Monday, April 25, 2011

Decisions, Decisions...

The college admissions process is almost over for the high school class of 2011! With a deadline of May 1st to turn in a Statement of Intent to Register to the school we’ll be attending in September, I’ve been thinking about and revisiting my decision again and again.
My final three choices were Swarthmore, Brown, and Oberlin (down from an intimidating list of 14 schools where I was accepted to, 14/14). Here’s some advice for this year’s ILC students: do not apply to as many schools as I did. Really. Narrow it down to a number as small as 5 – as long as you keep a diverse acceptance rate in mind (highly selective, selective, backup school), I’m sure you’ll be able to go somewhere amazing. It’ll save you a lot of stress later on, too.
So, to help with my final decision, I decided to visit again during Spring Break. Luckily, Swarthmore was offering an all-expenses-paid visit on the 14th and 15th of April. It was a bit of a struggle to arrange a return date in the middle of the week so that I could see Brown again, but we managed to do it.
My plane took off from the San Francisco International Airport at about 10pm Thursday night. I wasn’t too excited about flying on a red-eye, but it didn’t seem that bad until I realized that I had stored my contacts case in the suitcase which was in the overhead bin – and there were two people sleeping to the right of me! I decided to leave the contacts in, and that turned out to be a terrible mistake as my eyes got more and more irritated with every uncomfortable hour. Once I landed in Philadelphia at 3am West Coast time, I made my way to the Swarthmore student group with bleary eyes and a crick in my neck. Red-eye flights are not a good idea on college visit trips (I later couldn’t keep from nodding asleep in a political science class and I felt really terrible afterwards for doing so, but my body just couldn’t handle being awake for so long).
The other admitted students immediately cheered me up. They had taken it upon themselves to gather in a huge circle and go through introductions, and I spotted someone who I had found on the admitted students Facebook group and exchanged a few messages with beforehand. Everyone was very cheerful but also extremely sharp.  Once I got to campus and met my host, I got a chance to reflect. I really liked Swarthmore and what it had to offer on paper, but the vibe just wasn’t quite right. The fact that they paid for my flight was so helpful, and their financial aid package was astoundingly good, but little things jumped out at me and showed me that Swarthmore wasn’t exactly the right fit for me. For example, the admissions office was very lavish (as opposed to Oberlin’s, which just did the job and felt like the perfect combination of down-to-earth and welcoming). The students were also very driven and passionate (which is good) but had a certain air of intensity and a little bit of social awkwardness. Sometimes, they pushed themselves past the limits of what they could handle with courseloads and extracurriculars. Guiltiness washed over me as people asked if I would attend Swarthmore – I answered with a sad “probably not” and knew that I couldn’t see myself living the life of a Swarthmore student. However, Swarthmore is a great, great place with interesting people, endless opportunities, and wonderful academics; for this year’s ILC students, I recommend at least looking into it. It might just be the place for you.
My grandmother picked me up from Swarthmore on Friday night. She lives about 30 minutes away from the campus, so I stayed with her through Sunday morning. I’m very grateful that I was able to do that. It was so nice to spend a bit of time with her, too.
On Sunday morning, I took Amtrak from Philadelphia to Providence so that I could visit Brown. I walked from the train station to Keeney Quad (which was a pretty short walk) and met Cynthia Fong outside her dorm. I had been emailing her before I left with questions about Brown and she was nice enough to let me stay in her room for a few days. We dropped off my bags and headed off to find some food, which wasn’t hard because there were free snacks by Wriston Quad in celebration of Spring Weekend (a festival at Brown that gives students a chance to release stress and have some fun). The SciLi (Science Library) was our next stop, so that we could eat and finish some homework. At 2pm, Cynthia excitedly led me back to Wriston to see Dave Binder perform as part of Spring Weekend. I had never heard of Dave Binder, but people were apparently pretty excited about him. He played lots of covers and sweet acoustic songs; the crowd went wild. I think they were just happy to be able to relax. I did see some drinking, but it wasn’t overwhelming, and it seemed like everyone was staying safe and no one was being pressured. No one was indecent or obnoxious. Cynthia and her friends told me that Spring Weekend is not typical of Brown at all – usually, on the weekends, people are busy studying.
A flash mob surprised us by dancing to “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green. It was really well done and people loved it. Cynthia and I left Wriston happy and smiling. After dinner, I went to Faunce Hall and checked out the LGBTQ Resource Center. It was closed for the night (since it was 9pm already) but I noticed a group talking in the adjacent room. I poked my head in and introduced myself as an admitted student; the group, which was very friendly, turned out to be the Queer Alliance Coordinating Committee (QACC). I was really excited to have found the college organization that corresponds with the Gay-Straight Alliance at my high school, since I’m the club president and I’m so involved in the activist world. They were just finishing up their meeting, but I did ask a few questions about clubs at Brown. Clubs draw up a budget every year and submit it to a committee of students, which then almost always gives the clubs however much money they need to carry out the projects they have planned. I thought that was great – having grown up in California public schools, I would never, ever expect to get that kind of funding and support from my administration (although they probably do wish that it was possible for them to do so). The QACC supervises a variety of subgroups (I think about 15), which range in focus from support to social events to activism.
The leader of the main activist group (QPAC, or the Queer Political Action Committee), whose name is Gabe, actually had Brown and Oberlin as his final two choices just like I did. Because we had that in common, he understood what was so hard about my decision. We both like Oberlin because the atmosphere is so politically diverse and full of creativity. The music scene at Oberlin (classical, jazz, composition, performance, student groups) is also naturally strong because of the conservatory. In spite of Oberlin’s isolated location, there’s no way to be bored, because the student body is so active and interesting. What most impressed me was that everyone was so welcoming; each student pretty much automatically became my friend the second I stepped on campus. However, Gabe chose to go to Brown mainly because of the diversity in ideology among the students – although Brown is a progressive place, there’s enough of a range of opinions that groups like QPAC could actually be making a big difference, whereas at Oberlin QPAC would pretty much be preaching to the choir. That’s the main thing Cynthia emphasized to me, as well. The location is also very convenient and not isolated at all. It’s easy to get around New England on Amtrak and the Rhode Island statehouse is only a 10-minute walk away. QPAC makes good use of the closeness of the R.I. legislators and often visits to make the biggest impact on policy.
I stayed at Brown until Tuesday afternoon. I visited a few classes (Intro to Political Thought, Econ seminar, literature class on Heaven and Hell focusing on Paradise Lost, and a class on Black Lavender theatre) and also stopped by the Third World Center, the Swearer Center for Public Service, and Meehan Auditorium’s ice rink. Unfortunately, Meehan is a seasonal rink, so I wouldn’t be able to figure skate there all year; I did look up some rinks within an hour or two of Providence, though. It seems like it would be possible to start a recreational figure skating club if I wanted to. The last three classes were quite small, and I felt like there was no lack of personal attention. The professors really seemed to care about the students as individuals, and every student participated willingly. Each class also grabbed my attention and held it for the whole duration – for the most part, I had no problem understanding what was being covered. That was a relief. TWC and the Swearer Center came off as great resources with super friendly people working and hanging out inside.
All of this reassured me that Brown could have a small feel and a sense of community without feeling too small. The location, the resources, the friendliness, the diversity of class offerings, and of course the diversity of the students ultimately convinced me that Brown is the school for me. Oberlin will always be special to me, but I’m confident that Brown is the best place for me to spend the next four years of my life.
Again, I’m really grateful to Cynthia, her roommate, my grandmother, my parents, Sue Kim, and the ILC for making it possible for me to get to this point. I almost can’t believe how much I’ve learned and how much I’ve grown since last November. Thank you all so much.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Big Apple Adventure

Since I was given a day to go out and explore New York City, I decided to take advantage of this opportunity. My mother and I had breakfast in our hotel before we went to the ferry. Once we got to the ferry, my mother asked me where I wanted to go. I told her, “Everywhere! But let’s start with Times Square.” I was really excited. I felt adventurous.

We took the ferry so we could get to Manhattan. Yesterday we also took the Ferry to go check out Wall Street, but I was not able to get a good picture of the Statue of Liberty. I had low battery on my camera, but today was a different story. I managed to get a better picture. The Statue of Liberty is beautiful. I could not take my eyes off of it! It is, indeed, a great gift from the French.

Once the ferry ride was over, we took the train to go to 42nd and Times Square. I was really excited to go out and get to explore the city. After all New York is the big apple, so I wanted to see exactly what makes NYC so famous.

We arrived at our destination and as soon as we got out the Subway, I was really amazed. Uptown New York is awesome. I literally did not know where to go from there. I did not know whether to go to my left, right, or just walk straight. I let my curiosity guide me.

While we were there, my mother and I walked into a lot of stores. The stuff here is really amazing, but it is somewhat pricey. We did not end up purchasing many things, but we still had a great time. We probably walked into more than 30 stores, so it is hard for me to remember all the places. I gladly got “lost” in the crowd. I had a lot of fun!

We decided to walk to Central Park, so we could also get that experience. It was a really nice place to walk through. I really liked the peacefulness that I felt there. It was also fun to take pictures of some of the statues that I saw there. I ended up taking a lot of random pictures of statues because I thought that there were really interesting.

Overall, my day was really busy. I did my best to make this experience a memorable one. I definitely had an amazing time while being here in New York. I hope to come back and visit NYC later in the future.

P.S. My camera’s battery is currently charging so I am not able to post up pictures today, but I will do so first thing in the morning tomorrow. There are many lovely places that I took pictures of and would like to share!

---
As promised last night, here are some pictures of what NYC has to offer.


-Statue of Liberty in the day-




-Statue of Liberty at Night-




-View of Manhattan from the Ferry-



Downtown NYC:







Uptown NYC:













After being in NYC for 3 days now, it is time to go back home. I am really thankful for everything!

Exceptional Class of 2015


The past few days have been filled with emotions. I was nervous about what I would think of Denison, once I arrived I was nervous about the difference in culture, and then when I got up this morning I was nervous about if Denison was the right choice. I have come to the conclusion that Denison is an absolutely amazing school that offers exactly what I want from my education. They have small class sizes, great professors (all with doctorates), rigorous classes, an array of extracurricular activities, and good people. Although they are only NCAA division III, the school is still filled with spirit. In talking to the current students, everyone is proud be a part of Denison.

I read an article in “The Denisonian” today that talked about this year’s acceptance rate going down to 48%. I didn’t really understand the value of this until the article explained that less than half the universities in the United States have an acceptance rate under 50%. The article talked about how the class was “sculpted a class rather than simply making one”. This article really made me feel like I had earned my spot into Denison’s class of 2015. After the past few days filled with confusion and frustration I can finally rest a bit. This article makes me feel as though the Class of 2015 will be knowledgeable, hardworking, and passionate about being a student at Denison. What I mean by this is that the students value hard work, but also appreciate having fun. Choosing between UC Davis and Denison has gotten easier because of this trip. If not for the amazing Carla and the generous ILC, I would have never truly known how great Denison really is. My choice is now between a big school or a small school, but I think I’m close to a decision after this visit.

Denison Delight


Today was amazing. As my mother and I drove up to Granville I immediately thought that it was an adorable little town. The houses are quaint, the lawns are trimmed, with a brick road leading up to Denison. The atmosphere of Granville is great, it may be in the middle of nowhere, but it does not feel like it. The town has about everything you need. There is a strip of stores from CVS to a cute little frozen custard shop that is a student favorite. As you walk down the strip there are four churches one on each corner, contributing to the town’s quant atmosphere.

Denison itself is on the hill overlooking Granville. The school is beautiful. The brick buildings and old style architecture give the school personality and class. The school’s slogan is not Big Red for no reason. I got a tour from Carla and was able to attend her biology, German, and kinesiology classes, I met current students of all grade levels, and I got to talk extensively to some about their experience and thoughts on Denison so far.


The first thing we did was attend Carla’s Biology class. The professor was great. She was organized, knowledgeable, and you wouldn’t believe it, knew everyone’s names! I was actually able to talk to her about some of the pathways that there are at Denison for a Biology major. I was happy to hear that they have exactly what I wanted, molecular biology and biochemistry. The professor was engaging and seemed really easy to talk to if someone needed help. I was really impressed by the atmosphere and size of the class. Next we went to Carla’s German class. The professor mostly speaks German, but she still manages to keep me interested, making the hour seem like 20 minutes.



After her German class we went down to town and got lunch. The main entree was good but the desert was ever better. Carla took us to Whit’s were we had some of the best frozen custard I have ever had. I had the Denison Delight and it was definitely delightful. After lunch Carla took us to her kinesiology class. She had been telling me about how fun this class was all day, so I was really excited about being able to go. The class started with everyone (15 people total) , holding hands with our eyes closed and passing on the squeeze. One person would squeeze your hand and then you had to squeeze the person’s hand next to you. This gave me a weird sensation. For the main exercise we were experiencing the movement of our connective tissues and fats. We were to crawl and flip and roll around on the floor working our body. It was quite an experience. At first I was laughing at how dumb I felt rolling around on the floor, but by the end I really got into it. We then discussed the exercise and the professor asked me why I hadn’t talked yet and then she remembered that I was just a prospi, the short name for prospective students. I thought this was funny and flattering. This class really emphasized how personal and entertaining that the Denison classes are.


Throughout the day I personally talked to about 15- 20 people who all told me that Denison was a great school. They emphasized how personal the professors are and the relationship that lasts throughout the four years. They also emphasized how great of a balance Denison has when it comes to fun and school. Talking to all of these students gave me confidence that Denison would be the school for me. So far Denison is amazing

My Realization and NYC

I woke up with a single thought in mind yesterday: I’m going to visit Wagner College! I was really excited and anxious to go, but I had to wait until 1 PM for my campus tour. Since we were hungry, my mother and I had breakfast in our hotel. We relaxed for a little while and then called for a taxi at noon. The taxi arrived promptly and took us to our destination.

I got to Wagner College at about 12:30 PM. I wanted to get there earlier because I was super anxious to check out the college. I really wanted to see the college that was possibly going to be my future college. I needed to know if I would feel comfortable being there.


-The first campus building while walking to the Admissions Office-

As soon as I arrived there, I noticed that it was a nice and small college. It looked really cute in appearance and I liked that. I took advantage of my time and walked around with my mother for a while. There were some college students walking around, but not that many since most were in their classes.

Here are some pictures of the marvelous view that I saw while walking around:





-Their tennis field-




-Campus Clock-




The campus was small and easy to get around. It was really calm there and I knew that it had a good relaxing feel to it. I went to Wagner College expecting the best. I wanted to fall in love with it as soon as I walked there, but sadly I did not. That really saddened me. I did not feel that comfortable there as I had expected. It was an amazing small college, but it somehow did not provide me the feel I wanted at that time.

I still ignored this feeling because I really wanted to give Wagner College a chance. It was 12:50 PM, so I told my mother that it was time to head back to the Admissions Office. The Admissions Office had a very nice feel. This is where I felt more comfortable to be here. I started to look at previous Wagner College year books. I started to think to myself, “Can I picture myself being here for the next four years?” I was still unsure.

The Admissions Office:



Then the clock hit 1 PM. It was time to go and take the Campus Tour. A really nice, freshman young lady show us around. I got to ask questions regarding Wagner College. How were the dorms there? How were the meals? I already had an idea of the academics side of Wagner College, but now it was time to learn about the student life there.

We went to see a dorm. The view was simply lovely! I was able to see Manhattan through the dorms window. I asked, “Do all dorms have this wonderful view?” Our guide told us that most of the dorms did have this view. I thought that was really nice to know. The dorms themselves were not in the best conditions, but they were quite livable.

We finished our tour at about 1:45 PM, so then I headed off to the Information Session that was provided. There I realized that a lot of the students that were with me on the tour were really interested in theater. I thought that was really interesting to know. I told the man from the Information Session that I intended to major in business. He told me that business was really popular here, something that I had already read about while doing my college research.

I was reminded about the Wagner Plan while being here. This plan allows me to explore from different fields. I really like that this school is a liberal arts school. Even though I am really interested in business, I really do want to explore other fields. I am open to learning new things.

The Wagner Plan was probably one of the main attractions that I realized I had. Wagner College is a great school, but after the Information Session was done I still was not so sure about the feel I had about it. It was a mixture of emotions. I truly loved the academic side to Wagner, but I was not so fond of the student life here.
I want to be able to go to a college in where I feel really comfortable, as I have said many times before. I am really sad to know that Wagner did not entirely provide me that feel. However, I still think that it is a great school, just not my future college. After coming to New York to see Wagner, I have realized that Wagner isn't the one.

In the end, I did not get the results I was hoping. I really was considering coming to Wagner. Truthfully, if it were not for this trip I probably would have chosen Wagner College. I was really excited about the opportunities that Wagner could provide me. All I ever did was talk about Wagner to my fellow classmates back in California. I probably really annoyed them by talking a lot about Wagner, but that was just because I was really excited about this college.

I am really thankful that the Ivy League Connection allowed me to come to Wagner College, so I could make the right decision for myself. If it were not for this trip, I probably would have chosen a school that was not meant for me. This trip has really been a great learning experience. I will always treasure this trip and be thankful to the ILC for helping me through my college decision process.
---
After we finished our tour, my mother and I decided to go to the city so we could go exploring. It has always been a dream of mine to see Wall Street, so we went there. We walked around the area and really got to get the feel of the city. It reminded me a lot of San Francisco, but I just realized that there are a lot more people speed walking here. New York is definitely a beautiful place to come to see. I am sad that I will not be able to call New York my home for the next four years; nonetheless, I will still remember this once in a life time experience.

Once again, I am extremely thankful to the ILC for making this trip possible. My horizons have expanded greatly. I really did want to be able to say that Wagner College was meant for me, but sadly it is not. I feel a little bummed about that, but I am also really glad that I realized the truth.

Today my mother and I are off to continue exploring New York City. I will post more pictures up later on tonight.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bulldog Days

I woke up Thursday morning feeling sick still, but determined to make the best of the day regardless. The only problem was that I had woken up late, and was almost about to miss the tour of Science Hill that I had wanted to join. We rushed over to Dwight Hall, located in Old Campus, to try to join the tour, only to realize that the tour had already departed. Luckily, my dad still had his car, and he was able to drive until we found the tour, at which point I leapt out of the car and made a mad dash to join the tour.

Unfortunately, there were two tours that depart from Dwight Hall, one for science majors and one for engineering majors. I had stumbled upon the latter. But a tour is a tour is a tour, and it was actually fortunate because I had been thinking about possibly changing from a chemistry major to become a chemical engineering student. The thing about Yale engineering is that the student to faculty ratio is actually an astounding one to one. The ratio for the other sciences is a still amazing three to one, and for the rest of the college the ratio is eight to one, which is very desirable by any standards. The current president of Yale actually strengthened and enhanced Yale's sciences and engineering, by building many new facilities and laboratories as well as hiring the top scientists and professors in each field to teach at Yale. Moreover, every professor at Yale is required to teach underclassmen. At Yale, they really focus on the undergraduate experience, and they're willing to lengths to help underclassmen. Everyone I talked to at Yale really expounded on Yale was willing to accommodate the requests of undergraduates, by giving undergraduates access to upper level division classes, or by letting undergraduates switch specific classes out of prerequisite order to accommodate schedules better. In addition, undergraduates often have sole access to some labs and areas of campus, which ensures that they don't have to fight graduate students to use labs for work or to do research.


-Pictures of Science Hill-

After the tour, my father and I tried to go to the Freshman Experience Panel, which had freshmen from Yale talk about their experiences, but the entire room was filled beyond capacity, with prefrosh sitting not only in the seats of the auditorium, but also in the aisles and on the stairs.

We decided to go to lunch instead, as it is difficult to enjoy the beauty of Yale on an empty stomach. We had lunch in the Commons Dining Hall (where the ice cream social was held the night before).

-The Outside Rotunda of the Commons Dining Hall-

-The Commons Dining Hall-

The food was surprisingly good, even if mass produced. The vegetables didn't taste bland, the fish was tasty without being too fishy, and the sweet and sour pork was delicious. I even considered getting seconds, but I was already too full on the asparagus and the lemon herb chicken. They even had soft serve ice cream, which I can already tell will be a problem for my waistline if I go to Yale.

After lunch, my father and I went to the official welcome address from the deans of the college. The address was held in a giant auditorium, where they use it for official concerts, addresses, and performances. As we entered, we were welcomed by the melodious sounds of the giant organ in the hall, played by one of the professors at Yale.

-Welcome Address-

The welcome address was surprisingly informal, as the deans introduced us to Yale University, and to our futures as Bulldogs. Most of the stuff they told us was stuff that we could have easily found online on the Yale website, but it was reassuring to hear it again from them, especially because all were very in touch with the students. The informality that they presented is a testament to how the staff at Yale really make a point of being approachable, so that they can get connected with the students of the university. In contrast, the faculty at some other colleges and universities have an elite status, and an air of superiority that makes them unapproachable by the students there.

After the welcome address, I went to the Academic Fair and the Extracurricular Bazaar, located in the Yale Stadium. Outside, the Yale Precision Marching Band was playing the Yale fight song to encourage us to go inside.

-Academic Fair-

At the academic fair, I was able to visit the chemistry table and meet with one of the chemistry professors in the department. In chemistry at Yale, there are multiple tracks and specializations of chemistry, and I was able to learn more about each of them from him. The best part is that none of them are mutually exclusive, so I have the option to take the classes that I'm most interested in and slowly specialize my way up. In addition, I was able to learn more about the Yale STARS program, which is designed to help underrepresented minorities in the sciences get extra help and assistance in succeeding in college, as well as paying for summer classes to get ahead. I plan to apply during the summer to be a part of STARS. I also had a chance to learn about PERSPECTIVES, a program for undecided freshmen science majors. It offers those students a sampling of a variety of science classes, to help those students get a feel for every field so that they will have a better idea of what they are interested in pursuing.

-Extracurricular Bazaar-

Next I went to the Extracurricular Bazaar, which was conveniently located adjacent to the Academic Fair. Inside, there were throngs of people everywhere, and the atmosphere was electric. There were glee clubs singing, bands playing, people cheering, and everywhere I looked, prefrosh were being recruited to join clubs. As I made my way through the aisles of clubs, I did my best to learn about every club, but I must admit that there so many clubs that it was all very overwhelming. From Mock UN to Ultimate Frisbee to the Yale Symphony Orchestra, there were clubs for every type of person with every interest. Among the most popular interests at Yale must be singing and acting, as I was barraged people asking me if I sing and invitations to watch improv shows later that night.

Among the clubs I'm really interest in joining are:
  • Yale Symphony Orchestra
  • Yale Precision Marching Band
  • Yale Debate
  • Yale Political Society
  • Yale Chinese American Student Association
  • Yale Student Roundtable
  • Building Bridges
  • Chemistry Club
  • Model UN
  • and many others...
I know that there is no way I'll have enough time to do all of these extracurricular activities and go to class at the same time, but I'm really interested in doing at least some of these activities.

Afterwards, I met up with Yohanna Pepa, a current Yale student who graduated from Pinole Valley High School last year and was a member of the Ivy League Connections, for frozen yogurt. I got disoriented trying to find her at the start, but luckily enough she was able to save me from getting completely lost in Yale. She bought me frozen yogurt (which I really appreciate), and told me a lot about Yale. Before I talked to Yohanna, I was very scared about Yale, and about fitting into a college which is drastically different from Pinole, not only academically, but also in the composition of the student body. But after Yohanna explained to me how well people get together and become friends, I felt a lot better. In addition, she also explained how the atmosphere is not competitive but cooperative, because there is no need to compete for resources or classes, as Yale will accommodate the students needs. Unlike at a University of California, Yale classes are rarely too full, and there is greater professor and student interaction. Yohanna also told me a lot about student life, and about how important it is to balance academics with extracurricular activities, so that I won't overextend what I can do. Honestly, before talking to Yohanna, I was very intimidated by the prospect of attending Yale. After talking to her, and seeing how well she is doing at Yale, I feel like I have a chance to succeed at Yale as well, and I don't feel as if I won't fit.


-Thank you Yohanna for helping me out so much!-

Later, I met up with my dad who had been listening to the Yale Symphony Orchestra, and he was completely blown away by how great they sounded. Throughout dinner in the Common Dining Hall, he could not stop talking about how great they sounded, and how much he wished I could have been there to listen to them as well. Dinner tasted great as well, and afterwards we quickly headed over the Law School to listen to a presentation on careers and opportunities at Yale.

-Presentation on Abroad Programs-

Yale has the intention of having all of its students spend at least a portion of their four years studying abroad, because they intend to transform Yale into an international university. There are so many opportunities presented by Yale, but there is also the option to get a fellowship by discovering your own program you want to help and Yale will help fund your trip. In addition, there are many internships that Yale will also help secure for students so that they can have the maximum potential to learn.

Thank you to Yohanna again, and I learned a lot about Yale from everyone. Thank you to the ILC for making this possible for me!

Austin Long

Pinole Valley High School
Brown '10

An Amazing Oppertunity Just in Time

I woke up this morning and was excited about finally seeing Denison. As my dad dropped off my mom and I, my stomach was filled with butterflies. I hope to have a strong feeling when I get to Denison. I have been going back and forth between UC Davis and Denison, so being able to visit will really help me make this life changing decision. The ILC presented the opportunity for me to visit Denison just in time; I was literally seconds away from accepting my admission to UC Davis when I got the email.
I have been talking with former ILC member, Carla Ramirez Velasquez, about her experience at Denison. I first met Carla at an Environmental Science Camp over the summer. We were talking about television shows and high school and then she mentioned the ILC. I was extremely excited about meeting a former ILC member. She told me she would be going to Denison in the fall with such enthusiasm. I latter heard about Denison through the “Colleges that Change Lives Seminar” and was really impressed by what they had to offer. From that point on I talked with Carla about her experience at Denison, the good, the bad, and the beautiful. I feel as though this trip will give me the opportunity to see for myself how amazing Denison is and if it is the place for me. I will be able to make a knowledgeable choice about where I should go for the next four years. I have only been in town for an hour and have already had people telling me what a great school Denison is.

Exploring Worcester

My father and I took today, which was the day we had nothing Clark related to do, to explore Worcester. We went mainly around the area around Clark University. A lot of it reminded me of Richmond. On the other hand, it felt nothing like home. It in some way made me feel uneasy. After seeing the surrounding area my mixed feeling about Clark increased. The academics and resources available at Clark are impressive and something I really like about it. The campus life and the community surrounding it not so much. I will definitely have to think a lot about my choice. One thing about the surrounding areas, which I did like, was the fact that there are several stores nearby so it does not seem like Clark is really in the middle of nowhere like I had been told previously.

Overall, I really enjoyed going around Worcester! Thankfully, it wasn’t that cold even though there was a bit of rain.

New York--an exciting adventure and my possible future?

As I lay in bed last night, my excitement deprived me from obtaining the proper sleep. I could not believe that I was going to come to New York! Enthusiastically I got up at 3 AM, so I could make sure that my belongings were ready. I did not want to miss my flight, so my mother, Maria Perez, and I arrived at the San Francisco airport at 4:30 AM. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 6 AM.

Once we were checked in, I started to feel the lack of sleep starting to have an effect on me. However, that was not a problem, since it is a case that coffee can easily solve. The only issue is that I am still feeling a little sick. I have had a slight cough and headache throughout this week, but with my handy inhaler packed in front of my bag, I feel prepared to take on this adventure.

The reason for my travel to New York is so I can visit one of my top college choices: Wagner College, located in Staten Island. I had not heard of Wagner until my college advisor, Sue Kim, told me about it. In one of our weekly meetings, I commented to her that I found New York appealing (especially since I intend to be a business major) and she told me that she had visited a great small, liberal arts college named Wagner College.

After having the marvelous experience of taking part of the summer program at Brown University this past summer, I realized that I wanted a college with small class sizes. So when Sue Kim advised me about Wagner College, the size of the school really captured my interest. There are less than 2,000 students—I like that. I want to be able to approach my professors to ask for help when I need further elaboration or clarification on a subject.

Wagner College is indeed one of my top two choices, but I am currently really undecided on my college choice. I have done my homework and researched as much as I possibly can on Wagner, but that is still not enough. I like Wagner a lot, but I want to see if it feels right for me. I want to make sure that I make the best choice for myself. Therefore, I asked the Ivy League Connection if they could pay for my flight to come visit Wagner College. As supportive as they always are, they agreed to make the arrangements. With their help, I will be able to come to a better decision for my future college.

So far, Staten Island is really relaxing. The hotel that we are staying in is really nice and has a peaceful feel to it. Today we will take some time to relax. I am still feeling a little sick, but I am really excited for tomorrow. I talked with the hotel clerk and she said that Wagner College was “simply beautiful”. Those words brought out the kid in me because now all I can think about is going to visit Wagner College tomorrow.

I really like the fact that Staten Island has a quiet and nice feel to it. I can see myself living in a suburban environment. I realized that New York looks so much like San Francisco, which is good because it makes me feel welcomed and at home.

I can’t wait for campus tour tomorrow at 1 PM. I have also made arrangements to meet with my financial aid officer at 2:30 PM, so some of my questions (regarding my financial aid letter) can be answered. At the same time, it will be the perfect time for me to ask any other questions about Wagner that I may have. I want to be sure that I am going to reside in a college, for the next four years, in where I feel comfortable living in. I am anxious and excited to see if I will be part of Wagner College’s Class of 2015. This trip will definitely help me make the right decision. I hope for the best. I will upload pictures tomorrow of the college.

I would like to thank the Ivy League Connection for making this trip possible. I greatly appreciate all your help in everything. This program has definitely expanded my horizons and has helped me realize that there is much more to look in a college. I never thought that I would be here in New York this year trying to make my college decision. Once again, I truly thank you!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Clark University Admitted Student Open House

“Challenge Convention. Change Our World.” -Clark University Motto

Today was the day that I would finally get to see Clark University in person. Before my father and I reached the campus in a way I felt unsure and worried about what lay ahead. There were countless thoughts going through my head from whether I would like the life of the student body on campus to whether Clark could be my home for four years. I felt like a little girl going into a fun house except that there no silly mirrors obscuring my view, everything was out in the clear. We drove up little by little until there it was Clark University with its green lawns and red brick buildings.

We had woken up early in order to be on time for Open House Registration. From La Quinta Inn, it was supposed to be about a ten minute drive, but before we could leave my dad reminded that we needed to have breakfast, which of course is the most important meal of the day. We grabbed a quick bite, I only ate a yogurt because of my anxiousness and the fact we were running a couple minutes late. We drove out of La Quinta’s parking lot and made our way down through Auburn, Massachusetts until we reached Worcester.

What caught my attention the most was the clear change of surroundings between Auburn, whose big and fancy homes gave it a more sophisticated, and high class look, and Worcester, whose streets seemed to be surrounded by liquor stores and smoke shops giving it a gloomy and lower class look. Surprisingly, Worcester reminded me in great deal to Richmond, CA. Though on different sides of the United States they shared many things in common, which in part eased my worries of not being able to transition into living here if I were to attend Clark in the fall, but also made me think about what so many people back home desire which is to get away from the poverty and violence. A question immediately surfaced in my mind, the moment I saw a Latino father and his child walking out of a market: Was my goal in attending college to escape my community and all its problems? That little boy I saw reminded me of all the kids I see in Richmond walking to school. I asked myself, was he too in danger like the kids back home of falling under the influence and of crime? I didn’t know the answer to that, but before I could continue pondering the answer we reached the parking lot.

We had run a couple minutes late, but apparently many people had come to the event because every parking spot was already taken, so we had to park outside on the street. All over Clark University there were students posted to give visitors instructions on where the Registration was for open house. We made our way to the second floor of Higgins University Center. In order, to get there we crossed through the campus square passing right in front of the famous Jonas Clark Hall, which is the building shown on most material sent by Clark to potential students. I never imagined that I would stand right in front of the building that I had been seeing on pamphlets and on the Clark website, www.clarku.edu, since the fall. This would of course not be possible if it were not for the Ivy League Connection, who has opened so many doors for me.

Once we were inside I had to check in, receive a lunch ticket, obtain a red Clark tote bag that contained all that I would need throughout the day, and make myself a name tag so that I could be identified. We were offered to get a light breakfast of: coffee, tea, orange/apple juice, bagels, and muffins. We grabbed some food and looked for a place to sit. There I became completely aware of the great amount of people who were present. All the seats had been taken at the tables, but people had made due with the surroundings and sat on a stage that was to the far left of the room facing a huge window that overlooked campus square. We went and joined the people sitting there. Immediately I faced what many back home had warned me about which was the culture shock. I in the second went from being a majority at RHS to the lowest minority at Clark. Including my father and I there were probably around five Latinos in the room. There were approximately ten African Americans present and approximately twenty Asians, as well.

After some time, of just looking around at the people, who were concentrating on their own personal conversations I looked behind me to the view from the window. I took a couple of pictures and talked a bit to my dad. The attention of the room was suddenly switched to a man directing everyone to exit and follow onto the welcome or introduction of the day’s events at Atwood Hall. Everyone filed into Atwood Hall and soon enough the place was packed. My father and I grabbed a seat and waited for the presentation to begin. The speakers in this section, welcoming us to campus, were President David P. Angel, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Don Honeman, Student Council President Lisa Johnson ’12, and Assistant Director of Admissions Liz Magier ’09. The each told us about Clark and why we were all here. They told us that each one of us, were potential class of 2015 “Clarkies,” as Clark students are called, because each one of us demonstrated in our applications certain qualities that matched with life at Clark and the university’s goals. They read the profiles of a couple of the students who had along with me applied and become accepted. From a person who engaged in research while in high school to a person who traveled with a circus for an entire summer while in high school, Clark’s diversity and wide ranged student body came into view. I thought about what about me had matched with Clark. In the end, I concluded it was probably my dedication to serving my community and academic performance. The congratulated all of us and told us they hoped we joined them in the fall before directing us the next part of the program which would be a classroom experience.

There were several choices to choose from, many appealed to me, but I would only get the chance to attend two courses. I chose out of all the available choices: (1) Are you an Adult Yet? The New Life Stage of Emerging Adulthood and (2) John Edwards Comes to Methods Class: Analyzing Language and Body Language. Both of my choices are courses offered by the Psychology department. The first, which took place at 320 Jefferson Academic Center, was more of a lecture experience for me. Professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett spoke to us about the importance of the stage of life were a person is emerging into adulthood. To introduce himself he told us how he ended up teaching at Clark, from his early days as an undergraduate and his experience in the different jobs he gained though his major in Psychology. I was very interested in his lecture and enjoyed the points he made throughout. In addition, I liked how he gave us the audience a chance to ask questions or discuss certain points he had made.

Afterwards, we made our way to my second choice which took place in 001 Jonas Clark Hall. We arrived a bit late because the previous class had ended a bit late and because of the extensive crowd of people making their way into Jonas Clark Hall. This class, taught by Professor Michael Bamberg turned out to be much more interactive. Professor Bamberg was humorous and allowed everyone to have a say in the lesson he was teaching. He made jokes but kept the audience under control at the same time. The classroom environment consequently was alive, but not too chaotic. I really enjoyed his lesson and it got me thinking deeply about the topic at hand.

Next on the list, was lunch at the Higgins CafĂ© for the admitted students and at Basset Admissions Center for parents or family members. I got to eat along with the other class of 2015 students, but also with current Clark students. The food was good they had a bit of variety, but it is not the reason why I enjoyed my lunch. Another student visiting from Connecticut came and sat at the table where I was sitting and soon enough another student from the East Coast sat with us too. The three of us had a great conversation about college, school, and what we liked/disliked about Clark so far. It was interesting to hear about the colleges that my two lunch “buddies” had applied to. Not only where the schools mainly in the East Coast, but they were small privates just like Clark. What kept our conversation going the longest was talking about our lives in high school and the classes we got to take. Both of them compared to me went to rather small high schools. From our conversation I could tell that their schools were very high on having their students take AP/IB classes. One of them had even enrolled in virtual AP classes that are taught online. In addition, they mentioned how a couple of their friends had even gotten into Ivy League colleges. When we spoke about our likes and dislikes of Clark one clear thing was that like me they also were greatly considering how much financial aid Clark University was offering them. After, I ate I reunited with my dad and we took a tour of the residential halls.

During the tour, was when I got to hear about how actual Clark students felt about the school. A couple of them showed that they had started off not to into Clark, but that now they really enjoyed their time there. A main topic they brought up was the excellent academics and the vibrant life on campus. I for one was greatly looking forward to seeing more of the student body out doing things around campus, but seeing that it was Saturday a great majority of the students were at their dorms resting. Bullock Hall, which was the residence I visited and the home of freshmen, was completely renovated. It looked quiet modern and very innovative, with recycling bins available throughout the entire building. In addition, it not only had laundry rooms on the bottom floor, but on the top floor as well. The rooms where quiet spacious and cozy. The rooms I saw where each two people, but Clark also has dorms with more than two. Roommate wise the students I spoke too where quiet pleased. Apparently, Clark staff individually looks at each housing applicant and categorize so that they can better match them with someone that is much like them. The housing staff therefore gets to know each student that lives on campus pretty well. They brought to our attention that if we end up going to Clark and applying for housing that we should be as truthful as we can in our application about pet peeves and our ways of acting.

After my tour, I returned to Higgins University Center for the academic fair, where I got the chance to speak directly to more Clark students, faculty, and staff. Everyone was very nice and helpful. They answered all of my questions and also helped me realize that I am really interested in not just pursuing one degree, but maybe even a double major. One thing I really liked was the chance that Clark gives its students to create or more like combine majors to make one for themselves. Not only did I speak with the representative from the psychology department and women studies major but also with the head coordinator for the pre-med program at Clark. He told me that he begins working with students from day one because the process to get into medical school is long and hard. He gave me the requirements for medical school and in a way they reminded me of my A-G’s. I guess applying to medical school will be much like applying to college except that I will need to demonstrate my abilities in the medical/health field only.

Later on, I got to attend to sessions of my choosing to help me get a closer look at Clark through the voices and experiences of Clark staff. I attended: (1) The First Year Experience (Week One Orientation & Clark Trek) and (2) Study Abroad. In the first session, I learned about Clark’s summer programs that begin a week or two prior to school actually starting. All of the programs mentioned are aimed to help incoming freshmen with the transition into college. Students who take part in these summer programs move onto campus a week or two before the rest of the student body. I would definitely want to participate in the ALANA (African, Latino, Asian, and Native American) summer program. I did not get to meet with any current Latino students while I visited, but I learned about what they do on campus. In addition, I realized how much priority is placed on helping new Clarkies adapt to their new surroundings and college life. The Study Abroad session was very informative. Clark provides its students with numerous opportunities to study abroad from London to Japan. The program they offer that caught my attention the most was definitely their Central America one. In this program students of any major can go for a whole semester to Central America. You spend one month in El Salvador, another in Nicaragua, and lastly Guatemala. I would definitely want to take advantage of this opportunity. I think it would be incredible to study in my native country even for a short period of time and have the chance to visit the bordering countries.

The last part of the day was the farewell session, were admitted students and their families were treated to some snacks and each student got a complimentary Clark gift. It was sad to see how the day just went by so fast but I was satisfied that I got to visit Clark and I even got a Clark water bottle! After, we said our farewells my father and I took the chance to take some last pictures on campus.

Overall, I had a great day visiting campus, now all I need to do is make my decision!

Friday, April 15, 2011

East Coast Once More!

Today was basically a day of travel for me and my father, who is the one accompanying me on this exciting trip. We flew from San Francisco to Newark and then to Rhode Island. We missed our connecting flight, that left prior to its departure time from Newark, and this led me to miss my chance of speaking to a Clark student today in the afternoon. Hopefully tomorrow I get the chance to speak to other current Clark students at tomorrows “Admitted Students Open House,” so that I can get a better perspective on the student experience at Clark.

After the amazing summer program I did at Brown University, I seriously yearned to come back to the East Coast. Though, my present location is not Rhode Island I am still happy to be here because I will have the chance to visit Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Clark University is one of my top college choices; I have however never been on the campus. I became interested in Clark as Sue Kim told me about it and I did my own research on it. The liberal arts, community involvement, diversity, size, and mission of this university greatly lure me.

However, coming to Clark consists of so many other considerations. From financial aid to its location going to Clark would be an immense change in my life. For the past 14 years of my life I have resided in California and have rarely been away from both my parents. Going to Clark for four years would definitely mean that I would practically be on my own. If anything where to occur it would all be on me, my parents being in California would obviously not be able to assist me as much and maybe even not at all. In addition, being able to see my family and friends would be a limited event that would make me increasingly homesick. Due to the high price of plane tickets and the fact that certain holiday breaks would not be long enough for me to make a trip back and forth from California to Worcester, for the most part of the year I would not be able to see my family and friends in California. I have also seen this from a different perspective where I will grow and flourish into an adult because of my distance from home.

There is a lot that pushes me towards Clark and a lot that does the opposite too. I think that the defining thing will be whether I like the feel of Clark. By this I mean not simply academically, but socially as well. I personally want to attend a university where the student life is vibrant, where there is lots’ happening on campus, and the environment is both peaceful and inviting. Basically tomorrow when I am on the campus I want to see whether I can imagine myself as a Clark student not only flourishing in academics, but in my other passions as well.

I thank the ILC and all those involved with the program for the chance to get an up close look at Clark, so that I can better make my decision as to whether or not I would like to be a part of Clark University’s Class of 2015.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Yale!

As we arrived at New Haven, I was amazed at how the scenery before us transformed. As the tall buildings and crowded freeways of New York morphed into the elegant architecture and spacious streets of Yale and New Haven, I couldn't help but think about how excited I would be to be able to attend this school in the fall.

Unfortunately, on Monday, I had gotten sick and it had only gotten worse during the flight. Upon arriving in New Haven I decided to rest up a little before venturing into Yale, and I took a short nap in my dad's hotel room to regain lost energy from the trip here.


-Prefrosh at Registration-

-So Many Prefrosh-

Upon waking up, my father and I went to Yale to register and sign in. I was amazed by the throngs of people at Old Campus, and at how many people were here. I definitely suffered from a little bit of culture shock, as the majority of the people there were tall, blond, and white. I felt a little out of place, but I tried to focus upon the fact that we all were equally accepted to this prestigious school, and that if Yale has decided that I'm good enough for them, that I should feel that way too.

During registration, I had originally signed up to room with a Yale host, but I decided that because I was feeling ill, I didn't want to pass it on to my host. I (regretfully) had to decline rooming with a host and instead decided to spend the night in my father's hotel room.

After registration, we were stuck in between blocks of activities, so my father and I drove around the campus to get a feel for the various parts of Yale and the community of New Haven.




New Haven and Yale are amazingly beautiful. The pictures that I post do not do justice to how truly stunning the architecture and the buildings are. The beauty of Yale is present not only in the architecture, but also in how lively the campus is. Everywhere I looked, there were Yale students who looked as if they were taken straight out of the college pamphlets and fliers. They were smiling and actively talking to the prefrosh around them. Most importantly, they were all wearing Yale related apparel. I know it may sound strange that this is important, but I remember during the summer, when I visited Boston College, our tour guide remarked that the reason he chose Boston College was because there was such a strong sense of community, evidenced by the fact that almost everyone was wearing Boston College clothing.

At Yale, not only was everyone wearing Yale clothing, but they were trying to get us to wear Yale as well! They were giving out free Yale Class of 2015 t-shirts online to all admitted students, and although I had ordered one, it hadn't arrived yet by the time I left for Yale. But they were also giving away Yale notepads, pens, and even ponchos for us to protect ourselves from the darkening skies. But that is just a testament to how much Yale cares for the students who they carefully select.

At night, I went to the ice cream social party in the Commons Dining Hall, which looks a little bit like the Hogwarts Dining Hall. Apparently, this is not an uncommon sentiment, and a lot of the school looks like it was lifted straight out of a fantasy book. Inside, the place was packed with prefrosh of all colors, shape, and size. Unfortunately, as I was trying to find people to socialize with, I realized that I had no idea with who or how to be social. So I ended up walking up and down an aisle a few times, stupidly looking for someone who was also by themselves to connect with.

After making a few laps around the dining hall, I finally found another person sitting alone. I immediately went up to her and introduced myself to her, and although it was a little awkward at first, it was good to finally find someone I could talk with, without confronting a whole large group at once.

Her name was Aunica, and we basically went through the usual repertoire of questions, i.e. "Where are you from?", "What is your major?", etc. But in the middle of our conversation, we were suddenly interrupted by a loud blast of music from the front. The Yale Precision Marching Band had arrived.

They sounded amazing, but they made it difficult to talk, so Aunica and I went outside. I wanted to go to a meeting later that night for Building Bridges, a program where college students go to China for a week over summer to teach science and math to students in impoverished communities in rural areas. However, we had no idea where the meeting was to take place. I wish I could tell you that we found the classroom quickly and easily, but sadly, that's not the case. To be truthful, I am terrible at directions. We spent half an hour wandering around campus, avoiding improv groups who were mercilessly trying to persuade us to watch their show that night, before we realized the building was right in front of us.

Inside, apparently they were not ready yet, so we spent some more time dodging the same relentless improv group and roaming around the beautiful campus at night. Although it was a mildly cold spring night, the air outside was refreshing and cool, and it made me feel a lot better than I had in the morning.

When we went back later, we were treated to bubble tea by the Building Bridges people, and they gave us a short spiel about what their organization does. They take a small number of students from Yale and other schools, such as Princeton, to rural communities in China for a week at the end of summer to teach students there. At the end of the short personal presentation, I was very excited to have the opportunity to go abroad and volunteer to assist people in need. All my life I've wanted to have a chance to do something like this, and the idea that it could actually be possible for me made me a very happy person that night.

After Building Bridges, we tried to go watch an improv show, but the theater was so packed that even the aisles were filled with people sitting down, so we decided to move on to other better venues of entertainment.

We visited the Yale Student Roundtable, where they were having a discussion on free will, and if it is ever possible to have complete free will. It was a very exciting discussion, and I even had the chance to put in my own thoughts. I had a really great time, not because of the topic, but because never before had I had a chance to listen to others discuss theories of Locke and Rousseau as well as compare individual values. In addition, all of the students there seemed genuinely interested in not only hearing what other current Yale students had to say, but also what the prefrosh wanted to contribute to the conversation. I was also extremely impressed with what everyone had to contribute to the conversation, prefrosh and current students combined. I wish I could go into all of the intricate discussions and ideas that I heard, but to be honest, a lot of it was over the top of my head. But it was definitely the highlight of the evening. In addition, they also made some pretty delicious scones for us prefrosh as well.

Overall, although I was sick, I had a great time for the first day of Bull Dog Days. Thank you to the ILC for making this trip possible! I'm having a great time, and I really think that I Yale may be the place for me.

Austin Long

Pinole Valley High School
ILC Brown '10