was so spotty. We need to work on that aspect and your help will be invaluable.


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