Tuesday, July 19, 2016

~My Time at Cornell~

I had never really heard of Cornell all that much other than it was a great Ivy League school. Before going to Cornell I remember looking up all these pictures and seeing the beautiful campus. Trust me it is way more beautiful in person. The pictures barely even gave me a glimpse of the school.  When I arrived there was so much more than what Google maps could provide. I honestly was blown away once being there and after a while began to feel as my home. 

The environment was green all around, but the only thing I was not really used to wasn't the green environment, but the isolation of the college. There was College Town where there was a couple of food shops, the mall, and the commons where it was like  downtown. To get to some of these places I had to ride a bus. I definitely was not used to their being so less I guess you could say, but it did let me get closer to peers. I spent most of my time on campus with friends and if I left to go somewhere I would leave with friends. At first I did not like the feel of isolation, but it kind of brought everyone together. I still though did not like the fact of lack of food places and quality of food places. Maybe since where I am from I am constantly surrounded by food or I am just a food lover, but Ithaca lacked the food experience.
It was really fun to go and explore with my friends all around campus and more. I really liked how I got a glimpse of how college life really is like balancing fun with study. Yet, still making it back before curfew which was a downer sometimes. I loved the small community of this college and always felt to me that there was always a new adventure to take place in.
Ithaca's weather was an interesting thing. It was always hot and I actually personally like hot weather, but Ithaca was something else. I personally like the sunshine and heat that comes with it, but Ithaca comes with humidity. I have experienced humidity going to Nicaragua, but Ithaca was always humid even when raining. Actually it would get even worse if it rained. I can recall only one day that was moderate weather and not humid. I think what killed me though was the lack of air conditioning at the dorms, a fan is nice but can only do so much.
As for the people at Cornell I experienced an East Coast culture shock. Summer college honestly lacked diversity. Maybe because I come from such a diverse high school, but Cornell was filled with international students from China, White people, a few Hispanics and a little sprinkle of other races. I am used to a big jumble of diversity which was weird not to see there as I assumed was a normal thing. The wealth gaps were definitely noticeable especially with clothing. They would wear a brand called vineyard vines (some whale on a shirt) and I would wear true religion. They dressed in Vineyard Vines, cargos and moccasins or how they like to call them Sperrys. The language was completely different. They barely used slang and if they did it was either very old to me or just sounded weird. I realized Bay Area people just love to make up slang as I realized words that are commonly used here are non existent in the East Coast. Also apparently I have a Californian accent. I do not really know what that means, but I am assuming because I use "hella" a lot.
As for the class Inspiring Leadership, I absolutely loved it. I learned so much about myself that is really going to push me in the future. The class ultimately made me acknowledge who I was. It's a hard subject to explain, but it has to do with what a person's values are. I learned a lot about leadership. There are a lot of misconceptions about leaders about how they should be the loudest in the room or the ones who solely make the decisions where in reality it's the opposite. Leaders are supposed to be the best listeners and must understand that sometimes one must become a follower. A leader must understand to acknowledge other's ideas and suggestions instead of only  having your mindset. The list goes on in things I learned, but it helped be become a better person and a future leader. I have a lot to learn, but now I know I am on the right path.
Cornell opened my eyes to a whole new way of life. I met people from around the world with different backgrounds and different perspectives.  I learned so much in such little time, I still cannot believe I am back home. I am happy I met all the people I did and was able to form a family bond with everyone that only being there could one understand. Cornell really showed me a lot of new things. All the differences made me grateful for where I come from. Even if I do not come from the best school or best neighborhood I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I am who I am and that will never change. Until next time, Cornell, maybe instead of being my temporary summer home you become my actual home for next year. The future awaits!!!

~Who I Am, An ILCer~

The Ivy League Connection has changed me as an individual. Becoming an ILCer was definitely an adventure. From the beginning the Ivy League Connection kept pushing me to do better and better. The Ivy League Connection throughout the adventure gave me confidence and some more confidence. 

Believing in myself started when the essay round  started. I tried my hardest on the essay for Cornell and prepared constantly for my interview ahead. Once being accepted into the scholarship it arises a feeling that I could do anything I set my mind too. I began to become more confident in what I was capable of. It definitely helped me with my speaking abilities, as in the interview I practiced giving well put together answers in a matter of seconds. I also gained experience in speaking in public for the School Board presentation as I gave a speech thanking our community and everyone involved that supported this scholarship.

I never once had anything like the Ivy League Connection in my life something that was not 100% guaranteed, I always had to try my hardest and go through dinners, to blogs, to writing, and presentations.  This program is so unique and actually helps students believe in themselves and realize that they are destined to greater things. I still cannot believe I got in to the scholarship and let alone that I went to Cornell for three weeks. Yet, here I am back from Cornell. I never could have imagined the future to come with the Ivy League Connection, but that is something about the program--it lets you experience new things.

This program opens doors for you and lets you see yourself in a new light. Starting at Cornell it was a completely different experience from back at home. From the people to the environment. I had to keep pushing myself staying up late sometimes writing my essay or rereading class materials so I could better understand it. I kept pushing myself harder because I wanted to prove to myself that I belonged here. most kids paid for their stay there while I was on scholarship. How I see it is I worked hard to get to where I was and I was not going to stop there either. This is something about ILCers that I realize we DO NOT give up even if we have a lot of homework we still stay up to blog and add pretty pictures to it. Even though we do not come from the greatest schools with the best English departments we work our butts off for our essays in the classroom. We keep pushing ourselves to do our best or even past that.

I wish my whole community could experience what I did. I know everyone could benefit from this experience, but even if the whole community could not join me I alone went and now coming back I am going to make a change. Being an ILCer is all about giving back, now my community just has to wait and see.

Being at Cornell I want to reach new heights now I have higher goals. My class of Inspiring Leadership let me understand who I am and let me realize what I could do to make a change. The Ivy League Connection gave me the support to even know these things.

Coming back from Cornell I am a new person, I don't know if you can see it, but I can feel it. I am ready for anything to be thrown my way. Thank you again and again ILC for helping me discover my capabilities as Diana. Thank you to the panelists for seeing my potential that not even myself  realized. Thank you to my community and school board for supporting this program and us all the way and not giving up on us. Thank you to Mike for always being there for us whenever we needed you. Thank you to my cohort for becoming a family to me. Thank you Don Gosney for actually changing my life for the better and always working your hardest to send us to the East Coast and  to see us grow. Everyone can agree that you are one of the most inspiring people in our community doing everything you do for us. There is no way I could ever repay you, but I will do my best to help my community and let the legacy community of being an ILCer.  Till next time ILC, I hope you continue to change lives as you dd for me and many others.

Experience as an ILCer

From start to beginning, my experience as an ILCer was nothing less than memorable. It was definitely basically everything I hoped for since I first heard of it at my freshman orientation, way before Don even introduced himself later in my freshman year. At the time, I was really thrown off by the fact that I couldn't apply until I was a sophomore, but I looked forward to it. I wanted to apply to the Columbia programs, but come around my sophomore year and the Ivy League Connection was barely existent. 

The first program of the three that I applied to was Brown's Women and Leadership program, and after getting an interview I wasn't quite able to get myself the scholarship. It didn't discourage me, although it did frustrate me a little bit, from further applying to the other programs available. This was just part of the learning experience, because I know there will be other times later in life in which I'll need those interviewing skills. Also, I thought that maybe it wasn't meant to be and there would be other opportunities.

Not too long after the Women and Leadership interview, I applied for Social Justice at University of Pennsylvania, and yet again I received an interview for the program. The essays weren't that difficult to write for me, because they were topics I felt passionately about and could honestly write about. Beyond that, I wasn't doing that well in the interviews, and yet again I didn't receive the scholarship. By then, I thought that was the end of me being an ILCer. There was a potential of the Cornell program not being offered, and I was getting discouraged from all this rejection. Waiting at almost 9 PM at El Cerrito High School, I wasn't feeling too good about myself.

Nevertheless, I wrote the essay for the Hotel Operations program, and I revised the other two essays that are required in the application. Being a person who has always considered something in either Engineering or in Law, I didn't know if a Business course was the way to go. Despite that, I still really wanted the whole experience of visiting a school out of state, especially an Ivy League. I surprisingly got the interview, and I met with Don to go over my two previous interviews and see what I could improve on and do better. I went into this interview feeling a lot more confident, and some of the questions were similar to the ones I had in previous interviews. As a matter of fact, one of the interviewers had interviewed for the Social Justice program. After another 3 hours of sitting in that same classroom at El Cerrito High School, I did not receive the scholarship. I seriously thought that was the end of the Ivy League Connection for me. My Speech 120 teacher encouraged me to reach out to the interviewers, and find out what I could improve on, and I did. That's one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Around 2 weeks after, I receive a call from Don as I was leaving swim practice. To my incredible surprise, Don told me that I would be the recipient of a fourth scholarship to Cornell. That was probably one of the best days of 2016. I was crying from excitement. Don gave me about three dates to write down in my calendar, and life was kind of fast-forward from then. I think it was about a week or two later that I met with my cohort and chaperone at MOD pizza, and we knew it was going to be a great trip. We all agreed we weren't picky on food options and were excited about exploring new places. That following weekend we had the tutorial with Don at De Anza High School. 

From there on out, I improved my time management and social skills. We had the cohort and alumni dinner the following Monday. That was just a taste of all the connections that we'd be making at Cornell. I got to talk to Shanti about what it would be like at Summer College and she really made me look forward to it. Doug and Jesus, the alumni, both spoke highly about Cornell's campus, the atmosphere, and the dining hall food. The dinner was overall a lovely experience, just like everything else would be.

After the dinner I didn't see my cohort for a while until we had the orientation at Pinole Middle School, where we got an idea of what our trip was looking like. I found out, we wouldn't be visiting New York City, but Chicago, what a surprise. Visiting UChicago and Northwestern gave me an idea of what I was looking for in colleges and gave me something to compare to at Cornell. I think the college visits is also what makes the ILC experience so unique, because other scholarships won't cover that, or the amazing food we go to eat while on the trip.

Then there was my actual time at Cornell, which as you can tell by my blogs, was absolutely amazing and I loved it so much. I've only been back a few days, but whenever people ask me how I liked it, I cannot stop saying how much I loved it. People tend to ask me if the essays, the interviews, the tutorials, and everything was worth it for the three-week program. I cannot stress enough how much it was all worth it. I learned so much in this experience and with the interviews and taking a Speech and Debate course I know I'm a way better speaker now. Even if I wouldn't have gotten the scholarship in the end, I know I would've had a lot to take from the application part of being an ILCer. I'd honestly do it all over again given the option. I felt so lucky throughout the whole thing and I hope that the program still exists the following year because I've been encouraging so many people to take this opportunity. Not everyone in my community has the money that those kids at Cornell did, to easily spend $6,000 on a summer program, but the chance at a scholarship to a summer program of such high prestige is something not to be taken for granted.

What Being an ILCer Means To Me

Being an ILCer was a journey on its own and one that I could never forget. It was strange because a little bit of me was just trying to test how well my writing skills were and it resulted in me getting a scholarship to study at an Ivy League school. I felt that a mixture of luck and destiny came into play somehow as for the fact that this was the only program I had applied for. However I didn't 100% to get in at all. And the fact that I did really made me feel that larger strings were being pulled towards a bigger destiny.

It was such a different experience for me. Never before had I gone through such a process like a fancy dinner worth thousands of dollars, a presentation to thank the board and seeing an Ivy League school in general. When I look back at all of the events we were required to go to, I was doubtful at first however I realized how naive I was. Listening to all of the different testimonials and previous blogs, I realized that I had to keep up a legacy for multiple people. Because I was apart of something even bigger than me.

From the time with me staying at the Omni hotel in Chicago to all the meals that the district managed to pay for us, I really began to see myself as someone special enough to get the chance to have this opportunity. Being apart of this program really made me think harder at the fact that I was chosen for a reason and making sure that everyone would be able to benefit from me being chosen.

Being at Cornell as an ILCer was a completely different experience and was the real point where I realized what my true purpose at the program was. Unlike other kids that paid for their own stay at Cornell, being on a scholarship made me feel like I had a certain weight on my shoulder, or an obligation to uphold--besides having to blog nightly. I felt like as an Ivy League Connectioner, there was duty in the name. I see the three words and interpret it as connecting other people in my hometown with the idea of getting to attend an Ivy League school and if not that then getting the benefits from other people who attend. Especially being in my Public Policy class and the things that I learned related to the election and things with economics, I feel like my community would benefit so much from what I learned. From our lack of participation in community elections to our high obesity rate, learning about so many of these topics and how it endangers my community makes me feel obligated to help address it. This is where that key word "connection" comes in. As an ILCer, I feel that being at Cornell really helped me realize that I can't just take the scholarship as something that only I deserve, but something that my community deserves to benefit from as well. And after taking my public policy class I was able to see it.

I can't begin to thank all of the people that believed in me and helped me go through my process of growing as a person and seeing my true values through this program. I want to thank the interviewers for choosing me and seeing my potential, and Mike for helping to guide us through everything to make sure we don't get side tracked, and Don for making the opportunity even possible. I realize that the gift will not be one sided and that after returning home from this program it's my duty to make sure that the benefits reach all.

As someone that is a part of ILC, I realized that I wasn't given the scholarship to fully benefit from alone.

I was given the scholarship to learn how to help better my community.

My Experience At Cornell

Cornell had been my dream school in freshman year and it was amazing getting the opportunity to look at the school in person rather than in pictures. It was different than I expected but still cool in a way. The school is very big, yet we were more centered on North Campus so the sense of community was still felt at the school. It was incredible getting to see how gorgeous the campus really was and it was a huge change from the city life colleges I'm used to (such as Berkeley). However, in Ithaca, Cornell was literally considered the city there. And it was also very green. 

I had a lot of fun at Cornell because I had my own freedom to do whatever I wanted to do (as long as I made it back before curfew). I really enjoyed this system because it felt like I was at real college and almost had all of the freedom as a real college student. With Cornell's small community yet huge environment there was always a lot to explore, from going out to the Commons to heading to the Ithaca Mall. However, I think Cornell's wonders where not pertaining to the commercial side, but to their environmental side and how the campus was literally surrounded by nature. The school had multiple gorges to explore and hiking trails to wander off in. It really felt like a school where one can be alone and go on an adventure if they wanted to. Also, with the fact that T-mobile coverage doesn't quite reach Ithaca very well, it allows for once to put down the phone and tune in with nature instead.

The wealth disparities with the people attending summer college were definitely visible. Vineyard vines (an apparently popular east coast designer brand?) was seen everywhere, and everyone seemed to either have a business or have a non profit to "do better for the community they serve." However not everyone made this wealth gap very obvious and over pushing and many people were very humble about it so it didn't feel awkward being around such people. 

As for the class, I found it very interesting. I'm happy I took it because I have been very interested in things related to economics and public policy however I didn't know how to combine it with my interest in science. Being at Cornell and taking my class, I was happy to figure out what economics and public policy were and how I could blend it into the major of my choice. The class was super interesting, however a lot of work. But Cornell gives many resources to help out with this work including multiple libraries, study areas, computer labs, heck, I remember at one point just taking my blanket outside and going to study on the grass. It was fun watching the college atmosphere with 5 people in a circle practicing their Frisbee backhand or people lying on the grass waiting for time to pass. 

Being at Cornell really opened my perception to multiple outlooks in life politically and economically. I used to be very one sided on such issues however after having the opportunity to look at both sides and where they are coming from I can definitely see my views changing a little bit. I credit this especially to my Public Policy class. 

I also like how you can feel a sense of sisterhood at Cornell. When hanging out with the friends I met there one could only grow closer to them at a faster than usual rate because we basically lived together and spent most of our days together. It wasn't just a regular summer camp type of thing, in this program we were learning to survive with daily situations from people that we meet to the classes and homework that we got from each class. It gave the "we only have each other" type of atmosphere which was really cool and as an independent person it was interesting learning to be more dependent on people. 

I'm happy that I've managed to go to Cornell. The difference in the atmosphere made me really appreciate where I live a lot more and hopefully my adventures with Cornell do not end as I apply for a spot for the freshman class of 2017!

ILC Experience

I first heard about ILC when my brother got into the University of Pennsylvania for Experimental Physics during his sophomore year, which was about three years ago. I knew as soon as he got in that I would want to apply when I became a sophomore and I specifically wanted  to go to UPenn because it's one of my top choices and because the program was the longest out of all the other ILC programs. I wanted to be as independent for as long as I could. So, when Don came to Pinole to do his ILC presentation I was set on going to UPenn for their Social Justice Academy. Unfortunately, I didn't even make it to the interview stage for the UPenn program and needless to say, I was absolutely devastated. I didn't know if there were going to be any more programs offered and so I started researching other summer programs I could do. 

It was already super late into the semester and most programs had already closed, but I thankfully one day receive the email with the Cornell Hotel Management application and I immediately go through all the prompts and details for it. I knew that this was my last chance at participating in ILC during my sophomore year and I had to take it. After my brother reprimanded me the last time about the UPenn application, I decided that I would take full advantage of all those around me for this application. I spent almost five days editing my pre-essays and regular essay for the Cornell program and I asked more than ten people to read through my essay and tell me their opinions. I asked a lot of past ILCers, but there were a couple of non-ILCers as well. It was probably one of the hardest I'd ever worked on an essay. 

I send in my essays and hope for the best. It takes another week or two before Don emails back to those who got into the interview. I had gone to Disneyland with the marching band and was on the way back when I received the email and I quite literally squealed on the bus. Katherine Phan, somebody who helped edit my essay, was right behind me and congratulates me. It was one of my happiest moments even though I had yet to actually get into the program. 

After I get home and unpack, I start asking people to mock interview me. I end up mock interviewing about 4-5 times. I arrived first with Diana (we went together). We took our pictures with Don and wrote our names on little cards. When everyone arrived and wrote their names on cards, we chose our interview number. I'm actually the last one to get a card, so I didn't get to pick, but I got the third number. I don't really freak out because I tend to freak out the minute before I actually do something so I was fine at that moment. The second interviewer finishes up and Don is there to take me to be interviewed. I start freaking a little, but I knew that I would be fine once I sit down. After entering the room, I shake all of their hands and introduce myself. I tell them, "My name is Shuxin. Like a shoe that is singing, but don't emphasize the g." 

We go right into the interview and I thought all of my answers, posture, hand gestures, eye contact, etc. were decent enough. I make them laugh a couple of times and that was reassuring. After everyone finishes interviewing, Don announces the Cornell Cohort and my name was called second. I couldn't believe it. I was so incredibly happy and grateful. All my hard work had paid off. 

Right after the interview, I worked on my actual application to Cornell for the next day or so. I also get the recommendation from my business teacher. It was a super busy next couple of days, but it taught me a lot about working under pressure and short time. I literally got so many emails from Don that my entire first page was filled with just Don. I turned in all of the necessary paperwork and essays and my life is pretty relaxed with ILC for about the next month. 

After AP tests finish, we do all the meet and greets, dinners, board meetings, and orientations. It was really hectic, but I enjoyed the alumni dinner the most. I got to meet Hummd and talk all about my life and the Cornell alumni who all raved about Cornell. One alumnus, Doug Mitarotonda, liked Cornell so much he went there for undergrad, graduate, possibly PhD. Other than the amazing food, I also got super excited for Cornell after hearing all of their stories. That was probably when it really hit me that I would be away from home for three weeks at Cornell. 

Fast Forward throughout all of my Cornell experience, five planes, and all the packing I'm now home writing this blog. My ILC experience has been crazy hectic, but something I will treasure forever. I learned so much about communication, following instructions, and even packing while going through ILC and for that I am extremely grateful to everyone who helped make it possible for me to go to Cornell. I would have never been able to visit University of Chicago to realize that I want to apply early decision there or experience the rigor and pains of taking a college course at Cornell. I would have never met all of my new friends from all over the US and world or take pictures with a waterfall slapping water right onto my face. I wouldn't have really even gone anywhere outside my house if not for ILC. The amount of work ILC required was very tiring when all I wanted to do was sleep, but it's taught me a lot and I wouldn't have rather done anything else during this time. Thank you to everyone that's followed me throughout this journey and made it possible. 

Time At Cornell

As soon as I arrived at Cornell, I already knew I would hate the amount of walking I would have to do. I dragged my suitcase, carry on, and backpack up a hill and several flights of stairs. I thought I would never make it up to my dorm. Little did I know, I soon grew used to it and made an amazing group of friends while walking all around Cornell's campus. 

It took me about two weeks to find a solid group of friends that I felt really close to. Before this, I met a lot of people and knew who they were, but they weren't really people I felt as if I'd stay in contact with. I had heard so much about how you'll meet life-long friends that you do so much with. So, needless to say, I was a little bit disappointed at the very beginning, but as time went on I met a great group of friends that I ended up ordering late night snacks with and cracking up laughing while studying for exams. I’ve never had so much fun studying because I usually just study by myself since I find it to be more efficient, but studying in a group really showed how sometimes a break is necessary and motivation from others can really help. It also helped when the other person had a different understanding and explained it to me through their eyes, which showed me a different way of thinking.

In terms of academics, it was an amazing environment. I’ve never been in a more academically focused environment before. Everyone was always on top of their reading because no one wanted to fall behind. This motivated me to not only keep up with the large amount of reading, but actually take the time to understand the text rather than just skim through it because I wanted to be able to participate in the discussions and give my opinions. I would say I was barely slightly above average in the class and I didn’t care at all. Usually, I care a lot about grades and work hard to maintain an A in every class, but at Cornell it didn’t really matter because I knew I was learning a lot of material and giving it my all. It was just truly about wanting to learn rather than trying to get a good grade in a subject that I was forced to take to fulfill requirements.

After coming home, I’ve realized how different I am in terms of work ethic. Before, it would take me forever to start doing any work, but after going through Summer College, I’m able to just sit at my desk and work for hours without really thinking about anything else. I think this is because the amount of work I have to do now seems so small compared to what I did at Summer College. Also, I’ve realized how much easier it is to do work if you really have nothing else to do. At Cornell, I would have to walk out in the hot sun and for a long time before I could get anywhere, so I really didn’t feel motivated to go out to far places that often.

Not only am I better work wise, but I can definitely tell I’m less of a brat. I don’t really care if I have to do laundry or fold clothes anymore because it’s so much easier doing laundry at home than it was at the dorms. The washing machine is right next to my room and I don’t have to drag it to the basement. Nor do I have to swipe a card before washing my clothes. I can just load my clothes and press some buttons. After being away from home for three weeks and essentially having to take care of myself, I’ve learned how great being at home and having everything on the same floor. Before this trip, there were times when I was even too lazy to walk ten steps to the bathroom because it was so far away, but at Cornell I had to walk so much more and do so much more just to go to the bathroom. I had to make sure I didn’t leave my keys, have my ID card, etc.

Altogether, this was truly a life-changing experience that gave me a glimpse of what college will be like. Not only was it similar to college academically, but also the amount of freedom I had. I never had to think about really telling anybody where I was or what I was doing. If I wanted to go to the mall then I would take a bus to the mall and I didn’t have to inform anybody, which was pretty amazing. For once in my life, I was treated as an adult and I thoroughly enjoyed it and it makes me really look forward to college. Of course, it all came with a lot of responsibility and things that I needed to remember to do. All of this taught me a lot about time management. I always had to plan out time for homework, laundry, and especially food because the dining halls were only open during certain times and I really didn’t want to miss a meal. Even if there were times that I felt pained having to do everything, I still wouldn’t trade this experience for anything because of how much I grew as a person, both academically and mentally (my mom says physically too, but I don't see it).