Monday, June 27, 2011

Finding My Equilibrium

After a weekend of shopping and relaxation, class resumed today. I look forward to class every day because of my interest in the economics. Mr. Coleman taught us the definition of GDP, how it is calculated, and the difference between real and nominal GDP. We also learned about inflation and prices relative to that of a base year. The most interesting topic discussed today was the average life satisfaction of a country. Mr. Coleman showed us a graph comparing different countries’ average life satisfaction to their GDP per capita. The question that arose was: how do people measure life satisfaction or, in other words, happiness? This stirred up some debate over the credibility of this study. From the graph, we could see the positive correlation between satisfaction and GDP. However, I think that happiness varies from one person to the other so this sort of study might not accurately represent an entire country’s perspective.

This week is going to be busier than ever, starting with today. After class, I went to the Rockefeller Library with a study group, including Erin, and we spent time finishing homework and comparing our answers. The workload is not overwhelming but enough to keep me busy. There are always events going on to fill up the free time that we have. I went to a special WaterFire show after seeing a Polyphony Ensemble play at a church tonight. The ensemble, which included two 10-year-olds, was amazingly talented and inspiring. I love classical music so it was refreshing to hear the harmonious blending of the piano, violins, cello, and flute. We are planning on seeing the famous WaterFire in Providence this weekend with Ms. Larson, but today, the city held a smaller event that included a torch procession and fire juggling on the river. What a sight it was to see the torches combine and rows of fire being lit.

The many fun activities that our RAs plan balance out the hard work we have to put into studying and homework. I have learned that college is all about balance, or in economics terms, equilibrium. It is up to us students to find our own equilibrium. Education is the most important aspect of school, but we also need to incorporate social interactions into our lives at school. I look forward to tomorrow as always.

More Labwork & More Free Time

Class was confusing, challenging, and fun today. We started two labs simultaneously. I was one of the few to mess up in the lab. I broke the first electrophoresis gel that I made, and ended up having to make another. I remember performing electrophoresis in AP Biology, but it was one gel per 6 people, while here everyone had their own gel.

While we waited for the electrophoresis process to finish, we started another lab. We used E. coli, which smells terrible, and I learned how to finger vortex. Disregarding the book's instructions, we used a mechanical vortex. The book's method didn't work that well. I liked the lab, but it went over time and I missed the beginning of lunch.

Fortunately, my good friend Jason waited for me at the lunch room. I ate a filling lunch, then went to hang out for the rest of the day. I bought a disc, which I use to pass most of my time. Starting tomorrow, I'm going swimming in the athletics center.

Tips to other ILCers:

If you usually drink a lot of water, you should buy yourself a pack so you won't be dehydrated throughout your trip. I find myself buying a lot of soda/orange juice/water. You'll save money.

For laundry, put dollars into the vending machines and press "coin return" to get quarters.

Bring playing cards.

Pack lots and lots of socks. Socks are indispensable. Most necessary things in the world.

At Brown you can swim laps for free, so Brownies should bring swimming suits and stuff.

The Pursuit of Utility

I finished my homework with a great group of macroeconomists on the fourth floor of the Rockefeller Library today. Instead of working with two boys, I collaborated with five other girls and tackled the homework load in less than three hours. We reviewed and compared answers. Even though I did not want to admit that I did not understand some parts of the homework in the beginning, I warmed up to the group and asked for help. Everyone was very friendly about helping me out. It was great to be surrounded by great minds, and hilarious personalities. My AP US History teacher always encouraged my class to work in groups. I understand a lot more material with the help of my classmates. After we finished, we made macroeconomic jokes for half an hour. We are a bit nerdy that way.

After I ate dinner with Erinn and Kathleen, I met up with Paul Tran from the partnership dinner and his friend Arlando Battle who is currently concentrating in Visual Arts at Brown University. We met in the Rockefeller Library and we talked for about an hour and a half. Arlando told me about his experience at Brown and all the obstacles he had to overcome to fit in at school. We discussed the fierce competition in the Visual Arts. Both Paul and Arlando told me to have an open mind when entering college. People change all the time because in the four years you spend in school, you will grow into your own person and your interests will change. I am willing to learn anything as long as I am in a college environment.

Mikalei, my RA in room J-007, gave me and a group of girls directions to the First Baptist Church. Jacqueline Newcomb from the partnership dinner (Office of Continuing Education) had invited us to the Polyphony Ensemble and we were having difficulty getting to the church because there are about five churches on campus. We finally got there to enjoy classical music (violins, cellos, flute, and piano) performed by teenagers ranging from age 10-17. It was inspiring to see that young people are dedicated to create something beautiful like classical music.

Afterward, we went to Water Fire. Water Fire is a huge event in Providence. It is an inspiring event that brings together the people and visitors of Providence to behold a spectacular fire show. Basically, city officials carry torches from the First Baptist Church to the Waterplace Park down the street. They put their torches in a huge fire pit and then a guy on a boat floats over, grabs some fire, and juggles it with skill. I smell like smoke right now, but it was definitely a sight to see. For those who did not know what was going on, the Water Fire ceremony looked a little creepy.

Do not Touch the Flame

Safety is a concern for most classes. Chemistry students cannot handle dangerous chemicals that can produce toxic products, and flames are unacceptable; biology students have labs that observe pictures and can only dissect a frog that has been sterilized to a point that students cannot see how the body actually functions. Some schools do not have dangerous classes because of potential lawsuits from angered parents. I have observed something different in this program, not only because we use a carcinogen for dyeing purposes.

High School teachers must take account for every student including the trouble-makers who might play with dangerous material. For an example, when I was doing the 9th grade biology frog dissection, I saw students go against the teachers warning and play around with the frog. Some students even tried throwing dismantled limbs at their friends. Then there is the scalpel; fights are known to break out, and if a fight were to enter the biology class when students were dissecting, then there could be a stabbing. Teacher doesn’t want to deal with the chaos of getting everyone’s attention, so the easiest way is to choose labs that don’t require more than common sense.

Instead of telling students that they cannot perform this action because of potential danger, college professors assume students understand the safety procedures—these students have been accepted into a prestigious school, so there is no need to explain to them what they already know. In the Biomedical lab, every student is careful; any small mishap could result in: 1. they could get cancer, 2. they could get sick with an incurable disease and 3. a poisonous solution could flow down the water drain and infect the entire ecosystem. I know what could happen and every little spill is like “I am going to die!” or worse “I am going to kill the person next to me!” Professor Hall knows this too. She says she won’t instruct us until we care about what happens. Every time, we come to her and ask questions—I think it’s working.

I like the freedom of teachers trusting students. I get to explore more and experience an actual lab setting devoid of a teacher reminding me every few minutes, “and don’t forget this...” Once I get back to my High School’s biotechnology class, I must be considerate of the rules: no flames and no dangerous chemicals. So I will enjoy the freedom of being an adult for the next two weeks, and then anticipate until I can be an adult again.

Community Ambassador

Today we got back to our regular weekday routine. Class started back, and that meant no more late sleeping. Class was interesting as usual. Today we discussed what Gross Domestic Products were, what they mean for a country and how to calculate it. The GDP is basically produced goods and services in a nation. It determines a nation’s prosperity, because if your country is able to produce more on a consistent basis then it will be economically prosperous. I did not fully grasp the difference between the two types of GDP, real and nominal, but because we are to be college students, I am taking it upon myself to fully understand the difference between the two. The college atmosphere is set up for students to be more advantageous and proactive regarding their learning. I believe this fosters a harder work ethic from the students knowing that everything will not be spoon fed to them, rather it is up to them to acquire the resources they need to succeed. Through my accumulated experiences at college programs I have really discovered that your learning and education is dependent upon how hard you work for it, and cannot be determined by others outside influence. I believe this applies for most things in life, if you and want it bad enough and you feel that it is worth it, you will find a way to succeed.
Tonight there is a college informational session run by the RA’s of the program. Because for the most part, the majority of them recently went through the rigors of the college application process, they will answer any of our questions and give us information regarding this process. I look forward to gaining as much information as I can so that not only can I better myself, but I will be able to bring this information back to my church, school and community. Throughout this trip I have gained so much information pertaining to college and I am just so excited to come back to the Bay Area and share all this information that I have acquired. As I write this blog there is so much information pinned up inside of me that I am sure the majority of the people in our district do not know of. But that is the beauty of the Ivy League Connection program, it allows students to be ambassadors for thousands of people in their hometowns. That way it is not only 30 or 40 some kids gaining a tremendous amount of knowledge but potentially the whole West Contra Costa area will have the same information. So by sponsoring this small amount of gifted students, the benefits are limitless. Anyone and everyone benefits from this program, so to be part of the select few responsible for bringing back this priceless information is a true honor.
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