Monday, June 30, 2014

We’re Just Getting Started

Welcome to New York City
We have departed at last! I am writing this blog from my hotel room in Manhattan. The cohort met up at El Cerrito High, as expected, and departure went smoothly. My mother decided to come along for the ride to drop me off, since she didn’t want to see me leave, though as soon as I left the car, my brother and my mom drove off right away.

When I walked over to the group, Don weighed my luggage, checked for my identification card and medical information card, and gave me luggage tags. Luggage tags are incredibly useful, and after a past incident, I will always ensure that I have a luggage tag of some sort for my checked bags. Don also gave everyone ribbons to tie around their luggage to help us identify our luggage.

The cohort gathered to the side and had a conversation while we waited for Don to proceed. When he did, he passed out itineraries for everyone and explained some procedures and expectations. Essentially, he warned us not to make any mistakes.

Our bus to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) soon arrived. We loaded our luggage and left behind Don and all of our parents, though my family had already left. The Vanderbilt cohort found seats near the back of the bus, and we chatted throughout the bus ride. Our conversation helped pass the time, and we got to bond.

When we arrived at SFO, we checked in our bags and proceeded through security. The ladies of the group were allowed in the priority lane, while Mr. Mannix and I had to go through the much longer regular line. We grabbed breakfast before we boarded our plane, which turned out to be an uneventful direct flight to the JFK airport in New York City.

After we landed and grabbed our luggage (thankfully, there was no hassle), we ran into trouble with our transportation out of the airport. Our driver had an accident, so we found a shuttle to Hotel Beacon. After we arrived, we checked into our rooms, and Mr. Mannix gave us much needed time to unwind before we headed out for dinner.

We walked down Broadway and found an Italian restaurant named Serafina. It seemed like the type of place to target tourists, judging by the prices. I ordered a steak, which came with fries, and I enjoyed my meal. I didn’t have to pay, but it still hurts me to think of the prices.
We need lots of photos for our blogs!
After dinner, we spent some time walking around. We went to the Central Park, which is absolutely massive! I find it peculiar how it has roads running through it. I feel that cars cutting through a park undermine the serenity of the Central Park. We did some sightseeing: we went to the Lake to observe for a little bit and saw some fireflies, we saw a large water fountain, and we walked around a concert. The idea of so much activity and human life in a park bothers me slightly, because I think of a deserted place when I imagine a park.
Walkin' around New York City
We walked back to the hotel from the park, and we saw the liveliness of the Big Apple at night! The size of the skyscrapers is quite awe-inspiring, though this comes from someone who is still amazed by the smaller skyscrapers of Oakland.

After we arrived at the hotel, we parted ways and returned to our rooms. I have my own room, which is actually rather nice, though I won’t be staying here for too long. I tried to get on the internet when I came back, though I ran into an error: there were too many people on the Wi-Fi! I looked around the room for an Ethernet outlet, hoping that it would work instead, but there were none, so I was without internet for a bit. I still got my blog complete though.

Although today was a long day, we still have quite a bit ahead of us. We haven’t actually seen any colleges yet, nor have we met with anyone important to the objective of this trip. Tomorrow is when the fun begins! After all, we’re just getting started.

Here We Are New York!!!

I woke up early at 2:10 AM and got ready, although it wasn't much, I left my house with a grey hoodie, a shirt, and a pair of sweatpants. As I was getting ready to leave, I said my last good-byes to my parents. They wished me well, a safe travel, and told me specifically to call them everyday. My sister and I left the house around 2:30 AM to drop me off at El Cerrito High School.

All the Ivy League Connection cohorts were suppose to meet at El Cerrito High School at around 3:50 AM, but I arrived around forty minutes earlier. Since I was the first to arrive, Don had a few tasks that I could do for the duration of the time. I completed my tasks to the best of my ability. After a while I started to see more cohorts arrive and we started to weigh all the luggage. After all the luggages were approved by Don, we went over some details about the trip and what is expected of us. Lastly we took our departure pictures. As we were taking to departure photos, the bus to pick up all the Ivy League cohorts. 

I planned to sleep during the bus ride to the air port because I was still a bit tired, but I was too excited to even blink. The bus ride was really nice because the Vanderbilt cohorts were able to talk to each other not only as Ivy League cohorts but as friends. I got to know everyone better as an individual and I really appreciated it. We talked the whole bus ride. What was suppose to be a long trip felt like about twenty minutes of bonding; soon enough we got to the airport. Passing through the airport check-in wasn't as bad as I thought it would have been. After the TSA check-in, we went into the GATE 55 lounge area and decided to get some breakfast in the lounge area called Burger Joint. I ordered some breakfast, which was perfect before going onto the plane. 
The "Burger Joint"
I ordered the breakfast sandwich with the side of fresh fruit.

As we walked in the tunnel to get on the airplane, I felt myself get a rush of adrenaline and enthusiasm after every step I took toward the airplane. All the cohorts were surprised that we sat next to each other in the same row but it was fine because I was fortunate enough to get the window seat. I sat next to Jasmine and we were able to talk about different things like the airlines, and what we were most excited about. As the plane began to move, I was thrilled. 

The airline that we traveled with was Virgin Mobile. I was very impressed by the airlines. One thing that  admired was their creative way of showing the basic guide and information being on an airplane. It was really entertaining because it was a music video. I haven't been on an air plane since I was 8 and my travels from then was very different from how I experienced it now. One thing that was memorable for me about the air ride was the moment when we start to fly. Flying in the air was breath taking. I was in absolute awe and amazement. I loved seeing the city in a different perspective it was just so wonderful. I was thankful for the window seat and being able to experience the view up front.

When the plane was close to landing, I couldn't believe that I was actually in New York. Seeing New York was just as breathtaking that I imagined, maybe even more. When the plane landed all I wanted to do was get out there and experience New York! Unfortunately our bus didn't arrive to pick us up because of some issues but Mr.Mannix managed to get us another way of transportation which was great. 

As we arrived to the Hotel Beacon, we were greeted by this enthusiastic doorman. We got our luggage and went into our rooms to settle. After, we all met downstairs and went out to eat for dinner. We went to this Italian place called Senafina. It was an exquisite dinner. I ordered the Tagliolini Di "Cortina" Al Pollo. The meal was fulling and amazing.

Our Grand Hotel
This is what our room looked like.

This a menu from Senafina.

Tagliolini Di "Cortina" Al Pollo

After dinner, we strolled down to Central Park. Central Park was something I was looking forward to. When I thought New York was done surprising me, I was amazed by Central Park's simplicity and beauty. The park was big but there was so much to see. We decided to look at the lake. The lake was so peaceful and had its own authentic beauty to it; for instance, there was wooden bridge that was placed across the other side of the lake. Above the lake were trees that ascended up to the sky and even higher than the trees were the magnificent buildings. In addition, there was a fountain that was absolutely spectacular. Central Park was an amazing experience and seeing New York at it's finest gave me a lasting impression of the East Coast so far.
The view of the lake with the buildings.

The wooden bridge on the other side of the lake.

To end our night we walked toward the city lights and buildings. We traveled through the traffic and the busy streets and arrived to our hotel safely.

Today Was A Beautiful Day

I was so excited to pull up in front of El Cerrito High School because I saw my best friend Shanti already there. The day was finally here. I was finally going to go to the East Coast for the first time. When everyone arrived, we all gathered together to weigh our luggages, final arrangements, and of course take a group photo. We received our final itinerary which was filled with so many things for us to do and see each day.  

Before we got on the plane, we all stopped for some breakfast. I had a simple breakfast sandwich with bacon which was definitely satisfying. After we finished breakfast, we made our way to the plane. My first plane ride was breathtaking. Even though I didn't get a window seat like I hoped for, I made the best of it. I was still able to see through the window and view the clouds. The sky has a strange way of calming me. I sat next to a Carson, during the ride and we mainly talked about how he knows a few people that live in New York. 

After seven hours on a plane, we arrived in New York. There was a bit of a problem getting out of the airport right away because our scheduled driver had gotten in a car accident and it would have taken up to an hour to send a replacement car. So while we were waiting, the funniest thing happened. A woman who worked at the airport was calling out for a group of five heading out to the city. Which we all saw as a miracle because we just happen to be group of five heading to the city. I believe that small coincidence was a sign that this day would be a day to remember.

There was a lot of traffic on our way to the hotel but it wasn't all that bad because we were able to entertain each other in the car with different topics that Shanti provided. We talked about what we were looking forward to during trip. We also shared some laughs about the funny lyrics on the radio. There was also a lot to look at while in the car. The buildings were like nothing I've ever seen. They were all so grand, it was hard not to get carried away.

When we reached the hotel, we were able to unwind for about half an hour before we went out for dinner. We ate at Senafina, a cute, little Italian Restaurant in the upper west side of Manhattan. It was a short walk from our hotel which was the icing on the cake. I ordered the Spaghetti All’aragosta. It was better than I expected primarily because I'm not a big fan of tomato sauce, but it was delicious. The plate came with half a lobster which was mouthwatering. I've never had lobster before so this was the best way to try it.
After Dinner, we went sightseeing. I saw Central Park for the first time. It's definitely the biggest park I've ever seen. There was a concert happening at the time but we couldn't find a way in. However, the band sounded great from afar. We stopped by the lake in the park. It was a beautiful setting. We were able to stand on some rocks which provided the best view of the lake. It felt like more than just looking at the lake; we were experiencing it. I would have loved it even more if it wasn't for all bugs around. Shanti, however, was very fascinated by the fireflies that were flying around the park. Carson even tried capturing a couple of pictures for her. 

Carson and Shanti enjoying the view
Carson in his natural habitat

Nightlife in New York is just as vivacious as Day life. People were biking, running, and even riding horse carriages. It was really cool to see but the smell wasn't that great. There were so many lights illuminating the city. It was truly a sight for sore eyes. We walked around for a bit and even stopped at Pinkberry for smoothies. I didn't get a smoothie because there wasn't a flavor, in my opinion, that was worth the price. Today was the best way to start off this amazing adventure and I can't wait to discover brings us. 
View From The Lake

Arrival at New York City

I woke up at 2:20 AM today- ten minutes before my alarm rang- out of my excitement to reach the East Coast. I arrived at El Cerrito High School at 3:45 PM. We weighed and labeled the luggage. Before we departed, we took a group photo. The bus arrived right on time once we were finished with the pictures.

The bus ride was fun, and it went by really quickly. The Vanderbilt Cohort sat together. It gave us an opportunity to bond together even more. We talked about our schools and told each other stories. When we arrived at the airport, I was a little nervous. However, the check-in process was quite simple. Chiamaka, Shanti, and I went through the pre-TSA approved line. We were separated from Mr. Mannix and Carson which made us a little worried because we were not experienced with flying. However, it did not take that long, and I was surprised that we didn't have to take off our shoes or scan the laptop separately. We waited for Mr. Mannix and Carson to come out. Then we got breakfast from Burger Joint. I decided to get a breakfast sandwich.

Afterwards we boarded the plane. I was seated in between Shanti and Mr. Mannix. I was really entertained by the plane take-off since I hadn't been on a plane for a while.The plane ride was smooth, but I felt a little sick in the middle. Once we reached the airport, we had to take a taxi to Beacon Hotel. We were delayed because the driver who was supposed to pick us up couldn't make it. There was a lot of traffic along with a lot of honking which reminded me a lot of San Francisco. We spent about half an hour in our hotel room to relax and unpack.
This is our hotel room.
Later on we had dinner at an Italian restaurant called Senafina. I decided to order theTagliolini Di Cortina al Pollo. I had a hard time pronouncing it. It was a tasty dinner, but I didn't have the capacity to finish it all. We had a great conversation. We started talking about the School Board

Once we had dinner, we went to Central Park. It was a really beautiful place, especially the lake. We did a lot of walking around the park; we even heard a concert going on. I realized that New York City looks really beautiful at night. I experienced a different environment than that of the West Coast. Even at 9:30 PM, people are still walking and jogging around. We took a long walk around the park as well as most of the city. We concluded today's journey by stopping at Pinkberry. I decided not to get anything because I was already stuffed from the meal.

Today's journey has made me even more excited for the upcoming days. I am looking forward to visiting Columbia University and having the Columbia dinner tomorrow.
This is Central Park

Departure Day

It was dark outside and although the thermometer said it was 55ยบ it still felt warm—possibly a precursor of the temps we might find once the sun crept over the horizon.  In any case, it was good weather for Departure Day.

Today we saw our Penn and Vanderbilt cohorts meet at the same time as they picked up their itineraries, received some last minute instructions and advice from Wise Don and posed for the group photos that come part and parcel with these gatherings. 
For lack of anything better to do while waiting for the ILCers and their chaperones to arrive, the mental wagering began as I bet on which ILCer would be the first to arrive.  Today it was Shanti Shrestha from the Vanderbilt cohort who arrived a full hour early.  I wondered to myself whether she read the emails right or whether she might have misunderstood what time she was supposed to be there.  There’s early and there’s REAL early.

In any case, she was there and she was ready to go.

As long as she was there, I figured I could put her to work assembling the luggage tags I had prepared for the cohorts.  Even though she destroyed one of the tags for her chaperone, she did a wonderful job.  If she ever applies for such a job when she’s ready to enter the job market, I’ll write that letter of recommendation that will seal the deal. 

As we approached the specified time to be at El Cerrito HS, the individual members of both cohorts started drifting in.  Some looked wide awake and ready to go while others looked like they had gotten out of bed only moments before and mentally wanted to crawl back under the covers to enjoy the comfort of their own beds.  I don’t blame them and as soon as I post this blog I’ll be doing the same.

The airport shuttle—a big white tourist bus—arrived right before 5:00 AM, the luggage was loaded and the ILCers bade their parents farewell.  As the shuttle’s taillights faded in the distance, those that were left behind realized that if we hurried we could catch a few more zzz’s before having to wake and ready ourselves for the day in front of us.  Sounds like a heck of a plan to me.

The Time Is Here

I've been making a bit of a mess while I packed!
The time is here! Well, almost. In just a few hours, I will be departing from home (again) and going to the East Coast (again)! The trip is almost here! (I feel like I'm pretty bad at titling things.)

At 3:50 AM, the Vanderbilt cohort must meet up at El Cerrito High School, along with the Penn (University of Pennsylvania) cohort. We are all meeting together since we are all flying this morning. I am expecting some discussion to happen and photos to be taken, and we leave for the airport at 5 AM. I have a copy of the itinerary, but I won't spoil the story so soon! I'll go over it as the story unfolds.

I've spent the day packing. I find myself packing so often that I'm quite used to it at this point. After all, I just came back from a flight last week! I had to pack from scratch, though, since I completely unpacked after I came home. It's okay, since I know what to pack and I'm quite experienced at it now.

I'm simultaneously worried and excited for the trip. My worries stem from having expectations that won't be met, since I've already had fantastic trips before, and I'm excited for new things; after all, it is still a trip! From what I've read, Vanderbilt Summer Academy is quite different from Summer@Brown. I'm glad that there's a bit of a jump, since it'll be harder to have expectations.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bye West Coast and Hello East Coast!

I'm leaving tomorrow, June 30, to embark on this wonderful journey. I have been so ecstatic about this experience that it has honestly been all that I have been thinking about. I can’t wait to go on the college tours, see the great sites, and experience the East Coast. I can’t wait wait to see what the East Coast has to offer and see what I can offer the East Coast.

My luggage
Packing was so difficult. I haven't traveled out of state without my family at all, so I was skeptical when it came to packing. I always second guess my clothing options and certain material I might or might not need. I constantly asked myself, "Do I really need this? Should I really bring this?" It was very hard and it took me a long time to pack, but luckily I had a list, a guideline of what I might need. I also had help from Chiamaka Nwadike, who is another Vanderbilt cohort/friend, and my sister, who often travels. If I didn't have help, I probably would be lost. I finished packing though and hopefully I packed everything I need.

Being so excited, I'm not sure how I am going to sleep, but I know I have to. I need to wake up early in the morning to meet all the cohorts at El Cerrito High School at 3:50 AM tomorrow. Once we reach El Cerrito we will have time to go over our luggage and other details about the trip. I need to make sure I am energized enough to get through the early day. I can't wait to start my journey on the East Coast.

The Days Have Turned To Hours

The past few days have consisted of me counting down to this very moment and in just a couple of hours, I will be on my very first plane. It seems as if the closer the takeoff day is, the longer the days seem to drag out. To say it feels surreal is an understatement. I really don't know how to feel at the moment. I'm feeling so many emotions at the same time. It's really overwhelming to say the least. I'm nervous, scared, excited, anxious, paranoid, and a list of many other things. The one emotion that I'm undoubtedly feeling is happiness. I'm seriously on cloud nine because I'll be able to experience this amazing adventure.

I packed about a week early just to satisfy the feeling of paranoia. I feel like forgetting something important is the worst thing that could happen at this point. So packing so early helped make me feel less stressed. Also, packing early gave me to opportunity to add anything I remember later on. Shanti and I were constantly face-timing and calling each other trying to plan out how to pack. I actually had to watch a Youtube video on the most efficient way to pack because I'm so inexperienced with traveling. While packing, I had to keep in mind that we had a 50 pound weight limit. I was sort of absentmindedly picking out my favorite t-shirts, shorts, pants, skirts, and dresses from my closet, that when I weighed my luggage, I was so surprised to see that it only weighed 35 pounds! (this is me packing heavy)
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step"
                                                    -Lao Tzu                                            
Alright enough of me packing. I'm so excited to be in New York, DC, Philadelphia, and Nashville for the first time. I hope to make the best of it. My sister even told me "if you don't make the most of New York, I'm gonna kill you." Of course she was kidding (I think) but I wouldn't be happy with myself if I didn't make the best of this whole experience.

Ready Set Go!

Since the past two weeks, I've been getting all the items on my packing list together. (I had a lot of shopping to do.) Because I was very inexperienced with packing, my mother had to help me. I was very paranoid about forgetting to pack something; however, I am all set now. Fortunately, my luggage does not exceed the weight limit.    

In just a couple more hours, I will be meeting Don and the rest of the Vanderbilt Cohort at El Cerrito High School. The opportunity that I have been waiting for since December is finally here. Since the interview, I have been preparing for this trip by attending the Vanderbilt Dinner, the School Board meeting, and the Orientation. Now that the trip is here, I feel more than prepared.

I am extremely excited to visit the East Coast for the first time. However, at the same time I am a little nervous. The last time I traveled on an airplane was eight years ago, and this will be my first time staying away from my family. I am going to miss my family back home, but I know that I am going to have a great time at Vanderbilt. I will be able to experience something new and different by living in the dorms. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

T-18 Days

We had our final meet and greet before heading off to Nashville in about two and a half weeks. We all decided to meet a Chipotle because of the variety of diets within our cohorts (no bananas!) I ordered a steak and rice burrito with a little too much sour cream. Nonetheless, it was a pretty good burrito.

This was another opportunity for us to ask any questions about our trip. Because a majority of our questions were answered at the Orientation, the meet and greet also served as a way for all of us to hang out in a casual setting. In between questions, we had a nice conversation about Carson's short trip to Brown in a couple of days or how Jasmine is a reserved but deadly type of girl. I can tell that we are all going to be really close friends by the end of the trip. As Mr. Mannix said, "you guys have great chemistry." I am really excited for our trip and I don't think it could be with a better group of individuals.

Carson wearing his nice Brown sweatshirt
Shanti and I had most of the questions mainly because we have the least amount of experience with traveling. Carson is pretty much a pro because of his frequent trips on airplanes so he, as well as Mr. Mannix, were giving some useful advice about what and how to pack. We talked about our busy schedules, hotels, and the possibility of getting nice matching snuggies (joking). 

We shared many laughs and jokes as the night ended. I'm sure we all left the table feeling a lot more comfortable with each other and our upcoming trip. 

Easing Fears at Chipotle

Our Vanderbilt cohort had a small function at Chipotle, to quell any last fears and to answer any questions regarding the trip. We started planning this at least a month in advance, and our chaperone, Mr. Mannix, suggested that we have this function after the end of the school year so we could focus on other concerns until then. I agreed with him, because I was worrying about standardized testing (I just finished my last one this week!). We decided on Chipotle due to the convenience it offered: it was close, it accommodated for dietary restrictions, and it was relaxed.

My brother and I were the first to arrive, which surprised me a bit. We had arrived ten minutes early, and I would have thought that one of the other four in the group (including the chaperone!) would be the type to arrive extra early. My brother and I sat down to wait for the others, and shortly after, Chiamaka inadvertently surprised me from behind when she said hi. I believe she was waiting in the car until she saw me walk in, so I think it would be fair to say that she arrived before me.

While we waited, my brother asked me to describe my cohort. I told him that we were four students and a chaperone, and it would only be this cohort at this function, as opposed to the entire ILC. I told him, "Our chaperone has a beard. You'll know it when you see him." Lo and behold, my brother saw Mr. Mannix before I did, though he was facing towards the outside while I had my back to the door. Mr. Mannix was greeting some recent graduates from his high school (since he's a teacher). 

After everyone arrived, Mr. Mannix told us what to expect from tonight. He outlined how we were to order our food, and he told us that the purpose of the function was to deal with any last minute questions or fears about our upcoming trip. While we waited in line, we made some small talk about various things, and a few of us cracked quite a few jokes. I do enjoy the company of these people, since they have a great sense of humor.

After ordering our food, we found seats outside. I suggested that we not stay inside, because it was noisy and I was not in the mood to shout all night long. We began to dig in; I ordered a steak burrito bowl. I had brown rice, black beans, corn, cheese, lettuce, and again, steak, in my bowl, topped with a healthy coating of hot sauce. Although Chipotle is a departure from traditional Mexican cuisine, I do enjoy it quite a bit. I also ordered a side of chips with guacamole. Just last week, I had made my own guacamole; it seems that Chipotle enjoys a much heavier dose of salt.

But I digress. Shanti tried to throw in as many questions as possible about the trip, such as was it a good idea to bring a neck rest for the flight. I had very few questions of my own, since I am accustomed to traveling, and I have participated in the ILC before. My brother also told Mr. Mannix that our family did not have any questions, since it is not the first time that I have traveled without them. While we ate, we also chitchatted about random things; at one point, we reflected on the ILC interview many months ago.

I enjoyed my time tonight. Although neither my brother (on behalf of my family) nor I had any questions, others had a handful. These people do make for good company, too. 

Chipotle Time!!!

Location at Chipotle in Pinole.
We finally had our meet and greet. It was held at the Chipotle in Pinole, at 7 PM. The meet and greet is an event where the chaperone, cohorts, and parent can familiarize with each other, ask question about the trip, clear any uncertainties, and get to know each other as an individual better.  

I was a little relieved to hear that the location would be at Chipotle because I knew that it was casual setting. Therefore it meant that I was allowed to wear casual clothes. I was glad to be able to show the cohorts and adult how I dress on a daily basis, as well as, see them dress casually on a daily basis. I think dressing like our usual selves really helped us act ourselves with each other.

I was a little unsure about the airport travels because I haven't been on a plane since I was eight. During the greet up I asked questions about the experience at an airport and other necessary information that I might need. As we were talking, I found out that one of the cohorts has experience with airlines. This gave me a little comfort knowing that if I needed any help, my cohort would be there to guide me.
All together once again.

Overall this event allowed my cohort members, our chaperone, parents, and I to get closer and know each other better. I thought this was a great opportunity to grab something to eat and talk among each other about ourselves, experiences, plans, and our up-coming trip.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Meet and Greet at Chipotle

 The Vanderbilt cohort had their meet and greet today at Chipotle in Pinole. We had a great time. It was an exciting atmosphere where everyone joked around. As soon as everyone came, we got in line to get our food. I decided to get a chicken burrito (I had a hard time eating it though because it was extremely large.)Once we got our food we headed outside and sat together as a large group. The parents had an opportunity to ask questions; however, my mother did not have any questions. Mr. Mannix clarified what we can and cannot carry in our luggage. This reminded me that I have to start making a list of what I need to pack and purchase. I also realized that I will need to take a blanket with me because the AC is always on at Vanderbilt. Luckily, I won't need to carry a fan with me. Once we ran out of questions, everyone looked at Shanti to ask more questions. She ended up asking a good question that was useful for all of us.

Halfway during the event, my father and brother came for a brief moment and met Mr. Mannix. Mr. Mannix asked my brother how he felt, and he seemed pretty excited for me to leave. Afterwards we started talking about our experience at the interview. Chiamaka and Shanti mentioned how they had started making predictions on who was going to pass the interview.

The meet and greet was another great event that gave the cohort, the parents, and Mr. Mannix a opportunity to get to know everyone better. Fortunately, my parents feel more comfortable about sending me away now. At the end we concluded by taking a group photo in front of Chipotle.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Wake Up Call

Location of the orientation
Today, the Ivy League Connections held their last organized event that included all of this year's ILCers. Being able to see everyone at the Orientation today reminded me of just how big this organization has become. The orientation was held at Pinole Middle School. Don told us to be there on time or it would cost us our scholarship.

This event was the perfect opportunity for parents to ask questions about what we'll be doing exactly in a couple of weeks. My mother didn't seem to have many questions because according to her, going to Vanderbilt is all I talk about nowadays (but why wouldn't I). Don talked about many aspects of our trip such as Do's and Don'ts. He also spoke about how and what to pack, and also loaner items such as tri-pods or fans. The loaner items are what peeked my interest the most because there were a couple of things I know I'll need.

We broke out into our respective groups so that we could go more in depth about our specific trip. My mom got the chance to meet our chaperon as he spoke about what our day to day schedule would look like. Looking at the itinerary made me realize that the best summer that I'm ever going to have is just around the corner and I couldn't be more excited.

There are many moving parts in the Ivy League Connections and many important people. Ms. Kronenberg paid us a visit and also gave us some advice and warnings about our trip. Also, she reminded us about what a big role tour-guide Don has played in getting us this far. She told us to be very appreciative of him (which we are) because the Ivy League Connections wouldn't be able to run as smoothly without him. Thank You Don!
Our way of celebrating Don


The ILC has completed its final major event prior to our departures from California. This event was the orientation; essentially, the coordinators of the ILC held an informational meeting primarily targeted at parents.

I arrived at Pinole Middle School just before 6 PM, and I checked in (with some minor confusion because my given name is different from my preferred name). I sat down and waited for the orientation to begin. I arrived at a perfect time, with just enough time to find a good parking spot without waiting too long for the event to begin. Time management and punctuality are good skills to have and mandatory skills for the ILC.

Don called the chaperones to a corner of the room we used. Judging by the lunch menus and tables, I am guessing that we were using the cafeteria. I suppose Don was giving the chaperones some information about what information to give out later.

Don began the orientation by holding a microphone and standing rather close to the tables that everyone sat in. I remember last year's orientation being a little different: Mr. Ramsey was present last year (not this year!), and I believe the speakers stood farther away from everyone and closer to the stage.

For a large portion of the orientation, Don spoke about procedures and protocols for the ILC, all of which I was more than familiar with as a returning member of the ILC. Don's presentation was punctuated by a portion in which Ms. Kronenberg spoke and in which the chaperones lined up and gave an overview of their duties.

I do remember Don being slightly disrupted when the door behind him opened up. A handful of people walked in trying to draw as little attention as possible, but when a speaker turns around or focuses their eyes on something, the entire audience notices. I believe there may have been a tardy student that walked in, but I am nearsighted and I did not have my glasses at this time. Don did not make any fuss about the latecomers, even though he explicitly warned each of us not to be tardy and warned us that the doors would lock at 6 PM.

Last year was different: I was a few minutes late (for reasons that I will not divulge lest they merely be considered excuses), but I was not the last to arrive. Rather, one other person took twenty minutes or so to arrive, and Mr. Ramsey had the microphone then. He. Was. Not. Pleased. He warned us not to ever be late, and he angrily noted that if everyone was punctual, then we would have started promptly instead of wasting time. I was worried that my tardiness would be a major problem, but someone else out-shadowed me. Still, fear of castigation helped this event become a learning experience. My timeliness has improved, though it still has room for further improvement.

But I digress. After some time, Don released us into breakout groups, where each cohort met to discuss the tentative itineraries and any potential questions. It appears that we are departing June 30th and returning July 25th. Even though I am much more confident than I used to be, there was still some hesitation when I wanted to ask questions. I spoke up regardless, and it's almost never bad to ask questions, even if a part of you is reluctant to.

We regrouped for Don to give his closing remarks about more procedures and about loaner items. During one part in which we discussed fans and ventilation, I decided to speak up about my experiences at Brown to give a little advice to those that were going to Brown. It was a bit odd placing myself in the spotlight in front of so many people, but then again, u am a much more confident person now.

I paid attention all throughout Don's presentation, though very little rang within me or seemed new to me. I've heard the same words many times last year and many times this year in past events such as the tutorial, so I did not benefit much from the general parts of this orientation. It seemed that my mother shared the same lack of interest, partially since since she has some faith in me. We both paid close attention during the breakout session, however, when we were getting the specific juicy bits about the itinerary. That part was the most specific, where I learned the most. Regardless, one point of the presentation that stood out to me was the part where Don addressed a thought that ran through my head (and most likely those of several other ILCers'). He said the purpose of the orientation was to inform parents, since they've told us much of the information elsewhere already. Again, I also benefitted from reviewing the itinerary. I suppose the theory behind this event is admirable.

In the past few weeks, I've been having some worries about the experiences I would face at Vanderbilt. I've gone traveling quite a bit lately, and I have gained quite a few experiences to compare to each other. I was worried that my expectations of Vanderbilt would not hold up, or perhaps my expectations of Vanderbilt were lowering (I tend to do that). However, this informational meeting renewed my hope for this trip, and I am excited to travel once again, with a fantastic cohort this time! To those that intend to travel, I highly recommend you try your best to maintain a positive outlook and to remain outgoing, because it helps tremendously when meeting folks and building connections.

(Unfortunately, I the pictures I planned to use were lost.)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Just the Beginning

The grand location of the orientation.
For the longest time now the  cohorts have been looking forward to going to the certain events that the Ivy League Connection holds. The Vanderbilt cohorts have three main events the dinner, the school board meeting, and the orientation. Today the last main event, before the actual trip, took place at Pinole Middle School. Although the orientation had a more casual setting, Don did remind us that we were able to wear casual clothing. In the email he sent he said that was going to wear his usual pair of shorts and Hawaiian shirt. Because of this, some of the cohorts at my school , Hercules High School, and I thought it was be a fun idea to dress like Don for the event. Although only five of the cohorts from my school participated, I thought it was a good idea. 

During the orientation, I found myself more excited about my summer than ever. As we were going over some important details, I began to think about all the things I'd be able to experience and see. Part of the orientation was to break off into groups, therefore the Vanderbilt cohorts, chaperone, and parents went into a classroom to discuss the itinerary of our travels. I was happy to hear that we would be able to see certain museums, like the Smithsonian and the Holocaust Museum, as part of our tour around the different states in the East Coast. There is no amount that describes how excited I am for this opportunity.

The orientation also allowed me to see the other cohorts again. Before the orientation started, I talked to some of the other cohorts going to other schools. It was really nice being able to converse with them and get to know them better. I was able to find out what they were planning on to do before their up coming trips to the various schools. Besides allowing me to talk to the other cohorts and making me more excited, this orientation, like the other events, made me grateful for being part of this amazing opportunity. This event was the last event before we leave for this great opportunity but it's only just the beginning of our great experience and adventures.  

Our fashion/style inspired by the one and only, Don Gosney.

The Final Event Before Takeoff

Today we had the Ivy League Connection Orientation at Pinole Middle School. Fortunately, we were able to get started right away. Don started off by mentioning the basic rules that we will need to follow. He especially emphasized that we need to act as mature adults, stick together as a group, and blog every night. The chaperons also introduced themselves to the parents. Then Ms. Kronenberg talked for a little while, and she reminded us that it is extremely important that we  give back to our community. She reminded us that we are representing WCCUSD and the rest of the students. At that moment, I felt grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of the Ivy League Connection.
This is Pinole Middle School.
Afterwards, we divided into our cohort groups. Mr. Mannix talked about our schedule once we reach the East Coast. I realized that we have a very busy schedule. We are going to be visiting a lot of places such as University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown, and Columbia University; however, it will involve getting up early and doing a lot of walking. I am going to have a hard time waking up at five in the morning, but it will be definitely worth it. I am extremely excited to visit the universities and go sightseeing.

After we went over the itineraries,the whole group then got back together. Don went over the different loaner items he has. He also went over what and what not to pack. I learned that it is very important to pack an umbrella because it can start raining anytime in the summer unlike over here. Most importantly, though, I learned that the ILC will help me grow as a person.

The orientation today marked the final step before I board the airplane in just a couple of weeks and experience a life changing event.