Friday, August 1, 2014

Is This It? I Hope Not

An old email I sent to Don right
after he announced that the Vanderbilt
 program was available to everyone.
Late last year, around December, I remember being accepted into the interview portion of this whole adventure. My friends knew, my family, even people in Nigeria knew because of my parents. There was a lot of pressure not only from myself but from people around me. I felt like I needed to make it into the program because there were so many of people in my school that I thought deserved it more than I did. I've always been my harshest critic so after my interview, I felt as if I did everything wrong. Low and behold I made it. I remember exactly how how it was announced. "We wish we could take all of you but we can't. So these are the four that we are accepting; we want Jasmine, Shanti, Chiamaka, and we want Carson." To be honest it felt like the lady was speaking so slowly and every syllable felt so stretched out. It felt like a really long time before she said my name. I also remember being really happy for Shanti because she was my best friend and I thought she deserved it more than anyone. After she said my name, I was so happy. I don't think I can remember a time before when I had been that happy. I remember turning to hug Shanti, but she wasn't there because she had to leave early for an Orchestra concert. Because of my placement in the interviews, I wouldn't have made it to my Orchestra concert. But at that moment, it was okay because I was going to Vanderbilt. 
The three Musketeers

Being accepted into the program with my best friend made it that much sweeter. For the rest of the school year, Shanti and I talked endlessly about how much fun we were going to have this summer. I remember being on the football field one night with her and we were yelling at the top of our lungs "Nashville here we come!" To be perfectly honest, I thought our cohort was perfect the way it was. We had the best week of traveling ever. I think the only awkward day we had, was the first night in New York where no one really talked but after that, we all became really good friends. I remember having awesome late night conversations with Jasmine and Shanti. Jasmine was quiet at first but in no time we were all really close. We spent most of our first week traveling all together laughing at insiders we had made up the night before. I feel like if Jasmine went to my school, her and I would be really close friends. Jasmine and I were really excited for our class. I was thrilled to learn that she wanted to be a pediatrician or do something in Neurology or both. I believe that she can do anything she sets her mind to. Fourth of July was probably my favorite day. I got to see the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and more. We got to see the fireworks from the best view possible. I loved seeing the museums but it was the company that made all the difference. 

best roommate I could ask for
Coming to Vanderbilt was nerve wrecking to say the least. I was so nervous about not making any friends. I'm not the most social person and I easily saw myself holed up in my dorm not talking to anyone. I remember being so scared that my roommate would already have friends and would forget all about me. Boy was I wrong! I've made better friends here than I've made anywhere else. Everyone was so nice. Southern hospitality is definitely real. I don't think I remember meeting anybody that was rude. During the first week at VSA, it seemed like everyone was returner and all the returners stuck together so it was hard to make friends with people that already had their own friend group. But after that, everyone was so open and it was easier to talk to people. My roommate, Chelsea, and I became so much closer and we got in trouble a few times for talking past 11 o'clock. Shanti, Jasmine, Abigail, Stephanie, and Kristina were the best breakfast, lunch, and dinner buddies a girl could ask for. And of course all the girls in our proctor for being great friends. 

Being in our Med class was unlike any class I've ever been in. Everyone was so smart. I felt so behind, and felt as if my education was not on the level that it should be. But, I was learning so much just by listening. If I could do it over, I would have definitely talked a lot more in class. I was challenged with topics that were sometimes over my head but for the most part, it was a really good class. Shadowing in the OR was the best experience in my life. I got to see an actual heart! This might be a strange reason to be excited, but for me it was the best. I aspire to be heart surgeon and it would be a dream come true to be able to see and fix broken hearts for the rest of my life. Being in this class was so hands on. I remember being able to touch a lung that had cancer (with gloves of course). My only regret is I didn't take a picture in my scrubs. It's okay because I'm most likely going to spend the rest of my career in scrubs. 

I am forever grateful to the Ivy League connections for providing me with this life changing opportunity. I've learned a lot about myself and about my future in education. I will never really think of school the same way. I've always noticed the aspects of our school that could change for the better, but because of the Ivy League Connection, I feel empowered to be the person to change it. I would like to say that I challenge myself but this program has made me realize that I am not challenging myself enough or not in the right places. I can't wait for the Ivy League Connection to see what I do with these experiences in the future. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

My Great Journey Coming to the End...

I remember the day of my interview for the Ivy League Connection. I was one of the nine who were emailed to get interviewed to go to Vanderbilt for the summer. I was so nervous and my hands began to get clammy. I saw students who were chosen come in with this bold confidence that I thought I didn't have. Don called me to go first and I walked in to the classroom corridor to my interview, not knowing that later that corridor was my door to one of the best opportunities of my life.

Being part of the Ivy League Connection has wonderfully opened me to a whole new set of opportunities. If I was asked whether I wanted to go to a college in the East Coast or out of state overall before the Ivy League Connection, I would have said no. The Ivy League Connection has allowed me to see what the East Coast is really like and clear any misconceptions I had about it. I have broaden my knowledge about the schools there and I have experienced great things.

Every event the that the Ivy League Connections sponsors has a point and meaning to it and reflecting back, I know what I have learned from them. For example, the dinners were very useful and helpful. Looking back, not only did I remember the delicious food I ate but I also remembered all the interesting people I met. Those people included: alumni, students, sponsors, and admission administrators. Although they were making sure they were selling their school to us, they also were able to help me understand certain aspects of going to school on the East Coast on a larger scale.

The first dinner with the Vanderbilt alumni.

My favorite dinner was the Georgetown dinner. I felt as if that I connected with everyone very well. I thought out of all the dinners, I connected with the students there the most. I have great contact with them and they helped me understand what I am looking for in colleges when I apply. We also discussed some tips about college applications and standardized testing, which will be useful to me soon.

Another important aspect of being part of the Ivy League Connection is that I was able to go on college tours. We had a college tour at Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, and Georgetown. Going on the college tours were helpful to me because I learned what colleges on the East Coast are looking for in students and what they require for them to apply. I also learned what the standardized testing requirements were to apply, which will be useful later. 

One thing that I realized was that most colleges take the ACT and the SAT. My school tells students, colleges prefer the SAT over ACT, therefore we aren't informed about the ACT at all. I want this to change because we need to understand what both the standardized testing are about and how to improve ourselves when we take them.

Although we had a chaperone, we were mainly independent for most of the trip. I had a lot of mixed feeling about being independent for the time. During the first week of the trip I realized that being independent was actually pretty nice. I liked having more control of my life and doing certain things for myself. Since I was farther away from home, it allowed me to understand that I can handle being away from home and I can take care of myself just as well. 

During the three weeks of session at VSA, I met some of the most amazing people and students. I loved working with students who were just as ambitious and driven. I don't usually get the chance to work with student who are just as motivated as I am. Working in a high thriving environment was different from the environment in my public school. In my class, Speicial Topics in Math, we  definitely explored different topics at a fast pace. I loved my class because we went over certain topics and theories in math that are never explained. For example, game theory, number theory, and the Fibonacci numbers. I admired how we were able to test out each theory and work on certain puzzlers that allowed us to understand why they work. Not only did I learn certain math topics but I also learned how to better myself as a student and skills that I can use later in my high school career. The classes I take at my regular public school can't compare with the experience I had in that class.

Me, Stephanie, Chiamaka, Abigail

My lovely cohort.

My cohort representing our love for Vanderbilt.

Me and these beautiful ladies.
Being part of the Vanderbilt Summer Academy was an amazing experience. I met students that taught me different things I never knew. I met people that made an ever-lasting impression on me. I will remember each and every wonderful soul that I have met. I will definitely stay in contact with them. I have been part of this great community of students who are just down right amazing. Being part of the VSA family, as we like to call it, is something that I can't forget nor let go because it has impacted my life.

The Ivy League Connection is hard work. It took a lot of effort and dedication to be part of this program. The process of being accepted was stressful, but it was worth it. Being a representative of the Ivy League Connection is something I take pride in. I have learned so much from this program and I have bettered myself as a student and as an individual. There is not enough ways to show my gratitude for the Ivy League Connection, their sponsors, my cohort, and my chaperone because they made it possible for me to have that best time of my life. I just can't wait to teach everyone what I've learned. I am so thankful to have been chosen for this opportunity and to be part of this great program.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The ILC Journey: From Start to Finish

I first heard about the ILC in tenth grade when Don came to our school. The idea of going to the East Coast had seemed very foreign, but I applied anyways; however, I was not successful. I realized that I had lost a great opportunity, so I applied again my junior year. I was determined to apply to Vanderbilt, and my determination proved worthy at the interview.

I was very nervous on the day of the interview, and what made me more nervous was that this was my last chance. When I heard my name called at the interview, there were no words that could describe my excitement; and, my excitement did not end there. After the interview, we had numerous events- dinners, school board meetings, and orientations- that prepared me for my trip. These events gave me the opportunity to meet Vanderbilt alumni and learn about their experiences.
Then came the day when we had to leave for the airport. It was an emotional time for me because I had never traveled without my parents; the longest I had stayed away from them was only a couple of days. It was hard saying good-bye, but I knew that great opportunities awaited me.

I really enjoyed touring the different colleges the first couple of days. Before this trip, the only college I had honestly visited was UC Berkeley- which is fifteen minutes away from my house. However, after this trip, I became more open-minded about other colleges. For instance, I learned that a college called Georgetown University existed and that it has a great medical program.

I also greatly benefitted from the dinners with the alumni and admission officers. At first, it was a bit nerve-wrecking to talk with admission officers, but I realized that they were only there to help me. I was able to clarify questions that I had about college.

When we first had arrived at Vanderbilt, I was very nervous and I even felt a little homesick. I had become close friends with Shanti and Chiamaka, and I was afraid to be separated from them. Fortunately, we were all in the same proctor group- which provided some comfort. Being naturally quiet, I was worried about making friends; I was worried about what type of roommate I would get. My roommate was a great person, and she became one of my close friends. It was hard to make friends at first because a lot of the students were returners and already knew each other. It took a while, but I did make friends in the first couple of days. VSA had planned a lot of fun activities that made it easier to meet new people and bond together. I soon became a part of the VSA family.

I also met a lot of great students in my Med School class. The Med School class exceeded my expectations. I was given the opportunity to shadow physicians; I was able to shadow a neurologist and ask questions about the profession- which could potentially be my future profession. I was also able to go into the OR and see a spinal cord surgery. The instructors for the class were amazing; they addressed any questions we had about medical school. I realized that medical school requires a lot of work, but it is fun at the same time; during their third year in medical school, medical students are able to shadow physicians around the hospital. I also discovered that Vanderbilt has a great medical program, so I have started considering Vanderbilt has an option for college.
Outside of the classroom, the dorm rooms were a whole different experience. I had to do everything on my own, from taking out the trash to maintaining a clean, tidy room. I also had to make sure that my actions complied with those of my roommate’s. The dorm rooms gave me a sense of independence because my mother wasn’t telling me to pick up after myself or telling me to eat healthy food. I had to make these small but important decisions on my own. The dorm rooms truly gave me a hands-on experience on an important element of college life.

The ILC has tremendously impacted my life, and I can’t thank Don, Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and Mr. Mannix enough for this. I feel much more prepared for college than I was just a month ago. College no longer seems like a far and foreign dream. The ILC encouraged me to break out my shell and step out of my comfort zone. Although the trip is over, the knowledge and experience I gained will continue to accompany me next year and throughout college. I hope that my blogs have inspired other students to take advantage of this opportunity because I promise that it will be a life changing event!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I'm Coming Home...

I woke up this morning, worried about various things. I worried about my luggage and how the day was going to be like. Most importantly I was worried about saying good-bye to a family that I was welcomed and adopted into in the past three weeks.

My VSA Family
Top: Meg(Proctor), Shanti(me), Karina, Chelsea, Emily, Reesa, Abigail
Bottom: Stephanie, Chiamaka, Kaitlin, Jill, Jasmine, Ashley

As I sat down for breakfast, I observed the commons room. What I saw was the same thing I saw for the last three weeks and that was intelligent young minds carrying out their day. Like me they all have gotten used to this regular schedule at VSA that we will all miss when we return home. Looking at my surrounding I was fully aware of the fact that, I wasn't going to be in this kind of high thriving intelligent environment like this for a while. 

After breakfast, we had some time to say our goodbyes to our friends before everyone departed. Saying goodbye is never easy for me and I absolutely dread saying goodbyes, but I had to. With some of the amazing people I've met, there is a high chance that I wont see them again, but that did not stop me from friending them on social media sites and collecting their numbers to keep in contact. 

We all came back to the dorm rooms at 9 AM. During the left over time we had time to finish packing and wait till our guardians checked us out of VSA. Since I already finished packing earlier, I wanted to spend my remainder of my time with my dearest friends. I went to each and every room and said goodbye even though we weren't leaving yet.

I came back into my dorm room and saw all the emptiness that had taken place of what I called home for the past few weeks. All I could think of was deja vu. I distinctly remember walking into the same empty room on the first day of VSA and being overwhelmed. Now when I look at it, all I see were the memories spent in that same room, which was room 314 in Hank Ingram.

After some time more people started to leave. It became harder and harder to bare the fact that VSA was over as more people began to leave.Since I was able to go on other floors, my friends and I decided to see who was there still. At about 10:00 AM, most of the student had already left and what once used to be the hallways full of eager students, was now empty hallways of memories. We saw some of our other proctor members and decided to stay with them until they had to leave.

Cohorts and Our Loved Proctors!
Our chaperone, Mr.Mannix, came by around 10:30 AM. I was so eager to see our great and amazing chaperone once again. After saying our last good byes to our VSA family, we left. It was very emotional leaving people who I've called family for my time here. I remember as I walking down the hallway and said my last goodbye to my proctor, Meg Touville, I started to cry because I felt like a piece of my heart was being left at VSA and I couldn't stay any longer. 

After a long morning, we went out and had some lunch. Since our flight wasn't until 5 PM, we had some extra time to do some final shopping. When it was around 3:30 PM, we went to the airport. The airport was again a long but exciting experience. Before we headed back to the West Coast, we had a quick stop at Chicago. Then from Chicago, we left for California. On the plane ride to California, I met this nice young woman I sat next to on the plane. Her name was Sara and she returning to California, as well. Although our conversation only lasted a bit, I learned that she played waterpolo like I do and she went to high school a few districts away from my school district. I told her about the Ivy League Connections and she was satisfied to find out that those opportunities existed for student like me these days.

We arrived at the Oakland Airport around 11 PM. I saw my sister there waiting for me and I ran to her. Although I was very sad to have left Vanderbilt I was so happy to see my sister's face. We grabbed my luggage and left. Before we left I said goodbye and thanks to my chaperone and cohort, for being there with me when I experienced this great opportunity. 

It is so hard to believe that I have been at Vanderbilt for three weeks. Its feels too short to be true. I will always had a special place in my heart for the Vanderbilt Summer Academy. I will not forget what I have learned and what I have experienced because those are the reasons why I have changed for the the better. 

At our final destination : Home

Goodbye VSA

It was hard saying goodbye to VSA today. It is hard to believe that I am most likely not going to meet all  of these wonderful students again. My friends and I had spent most of the morning cherishing our memories and spilling tears. We talked about the first impressions we had of each other, and how we bonded overtime. 

After breakfast, everyone in my proctor slowly trickled out; there were only a couple of us remaining from my proctor group. We were supposed to leave earlier, but our van did not arrive until later. This created an even more sullen environment because the hallways seemed very empty.

We left Vanderbilt around 12:30. We went to Opry Mills Mall for the last time, which helped brighten our day. We had lunch there- I ate pizza from a restaurant called The Villa. We also did a little more shopping; luckily, I had plenty of extra space in my luggage. I also ended up meeting one of my classmate's from VSA who lives in Nashville We talked about how it felt weird not wearing our VSA lanyards around our necks- which we had become so accustomed to.

After the mall, we headed straight to the airport. Because we arrived early, we had the opportunity to go to one of the gift shops in the airport. I bought a hoodie that says Nashville, Tennessee to serve as a reminder of my trip.

I did not enjoy the plane ride. I felt really sick; plus it was extremely cold in the airplane. We had a layover at Chicago for about thirty minutes. During the thirty minutes, Chiamaka, Shanti, and I took silly pictures of each other. It helped the time go faster, and it made us all laugh. Our flight arrived in Oakland about half an hour late. I was extremely excited to see my family. My dad, uncle, and brother came to pick me up. When I arrived home, my mom and grandmother were waiting at the door. It felt great to see their smiling faces, which I hadn't seen for almost a month. I am happy to be back home, but I also miss my family back at Vanderbilt. Within just three weeks, I developed a close relationship with my proctor, my instructors, and my friends. It feels as though just yesterday I had arrived at Vanderbilt, and now I am already back!

The Final Day

Today was the final day in Vanderbilt. More tears were shed. I was so sad to be leaving the great friends that I have made here. We vowed to stay in touch and I hope that our promises are kept. I really, really hope that fate will allow our paths to cross again. We didn't leave Vanderbilt until about noon which made it even sadder because we were one of the last people there. I got to say goodbye to my lovely roommate and we promised to check in on each other at least once a month via text or whatever. Goodbyes aren't fun.

When Mr. Mannix came to pick us up, it was sort of a bittersweet sight. It was nice to see Mr. Mannix, but seeing him made it so real that we were going to leave. It was really hard to leave Vanderbilt but the last minute shopping that we did afterwards made it a bit easier. I was able to get some last minute presents for friends as well as a couple of things for myself. I was texting my friends from Vandy the whole time. The idea of being back to California was so strange, it felt like I had been away for so long. After shopping we headed towards the airport. The plane ride was quiet. I sat with Shanti and Jasmine and we were definitely excited to be on our way back home, but we were also leaving home behind. Does that make sense?

We had a layover in Chicago that lasted about an hour or so. Seeing Chicago from the plane was really pretty. Everything was brightly lit up and the buildings were so nice. I've never been to Chicago before now but I would love to visit some time. My phone died while were were in Chicago which made me really sad because it meant that I wouldn't be able to text my friends and respond to their snapchat messages. Is it too dramatic to say that a part of me died along with my phone? The flight from Chicago to Oakland felt so long because it was freezing in the plane. At first I thought I would be able to stand the AC but it felt like I was going to freeze to death. I went through the struggle of looking for the sweatshirt that I conveniently bought at the last airport and put it on. 

We finally made it to Oakland. Seeing my mom's face was breathtaking and my sister was there too. I laughed because if I hadn't, I would have cried. It's nice to be home. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Last Full Day...

My morning wasn't the same as the usual because I knew that it was going to be the last full day at VSA. Since it was the last full day the Vanderbilt Summer Academy's Head Leadership Team and the proctors all, planned to go to one of Nashville's famous pancakes place, which is the Pancake Pantry. Going there was completely optional but I wanted to go because I knew that time was running out to be with the people that I will miss the most. 

Since I have already had the opportunity of going to Pancake Pantry, earlier this month, I decided to get something different. My instructor, Dawson, had recommended to order their Famous Sweet Potato Pancakes, when class started. I decided to take a chance and try them. There were so fluffy and delightful. I couldn't imagine my breakfast going any better. I'm going to miss walking down the streets of Nashville and being able to go to different places like the Pancake Pantry.

After breakfast we had to hurry back to the dorms. We arrived at the campus grounds at around 8:10 AM and classes started 9:00 AM. As I was walking to class, it felt like something was holding me back. The resistance to go to class was because of the fact that today was the last day of class. 

Class today was great like always. We learned some new material and went over some old. After, we watched a movie that was math related. It was called "Beautiful Mind". It was a very good movie. Later we worked on more puzzlers. Our instructors wanted to make sure that we had some class time dedicated to taking pictures and exchanging contact information. For the last thirty minutes of class we took a few photos as a momentum of what a great time we had in the class. 

Mr.Dawson Gray! 
"We are the real athletes of the nation...
 we are the mathletes"
"Math is Life" 
Last group photo of the proctor! 

After class it time for VSA's Closing Ceremony. This ceremony was dedicated to all the students who worked hard for the past three weeks and all the staffs members who constantly worked to make sure every student had the best experience possible. A small portion of the ceremony was to acknowledge those who have been dedicated to being part of the VSA team and program for so many years. It was very sad for me to say good-bye to the people who I have grown strong relations with as friends,    mentors, and even as family. But I knew that the real goodbye didn't start at the ceremony but when we all went back to our dorms later on that night.

Before the actual goodbyes, we all had to prepare ourselves for the upcoming dance tonight. The theme was "Shipwrecked".I was a little confused on how to go about the theme but I found a solution. I was excited about the dance because it was said that students controlled the music with close provision. I was hoping for some really good songs to play. The dance was well thought out. I loved the decorations, the music, and the enthusiasm each student brought to show their love for VSA. The dances are absolutely one of my favorite activities that happened in VSA. 

After we all went back to our dorms for some free time. Although it wasn't much we all gathered in the common floors in the building and started to sign each others term books.  The term books are Vanderbilt's way of helping the students remember their great time in Vanderbilt in 2014. There are closely similar to a regular yearbook but on a small scale. All the classes and proctor groups had their own page. I was so happy to have received the term book because I got a lot of people to sign mine, telling me to keep in touch with them. I was happy that this experience has allowed me to meet new people and friends.

At the end of my extraordinary day, I had a proctor meeting. In today's proctor meeting, we all reflected on what we learned from this experience and what we have absorbed from others in the past three weeks. I thought about how this experience has changed me as an individual and as a student. Near the end of the proctor meeting we talked about how much we were going to miss each other. We all agreed even though we won't see each other much we weren't going to say goodbye. We aren't going to say goodbye because we know that we are always going to be talking with each other even if we are in different parts of the country.