Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Ropes Course and a Surprise Visit

Today was the ever-awaited Ropes Course Day. I started the day off not knowing what to expect and afraid of getting my clothes messy. However, I left the ropes course without any doubt that it made me a great leader.

In case one might not know what a ropes course is, it is a series of activities that are both mentally and physically challenging. In order to get past them, teamwork must be used and a strategy must be set.

My floor mates in the dorms and I agreed to wake up this morning at 6:00 AM in order to grab breakfast before departing to the ropes course at 8. A majority of us slept in the car on the way there, and I wasn’t an exception. Upon arriving at the area in which the ropes course was set up, my friend Abi, who lives in the bustling city of New York, complained about how she wasn’t used to being in the wilderness. However, what she considered to be the wilderness was what I thought to be a city park or something not so extreme. There were paved roads and a house-type area with cows and other farm animals. It surprised me how different our viewpoints were. The weather was cool but the air still had a slight hint of humidity. This, as well, surprised me. I was expecting blazing hot weather and a touch of suffering because we were advised to wear long pants and I just wore casual sweats, which would kill me, had it been hotter than 70 degrees.

Different groups of about 10 people each undergone a series of exercises that encouraged the groups to bond and work together:
• The Jump Rope Exercise: The group had to find a way to get its members across a turning jump rope without having it touch any part of their bodies. My team realized that we needed to pair up those who were able to do this exercise with those who didn’t have a sense of the beat. We finished in about 7 minutes.
• The Bungee Cord Exercise: The group had to find a way to guide the members individually through a 2x3 (roughly) opening made by a bungee cord. We army crawled and passed this test easily in about 7 minutes as well.
• Levitation: With one person lying down and the rest of the group surrounding her, members of the group would lift up another member while she lay still and trusted her body with them. It was a big trust exercise that strengthened the faith we had in each other.
• The Tightrope: Holding hands, everyone in the group walked across a series of tightropes that were held secure by trees. This was the hardest exercise because lots of us lost balance as we tried completing the tight rope length solo.

As soon as we came back to campus after the ropes course, my fellow ILCers and a couple of other friends quickly changed clothes to attend a pizza dinner held in one of the other buildings on campus. This pizza dinner was in celebration of the partnership program of the ILC. It wasn’t nearly as formal as Mr. Ramsey’s dinners, but nevertheless, there were guests that still loved being asked questions and giving their answers. After the dinner, we were surprised to know that Ms. Williams, our chaperone, came by just to see our dorms. After showing her into Cynthia’s solo dorm, Rebecca, Cynthia, and I walked Ms. Williams to her cab and talked about how everything was going for each other. I’ve never felt so close to the woman and I’m so happy we were all able to casually see each other again.

Day 10: Let's Stand In A Pentagon

Today was a really special day in that it was the ropes course. I learned that communication in a group is mandatory and that I can trust those young woman in the class with me. The various courses included a wall that we had to lift people over or small brain teaser-like courses. We had to work as a team, but I didn’t notice I was working as a team until the activity was over. I feel like we bonded even more with trust falls, which now seems impossible because we are extremely close. Many of the courses involved being given “disabilities” such as not being allowed to speak to symbolize the leaders that were successful even though they had a disability.

After the course we had no time to get across campus for a dinner for all the students with partnerships, including us with the Ivy League Connection. I felt special during the dinner because everyone else seemed antisocial whereas we were comfortable and relaxed. I again felt more prepared for events like that and more privileged as we were already used to it.

Ms. Williams visited the dorms to see how we are doing. It was awesome to see her sitting comfortably on Cynthia’s bed. We talked until she had to go so we walked her to her cab. We will be seeing her tomorrow but we said goodbye with a strange sadness.

If there is anything that I learned today, it is that the bonds we made or made stronger are hard to let go of and I want to stay close with my classmates even after we leave Brown.

Climbing Over That Wall

Waking up in time to be at the ropes course was surprisingly difficult for me. It was even more difficult to get out of the comfortable charter bus after a 45 minute ride. However, as I stepped outside my feelings started to change. I was immediately encountered with the beauty of where we were; the green lush forest bordered by the beach of the Atlantic Ocean. I then saw some tents, and learned that Brown students studying the environment lived there. This definitely caught my attention, because of my love for the outdoors and the great experiences that you have when you live in this kind of setting, away from the “real world”.
We soon got in (yet another) leadership circle, but instead of just the Women and Leadership class it was half of the leadership institute. We did some ice breakers as a warm up, and through one of them I was able to meet a Brown student who was helping out with the ropes course. After talking to him for a bit, I found out that he knew Kiana Ward, a former ILC Women and Leadership student and a current Brown Student, who I went to high school with. After the ice breaker we divided into groups and I, along with half of the Women and Leadership class, prepared to go into the woods with bug spray, water, and tick-repelling neon green bandanas.
The ropes course activities were challenging both physically and mentally. Through the first one, I learned how I am slightly more of a goal-oriented leader than a process leader. I learned the dangers of focusing too much on your goal, including forgetting your values and not considering the other people involved in the process.
It was also great to see how our group overcame their fears. We had many challenging activities, including climbing through a mock “spider web” without touching it and “waking the spider”, climbing over a 12 foot wall, and many more (that I have to admit are difficult to describe). Many girls felt unsure that they would physically be able to perform the task, trust the other girls with being able to lift or carry them, or were afraid of heights. One of the girls, who was born and raised in Brooklyn and never travelled outside of the city, was also very uncomfortable with being in nature. But by the end of the process, every girl seemed to overcome their fears, feel confident with themselves, and trust the other girls. I learned the power of support and encouragement, and how building others’ confidence can increase productivity and help a group reach its goals.
At noon, we were all given bag lunches and then walked to the beach to eat. We played with crabs, took pictures with each other, and ran around like little kids. It was almost impossible to imagine that this group of girls had only known each other for four days. At one point, I sat on a rock by myself looking at the ocean, and realized how beautiful and perfect being in that moment was. I felt so incredibly lucky to be having this experience, to be with such amazing people, and to be learning so much.
Climbing over the 12-foot wall had the biggest impact on me. When I saw how tall it was, how short I was, and how there was nothing to grab, I truly thought it was an impossible task. However, by seeing others approach the challenge and succeed, I quickly became confident that I would be able to do it as well. Getting over the wall was just like achieving any goal. The goal was simple –get over the wall. The obstacle was intimidating –it was a twelve foot wall and I am just over five feet tall. However, I knew that I had girls people standing on the other side that I could look up to, that I could reach for and that would help pull me up. I also had girls underneath to support me and to literally keep pushing me if I felt like quitting. And with this, getting over that wall, just like getting over any obstacle, didn’t seem to be impossible. And when I succeeded at reaching this goal, it was the best thing in the world.
We all came back “home” mentally and physically exhausted. However, this didn’t stop me from attending a presentation on writing the college admissions essay. It was a short presentation, but very informative. I learned more about how competitive getting into college was, and how much more competitive it is for my generation than for my parents. I also learned who college admissions officers are and what their schedule looks like, and how this can cause them to lack enthusiasm when reading applications. I learned what they are looking for, what “deadly” essay topics are, and how they rate you. I have to admit that this was incredibly intimidating to me, and was a definite check to my new-found confidence. Nevertheless, I know that even if I don’t get into my top choice, I know that I can make the best of wherever I end up.

Balancing Act

Today was my favorite day so far. I loved the Ropes course! It was challenging without going so far out of the comfort zone that I panicked, to use the explanation that Dean Rose provided us.

I was in a group of 11 W&L girls, facilitated by Dean Rose and Tiffany. We had to perform a variety of tasks that tested our abilities to work cohesively as a group. Our first task was to get everyone onto the other side of a jump rope, which is not as easy as it sounds. The tasks only got more challenging from there, but I loved every minute of it!

My favorite was when we had to navigate a long series of tightropes. Each “rope” was a thick metal cable about a foot off the ground. Each person had to always be touching either another person or prop, such as a tree or rope. While we initially approached the task in a very individualistic manner, we learned to work together. It was much easier to inch along the rope when we had the support of other hands and the vocal encouragement provided by all of the other girls.

I also really enjoyed the change of scenery. We traveled by bus to the border of Rhode Island, to a large tract of land owned by Brown University. The woodlands were beautiful, and my friend Maddie (Miley) remarked that they reminded her of her home in New Hampshire. We were by the Atlantic Ocean, which reminded me of my home. I was so happy to feel the breeze and hear the waves!

I’m sure I would have loved to view the scenery as we traveled through Rhode Island, but I was too tired. On the way to the Ropes course, I was sleeping and resting up for the challenge. On the way back to Brown, I was so exhausted from the course that I fell asleep immediately.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a nap once I returned home. I received an invitation earlier this week to attend a pizza dinner tonight in Keeney Quad, specifically so that Brown’s Partnership Scholars could meet first generation Brown students and have a Q&A session. Of course, I had to go and represent the ILC, not to mention chat with the Brown students and get their opinions. I noticed that a large portion of the girls in my W&L class were also Partnership Scholars, which I found interesting. The pizza party was interrupted partway through because of a fire drill, but afterwards we filed back inside and finished our talk. I thought that I learned a lot and I was glad to meet the students and get their input.

Although I am now exhausted, today was by far the most satisfying day of class. I felt that I became a lot closer to the 10 other girls in my Ropes group and that we now all trust each other for support and acceptance. This is a great feeling, but what is even better is that I felt that today I grew to be a little bit of a better person too. Potential personal growth feels so empowering! Anyway, the upshot of this blog is that I loved the Ropes course and wish I could go back tomorrow. Goodnight everybody!


Being at the ropes course with my W&L girls was a very eye-opening experience. I could see us all becoming aware of the mental and physical limitations and capabilities of each other. We learned waht each of us needed to feel supported and loved in high stress situation.

I could go into great detail about the many exercises we did, but it appears that my fellow Brownie has already posted about that. So I will just cut to the chase.

I learned that I tend to deeple care for people more than I am willing to let myself admit. After all of our tiring exercises Kaylyn and I laid down on the ground and I had my rested my head on her. I could hear and feel her heartbeat against mine. That made me realize something very significant that I couldn't quite grasp before then. Under all of the differences, stereotypes, or disagreements, we all have a heart and the components that make us human. We all have the potential to be strong or weak, stable or fragile, tough or sensitive. I think sometimes in the hectic competition that this world has been brought to, we can lose sight of that. But truly, we are all just human and there is no real reason for us to not at least try to make some kind of genuine effort to take care of each other.

I have a really cute picture of Kaylyn and I that I am dying to post. However, my photo uploading is still nonfunctional. So sad. I will try again later.


Putting Trust In One Another

Kaylyn and I quickly awoke this morning to get ready for our ultimate challenge - the Ropes Course, what we had all been waiting for! The bus departed at around eight fifteen this morning, so I skipped breakfast to get to the bus early. Thankfully, some of the girls had brought snacks along with us.

Accompanying us on the Ropes Course were three other classes (I never got to know their class names, though), along with their TAs. After playing a couple of handshake games, we got into different groups. My group was led by Kisa and Dean Rose, and my group consisted of Maddie, Kaylyn, Ava, Mariko, Marlie, Ludie, Olivia, Selena, and Josie.

We played many games during the Ropes Course. They were all trust building games, and helped to bring us a lot closer:

  • Jumping Rope - we all had to work together to get everyone across the other side of the rope without actually touching the rope 
  • Falling - This was for a group of two. One person would push a person back up after they fell into their arms. We then playing a game where the whole group surrounded us and pushed us back up after we fell into a circular rotation
  • Levitation - We all had to work together to hold someone up and turn them around clockwise until setting them onto the ground 
  • Swings - We then trekked into the forrest, where we started playing more intense games. We were given a cup of water, the very important "vaccine" that would cure an epidemic. We had to obtain a rope and swing to the other side, and all of the girls had to fit onto the board onto the other side.
We then took a break for lunch, which was held on the beautiful beach. We then returned to the fun and games:

  • Teeter Totter - We were all to stand on a big teeter totter and sing a song while on it. We later on had to all stand on it and make our weight balance it out and then re-sing the original song again! The song we chose was quick, light, and charming - "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"
  • Tight Rope - This was probably the most complicated challenge. We were to stand on a tight rope and go around a certain way to get the last tree! We never made it to the last tree, but it was fun either way! 
  • Burned Hair - We were to go through a "spiderweb", and if we were to touch any part of it, that body part would be "burned off" 
The Ropes Course was extremely fun. I learned a lot about my leadership skills. I feel like with these strong-willed girls, I have lost my voice and become somewhat passive. I know I need to step it up and not feel so intimidated.

Unfortunately, my sore feet finally gave in. Dean Rose had some ice brought for me, which I put on my feet the entire bus ride back from the Ropes Course. An RA looked at my feet and determined that while my right food had recovered due to the ice, I had tendonitis in my left foot. Sighs! Thankfully, band aids, bug repellent, and elevating my feet have done the trick!

Despite this obstacle, the girls and I went to a parternship pizza dinner hosted by Dean Rose, Karen Sibling, and current Brown students. The dinner was delicious and I learned a lot about Brown. Ms. Williams even stopped by! It was very nice to see her again. The Brown students answered questions we had written on flash cards and gave us lots of advice. They stressed that Brown is looking for students who are going to "change the world" and that it is one of the "chiller" Ivy League schools.

What an exhausting day! I'm very excited to start tomorrow and see what's in store for me. I feel like the Ropes Course made me realize that I need to step up a lot more but also not push my limits too much.

United Under Ropes

Beautiful Rhode Island
This morning I woke up very excited for the Brown Ropes Course! Josephine said she experienced something similar before at Camp Royal (a program affiliated with Interact) and told me to expect emotions and good feelings to fly around. I found that to be so true.

There were so many activities that involved teamwork and trust. One example is The Wall. It involved a 12 foot tall wall and lifting our fellow Brownies over it using only manpower (everyone participated by the way). After the activity we discussed it and everyone agreed that the wall represented an obstacle and the people involved were the supporters that helped that person overcome it. It was so emotional. Trust was a huge component and brought us all closer.
Our lunch break took place on the beach; it wasn't like a California beach, though. As I took the picture below, I really felt a sense of never-ending friendship—one of those life-long connections. Kisa was able to come with us on the trip and often helped with discussions, encouraging us to really dig deeper into our personal feelings and opinions.
Right after we arrived home, all students who are affiliated with a scholarship program were invited to attend a pizza social. There was pizza of all types (great for picky eaters and vegetarians) and speeches made by some of the Brown Deans. Fellow Leaders (current students that help run the program) were also there for Q&A.

To Whom Much is Given, Much is Expected.

Being a part of the 2011 Ivy League Connection program was something special. I was in the ILC last year and it was special, but nothing compares to this year. I have so many memories and valued experiences that I will treasure for a lifetime. I hope to convey these valued experiences with those in my communities. I am hoping through vicarious projects those around me will be able to relive to a certain extent, my experiences.

Last year as a sophomore I was quite ignorant to the whole college application process and college life. And even when I met with several alums and admissions officers last year I did not know the great opportunity I was having until I reflected upon my 2010 ILC experience. But this year as a returning ILC member I already knew of the great things and people I would be exposed to. This allowed me to prepare to meet these people beforehand. I prepared questions and found some background information about the places and people we would be visiting. I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by my lovely chaperone Sarah Larson, as well as my bright cohorts; Frank, Erin, Erinn, and Kathleen.

I could not have asked for a better group to travel with. I learned so much about each of my cohorts and this in essence helped me learn more about myself. As I reflect on my ILC experience, I know for a fact that I would not have met or even gotten so close to some of these people. They were all fantastic and very intelligent. We had fun and goofy moments in which we played silly games such as pterodactyl. But was also had deep and thought provoking discussions about sciences, politics, and our futures. Because of this great balance there was never a dull moment when we were all together. Each of my cohorts and my chaperone made my 2011 ILC experience very special.

This just goes to say to say that as I got close to these people, the ILC became like my family. It meant a great deal to be a part of this family. Before I got close to these people I did not even imagine that this cohort of mine would mean that much to me. But as we spent so much time together it meant so much for me to be in this ILC family. My definition of family is a support unit that even through trials and tribulations will help you and care for you. This ILC group was all that for me so I thank them for that.

Because this group of people was so supportive of me in all my endeavors this will make me even more successful in the future. So when I run for president in year 2032 and I need economic counsel I will phone Kathleen. Or if my campaign design and aesthetics are a bit bland I will contact my good friend Erin. Even if my administration is trying to create a new organism or save the environment I will have Erinn on speed dial. And lastly if I just need any advice at all I can rely on the sheer genius of Frank She. So within this small family I believe I have many connections that I will need to be a successful president. It is no doubt in my mind that each of my cohorts will be successful in all that they do.
Meeting with several admissions officers I came to a couple conclusions about the college application process. The first was that not one thing on your application makes or breaks you in terms of admittance. You should take rigorous classes in high school, and they should also correspond to what to you want to do in college. Next it is better to participate in a few extracurricular activities that you really care about, opposed to a slew of activities that you just do to boost your application. In your essay be yourself and not who you think the admissions officer wants you to be. Lastly you should be a well-rounded student and you are bound to get into the college that is meant for you.

As I sit here and write this reflection I am so confident and have little ambiguity about what I need for an astonishing college application. I am also comfortable with all of the necessary steps I will need to take in order to complete my application in a timely fashion. But then I begin to think, what if I was not fortunate enough to have been a part of the ILC? I do not think I would be as confident. I believe that there are others right around me still curious about the whole process. Because the ILC gave me such a great opportunity I feel it is my duty to invest back into the program by helping those in the WCCUSD and those around me. Like the famous saying goes, to whom much is given, much is expected. This should be the staple of the ILC because everyone who has ever been a member of the ILC knows that they were given a great gift. We should all be expected to invest back into the program.

What I hope to do is gather a few of my cohorts and create a presentation of what the ILC is and its benefits. With all of my experiences and my cohorts experience we can present to our local middle schools, their parents, our city council and school board. This would be to inform the greater public of what a great program the ILC is. But also this is to help our district. If we can encourage middle school students to be motivated and care about their work in the classroom I believe this will raise academic performance in our district. Realistically not every student will be in the ILC, but if they are motivated to work that much harder the level of academic success will increase in our district.

My second endeavor is similar to my first. I would team up with some of my ILC cohorts and we will organize all of the information we have learned about college, the application, and admissions process. We would present this invaluable information to high school students. Because I truly believe that most high school students want to go to college, but they are unsure of the entire process and what steps they need to take. If we organize all we have learned from the admissions officers and alums we can help assist our peers in their college quests. This will create a college bound culture at our schools and this is what the ILC is about. As I serve as an ambassador to my district, younger students will want to be like me or other ILC members and hence the level of academic performance will go up. Then those high school students who feel that the college application process is ambiguous will learn what I have learned and hopefully go to college.

I think that both of these plans are more than viable and doable. And this passion about others, success, and education was really sparked by the ILC. I believe that I have grown so much as a result of being a part of the ILC. I cannot express my gratitude for this program and everyone involved. This program has allowed me to broaden my horizon, not only about college but employment. Before entering in the ILC I never entertained the idea of becoming president. But the ILC has taught me that if you work hard for something and build connections you can achieve what you want. Also this program allowed me to ally myself with people who can help my presidential campaign. My future Vice President Milani Lyman is finishing up her Presidential Powers class. This will be a very essential asset in 2032. In this program I have met sons of governors and others in high positions. With these connections my run for President has become more viable and feasible. This is just one of many stories of how the ILC has helped me immensely. So in closing I would like to say it was my true honor to be part of the ILC for the past two year now. I have made so many valuable connections and friends. I have learned so much, and with this newfound knowledge it would be impossible and selfish for me to keep it to myself. So I will share this information on behalf of the ILC. I truly want to be the best ambassador of the ILC that I can be. TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN, MUCH IS EXPECTED.

On Summer@Brown

I just want to skip senior year in high school and go straight to college.

After I was accepted to the ILC, I wanted to go to Brown University right away. I was excited to get away from home, take a college class, and live an independent life. There were important expectations that I had to fulfill like blogging every day and being a strong representative of my school district. Going in, I worried whether or not I would be good enough for the entire program. I had good grades, but were they good enough? I worked hard, but would it be hard enough? This bothered me before my trip. I also thought that I would be working my tail off for my entire stay at Brown. I was fine with that assumption because I was ready to work. College is all about working for yourself and working hard. I knew that macroeconomics would be tough, but I wanted it to be tough. I wanted the challenge. I definitely had some apprehensions going into Brown as an ILC student. But once I got there, I realized that I fit in with everyone else.

There were a lot of other students that came to Brown on a scholarship or with a partnership. I met them at the partnership dinner where the head of Summer@Brown, Dean Rose, talked to us about how we had the same opportunities as everyone else when it came to applying for college. She was delighted to see students from all different kinds of backgrounds coming to Brown for the summer to have a lasting experience of college life. Many other students came from wealthy families, but that did not change their attitudes toward me. One of my floor mates said that she found students on scholarship to be more genuine than others at the program. She said that they made it to Brown on their own and they worked so hard to get there. I was surprised that she gave me and other students that kind of praiseful recognition. We are not charity cases. We earned this.

I am very fortunate to be a part of the Ivy League Connection. I found that it was a great way to introduce myself when I met new people at Brown. Along with being from California, people were intrigued by my involvement with the Ivy League Connection. I would pass out the link to the blog to people I met in my macroeconomics class, African Dance sessions, and full body workout meetings. Everyone was very enthusiastic about getting their picture taken for the blog. People back home were also very eager to follow the blog and all my experiences. Once I came back, I offered to share my experience with any underclassmen interested in the Ivy League Connection. There are plenty of takers and I cannot wait to meet up with them and tell them what they can shoot for.

I am so proud to say that I was an Ivy League Connection Student. I got so much out of this experience. I learned some great course material in macroeconomics and I had a lot to contribute to that class, from dry humor to movie suggestions and also to debate topics in California. My class added to a lot of my knowledge about California’s economy and about economic concepts that I never really understood before. When our class would drop into open discussion, we would often talk about California’s deficit issues. There were about six students from California in my class. Other than Kathleen, Andrew, and I, the others were from Southern California. My professor actually suggested that it would be a good idea if some of us Californians did our final presentation on the pressing issue of our debt. Throughout our research my group and I decided that the best way to solve the budget deficit would be to raise taxes opposed to cutting spending. After our class discussion of our project, I found out that a combination of cutting spending and raising taxes would be the perfect plan. There is a lot of unnecessary spending in California which is not getting us anywhere with our $25.4 billion deficit. An Introduction to Macroeconomics encouraged me to do thorough research on California’s economic problems. It is important for people to know about these problems so they can be fixed in the future. After lectures, my class was assigned a healthy load of homework. I learned how to plow through homework by working in groups in the nearby library. Collaborative thinking helped me understand some of the more confusing concepts like aggregate demand and real GDP.

Before I went to Brown University, I was pretty much set on going to college in California. Now that I have experienced what the east coast has to offer, I want to get out of my home state and explore my options I never thought I’d even consider. I went on the College Board website to redo my college matchmaker quiz so I could factor the east coast into the equation. The college fair at Brown also helped me become more familiar with schools that I might be interested in, like Syracuse University, Ithaca College, and New York University. When college application season rolls around, I am not going to limit myself to what is close to me. I am going to reach out and shoot for what is hard to get. The option of going to school on the east coast has heightened my ambition and drive for the application process. I am no longer afraid of applying because even the schools on the east coast are looking for the same thing as schools on the west coast. When meeting admissions officers, it was the repetitive “person as a whole” they were looking for which did not limit their decision to SAT scores. This gives me hope.

I met a bunch of wonderful people at Brown, and many of them were staff members. They were all so kind and helpful to me. I currently saw them around campus and they would always say hello. I felt like I had connections and that I had family at Brown. It was reassuring that I had a lot of resources that I could send a quick e-mail to if I needed to share any of my concerns or thoughts. In the end, I was strongly affected by the people at Brown. Whether they were floor mates, roommates, colleagues, Cohort #1 or #2, RAs, RDs, or alumni, everyone I met inspired me and influenced me to be myself and do the best I could do because that was all that mattered. College is the ultimate test of an individual as a scholar and as a person. I cannot wait until it is my turn.

This past month has been an enlightening experience for me. I loved everything about my summer at Brown. I loved waking up in the early morning, walking ten minutes to eat my soul out at the V-Dub and then going to class with Andrew and Kathleen afterwards. I miss going around campus feeling like I owned the world and part of the universe. I miss the feeling of being a Summer@Brown student and having tourists feel jealous of me. I miss knowing what I was doing. I miss the security I felt with myself and what I was meant to do. I miss being an important ambassador for my school, school district, and state. I miss that feeling of pride and purpose. What am I supposed to do now?

Now? Here’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to find my calling. I’m supposed to apply myself and get into a college that is right for me. It may not be Brown, but it will be my school. I am more comfortable with expressing myself to people so they can understand where I come from and what I am looking for. I am still learning about myself and figuring myself out, but this month has been a great start. All I know is that I need to be proud of who I am because people will see that. It’s corny, but it’s true, is it not? There are so many people that you can pretend to be, but it’s never as attractive as who you really are. The ILC gave me an opportunity to do some soul searching in an entirely different environment. I just so happened to fall in love with Brown and Providence in the meantime. I hope I’ve had something to contribute. I will miss it and I will stay jealous of all the students who are all doing their programs as I type.

This experience was brought to life by some amazing people. I would like to express my deepest thanks to Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg, Don Gosney, and all of the ILC sponsors for making this program real. I would recommend the Ivy League Connection to rising and shining sophomores and juniors in a heartbeat. Thank you for making this possible.

Reflected Through A Polished Mirror

ILC is an opportunity that only a select few students from each school can participate in—I was one of the lucky few that was accepted into the program. The program is not about going to a college and completing a course at an Ivy League, it is so much more. It is about bettering my community so then I, as well as my peers, can open new horizons; it change me so then I am prepared for what lies ahead in my senior year and for college.

One of the new horizons that I considered was the difference between open core and core curriculum. Open curriculum allow students to explore all fields that they are interested in without requirements that limit what a student can explore. Core curriculum creates a guideline for students to follow, and some schools have flexible core curriculum so it hinders students less. Before listening to Brown alumni explain the benefits of an open core, I would not consider schools that were open core because I wanted structure. I was unconfident having freedom because I did not know if there would be help along the way to guide me in the right path; I did not know what would happen if I chose the wrong classes in undergraduate school. Even though I may face those problems, the people I have met have convinced me that I won’t have problems either way I choose.

Without ILC I would not have considered most East Coast schools, but I wanted to come to the East Coast. The schools that I saw were Cornell, which my dad went to, and John Hopkins. I never researched colleges that I was interested in until I had been to some actual colleges. After visiting schools like MIT, Dartmouth, Yale and Weslyan, I had an idea what to look for because I tested what the tour-guides said to what I preferred or what I thought I preferred.

On top of touring colleges, I met alums that told stories that influenced what I look for in a college and determined how I look at each college. It made me consider more than my immediate conceptions about college. Before when I thought about college, I pictured a place where I would only learn; I did not care about diversity, clubs, sports, city, campus, housing, dorm food, weather or networking (I knew that I wanted a school that could help graduate students, but I did not know what schools offered it, so I never asked questions concerning the extent of school networking). All schools have the same protocol in classes and students learn from the same standard, schools only deviate in students and the culture the students create. I would go to Brown just to be like the alums that I met because I want to be a person that is open-minded and loves her school. Seeing the school and hearing actual students beam about how great the school convinces me more than a representative at a college fair or a brochure designed to convince everyone to come to “name” school.

These alums also motivated me to start looking for colleges while I was at Brown; they helped me to get a start on college applications, and they made me think about who I want to ask for my recommendation letters and how I can make then appeal to colleges I want to go to. On top of alums that I met, I am able to work with my Brown Mentor, Susan Champion. She is a great person, who I met up with again yesterday, and despite having different interests, we were able to connect and discuss topics that interest us both. Without these people to help me along the way, I would have put off my applications to the last minute, and then I would have been in the dark and too prideful to ask for help—also help is in an inconvenient place in juxtaposition to the rest of the school, so either way I wouldn’t get my fears quelled.

Besides the actual application, I saw college life—the classroom, the campus and the dorm.

Class is something that I will have to accustom myself to; college professors have different ways of teaching that, although will teach the subject nonetheless, are confusing. When I went into my Biotechnology class, I expected the work to be hard and the lectures to be long, which I would phase in and out of. Contrary to my expectations, the professor explained everything during and after the lab; I like to have an idea of what I am doing in a lab, so this caused me to ruin some of my labs—one, I was intimidated to ask questions and two, I did not know what to ask. Over time I settled into the class. Instead of going into college with the mind-set that college is similar to high school, I am ready to adapt to whatever colleges throw at me because ILC prepared me to succeed.

Living on campus for three weeks I experienced what it felt like to be stuck somewhere—I could only get around by walking. If I could only get around by walking, which would be the same condition when I go to college, I wanted to be in a city that I could walk to. At first when I was looking for colleges I wanted a rural college, now experienced first-hand walking up a hill to Brown, I want to be somewhere that is integrated into a city—but the city must not be too populated.

I also found out what it is like to live with a roommate; it was not the best experience I had on the trip, but it something I must consider while at college. While I was only there for three weeks, if I had not known about some of the issues I had with my roommate now, and if I had to spend a year with my roommate, I would have gone crazy. My roommate and I never created “rules.” We were each sharing space and conflicting around that space. I doubt my roommate noticed my agony, but it is because I try to mold to whoever I am with, which included suffering through a very loud refrigerator, which was never used, and waiting until my roommate came into our room late at night. At least now I know I need to create boundaries with my roommate because I want to like my roommate not silently hate her.

With all of the techniques that I learned, I am bringing some back to improve Hercules High Biotechnology Program. I don’t want to let everything I learned over the summer to disappear as though I never learned it. Since so few can go to the Biotechnology program at Brown, I am going to bring back what I learned, so then it is not like a joke that only I get. This has always been on my mind, but it is stronger now because I want everyone to benefit from the one chance I got.

I feel like a Brown alums, although I was only at Brown for a short time; I want to tell more students about ILC and the Biotechnology program because it changed my life. I know a lot of students that have the same misconceptions that I had about college albeit worse. I considered going to the East Coast, but I did not have a direction; meanwhile, most students consider UCs, States, Community Colleges only because they don’t know what is out there and they have not measured their worth. Some students do not want to apply for the ILC program just because of the inconvenience of going to the office, getting a prompt, writing the essay, on the chance that they might get in. Then there is the reputation of the program—it is hard, there is a lot of writing, your summer will be gone. I compare what I did on the East coast to what I could have been doing, and it does not compare. I want to get the word out about what the ILC is; hopefully someone will ask and listen to what I have to say, so then I can change one person or more as this program has changed me.

I want to thank everyone who made this program possible: Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Don, Dean Rose, the alums, including Amy Tan, Chelsea Moylan, Grace Yuen, Peter Chau, John Beck and Yohanna Pepa, Guy Sanchez for the brunch and speeches, Simon Hong for organizing the Brown Mentor Program, Susan Champion for taking the time out to help me with application and more, and all of the sponsors that made it possible for so many of us to go and learn. Although our district is failing because of budget cuts, there are people who care about us and make sure we can go past the stars. If the odds are with me, I might help the new generation of ILC cohorts and become as great as the people that I mentioned.

Hear My Thoughts

Summer@Brown has been one of the most memorable summers in my life. My gratitude goes out to the Ivy League Connection. Before I begin, I'd like to express thanks straight up, from the bottom of my heart to Mr. Charles Ramsey, Ms. Madeline Kronenberg, and Don Gosney. And also a huge amount of respect and praise to the generous donors and sponsors that make the ILC possible.

My journey to this point started at Pinole Valley High School. My sophomore year, we were introduced to the Ivy League Connection. I thought it was a waste of time. I didn't give it a moment of thought, and dismissed it as another pointless "educational opportunity." Looking back, I'm glad I made that decision. Don't get me wrong, the ILC was probably still great back then, but it wasn't the right time for me to join. As a sophomore, I wasn't ready to embark on a journey like this. I wouldn't have taken as much back as I did as a post-junior. I'm glad that I made the decision to join the ILC this year. It's like clockwork; the way that life falls into place.

I knew the ILC was something I wanted to try this year. I had no idea why, or if I would regret my decision. I think I joined for competition. Humans are competitive by nature, right? Well, no matter my initial reasons for applying, at least now I'm sure that I made the right decision. When our school's Assistant Principal went over the different programs with the potential ILC members, my mind had already made up its mind. I wanted to be in the Biotechnology program. If I failed, I wouldn't apply again. For some reason, though, I knew my determination would get me somewhere. Or, at least I hoped.

I wrote my essay, pouring out what was truly important to me; helping others. Extending a helping hand always made me feel good inside, and I tried to convey that feeling through my essay. I don't know if it worked or not, but I made it to the interview stage. I must have done something right.

I was nervous, but then again, I'm always nervous before public speaking. I think the butterflies are good. Unsettling, but calm. I was interviewed by a panel of teachers and biology professionals. It was fun, or at least I thought it was. I came out of the interview feeling good, knowing that I'd be happy with whatever decision they came to. Of course, I'd be happier if I was chosen for a spot in the class. Like clockwork, life seemed to continue paving a road for me.

Then came the part of the ILC that I didn't necessarily love, what I call: the preliminary round. It was the part that came before the summer actually started. ILC was a commitment, and sometimes I doubted if I could stick with it. Sometimes, it got on my nerve and sometimes it was a hassle. Looking back, I'm still not sure how a person like me managed to get through it. Yet, I did. I slowly saw the bigger picture, the ILC isn't meant to reward a select few, but to enhance the entire district as a whole.

With that in mind, and before I knew it, I was off to Rhode Island. There was uncertainty in the air, would our group of five become good friends? We were the first to test the waters; the first group to leave the Bay Area. I was excited. What adventured lay ahead for us? What would I learn and experience on the other side of the states? It was all a mystery. My first time flying was disappointing. It wasn't that great! Never mind that, the trip to Rhode Island was full of eager. Like a good novel, I was at the developing stages, the build-up.

Sadly, the build-up evened out. The week following our arrival at Providence, Rhode Island was full of exploration. I'm not saying that this week was bad, it was actually really, really fun. I just wanted to start class! Regardless, we used the week to get to know each other a lot better. I noticed that our group became a lot more comfortable, and we were all becoming closer friends. We even socialized a little bit with our chaperone!

The college visits were helpful. I got to see which colleges appealed to me and which didn't. A lot of the comparison was aesthetic, though. I really loved urban settings, like Boston University. Other schools surprised me, schools I would never have even thought about applying to suddenly added themselves to my list of colleges. It was an eye-opening experience. But, you can't visit every college on Earth, so how do I limit the decision? I gave it some thought, and, I plan to give it some more thought. I haven't come to an answer. But, I will definitely use my knowledge to mentor freshmen and underclassmen.

Once class started, I was already bursting with enthusiasm. And I was happy that my class was really fun. At first, it was awkward, like every normal class, but we had a good teacher and a good TA. They helped relieve the cloud of general awkwardness from the class. We learned each others names, interests, and taste in music. Some students became close enough to form relationships in our class. I found that really interesting.

Lab was difficult, almost overwhelming. Our teacher told us that we'd make lots of mistakes. In my case, she was right. She was so right, that I'm almost ashamed. I'm not though. Mistakes are healthy. Right?

Of course, I'm a better test-taker than a lab-worker. I think I did well on the tests, I'm not sure what the averages were, but I was always content with my scores. I admit that I had a tendency to lose concentration during lecture, though. My mind just wasn't as active when listening. It was due to my shortage of sleep. I advise everyone to get a healthy amount of sleep every night when at a summer program, and even when at home.

Of course, what would Summer@Brown be without extracurricular activities? Oh, and friends. I can't forget to mention the countless friends I've made over the summer. Some, I became good friends with, while some I only exchanged greetings with. No matter how close to a certain friend I was, I valued each and every one of them. I probably never would have met so many different people at one time without the ILC. Some of the people I've met at Brown, have become some of the best friends that I've ever had. I'm really thankful for that. My cohort had a tradition of thanking the donors whenever we did something together. So, thank you donors!

Brown really left a lasting impression on me. I've never loved a school like I love Brown. Spending a summer there, really has made me want to attend the school. Hopefully I get in, wish me luck? I went from hating dorm food, to loving dorm food. From hating walking as a form of transportation, to loving to walk. I went from hating to sit on grass, to loving to stand on grass, which isn't much in terms of improvement. I did move to love beaches, and to love throwing a frisbee around. I found out that I'm a horrible soccer player too! Tons of fun and learning took place at Brown.

Summer 2011, the highlight is definitely my trip to Brown. But the story doesn't stop there. I'm going to use the motivation that I acquired at Brown to push me forward. In terms of tests, applications, and education. I aim to end my procrastination, and to commit to self-improvement. I haven't become a new person because of this summer program, but I have definitely and undoubtedly been changed. My views have changed, my ideas, my habits, my personality (a little), and my outlook on life. I definitely miss the program. I miss the people, the environment, and the classes. I'll never be in exactly the same situation again. Not with the same people, or with the same set of experiences. It's over, but I'm happy it happened.

I learned a lot at Brown. How do I plan to bring it all back? I'm not particularly sure. I don't have a formulated plan to pay the ILC back for everything. I'm just sure that somehow I will bring it back. In the form of tutoring? In the form of storytelling? Somehow, the knowledge will be spread. I can't say for certain how, but I know life will come together in a way where I end up giving back, somehow. Trust me.

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.
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