Monday, December 20, 2010

From a Future Lion :-D

I think I knew that Columbia was the school for me after I took the PSAT sophomore year and started getting recruitment letters from Colleges. I got a Blue Guide from Columbia and it was love at first sight, but you know, love at first sight doesn't mean anything until you talk to the guy and make sure he can hold an intelligent conversation :-D! So thanks to the Ivy League Connection I got to go on a three-week date with Columbia and I decided it was time to make a commitment to the relationship :-P. Early Decision is really big decision but I've never looked back because as soon as I stepped on their campus (soon to be my campus!!) I knew it was the place for me. Columbia has everything I'm looking for academically--equally strong Jazz, Creative Writing, and Political Science programs--as well as the diversity I'm looking for socially.

I think the balance in my application is probably what helped put me above the cut (whatever the cut was). I had high SAT scores, but my transcript was also very strong, my essay was BEAST, I had diverse extra-curriculars but I showed dedication to each one, and my extra-curriculars showed a clear commitment to community service and an interest politics like I said on my application. I worked extremely hard starting in middle school so that I could have an application I would be very proud of and it paid off.

Here is the online version of my acceptance letter:

Beulah Iyabo Agbabiaka
My Address

Dear Beulah,

Congratulations! Dean Michele Moody-Adams and the members of the Committee on Admissions join me in the most rewarding part of my job - informing you that you have been selected for admission to Columbia College. As a member of the Class of 2015, you will be a participant in an academic community wealthy in intellectual and personal talents of every kind. We are fully confident that the gifts you bring to our campus will be unique and valuable and that your abilities will be challenged and developed here.

You and your family have every reason to be proud of the great achievements that we acknowledge today with this good news. We hope you will share your joy and excitement with the faculty at your school who have helped you reach this happy day.

The Columbia faculty, students and administration look forward to welcoming you into a community that thrives on our combination of a demanding curriculum, a diverse and talented student body, and a college town abundant in dynamism and opportunities. We know that you will contribute to the academic and personal excellence that has been the hallmark of Columbia students since 1754. The coming years at Columbia promise to be lively and joyful ones indeed as we continue to celebrate over 250 years of achievement and distinction.

It is our great pleasure to congratulate you on the successes that have earned you this fine honor, and we eagerly anticipate the successes that you will no doubt enjoy at Columbia. If any member of the admissions staff can assist you in the days ahead, please do not hesitate to write or call.

To respond to this offer of admission please click here. I also encourage you to visit our “Welcome Website,” designed especially for the members of the Class of 2015: You will need your Columbia ID (C003576949) to access the Welcome Website. I look forward to welcoming you to campus next fall.

Warmest regards,

My amazing High School prepared me for Columbia but The Ivy League Connection is what really gave me a taste of College Life and what my workload would be like so I would know if I was making the right choice. The ILC gave me the chance of a lifetime to experience NYC and Columbia right and without them, there is no guarantee I would be going where I'm going. The Ivy League Connection is what allowed me to make a very necessary connection with actual Columbia staff which could have been a deciding factor in my application.

Having the assistance of Ms. Kim definitely made a difference as did my HS counselor Ms. Hart. Having a great counselor on your side is absolutely vital to the admissions process.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Columbia University 2010 – Once a Dream, Now Maybe a Reality

When I’d previously considered the possibility of attending a college on the East Coast, I was apprehensive about the thought of staking out a new life by myself so far away from home. The thought of moving across the country away from friends and family is really quite intimidating. A great many students are thrust into this situation without truly knowing what to expect. That’s why I’m so grateful to the Ivy League Connection for providing me with an authentic college experience during the past three weeks. I've gained confidence that someone as shy as I can manage in a completely different environment and reach out and make new friends with people from all over the country. I feel much better prepared to take on the challenges of finding the right school as well as the challenges of living a balanced college life. The ILC program has given me a taste of what its like to fly across the country, share a room with someone you've only just met, make friends with people from all over the world, and be solely responsible for the work that needs to be done.

The process of visiting schools has really shown me that there is a lot more to choosing a university than just comparing rankings and acceptance rates. What students like me can often forget is that the complete college experience can’t just be measured by statistics. It's easy to be seduced by prestige and get wrapped up in rankings, so it's important to keep in mind that the school you choose will be your home for the next four years. No matter how great the school, if you aren't happy living there, your education will suffer.

Thanks to the ILC, we visited schools such as Columbia, Penn, Yale and Vassar and I developed a much better idea of the type of school that I want to attend. Although I first missed the rolling hills and trees of the UC campus, we Columbia students were fortunate to have the opportunity to explore and enjoy the culture offered by one of the world's great cities. I absolutely loved living in the middle of Manhattan and visiting the museums, the theatre, and the bustling local neighborhoods. For that reason, I'd consider applying to Columbia, instead of Vassar, which is a little too isolated in the countryside. While the rain at U Penn was a turn off, I felt at home both on campus and in the city of Philadelphia. Before this trip I hadn't even considered Columbia and U Penn, but especially after learning that they're both accepting the common application, I'm certain that I’ll apply to both.

When I first applied to the ILC program, I confess that Chemistry wasn't my top choice as a course of study. Of all the science and math classes I’d taken, chemistry struck me as the least intuitive and the most convoluted. That initial impression was soon forgotten during the stimulating 3 week course: Intensive Seminars in Modern Chemistry led by Professor Luis Avila. He guided our class not only through the basics of practical lab work, but he also introduced us to the incredible variety of applications that the subject of chemistry has to offer. Many professors and PhDs took their time to appear as guest speakers and talk about their unique fields of research that I’ve described in my previous blogs. Beyond that, many spoke about the energy crisis and about other global issues; challenging us to be the generation that finally resolves these problems. The passion that every speaker conveyed convinced me that there's a lot more to chemistry than just balancing chemical equations or plugging numbers into formulas. Professor Avila also reminded us that President Obama is urging the country’s schools to graduate more scientists and engineers in order for the U.S. to remain globally competitive.

There’s something special that I’ll always remember about this trip—the fantastic people of New York City. After I’d lost my wallet while swimming in the ocean on the Fourth of July, I desperately searched the beach and the water with no success. When I thought that all was lost, someone suggested that I speak to a lifeguard. That was a good idea, since it turned out that a Good Samaritan had found it and had given it to the lifeguard. Even more amazing, everything in the wallet was still there, including my money, my room key, and my Columbia ID. My faith in humanity got a big boost from this real-life experience in the big city.

More than anything else, I'm very grateful to the Ivy League Connection for providing me with an authentic college experience, an incredible adventure, and the opportunity of a lifetime. Thank you so much for your support and to everyone who made this trip possible. Thanks to WCCUSD School Board members Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg for founding the ILC program, to Don Gosney for his great photography, computer support, and witty blog comments, to Ms. Ishmael who chaperoned us across the country and all over town, and to all the sponsors who made this program possible and for treating us royally during our first weekend in the Big Apple.

Reflections on a Great Three Weeks

My time with the ILC has been really enjoyable and has left me with a lot of experience that I would never have been able to get otherwise. 

I’ll start by discussing the city because New York is such a vibrant place. The area in which I live is hardly rural but it’s not intensely urban either, thus it was an interesting change to spend three weeks in central Manhattan. Whereever I was there were always people; this created an atmosphere that felt very different from what I was used to. When we went to Times Square even at one o’clock in the morning it was filled with people, light, and sound. This and the great number of things to do all contributed to a very lively feeling throughout the city. The amount of freedom we were granted combined with the ease of use and convenience of public transportation meant that the amount of opportunities we were presented with could be overwhelming at times. In retrospect I feel that although I really enjoyed the city life, I did not take advantage of all that was offered so I’d definitely consider returning to Columbia for college.

The city was not the only thing that I enjoyed about Columbia; the course itself was enriching in many ways. One of the most immediately impressive things about the university to me, were the resources, both human and material. The labs themselves were numerous and well equipped, and some of the more complex devices carried price tags of over a million dollars. This setup seems appropriate given that many of the people working there were the leading experts in their respective fields. While this environment was slightly intimidating, it was also very inspirational to think about the opportunities that await students. The course itself was quite informative, although the subject matter was slightly scattered at times, but its true value lay in its focus on giving an impression of what real lab work might be like. Our professor stressed the importance of proper laboratory protocols and procedures which really allowed us to get a feeling for how things would be conducted in a research lab. The seminars we received opened my eyes to how deep chemistry really can be, as professors described some of the emerging areas in which they worked. For example, spin chemistry studies the way in which the orientation of electron’s spins can dramatically affect the properties of an atom and lead to radically different subspecies of the same molecule -- something, which I was not even aware of. As a result of the course I feel much more enthusiastic about both chemistry and college research in general.

Aside from chemistry, I feel that the course also taught me valuable lessons on self discipline and human interaction. As the posting times on my blogs show, I was generally getting between three to five hours of sleep nightly. This really wasn’t a sufficient quantity of rest and the cumulative effects of it were rather unpleasant. I have no one to blame for this but myself so I feel that I really learned the need for self discipline and proper time management. I felt that I also gained a lot due to the diversity and talent of my peers. Students came from all across the country and the world; I only met a small fraction of all the attendees of the program and among them were students from China, Russia, France, India, Korea, Dubai, Australia, and Puerto Rico (although the last one isn’t technically international). Being around students of such diverse backgrounds really opened my mind and the fact that they were all so intelligent and motivated was humbling. I hope that I’ve positively represented WCCUSD to the rest of the world.

I’d finally like to thank the ILC and everyone involved in it for everything that it has done. Aside for the Columbia course the ILC provided opportunities from expensive dinners to meetings with college admissions officers. These opportunities really topped off what was already a great experience. My special thanks to Don Gosney, Ms. Kronenberg, and Mr. Ramsey for being so heavily involved in incurring the program’s success; Ms. Ishmael for being a great chaperone; and all of the sponsors who’ve donated so generously to the program. It was an honor to be part of this experience.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Every Ending is a New Beginning

Our wonderful ILC group in American Presidential Powers with Dr. Z and our lovely TA Marfo!

THE CLASS! We're just missing two girls, one who went on vacation early and one who left class in a hurry. Sorry about the blurry picture! I only had one group shot and I didn't realize it was so blurry until after we left.

Hello everyone! I cannot believe I am now blogging from my house in California. It seems so surreal that I have already spent 3+ weeks in New York. Everything, it seems, was eaten by a giant time machine that has warped my sense of time. If you asked me what the best day of my trip was, I would probably present to you a perplexed face with furrowed brows. Instead, I would insist on telling you about all that I learned and experienced.


Whether you love to learn or learn to love, there is no dispute that loving and learning go hand in hand. When I first heard that the ILC-offered course at Columbia was "American Presidential Powers," I will admit that I wasn't entirely thrilled. The reason is, history has never been my favorite subject in school. This summer, however, gave me an entirely different view of political science and definitely reaffirmed the idea that learning about the past goes beyond merely reading about people and events and memorizing facts. I found that I really enjoy seminars and discussions, because that is the most fitting learning style for me. By listening to what my peers had to say, I began to see things in multiple ways, rather than basing everything off of what my professor had to say. Often times, our discussions would start with focus on specific policies and eventually evolve to ones about the morality, impact, significance, etc. of issuing such policies. Not only was the setting of a small seminar class better in terms of covering more ground and digging deeper into the various topics covered, it was also better because it forces students to be alert and apply critical thinking skills. I know that I definitely want to take more seminar/discussion type of classes at some time during my college experience. To sum it up, I did learn a lot about politics and American history during the three weeks at Columbia. I also proved to myself that despite my distaste for the social sciences, there is something invaluably important to learning it, to cultivating that love for knowledge.


Staying up at 3am to write a rough draft of an essay is rather... gloomy. I thought to myself, come on, just finish it so you can sleep, it's just a rough draft after all! Especially with no parent supervision and no actual letter grade on any submitted work, I wouldn't have been punished for slacking. I did not, however, lose my drive. Even if all we are receiving from this course is a fairly generic letter of recommendation with no "real" grade or college credit, I wanted to do my best and take away with me as much knowledge as possible. I proved to myself that I can prioritize, even in a city with ample distractions; lack of motivation/drive will not be an issue.

I still remember what I felt when I sat in the Hotel Operations Management course at Cornell University last summer. Man, I thought to myself, these kids are smart! How do they know that Host is an REIT... what is a REIT company and what is Host! Throughout the course, I always felt that I wasn't good enough to speak out loud since I had no previous knowledge about the subject we were learning. Sometimes, I felt the urge to raise my hand and contribute, but my fear of sounding "stupid" always kicked me in the guts and blocked my thoughts from leaving my head. I remember telling myself, I WILL do better next summer, if I get another opportunity to go East. Well, that is what I did. I spoke out a lot more this summer than I had last summer and I look at it as a feat since I know for certain the competition did not diminish this summer. Of course there is still a big margin for improvement and I never kid myself that I can do much better, but I am happy and at peace with myself because I did accomplish what I told myself I would accomplish.


When we meet people, we naturally judge people by what they say and do, how they carry themselves, etc. Sometimes, these observations we make are no where near the right ballpark. That was certainly the case when I met my suite mates. I thought from our first meeting that these girls were extremely self-centered, ridiculous, even bratty. However, after 3 weeks of bonding, I have come to realize that their characters are much more deeper than what meets the eye. Although they might come across as being shallow, they do really carry your best interest in their heart and they make an effort to maintain good relations with all of the family.

My absolutely wronged first impressions made me realize that I shouldn't be too judgmental. I was lucky this time because I was literally stuck with the other 12 girls for 3 weeks in a suite. Had I been able to avoid them, I know very well that I would have probably done so and socialized with other people. I would have then missed out on becoming friends with some of the most creative, more athletic, most caring, most shopaholic people I know! Lesson I learned here is, give people a chance to open up to you and don't judge them too prematurely.


Needless to say, having a close-knit, supportive family is beneficial. I am blessed to have one at home... and to have had one at Columbia. When one of the girls wanted to watch a show that no one else was interested in, another girl stepped up and agreed to go, because she didn't want our friend to go by herself. Eventually, a third of the suite went to to the Broadway production, and they all had fun! Academics, though very important, is not the only thing we should think of when we think about college because there are so many aspects to it. One is socializing and I've realized that having a family like that one I had a Columbia will only enrich my experience and make me into a better person.


After meeting such a variety of people both national and international, I am more aware of the students of my generation. I have met students who are ridiculously rich, ones who are mindblowingly intelligent. (Students with 2400 SAT scores do exist... and they have human needs too! What a relief.) Rather than feeling depressed because I wasn't, so to say, up to par, I feel more motivated to try harder and to achieve more.

In all, the experience I had cannot be fully articulated through language. It is something that one must feel to know. But I can tell you that the 3+ weeks in New York were probably among the best 3+ weeks I've spent anywhere. Thank you so much Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and Don for all that you've all done for me! And a big shout-out to all of the generous sponsors who have supported this incredible program and have offered me the opportunity to do all of this! Thank you all so very much! And I cannot stress enough how great this trip was for me, thank you thank you thank you!

Although this summer adventure has come to its inevitable end, I have no doubt that I will continue to experience great adventures in college, whether I end up attending an in-state college or an out-of-state one, public or private. Just like that, one door closed as another opened, and one ending led to a new beginning. I have no doubt the Columbia experience will influence in some way or another my ultimate decision of what schools to apply to and, I suspect, my final decision about which school to attend. Thank you Ivy League Connection, for opening my eyes to all the great opportunities out there and for expanding my horizons! I really appreciate everything I have received and all the connections I have made. Thank you! And goodnight everyone! I'll stay in touch!

Reflection: A New York Experience

I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am for the opportunity I've had the past three weeks. Without the Ivy League Connection, and subsequently our generous sponsors, I never would have been able to come to New York City to study at one of the top universities in the world, Columbia, in one of the best experiences of my life.

Looking back, I can proudly say that I thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot in my  American Presidential Powers class. I have to say that the class wasn't without hard work and a lot of time. Our reading assignments each night were brutal and the in-class discussions not only tested our knowledge on the material but our ability to apply them to different situations. Moreover, the rigor of researching and writing our papers was probably the largest hurdle. I chose a topic (President Reagan and his speeches) that I certainly knew nothing about. I had to start my research from the bottom up. After researching, making an outline and writing the rough draft, it was all meticulous revising from there. I had never written a paper that long, especially with such high expectations coming from Dr. Z, everyone back home, members of the ILC and most significantly myself. In the time allotted I think I did a great job and I know that I can do even better when I enter college.

Another key component of the experience was simply New York. The city was everything I imagined and so much more. It's so vast and full of culture. Walking Times Square or even the hallways of Columbia, I could hear a plethora of languages spoken all the time. The immersion into culture was probably my favorite part. Looking around, there were restaurants of all different foods from different cultures. Opportunities were endless. Given the freedom at night and on the weekends allowed me to explore and dive into the city. It's so beautiful and complex, I can barely stand it.

One of the main things I can take from this experience is that other people are helpful. I can't do everything on my own, as much as I'd like to think I can. When we were assigned a lot of reading the same weekend we had college tours scheduled, the girls and I decided to split them up, saving so much time. I will definitely use this option more often in my future schooling.

Another lesson is that I shape my own future. With advice from Dr. Z and her guest speakers I learned that whichever school I wind up attending, my career and my life depend on what I do with what's handed to me. Dr. Z. kept pushing going to a school far away that no family member has attended and to study abroad in a place we've never been. Both have really meant something to me. Even though right now I have no idea what I want, I know that whatever decision I make will be a good one for me, that I can use to grow as an individual.

Again, gratitude cannot say enough for how thankful I am to have had this experience. I can't wait to share my experiences with others and encourage them to have an open mind when it comes to their future. Alas, my future is in my hands.

In Conclusion

The past three weeks in New York and Columbia University have been unbelievable. From being able to learn secrets of the admissions process from admissions officers from some of the world's most selective institutions, to being able to sight see across New York, this trip has been a dream come true for me. This has really been an eye-opening experience for me, and I'm extremely thankful to the Ivy League Connection  for offering me the chance to be able to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime program.

I've learned many things from this program, not only about colleges and admissions, but also about myself and the world.

First of all, I've discovered a lot more about colleges than I knew before. The visits to Vassar College, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, and of course, Columbia University itself has really opened my perspective on which college to apply to. I love the Open Curriculum at Vassar and how it is easy to double major there, even in totally unrelated courses, due to the fact that there are virtually no required courses, leaving lots of space open for another major. The Wharton School of Business at UPenn is also really interesting to me, as the curriculum of a major in Economics plus a concentration in an area of business really fits what I would want to take if I was interested in majoring in Business or Economics. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to learn a lot about Yale University's programs, but the campus was beautiful and was the largest out of all the colleges we've visited. As for Columbia, I really grew attached to the campus during my three weeks there, and really enjoyed it's location in the heart of New York City. I also really liked the Core classes at Columbia which ensure that students are well rounded and have a common base of shared classes.

The meetings with the admissions officers from Vassar, Yale and Columbia really helped me learn more about the admissions process and what they're looking for in their applicants. The officer from Yale, Alex Richardson, really explained how they're looking for students who they can see as part of their campus's student body. He also talked to us about how important teacher recommendations are in the admissions process, and that they're looking for more than just grades on a paper, they want people who stand out as individuals that they can visualize as part of the campus. David Buckwald, the admissions officer from Columbia, also helped us a lot in understanding the admissions process. He explained that the schools want students who they think fits their school style, and who are going to help build the legacy of the school. These chances to ask questions about the admissions process and what we they're looking for in applications to people who will be reading our own applications soon was a priceless opportunity that will definitely help me in my college applications.

I've also learned that there is much more out there in the world other than just California. The chance to actually visit some of the world's most prestigious schools showed me that I could apply to more schools than just University of California schools or California State Universities. Also, the opportunity to interact with students from many different places in my class or in my dorm, people from Missouri to Macedonia, really opened my world view to see that there is much more out there and that there is a lot that I don't know. I've really gotten to know the people in my dorm better, through watching fireworks with them, or by helping them find the rat that was in their room. I've really been able to forge connections with this program, not only with the other Ivy League Connection students, but with students from Indonesia, Canada, Seattle, and many other places, as well as admissions officers and even my teacher, Mrs. Zebrowski, who wants to know where we are all going to go to for college.

I also feel that I've matured in the program, away from home, as I've had to take a much bigger responsibility for myself than I've ever had to before. I've grown as a person, and I think that I've definitely returned home a different person than I was when I left. I've become much more independent, and am more open to changes and receptive to others than I was before. I've learned how to survive in a dormitory setting and learned how to do college level work in a college setting. The ability to access and work with the vast array of resources of Columbia also taught me how to do research other than by Googling the information I needed or by looking it up on Wikipedia, and I learned how to look for reputable sources and important names in scholastic research. By the end of the program, I almost felt as if I belonged at Columbia, and that Columbia was a part of who I was, because the three weeks I spent there really showed me what it was like to feel as if I was a part of something bigger. This program really has been life-changing for me, and I am grateful to the Ivy League Connection for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in this adventure. Thank you Mrs. Ishmael, Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, Don, and everyone else who helped make this dream possible for me!

A Mother's Perspective

Melissa Arciniega
Now that Matt is beginning to pack up and head for Columbia University, I often find myself reflecting on the past eighteen years. There are so very many incredible memories in this young man's life already and I'm feeling very blessed and thankful for the person Matt has become and the direction his life is taking.

The Ivy League Connection has played a huge role in sending Matt in the direction of Columbia University. His two weeks at Yale last summer gave him the chance to prove to himself and others that he, indeed, can compete among some of the best and the brightest students in the world! 
Often times, students from the WCCUSD are afraid to dream big or don't know how big, big can be. Because of you, Ms. Kronenberg, Mr. Gosney, and the many individuals who run and fund the Ivy League Connection, Matt is about to attend a world-class university in preparation for a career in public policy and politics.
From a very special place in my heart, I thank you and the ILC for showing these kids how big dreams can be.  The world WILL be changed because of your mark on their lives!

A Father's Perspective

Felix Pelayo
The Ivy League Connection has greatly benefited my daughter, Cristina Pelayo. Before her trip to the East Coast, I only knew about various universities throughout California, and I only thought that was where she would apply. Sending her off to Columbia University, she experienced a setting different from public universities on the West Coast. While she was in Columbia, one weekend she visited the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. I had never heard of the school, and when she told me her impression of it, I myself realized that I didn't know about this great institution with so many different class choices in smaller classroom settings. When she came back from New York, I was surprised to see that she applied to more private universities than public universities, and four of them were out of state. I encouraged her to apply wherever she wanted because I knew it would ultimately be her choice to choose where to go.

When Spring rolled around and acceptance decisions came out, I was kind of surprised to hear that she got accepted into most of the places she applied. She couldn't make a choice but she narrowed it down to two choices, the University of Pennsylvania and UC Berkeley. The Ivy League Connection was nice enough to fly us out to Philadelphia for a preview weekend to get a final impression of the school, and I think that is what sealed the deal. Cristina submitted her intent to register to Penn, and I knew I ultimately had to support her. Even though it is far away, being far from home will allow her to grow up and experience new things.

Without the Ivy League Connection making her visit other colleges and helping her with applications and financial aid, she would not have found the school she will be attending in the fall. The Ivy League Connection is really about connecting. Sometimes students and parents like myself aren't aware of the many opportunities that are available for them. The ILC has gotten many more students talking about different universities outside of California, and it's important to let them know they have choices. I'm grateful for the ILC because it has helped my daughter attend her dream school she didn't know existed before.

It's pretty good to be back home :-)

But it's still a little sad because California can't really compete :-D. I'm definitely happy to be back because I really missed my family, but after New York, California can seem a little dull.
There's me looking sad to go back home on our last day :-)
So, New York is an amazing place and it's even better when you virtually get to go for free :-D. I experienced the Big Apple first hand and I will never forget it. I went to fancy restaurants and falafel trucks, I went to museums and college tours, I looked at expensive stores and shopped in cheap ones :-), and I was immersed in politics in a rigorous course that was made even more enriching by my location: the gateway to the world.

New York is a REAL melting pot. When you're there you will meet a Korean girl raised in Brazil, and a very interesting character from Missouri, and from all of the cultures circulating come ideas that are out of this world. In New York City I got to know people from all around the world, but even if you don't actually talk, the people watching is fantastic :-D.

When I stepped onto Columbia's campus I felt at home. I knew this was a big deal because I have visited quite a few schools, many on this trip, and that feeling is very rare. I've only gotten it at one other place. As a matter of fact, I quite often get a negative vibe from a school, so this feeling at Columbia was really special. It's a beautiful campus but what I love even more is that even though it's in the heart of the city [and Harlem is around the corner], they have magnificent campus life. There is a real pulse at Columbia and the students are involved in their campus. The food isn't that great but part of the beauty of New York is the fantastic ethnic cuisine all around. Columbia is definitely the place to be :-D.

My class was some really hard work. I put my foot into my paper and the end result showed it :-D. There was intensive reading--both books and articles--but I feel so much more knowledgeable that it was worth it. I also learned what kinds of political books I like and which I don't, which writing style I process better for those types of readings, and the organizational style I like. It was a total win/win situation :-D. Our teacher Dr. Z. was really nice and the seminar style of the class was really cool. If people other than myself had talked it would have been even cooler :-P. Just kidding, there was definitely class participation from everyone, I just really like to talk.


My trip to New York was the experience of the lifetime!!! Thank you sooooooooo much to everyone who made this possible and I will never forget you guys or this trip. To my ILC pals, you guys were amazing--I never expected you to be so nice or to actually make friends with you guys but I did and it was crazy fun :-). Now for some parting words of wisdom to anyone who may want to visit NY in the future:

1. The subway totally isn't that bad! It's actually really fun and you often meet really nice, new people. That aside, watch your purse.

2. Times Square at night is even cooler than Times Square during the day time and it's just as safe.

3. Eat the local cuisine!

4. Go to the museums, Fridays are free at some of the best ones!!!

5. Take a tour to get you oriented before you start sight-seeing.

6. Don't just go to the expensive stores, ask local people where they go to get their stuff because it's a fraction of the price and just as cute!

7. Don't buy anything at Times Square but post cards, there are wayyyy better places to go for souveniers. Except for the new Forever 21 and the H&M, but they have great deals so it's fine.

8. BRING WALKING SHOES!!! You walk everywhere in NYC and while your stilettos might be to-die-for, you will die if you try to walk in them :-D You can always change shoes once you get to your destination.

9. If you weren't planning on going to NYC change your mind because EVERYONE SHOULD GO!! :-D

Once again, thank you to everyone who made this possible.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Last Full Day at Columbia

Today was the final day of class for all of us so a bittersweet atmosphere permeated the proceedings. The entirety of our final class was devoted to presenting the projects that we’ve been working on this past week. These presentations went fairly well in my opinion; the groups worked together really well and the fact that the audience turned out to mostly be fellow classmates allowed the presenters to feel relaxed. It was interesting to see the wide variety of projects that the other groups had been assigned as they varied from using a bomb calorimeter to check the calorie counts of various foods, to observing the effects of salinity on coral pigmentation. Although it’s always difficult to end things, hearing about all the different experiments that our classmates performed seemed like an appropriate note to end the class on.

After class wrapped up, I had my last meal in the dinning hall with a group of chemistry students. Once the final round of goodbyes had been said I went up to my room a took a nap for a few hours. There was a dance for the parting students which I attended for an hour or so although I’m not particularly fond of dances. On the positive side, I never fail to be entertained by the glow effect that backlights have on white fabric. After I left the dance I picked up some pizza and headed up to my room for my last night in the dorms. 

After I finish the blog I intend on getting a head start on packing up, and sleep is no longer of much concern as I’ll have plenty of time for it in the next couple of days. We don’t need to be out of the dorms until noon tomorrow but still need to wake up at a reasonable time because the water in my dorm will be shut off after nine.

As I sit here at my desk I realize that I’ve really grown used to Columbia in the last three weeks. It certainly doesn’t feel like three weeks have passed since I arrived, although I’m having difficulty in deciding whether it feels like more or less time has passed. On the one hand, it feels like I’ve spent months here and I don’t mean that in a negative way, I mean that I’ve really gotten used to it here. On the other hand I feel like my time here has simply flown by and I’m left wondering where those three weeks I supposedly spent here have gone. I’ll reflect further after I get back but before I go I’d just like to reiterate my sincerest thanks to everyone who’s made my attendance here possible. I’d also like to apologize for the quality of my blog posts as I realize that they’ve often been very choppy in terms of sentence structure and just unclear in general. Please don’t take them as indicative of the general quality of my writing, but rather the effects of sleep deprivation on writing.

Friday, July 16, 2010

So Long New York!

I fully agree with what Yueming wrote about "New York Minutes". Though they pass by much faster, somehow, more stuff fits into them! It's really hard to imagine that we'll be in California and not in New York later today (it is technically morning)! If not for the cramming of all my belongings into an oversized bag, I'm not sure if I'd really believe that we're saying goodbye!

Today, we all gave our presentations. While our group's presentation wasn't bad, I'd like to note that Michael and his group did a terrific job. If he reads what I said and tries to convince you other wise, it's just him being modest. It was really sad to say farewell to our professor, Luis Avila, and our TAs, who were outstanding in many ways and who every day helped us work through a series of lab activities. I especially loved having our TA, Joshua, who was really helpful and just a cool guy all around.

After class, I ate lunch with some friends from class (I'll be looking for them tomorrow) and then took off to the Museum of Modern Art during Free Friday!

You were cool in ways beyond sharing my brother's name!
I never considered myself to be an art lover (especially modern art,) but the museum just has so much to offer. Previously, when I thought of the phrase "Modern Art", I thought of utterly cryptic, unappealing, and pretentious art that was somehow worth thousands of dollars. I was sure that I'd be proven wrong, and I was! I especially enjoyed the furniture designs and photography.

is really is more beautiful in person
After getting back from the museum, I took a nap and slept right through the final dance! The doors had already closed by the time I got up!

There's so much that happened over the past three weeks that I just can't capture the cumulative experience of coming here. Since becoming involved with the Ivy League Connection, I feel infinetly more prepared for college and I have a much better idea of what schools I want to go to. I'm looking forward to seeing familiar places and faces!

The End

Well, today was the last day of classes here at Columbia. All that remains is to board the plane tomorrow, and then I'm home!

Today was a very relaxing and low-key day. In the morning, there was a visible relief in the air as everyone was finally finished with their papers, and we spent most of class talking about our individual papers and discussed them. It was really great, being able to hear the distilled essence of hours of research of other topics, and also being able to share my own topic and discoveries with the rest of the class.

At lunch, I ate quickly, and intended to take a short ten to fifteen minute nap. However, I totally slept through my alarm, and woke up three minutes before the afternoon session of class. Oops.

Anyways, in the afternoon session, we watched "Wag the Dog", a humorous film with a cynical twist about the role of the media and press in political affairs. It was a really good film and a great way to end the class!

After dinner and another nap, I went to Times Square for the last time! Even though I've been there a lot, seeing as how it's kind of the center of the New York culture, it still never ceases to amaze and impress me with how it is amazingly full of activity and excitement. Here are some pictures from the last few days!

The ball from New Years Celebration in Time Square on display inside the Time Square Information Center.

The Shake Shack!

Lots of people in Time Square on Friday nights...

Hello and Goodbye in New York Minutes

Greetings everyone! It's still hard for me to accept the fact that we've already been here at Columbia for 3 weeks now! One thing I learned is about the "New York minute." Although people argue about the length of a New York minute, everyone can certainly agree that a New York minute is much faster than a "normal" minute. It seems like it was just yesterday when we first dragged our bags onto campus and glued our noses to our personal campus maps. Thank goodness we have these blogs to refer to whenever we want to reminiscence about the fun days that have blurred into one mega adventure that is in itself, timeless.

In the morning, I ran into a couple of classmates in the Hartley computer lab, as I was trying to print out my essay. It was great getting to know them a bit better over the course of the three weeks. Rather than discussing common readings, we focused on the topics of our papers during the morning session. I thought it was really great not only because I learned so much about the different topics, but also because I am now motivated to read more in depth on some overlooked issues that are quite interesting.

During lunch, I resisted my temptation to nap and make up for the time I lost the night before. Instead of heading right back to my dorm after eating at John Jay, I headed to the Learner Auditorium to listen to a Columbia admissions session. Although I really didn't learn much more than what I had already learned, I did get some useful tips on applying to Columbia, and other schools in general.

The afternoon was both fun and emotional. To celebrate completion of the essay, we watched "Wag the Dog" as a treat! It was really funny and extremely successful as a political satire. 

Thus, despite the rough parts of the course, we ended on a fantastic note. The atmosphere also began to change as some students began to start checking out of the dorms to go back home. Sadly, our suite lost two girls today -- one from Greece and one from Brazil. To some extent, everyone in our suite, RAs included, is beginning to feel emotional about splitting up our family. I can only imagine what everyone will look like tomorrow morning by check-out. But not to worry, tissues are more than welcome to be our best friends for a few hours.

Tonight, I used my free time to go to watch one of my friend's theatre production. The performers were all very talented and integrated acting with a bit of music and dance. I definitely do not regret spending a bulk of my time attending that. There was also a Black Light Dance for the students in the high school program. It looked like it was quite fun, and I do regret a bit about not dressing up, but making a quick visit still allowed me to feel the energy and happiness of the crowd. Since I still had a good amount of money left on my Metrocard, I decided to go to Times Square one last time with Winston. Finally to end the night, our suite had our last curfew meeting. At first, I hated how we had to talk everyday for a good 15-30 minutes, but now I've grown so accustomed to it that I will definitely miss it. And to make the last meeting our best one yet, we had some delicious pizza and ice cream!

It is quite late now and I should definitely be packing... however, I feel extremely exhausted! I think I will go take a nap before I start packing! Goodnight world, one last time from the wonderful city of New York!

I've Got a Feeling..

Oooo oooo
that tonight's gonna be a good night :-)

But I had a good feeling about this whole trip and it turned out to be right. I can't believe it's just about over but I also feel like I've been here forever and it's home now. When I get in to Columbia all of you can come and visit me :-D.

Today in class we discussed our papers and I have to say that mine was fantastic! knew the Watergate scandal could be 24 pages worth of interesting :-D. I am so proud of myself and I feel so accomplished. Just like Dr. Z said at the beginning, I'm really glad I did the class but I'm also really glad it's done.

For the 2nd half of class we watched Wag the Dog and it was absolutely amazing. It's definitely one of my new favorites. It's about what really goes on behind the scenes in politics and the role of the media but it's a satire. It's so well done. WATCH IT!

Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible for me, I am eternally grateful and I've had the experience of a lifetime. THANK YOU SOOOOOOO MUCH!


The Conclusion to Presidential Powers

Today was our very last day of class in New York. How exciting yet heartbreaking. We each discussed our papers in depth and discussed the present issues and consequences of each topic and how it relates to Presidential powers.

In the latter part of class we watched a movie called Wag the Dog starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert de Niro that was absolutely hilarious. The main gist of it is that “the fixer” was brought in to cover up a Presidential scandal. He made up a war and multitudes of other things to distract the public in order to get the President reelected. I’d definitely recommend it.

It’s our last night here in New York and we can definitely feel it. Tonight there is a blacklight dance in Lerner Hall for all the students in the high school program. Hopefully it’s fun! See you soon California!

A Late Night Surprise

Today’s class was yet again devoted to working on our project. As I’ve said before, we completed the lab part of the experiment yesterday. However, we still need to put on a PowerPoint presentation Friday. Today in class finished the PowerPoint, which allowed us to work closely as a group but necessitated some homogenization of styles. The presentation will take place in front of our fellow students but also a few professors, a fact that I’m not particularly happy about given that they’re some of the foremost minds in their field and spend most of their time working with graduate students. Hopefully it will all run smoothly.

In the evening I went to a Shake Shack, a locally acclaimed burger chain, with Jamie and one of our chemistry classmates. It was very good, if not a tad overrated and it’s always fun to try something new.

At about two forty this morning the fire alarms in my dorm, John Jay Hall, went off. The entire building was evacuated and all of its mostly sleeping occupants had to go to the quad outside. At this point it’s unclear what happened; the fire department did enter the building although we were let back in only twenty minutes after we were sent out. I imagine that I’ll learn more about it tomorrow. The fact that I had not gone to bed and was wide awake when the alarm went off is probably a bad sign for my sleeping habits.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Want Nothing But Sleep

Oh man, I'd better start packing up! Tomorrow, each group is going to go and present their projects, not only to the class, but also to a couple of the guest speakers who are coming back to listen rather than speak! It really is an honor for these brilliant people to take time from their busy schedules so they can listen to us talk.

Anyways, I went to a couple places that I've been meaning to visit. I returned to the Metropolitan Museum to view the Greek sculptures and modern art design. Unfortunantely, my trip was cut short by an early closing time, meaning I got just over half a hour at the museum. If I return to New York some time in the future, the Met is marked as a top priority, because it truly is an amazing place.

Next, I visited the conservatory garden, and walked back to campus through Central Park. 

Tonight, I went with Michael my lab partner, Mark, to a burger place called "Shake Shack". The food was superb, and I found myself wishing they had a location in Berkeley.

Moving Right Along...

This is the last blog that will be truncated due to need to do work, as our 20 page papers are due tomorrow!

Today, we had another guest speaker, Christopher Riano, who is, to say the very least, an amazing person. Not only was he an engaging and entertaining speaker, his life story and background is astounding. He's done so much, I don't even remember half of what he's done in life so far! Anyways, while his presentation wasn't very related to Presidential Powers either, he did give each of us an opportunity to tell him about our topic, and he would add his two bits on what he thought about each topic, which was pretty interesting. His extensive experience with colleges and universities was also very interesting.

At lunch, I checked out the college fair in Lerner Hall. I saw many well known colleges there, as well as some which I'd never heard of before, but still piqued my interest. I was able to speak to many representatives from lots of different schools, and got lots of brochures and other materials.

Once again, I worked through the afternoon session, and at night, went out with my RA and other people to the Shake Shack, a well known chain on the East Coast for burgers. It was really good, and the burgers were heart-attack inducing as well. The shakes and ice cream they served was also spectacular, as well as setting me off on a good start towards diabetes. I'll upload some pictures tomorrow, but for now, I have to finish my paper. Good night!

Do You Feel inspired??


Our guest speaker today, Chris Riano, was absolutely amazing!! Have you ever heard of an almost engineer, one-time high fashion model, Maryland Supreme Court Law Clerk? Probably not but that's what Mr. Riano was and he was totally fantastic! After listening to him speak, I know exactly what I want to be like--unassuming, charismatic, crazy-intelligent, SUPER-nice, and really fun. just like him. It was impossible to leave his presentation which was really mainly about us-the college process, our 20 page papers, what we want to do-without feeling inspired! From now on, I'm going to ask myself WWCRD? [What Would Chris Riano Do?] all day long :-D

On a different but just as positive note, I finished my 20 page paper and feel like a boulder has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel fantastic and I'm so proud of myself because I didn't even let procrastination be an option, I shoveled out quality writing in a very timely matter and I know my paper is awesome because of it. I finished at 6 o'clock today and now I'm going to get back to vegging out on reality TV because I totally deserve it. GO BEULAH :-D 

It's so much better to get my work done on time because then I can actually enjoy my down time. I really think Procrastinating Beulah is no more :-) and I can't believe this experience is just about over. This is totally surreal.

What An Eventful Day!

Today in class we had our last guest speaker: Chris Riano. I think Dr. Z saved the best for last because he was the most entertaining and exciting BY FAR! He also had a very unconventional college experience. He began telling us his story of how he went to Carnegie Mellon to be an engineer, left school and came to New York where he worked as a model and traveled the world (seriously, google him)! Then he came back to school at Columbia where he was a part of the school’s Senate and sat on the Board with the likes of President Bollinger and CEOs of big companies. After graduating he went to law school in a small town and worked as a student prosecutor. In a few weeks he’ll take his BAR and begin working as a judicial law clerk in Baltimore. His life adventures are endless; he even worked as a “spy” for government agencies! How cool! He also talked to us about our papers and our college options. After visiting over 60 schools he knows a bit about the options available.

What I got from our talk with Chris and our other guest speakers was that no matter where I end up attending school (prestigious, ivy, or not), I’m the one who has to make the most of it. Also, there is no direct path to success or starting a career. I think I’ve been persuaded to take a year off before graduate school to work or have my own Riano adventure. He had such an exciting life where he took whatever was thrown at him and if it wasn’t, he went out to get it. Really inspiring.

During lunch today there was a college fair in Lerner Hall with 100 colleges and universities from all across the nation. I had really interesting conversations with Occidental, Pomona, American, George Washington, Brown and Davidson. Overall, it was both informative and hectic because there were so many people.

During our afternoon class I worked earnestly on my paper to find last-minute quotes, edit and perfect it. After working so hard the past two weeks, I was done by 5 pm. I’m so relieved that I’m not bending over backwards still working on it now! Oh my.

In celebration of finishing my paper and having some free time, my friend and I went to see the Museum of Art and Design at Columbus Circle. They had an exhibit on jewelry from all around the world and I cannot believe how heavy some of the earrings look! Surprisingly enough, I found some jewelry from the Mien culture (my culture). There was also a display of different man-made bicycles of all different colors, materials and designs. One of the coolest exhibits they had was called “Dead or Alive” where they had things that were once living but now dead in art form. Some of it was really weird, like the pile of mice bones, while some of it….well it was all weird.

Some pictures I took before they told me cameras weren't allowed

I can’t believe that tomorrow is really our last day of class! Even in these past couple of days I’ve really changed how I think about my future and what I want.


Hello everyone! Today was a great day! One of the highlights was meeting my new idol -- Chris Riano. I have a lot to say about this guy, who is by far, the most interesting and unique guest speaker we've had these past 3 weeks, and I can say by far the most interesting guest speaker I've had ever. 

After a rather hyped morning, I went to Learner Hall after lunching with Beulah, Michelle, and another classmate to attend the college fair. It was a giant college fair, that reminds me somewhat of the ones held at Pinole Valley. I took this opportunity to explore a few of the colleges that I'm not familiar with like Pomona College, Dartmouth College, and Wellesley, to name a few. After the fair, it's been work work work, with the exception of about a 3-hour break from 11 PM to 2 AM when our suite had our celebration. Two of the international students are leaving tomorrow right after classes are over so our family wanted to have one last hang out together. Although it wasn't mandatory for us to "party," I certainly felt the peer pressure. Believe me, there is nothing more that I want than to put my best effort to this research essay. However, I realized that bonding is also important. At this point, sleep is the only aspect that is at loss.

I want to apologize about this short post. I definitely want to talk about Chris and the college fair in greater detail, but I know I won't be able to do justice to either topics if I elaborated on them now. Instead, if you will forgive me, I will follow up with another blog entry just to talk the highlights of my day. One more day left, I can't believe how fast these 3 weeks have gone by! Goodnight!

Building Solar Cells

Today we started on the actual work phase of our chemistry projects. The TAs had obtained all the necessary materials for us ahead of time so we were able to start immediately. To begin with we coated a piece of glass in a titanium oxide solution and then coated it with raspberry juice. The raspberry juice allows electrons to enter the titanium oxide which acts as a semiconductor. After that we put the two plates together and allowed potassium iodine to get between them using capillary action which served as an electrolyte to complete the circuit. The resulting creation was able to create some voltage but only on a very limited scale.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fuel Cell and Trip to Astor Place Theater

Boy! Today was quite a day. For our final project, our group successfully built a rudimentary fuel cell! While the finished product looks like something you might find at the bottom of a dump (which is where you will find it in a couple of days,) we got an electric potential of .5 volts! While a "fuel cell" seems like it would be a complicated contraption, it really is just a battery that can run indefinitely as long as the right chemicals are added. Our fuel cell was constructed to run off of sodium borohydride and oxygen (air).

The following is an overview explaining the basic idea of the fuel cell. (Feel free to skip it.)

The simplified idea is that you have positively charged hydrogen in one compartment and oxygen in another. They have a tendency to react, so (with a platinum plated mesh as a catalyst,) the hydrogen crosses over to the oxygen container through a nafion membrane. The important property of this membrane is that only positively charged molecules can cross it. So the positively charged hydrogens cross, but in order to balance out charges, some electrons (which are negatively charged) need to get to the other side. The force drawing the electrons to the other compartment is where you get your power. If you run a wire from the hydrogen to the oxygen, the electrons will use this wire as a "bridge" to get from one compartment to the other. What you then do, is run this wire through a light bulb or some other device. The electrons are forced to pass through it if they are to get to the other side.

This afternoon, Professor David Schiering came in to talk about his work on IR and Raman spectroscopy. These are both techniques airports and the military use to identify potentially harmful substances.

After classes finished, I took the trains down to the Astor Place Theater to get seats for the Blue Man Group! I arrived an hour before the show to buy the "student rush" tickets at a huge discount. However by the time I got up to the box, I was in line right behind two young woman excited about seeing the show. When they got up to choose their seats, the Ticketmaster told them that there were exactly two seats remaining. Two tickets, two people, and I was in line after them. I groaned when they handed their money and got their tickets. From the beginning, I knew that there was a chance of not getting any tickets, but having the person in front of you buying the last ticket hurts. Dejectedly, I went up and asked if there were any seats at all available. He looked up and told me "There are still two seats. The girls in front of you wanted to sit together, so they bought tickets for tomorrow's showing."

WOW, what a lucky break! I am so incredibly glad that I got to see the show, because it was awesome. Never before, had I seen a show that had all of the elements of art, music, comedy, video, and interaction with the audience!

Never challenge a Blue Man to a staring contest, you WILL lose

It's amazing that in only a couple of days, we'll be packing our bags and heading back home! I want these last couple of days to be the best so I can tell everyone back home all of the things we did and learned and how incredible this whole experience was!

Reaching for the Finish Line

Good evening everyone! 

In class today we had a really interesting discussion about Presidential imperialism. Past Presidents set the precedent for increasing Presidential power to degrees that enabled the Executive Branch to be much more important than the other two branches of the checks and balances system. 

Presidents such as Lincoln, Nixon, and Bush II used their power to perform certain acts that they believed were inherent and could be implied upon reading the Constitution. 

One of the topics within the general theme related to Presidential signings, which is a way for Presidents to strike down a specific part of a Senate bill or publicly market himself to the press and Americans nationwide. This is actually one of the girl's topic for her research paper. It was great to have people with different views on whether it can be used for good or for bad, and just how much the media affects the people (my topic!). 

After the discussion we had this morning, I learned a lot more about Presidential signings and now I feel stimulus to keep up with current events! ... But before I get ahead of myself, first things first. Back to working on the essay!

And Into the Home Stretch...

Today, we had another class discussion. We talked briefly about the court cases from yesterday, and talked about the expanding role of the Presidency. We started talking in depth about the "Imperial Presidency", which is when a President takes on more power than is constitutionally granted. We talked specifically about the expansion of power with signing statements as a form of "line by line" veto.

At lunch today, I went to look around Rockefeller Center for the last time, and bought lunch from a street vendor instead of eating in the cafeteria, which was a welcome change.

The afternoon session was filled with research and work, as usual, and I managed to finish pretty much all of the sources I needed, which was good.

After check-in and dinner, I went with some friends to Chinatown and Soho for shopping. It eventually ended up that we would be waiting on one friend that wanted to do shopping, while the rest of us were apathetic to the thought of buying clothes, so that some of us eventually went to Times Square for some last minute souvenir shopping (because we know everyone is going to be asking for one...) All in all, today was really fun, and I know I'm bracing myself for the last night of work tomorrow night here in New York City!

It's Been a Long Day

Today's class was very refreshing. It was more like the traditional seminar concept where everyone shares their opinions and we actually got some decent class participation today. 

We were discussing this massive list of Articles we had been assigned and I got some interesting view points. The part that resounded the most with me was learning about Lincoln's use of his War powers as Commander in Chief and how he pushed the limits of the Constitution. I wasn't sure of my opinion on the matter and I'm still not. One has to ask if it's OK to overstep your bounds as the President, Constitutionally, if it truly is in the best interests of the nation, or it it's never OK. 

I am totally opposed on moral grounds but in terms of Presidential strategy, I have to acknowledge its merits. The President can move much faster as a singular executive with classified information than can a massive body of representatives like the Congress. And with that many people in on it, there is bound to be some leaks that can be really detrimental and even dangerous to the war movement as a whole.

Think about it..

The Beginning of the End

It’s a little outrageous that we only have a few more days left here and I think everyone is beginning to feel it.

In class today we somehow got on the topic of the media in politics and began a really interesting discussion about how the Internet is a great access to news but also gives information that is invalid or untrue.

We worked on our papers again in the library and I feel like it’s crunch-time. I really have to put in last minute information, revise and polish because I plan to be finished tomorrow afternoon. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chemistry Project Lift Off!

Again, not a whole lot to say about today. I managed to wake up early enough to shower and grab breakfast, which was nice. As Michael stated in his blog post, we're working on our group projects. My group was assigned the task of building a fuel cell. We found some instructions and after researching the theory behind the cell, we were given the okay to start making it! 

Today has been pretty relaxed. I did some research, played ping pong, and visited Soho.

Anyways, I'm planning on catching the Blue Man Group at the Astor Place Theater tomorrow! Ever since coming to New York, seeing them has been a hope of mine so here's to fitting it in my schedule!

Solar Cells

Today’s class was devoted primarily to the chemistry project. I know that I’ve referenced this project multiple times on the blog but have yet to describe it. Basically, there are eight groups of four in the class and each group is assigned a specific topic to research and an experiment to perform or a piece of equipment to build that requires the application of said research. 

In our group’s case, the subject was solar cells, specifically dye-sensitive cells. My research has been focused on photovoltaic effect which allows solar cells to function because photons from the sun’s electromagnetic radiation knock electrons into the conduction band so that they can flow and create a current. This is an admittedly incomplete explanation but gives the gist of how solar cells work. Tomorrow we will actually build our very rudimentary solar cell; it should be interesting and the procedures don’t seem too difficult.

All about education

Hello! I have a trivia for you.

Did you know that the New York City public schools district is the biggest one in the nation? Did you know that if you gathered all students in the NYC public school system and told them to form a city, their city would be the 10th largest city in the US? I didn't know the answer to any of the two questions before attending our morning lecture by Steven Melzer.

A '05 Columbia grad, Steven now works as a special projects director with a focus on the arts, which is an area he has been passionate about since high school. After a brief introduction of the board of education and the system used in New York, Steven talked about various issues in education such as funding, budget cuts, and average class size.

This brings me to some other interesting facts I learned. Although New York schools have the most amount of students than any other city, its average class size ranges from low 20s for grade school to the high 20s for secondary school, which is lower than the average class size at my school.

However, the statistics Steven and his coworkers gathered about the impact of class size on performance proved that class size really does not matter much, at least not when the number is still in the 20s to low 30s.

Despite popular belief that smaller class sizes would enable students to have a more interactive and beneficial learning environment, the data shows that schools in the top 50 percentile have about the same averages as the schools in the lower 50 percentile.

He also debunked another popular myth about budget cuts. Although budget cuts often remove a significant portion of the school's funding, it is important to take that number and the total fund whollistically. Steven says that because so many of the costs are fixed, reforming education often takes a long time before effects are visible, simply because there is only so much that can be tweaked at once.

Also, Steven and the other members of the NYC Department of Education try their best to invest money in the more important sectors of education.

Going back to the fact at the top of this blog entry, our speaker informed us that although there are more students in the New York City public school district than there are people in San Jose, San Jose has a significant greater number of police officers.

Aside from talking about the education system, Steven also talked a bit about his Columbia experience. Before working for the Department of Education, he actually worked for a while as an admissions officer at Columbia. He gave us some tips about the supplemental essay which I have heard of before from other people but still found it helpful. At least now I know it is REALLY important! Because he graduated only 5 years ago, Steven also talked for a while about his college days.

Upon graduating from high school, he thought he knew exactly what he wanted to do -- study computer science and music -- so he could eventually build a robot that could compose music on its own, conduct, and help other children learn music.

However, after taking and failing his first computer science course, Steven realized that it wasn't the field he was cut out for and began to shop for other interests, before finally finding home in the economics department.

After talking to some people about the core curriculum at Columbia University, I gathered that most people either love it or hate it, but most people could agree that the core worked best for students who had already figured out what field they are interested in.

Steven, on the other hand, represented the other side. Because the core curriculum forces students to take certain classes in the various fields, students can use the required introductory classes (which about a third of the entire requirement) to explore.

Overall, I learned a lot from Steven's presentation. We have our final guest presentation on Friday. I can't wait to see what we'll learn from this one!