Thursday, July 12, 2012

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Best of Times

I have been adjusting to life at home very well, but am also constantly reminded of my time with the ILC, not just this year at Brown, but of my time at Cornell last year as well. Just the day after I got back from Brown, my friend Joe Arciniega, who just graduated from El Cerrito and who was a part of the Cornell cohort last year with me, told me that his roommate from Cornell, Matt, would be in town for a week. I’ve been catching up with the both of them over the last couple of days, and am amazed that some of these connections you make at a three week summer program can last years. The fact that I still get to see friends from last year’s program showed me just how big of an impact the ILC can have. Being a part of the Ivy League Connection last year impacted me more than I could have ever expected, but somehow this year’s program affected me even more.
With this program, I realized just how up in the air my future is­, since I still have no idea whether or not I actually want to become an engineer. I had always assumed that since I like math and science but didn’t want to major in math or a specific science, that I should just be an engineer. When I met with Dartmouth students and faculty, I realized that maybe engineering wasn’t for me and that I should just search for something I’m truly interested in. Over the next few days I slowly talked myself back into wanting to be an engineer, since I do really enjoy problem-solving, which is the whole point of engineering (MIT’s fantastic impression on me might also have made me appreciate engineering a bit more). Other than that realization, I actually didn’t end up changing too much academically in the inside the classroom sense, but that’s only because participating in last year’s strenuous Freedom & Justice course made me a much harder worker, and improved my time management skills as well.  I did gain a whole new level of understanding of what I want in a college, since I am finally able to explain (somewhat) what I’m looking for, instead of just getting the right vibes from certain colleges and adding them to the ever-expanding list of colleges I’d like to attend.
This program has surprisingly affected me most socially, which I didn’t expect, especially since last year’s program so deeply affected me as a student, and less so as a person. With our first Brown event, I could already tell that this program would change me and my reserved/timid/ not-outgoing-at-all (ingoing?) personality. I had to make a speech at the huge dinner, in front of dozens of people, all of whom had huge expectations of me. After stressing about the speech the whole day, I managed to stumble through it, and was told after the fact (although I am skeptical) that the speech was actually somewhat decent. When I look back at this experience altogether years from now, I know this speech and dinner (with a family friend of Andrew Luck!) will always come to mind. Public speaking doesn’t seem like nearly as daunting a task anymore, and I’ve gained tons of self-confidence through the ILC. I also, just like last year, had to go way outside my comfort zone and actually go out of my way to try to meet new people. Just like last year, I became a bit more comfortable with finding random new people to talk to.
Overall, three things impacted me most throughout this trip; our visit to MIT, our huge dinner at Mistral with Sessions 1 and 2, and the Macroeconomics course as a whole.
In case you didn’t ever catch my blog the day we visited MIT, I absolutely love MIT, and would give anything to get an opportunity to study there. The visit there had a major impact on me because I did have some reservations about the school that were mostly just snap judgments, all of which were proven wrong after the tour and info session. Going in, I figured that while MIT was a great school, it wouldn’t be at all fun, and would consist mostly of people staying indoors and doing homework. My tour guide showed that that was not the case, and I learned that MIT students were actually pranksters of sorts, performing all sorts of “hacks.”  I loved the housing system MIT had, which I knew next to nothing about heading  into the tour (looking back, I probably could have done a bit more research into the schools we were touring), where students can stay in the same houses (each of which have their own personalities) all four years. A major fear of mine was that if I somehow got accepted to MIT, and then happened to decide I wasn’t that interested in science or engineering, would I actually have any classes to take. I was surprised to learn that MIT does have a solid liberal arts department, as well as a great business school. This reassured me even more, so although I still have the whole problem of actually being able to get in to MIT, I do at least know that it definitely is my dream school.
I enjoyed the huge dinner at Mistral with representatives from several schools mainly because MIT happened to be one of those schools represented. It was nice getting to talk to normal people who were going to MIT, especially El Cerrito’s own Marisol Clemens. It was also great getting to hear that none of them actually expected to get into MIT, so that makes me feel a little bit better. The Mistral dinner was hands down my favorite dinner and it only got me more excited about MIT.
Last but not least, the Macroeconomics class with Nick Coleman and his T.A, Desi greatly impacted me. I had always felt somewhat tethered to engineering as a potential major, because that seemed to be the only thing that at all interested me. After just three weeks of this course however, I realized that I would enjoy majoring in Economics if I really just did not want to be an engineer. I found the class greatly informative, and will be debating whether or not to take the AP Macroeconomics test in May.
The Macroeconomics class made me painfully aware of just how much more prepared other students worldwide are than I am. A lot of these students had already taken economics classes, and so had a huge head start on all the WCCUSD students. At El Cerrito, since there simply isn’t enough money to pay for teachers across all different subject matters, the first taste we get of an economics class is the mere quarter we spend in it senior year. I personally think this is unfortunate because if I had an economics class earlier, I would have seen how interesting the economy is, and that could have completely changed my academic interests.
This was an amazing experience, and I really can’t express just how grateful I am to everyone who made this experience possible. I’d like to thank the founders and main supporters of this program, Don Gosney, Mr. Ramsey, and Mrs. Kronenberg, as well as our sponsors and everyone who helped volunteer with the selection process. Thanks to everyone who made my time back East that much better; every student, alum, and staff member who was willing to meet with us for dinners or lunch, our driver Mr. Crosby, the amazing five people I got to spend this last month with and without whom I would have been bored to death, and last but definitely not least, Mrs. Kaplan, the hands-down best chaperone I could possibly have wished for, thank you all so much!

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