Tuesday, July 12, 2011


This entire trip is truly a learning experiment. Just in the last three days that I have been at Brown, I have learned so many things about women, about leadership, about teenagers, and especially about myself.

Because this class is less about learning facts and more about exploring concepts, I have become much more intellectually and emotionally invested. Before this class, I had never truly pushed myself into taking a leadership position, thinking about what I could actually do to fight injustice, and concentrate so much on the wellbeing of others. I haven't found my passion, and one of the things that causes me great anxiety is living a life without great purpose.

So today, when the personal reflection journal that Kisa assigned to us touched on all of the above ideas, I freaked out. Although I had been very disciplined throughout the day about time management, my hopes of a good nights sleep went down the drain as soon as I read the prompt, which asked, "What are some of the things that matter to you? If you had "no fear" and no limitations, what are some things that you would do to better yourself, your school, community, or world?" I literally spent two hours thinking and coming up with nothing, feeling guilty about not caring enough about other's problems, feeling frustrated that I hadn't found my passion, and finding too many things that I needed to better about myself. This then reminded me of all of the problems that I am dealing with, future worries, and past regrests. I felt extremely unsatisfied, vulnerable, and hopeless. Eventually I ended up having an emotional breakdown. I wished that I had an unbiased third person that I could tell all my problems to, that would understand me, and help me through my tough time.

And then I had an epiphany. This entire time, I have been trying to think of a theme for my Action Plan. I felt that there was a lot of injustice around topics such as gay rights and immigrant rights, but I couldn't think of a way to actually help the cause. I had also thought of more practical ideas, but felt that help wasn't as needed in those areas. I realized that one of the reasons I was having such a hard time thinking about how to help solve others' problems was that I had so many problems of my own. My own unhappiness and instability prevented me from transcending and going beyond myself. I realized that one of the reasons why our society isn't as focused on helping each other is because we all feel that we need to help ourselves first.

Through this thought process, I came up with the idea to start an anonymous advice and mentorship organization. The idea is that people can come and explain their problems without worrying about being judged, and then a group of people would discuss the problem and contribute their thoughts and opinions in order to provide the most thoughtful and comprehensive solution possible. This would not only help the person recieving the advice, but it would also benefit the people giving the advice through experience in working and sharing ideas and opinions with others, as well as practicing dealing with emotional problems in a rational way.

I hope that this seed of idea will be able to grow into a reality. I don't know if this will end up being the theme of my action plan, but at the moment it is the only thing that seems organic and worthwhile. This is all that I can ask of myself at this point.

Second Day Even Better Than The First

I was even more excited for what the second day of W&L would bring. Today definitely did not disappoint. Kisa started off our morning with an activity: we got three different colors of pipe cleaners, and bent them into different shapes to represent three things we felt were very important to us. My three shapes were:

1) A blue heart, which represented my love of school and the importance of education in my life
2) A green pipe cleaner in the shape of a piece of paper, which represented my love for writing and the impact it has on me
3) A yellow circle, which represented a swimming pool. I have been swimming competitively since I was ten and been a member of club and high school varsity swimming teams. Swimming is a form of meditation for me and always proves to be quite fun.

We got in a circle and had a class discussion about what the pipe cleaners meant to us. It was a good bonding exercise and brought us closer.

We then completed a "self-inventory" handout, where we discussed our strengths, passions, and contributions to our community. My group consisted of Josie, Rebecca, Marilyn, and McKenzie. We all found out what we have a lot in common, such as being organized, and all just want the best for the subjects that we are most interested in.

After our lunch break, we got a wonderful surprise: a two hour visit with Robin Rose, the co-founder of the Summer@Brown Leadership Institute. Her visit with us was absolutely lovely. The first exercise we did was where we got in groups of two - one was the speaker, the other was the listener. The speaker was to answer a question said by Robin, and the listener was supposed to stay engaged and make good eye contact. My partner was at first Marilyn, and later on one of our TAs, Laura. I really connected with what both of them had to say: Marilyn was worried about the intense course load she would have with her upcoming senior year, and Laura was nervous about going to graduate school in Nebraska, away from her fiance, family, friends, and home in Iowa.

After going through this exercise, we listed off what happens in groups of people that involves speaking and listening. Robin then proposed we make a list of reactions when a long silence occurs in a group. This is our list:


  • Mental tension
  • Awkward, as in "are we communicating on the same level?"
  • Out of topics
  • Comfortable enough with the other person
  • Waiting for someone to say and/or do something 
  • Interpretation voices by setting 
We then went over "I-Statements" in group, which the ILC Brownies also tried to incorporate into conversations over the course of the day.


  • I feel...
  • When you...
  • Because...
  • I would like...
  • Example: I feel like you are a different person when you drink so much because you're angry side comes out. I would like you to please stop abusing alcohol.
After we finished our list, we started talking about an interesting topic: conflicts with parents over curfew. Abiona stated that she lives in New York City, which is definitely not the safest place in the United States, which makes it hard for her mother to let her stay out later than midnight curfew. Robin pretended to be Abiona's mom, and Abiona practiced a good way of asking her mother for a later curfew. Cynthia gave a good testimony of how if she is out late with her younger brother, when she calls her mother and tells her that, her mother lets her stay out as late as she wants. However, if she calls her mom and she is not with her little brother, she has to come home either earlier than curfew or at curfew. She stated that she feels her mother is this way because she thinks that Cynthia is sexually active and that her brother could protect. This sparked an interesting conversation because Abiona stated that her male cousin, who is the same age as her, lives with her and he is expected to go out with Abiona late at night because her parents feel that Abiona would need him to protect her.

I think that in some situations it is good to have a male companion to be out late at night with you, for protection, but at the same time, women should not be considered inferior to men in any way and should be thought of as being able to defend themselves as well.

Class today was extremely productive. Once we were dismissed, Ava, Mariko, Rafjola, Kaylyn, and I headed down to the mall and went shopping for a bit. We then went to dinner and were joined by Rebecca, Cindy, Josie, Olivia, and Selena. After that, I went out to the green to read, listen to music, and relax. I felt nice about today, and I also returned a boy's wallet to him! He had left it on a bench and I held on to it in case he returned, which he did.

I feel like I'm stepping up more as a leader already. Our house is bonding more as well. While I was working on homework at 11 pm, Kaylyn went on a coffee run and got us Starbucks. The caffeine punch helped me to stay awake. It is great to be with all these amazing people.

House of Champions 

Day 8: Homesickness Epidemic

I woke up this morning ready to start a new day, especially since I learned how to fix the shower problem. I was fully dressed and ready to go get breakfast so I went down a floor to Cynthia’s room. There we met up with Olivia, Mackenzie, Maddie, and Selena. We headed to breakfast together and we soon learned that we were all growing increasingly homesick. Our friend, Maddie, was so sad that she cried. Despite all of our tears, the students are so welcoming and nice, and I feel like Brown is a big house for our small family.

We got to class and sat down. I chose a different seat than yesterday because I knew change was good but I stayed near the side because I have trouble seeing the board. We got into many more circles for the group activity. We talked about how the circle is the most unifying shape because there is no double parking, meaning no one is blocked from view by sitting behind someone else. We started our first activity, which entailed that we take three pipe cleaners and mold them into symbols of what represents us. This activity moved me so much and it really made me realize what I’m passionate about. I ended up molding a rabbit, symbolizing my love for animals, a tree, symbolizing my passion for the environment, and music notes, symbolizing my passion for playing and composing piano music. After we constructed our pieces, we had to link them together symbolizing that these three pieces linked together create me. We then got in another circle where we went around explaining what they meant to us. I was almost moved to tears when explaining mine because we all got so personal and bonded on another level.

At lunch, Adrianne, Marylyn, and I went to Starbucks and the Brown bookstore after lunch. It was nice to get away from the big group and really focus on one or two people. We got back to the class ten minutes early, so we laid on the floor with other classmates in a circle and talked about our funniest memories. We soon had to get up because our guest speaker, Dean Robin Rose, arrived to speak with us about group speaking. I was glad to see that I had already met her before at the brunch on Sunday. She remembered our names which indicated to me that we made at least a small impact on her. It was then that I realized that we ILCers were truly lucky and privileged to have met our Kisa Takesue and Robin Rose before class even started. It made me feel like we have the upper hand and more experience going into the class.

Her speech was followed by many exercises of speaking to a partner and the partner using new tools of non-verbal communication to continue a conversation. It was a very packed activity and I was shocked when she said we could go because I felt like the class just started.

I almost immediately started on my homework as a way to perfect my time management skills, which I had been lacking in yesterday. I wanted to get a good night sleep, something I haven’t really had since the first day of summer. I decided to relax and stay in for the most part of today just because I haven’t relaxed since I arrived in Rhode Island.

Finding Your Passion

I have a hard time believing that this is the second day of class. While logic tells me that I have only been at Brown for 52 hours or so, I feel that I have been here for a very long time. Already I find myself thinking, “Oh, it’s time to go to class/dining hall/check in with my RA again,” as if I have done these things for many days if not weeks. I can only imagine what I will think once I have actually been here for a couple weeks.

In the morning, we attempted to identify our passions and purposes in life as a way of beginning to brainstorm for our action plans. One exercise that we used was building “passion sculptures.” Each student was given three pipe cleaners and asked to bend them into a shape that represented something important to them.

Staring at my blue, brown, and yellow pipe cleaners, I realized that one of my problems is that I have a lot of things I care about. It was difficult for me to narrow it down to only three. Possible topics that flitted through my head included soccer, music, community service, family, and reading. Perhaps surprising to those of you who know me well, I did not choose soccer, nor did I choose music as one of my topics.

Instead, I chose three topics that people do not always associate with me: community service, reading (that one is not so surprising), and, for lack of a better word, relationships. To clarify, by relationships I mean the way people interact with one another; I hate it when people don’t get along just because they misunderstand one another or make judgmental assumptions. (While I know that it’s easy to make assumptions about others and I do it too, I think that’s important to be conscious that you’re doing this and to challenge your assumptions. This was brought up in class as we all got to know each other a little better.)

I chose those topics because I wanted to choose topics that I thought would make more of an impact. I think that it might be easier for me to come up with an action plan based on community service, relationships, and reading (which can tie into education) than soccer or music.

Lunch was a fun break after a thought-provoking morning session. My friend Kaylyn and I wandered around campus finding the mail building and dealing with student ID card issues (hers, not mine–don’t worry, Ms. Williams).

This afternoon, we had an extremely intense session with Dean Robin Rose, who I met on Sunday. Practically the first thing she did was to ask us to make a list of things we usually do when we do homework. We ended up filling one side of the whiteboard! Her point was that it is very easy in our culture to become distracted and not put our full attention into the task at hand. She then asked us to please try to be as focused as possible during the next two hours. I realized afterwards that I actually had been concentrating almost solely on her lecture!

Another sage piece of advice that Dean Rose offered was to never tell yourself that you are “bad at something.” For example, when you tell yourself you are “bad at remembering names,” you are stressing about forgetting everyone’s name instead of focusing on repeating and retaining it for the future. She calls this an example of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Our discussion covered three main topics: listening, communication, and feedback skills. This included learning about the importance of non-verbal communication and tips for group facilitation. Dean Rose was amazingly fascinating group leader and I feel like I learned a lot today. I’m happy to hear that she is coming with us on the ropes course on Thursday.

2nd Day of Class

It's only the second day of class and I already really feel a special connection with the girls that are here. Not just the girls in my class, but all over Harkness Hall. I even met girls from Marcy (Abby and Kara). There is such a positive vibe from everyone in Providence. I meet people just walking down the street or seeing them in a dining hall. I met Abby on a random college tour, and I met Kara at Starbucks. At first, the idea of coming to Summer at Brown with so many people felt socially intimidating but to be completely honest, people here are so much more friendly than in California. People take care of each other. There is absolutely no drama. When I'm with friends and we see anyone by themselves we always ask them if they want to join us. That's pretty much how you make friends here. That sense of unity and just general kindness is something that I definitely want to take back to the West Coast with me.
I think today's class was crucial to all of our development as leaders. Today we really focused on listening. We learned about how to be a good listener and how to train yourself to be the kind of person that people will want to talk to. We really learned the importance of body language. For our listening exercise I was paired up with Alli. We were asked to share difficult experiences with each other and to really try to listen. She is so sweet. The only thing we had to do for the exercise was to just try to show the person we are listening by using our body language. Allli actually hugged me after we talked. She is definitely the kind of person that anyone would be lucky to have in their lives.
Starbucks is pretty much the place to go right before class and we always come in with something new and end up having everyone try whatever is good. Today as we started filtering in after lunch, we laid on the floor in a circle and shared some really interesting and very personal facts. It was hysterically funny.
Dean Robin Rose came in to talk to us about all things regarding listening and negotiating. She was extremely helpful and chill. I really hope she comes back at some point to talk with our class.
I just got back from the mall and I am really thoroughly enjoying myself here. We have a lot of reading and homework, but the joy of class is so worth it. Speaking of homework, that is precisely what I should be doing right now. Adios!

Communication is Key

This morning when the lesson began, Ms. Kisa had us sculpt our passions out in pipecleaners. We were then told to talk about them and what was supposed to be a simple exercise turned into a deep, emotional talk by each participant. Stories came out involving past experiences and the support for each other was so strong it was tangible.

Not only that, but today's lesson included a visit from the amazing, Ms. Robin Rose.

She is an amazing speaker/teacher and knows how to really touch her pupils and have them relate to what she preaches. The lesson was on communication-- I never knew there were so many skills involved with socializing!

I feel like everyday, I learn so many new things. My theory on why that is, is that the environment we are placed in is engaging and eager to learn. These students are all here because they want to be here. There is a totally different attitude amongst these people and they make you want to do your best. There is a challenging, but manageable, workload that makes you think and come up with your own opinions. People are not scared of voicing their thoughts because there is an unspoken, mutual understanding already. Opposing opinions aren't taken offensively because we all understand that we each have different thought processes. Unfortunately for me, I have a sore throat and can't really talk. I actively participate as much as I can and went to CVS to buy cough drops in hopes that this will clear up.

As for the social scene, Thayer St. is remarkably diverse. There are shops of all kinds; many many boutiques as well. The nearby CVS is the biggest convenience and a majority of us has already went there to pick up necessities. Providence Place is the local mall and we have yet to explore it.

Listening and Feedback Skills

Today was my second day of the Women and Leadership course and I have learned multiple things already. It is incredible how much I’ve taken to heart from this program.

Class started off with an activity that involved us girls creating three things that we felt described ourselves and our passions out of pipe cleaners. Through this activity, we discovered more about each other, and we were all surprised at how similar we are. At least three girls expressed themselves with a soccer ball, two girls shared the usage of nature to describe themselves, and Rebecca and I both expressed our love for animals through the pipe cleaners.

Kisa taught us how to begin brainstorming on what we were going to do our capstone project on. She taught the class about the brainstorming tree, in which one starts out with a general idea and branches out different options that can be integrated with the general idea, as well as the “who, what, when, where, and why” of the project.

After a lunch break, Robin Rose, whom the ILCers met at the brunch held on Sunday, greeted us back in the classroom. Like Kisa, Robin remembered our names, which, to me, felt like a great honor. Robin’s lecture was titled “Listening or Feedback Skills.” She stressed the importance of communication in a successful leadership setting, referring it to “the bedrock of leadership.” Robin taught us how to effectively facilitate meetings and organizations without screaming. She told us what to do in case of an awkward silence situation, which is to wait for the group to think up a response and ask the question again. She also stressed how rephrasing what one person says in order to show that you’re listening is a valuable way of communicating. Robin Rose explained everything, from the arrangement of chairs in the meeting place to forms of communication that reduced one’s defensiveness, in great, but not too much, detail.

Although it’s only been two days in the Women and Leadership course, I’ve already gained a lot of knowledge that I cannot wait to take back to my community.
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