Friday, June 15, 2012

Conquering Death with Our Mind and Hand

Crossing the bridge to get to MIT
I woke up to the 9:00 AM bells from the church next to Hotel Providence. I waited for the ninth chime to ring first before I started moving out of the bed. I hadn't had nine hours of sleep since I came to Providence. Compared to the rest of the week, today must've been my most energetic day yet. I blindly tried reaching for my alarm and squinted my eyes as I pressed the "OK" button on my phone. Instead of turning on the lights today, I decided to go eco-friendly and opened the curtains from my room. 

We met out in the lobby a few seconds past 11:00 AM. Ms. Kaplan and Mr. Crosby were waiting there already. We left Hotel Providence around 11:30 AM. The trip to M.I.T. took an hour and a half. Traffic on the streets were horrible. We arrived around 1:00 PM. Cambridge is such an astounding area. Everything looks so clean and spacious. We passed by a bridge that overlapped an amazingly clear river to cross over to M.I.T. The M.I.T campus blended right in with the large area around it.

My brunch with a cantaloupe milk tea 
Prior to our arrival at M.I.T, we decided to go into the student center to grab our brunch. We hadn't eaten anything for breakfast and it was lunch time already. Half of us got Indian food and the other half got Southeast Asian food. We finished brunch as a group around 1:45 PM and headed down to one of the classrooms for our informational session. The classroom was an actual college classroom, which was a totally different experience from the previous informational sessions where it was just in a small room in the admissions office. We went through some of the basic history of M.I.T, some examples of current research that are taking place, what the work is like, and the categories of majors. We had a lot of questions answered from the info session. My favorite question was, “Can you tell us about the flying car?” which was asked by a little girl. The admissions officer did, indeed, answer her question.

The Great Dome of M.I.T.
After filling our brains with M.I.T. knowledge, we took a tour around the campus. Luckily, there was more than one tour guide to split our group, because the original crowd massive enough to fill up the entire M.I.T. lobby. We started by looking at some of the departments inside the building. Sadly, it was “M.I.T. policy” for us not to take pictures within the buildings, so there aren’t a lot of visual souvenirs that I can bring home with me. After, we walked outside to see the infamous M.I.T. dome where the spectacular M.I.T. hacks have been displayed. Our tour guide told us some of the hacks that have taken place over the years, such as the police car on top of the dome, and the American flag hack to commemorate 9/11. Another interesting building we saw was the Green Building. The history of making the pillars that support the building were because the architect who designed it wanted to make his building taller. At the time, all buildings were limited to be 18 stories max. So instead, the architect built pillars to lift the building up and make it look taller than it would seem without them. Funny thing is, the building is sometimes used to display a giant game of Tetris on the windows as another example of a hack. In addition, we also went inside the Stata center (an extremely abstract building) where the student center and fitness center is located. The original police car from the police car hack was actually reassembled and placed there for display. We were not able to finish the entire tour because we had to get back early for the Brown dinner tonight.

Top left: abstract statue outside of M.I.T.; bottom left: Green Building; top middle: Kresge Auditorium; middle bottom; lobby entrance; top right: Stata Center

I’m not going to complain about the traffic anymore, because I think my audience already knows how bad it is. We got back to the hotel with less than 15 minutes to prepare ourselves for the dinner and race back down to the lobby. Luckily, the elevators cooperated and my tie felt like being perfect on my first try. We arrived at Capital Grill with 10 minutes to spare. Some of the Brown alumni/students/professors were already waiting outside for us to show up.

The before and after of our diabetic dessert
I really felt that this dinner was one of the most interesting ones yet. I sat next to Pathikist (Po) and Aida. Aida has already graduated from Brown, and Po is a rising junior at Brown. I got to talk to Po more and he told me some really nice stuff about Brown. Po came from India and is currently majoring in geography. He told me some of the reasons why he chose Brown as his choice. He also told me about these wonderful opportunities at Brown where they funded for his trips to Death Valley and the Grand Canyon. This summer, he’ll also be going to Africa for 6 weeks, all by himself, and living in a hut. He told me how excited he was, but quite frankly, I’d be pissing in my pants if I was stuck in the wilderness for 6 weeks. I really admire his courage and radical interest in this field of study. I think these opportunities he talked about really shows how wonderfully extensive the Brown programs are, and how much they test the capabilities of their students. Further into the conversation, we also talked about life at Brown, and got Aida to join in on the conversation. 

The food at Capital Grill was extremely delicious. I felt that their mission was to make our stomachs fat and plump because every single dish that they served was a meal fit for a beast. The real challenge was completing dessert. Dessert was death on a platter with extremely high calorized foods, and stuffing our stomachs with an insane amount of sugar. However, with the help of Nick, we were able to conquer our platter of dessert, being the only ones to finish at the table. In fact, our server sounded really surprised when he said, “Wow, you guys did a terrific job.” And of course, Ms. Kaplan laughed her pants off as we made him recite it to her from the other side of the table.

M.I.T. is, for sure, one of the colleges that I would look forward to applying too. Being one who’s interested in architecture, the M.I.T. campus and student life really shows how the atmosphere inspires ideas into the students’ minds. For example, you do not see things like M.I.T. hacks at other schools, but that’s because they don’t have the inspiration or capabilities. These M.I.T. hacks are the moments that we live and memories that we’d laugh to for our whole lives. It really shows how creative the students are there, and how the whole theme of “technology” plays as a role in their college life. M.I.T. students are not only learning technology, but they’re also living technology, and I think that’s what really sets them apart from other colleges as well as interesting me into this school. It would be practically impossible for one not to find motivation while learning at M.I.T. 

After all the information we got from the tours, we realized that our school district does not have the proper funding to give more opportunities to explore these colleges. Pinole Valley High School, for example, is desperately working its way with two counselors. The counselors are too occupied with the upperclassmen scheduling and making sure seniors pass their classes, that very little time is invested to talk about colleges. Every year, PVHS has an annual College Fair to show their students some of the colleges out there, but many of the students do not even know what they should know about the colleges or what to ask questions about. In Pinole, we also have an Advocacy class every Monday, but we’ve never touched base on college statistics, and students really don’t know what to expect out of those lectures even if we did. Lack of funding and communication have been large factors in preventing students from the proper knowledge they should know about these colleges because without that knowledge, they practically know nothing about the college. 

As a group, the Brown Session I cohorts all assigned themselves a category of questions that should be answered for students to gain more knowledge about these colleges. Mine was financial aid and costs. Some of the questions that I would recommend asking are (1) how is financial need determined; (2) how many scholarships are available for the students; (3) is financial background checked when applying to this college; (4) does this college give merit scholarships [Ivy League colleges are actually not allowed to give any]; and (5) how much is the basic tuition for this college without financial aid.

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