Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Graduate Tours and More

The weather was absolutely perfect! The temperature went all the way down to high seventies! 

After waking up and showering, I ran over to Havemeyer to suit up for today’s lab. Did I mention that we were given brand new lab coats and safety goggles? One feels much more prepared to tackle a distillation lab when protected by snazzy science gear! 

After a long few hours, our group managed to produce a small amount of ethanol! To determine that what we had distilled was indeed ethanol, we performed the simplest qualitative test we could devise; we burned it! And instead of leaving the building for lunch, we had the chance to meet with graduate students attending Columbia! 

Michael and I were given a tour by Zach, an aspiring Materials Chemist. Amazingly, he grew up in the Bay Area and furthermore, he had not been attending a private Jewish High School, he would have attended De Anza and been part of our school district! It makes me wonder that if he was our age, he may have been a part of the ILC! 

But geography aside, he took us on a tour of the lab he worked in and told us about his work on so called “Quantum Dots”, tiny particles which fluoresce light at specific wavelengths corresponding to their size. 

He showed us his fume hood as well as a sample he had synthesized. He would later run tests on the sample to determine whether or not it was the specific Cadmium compound he was trying to achieve. 

Unfortunately, due to its high toxicity, he smartly decided to not work on it while a bunch of outsiders were in the lab. 

After the tour, we hustled down to a presentation room where professor Ronald Breslow showed us some of the big issues that modern day Chemists are working on including better batteries, cures for viruses, and improved solar cells. 

My image of Chemistry as a discipline only about the complex and arbitrary manipulation of molecules was revolutionized! The incredible variety of applications of a Chemical background hit me when two grad students were talking about a Chemical Engineer’s likely job as a reactor designer! I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s lab, where we’ll be synthesizing and then isolating Aspirin! 


Time Flies When You're Locked Out

I'm just going to start by saying I locked myself out of my room today from 9:00 PM to 11:45 PM. 

As a result, I am way behind on coursework. 

The morning started off well enough, with another very informative lecture on how to use database searches to refine your source options. Today's "guest lecturer" was in charge of the American and European section of the database, so his knowledge was very useful for us. After his short lecture, we had time to research with his guidance, which was really helpful. I was able to request a journal article that was relevant to my subject, which was really cool. 

For me, it's hard to believe that high-schoolers like me from all the way across the country can use the resources of a world-renowned college just as if I was a full-fledged college student myself. I'm really glad to have this experience! 

Anyways, after lunch, we went to the libraries to do another two hours of research. After so much time in the library doing research, I think I'm starting to get the hang of researching, which is good. I spent a lot of time trying to keep up with the books and research today, until I locked myself out. I'm now two and a half hours behind my studies, so I'll definitely blog more tomorrow! 

Thank you to Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, Mrs. Ishmael, and everyone else who helps!

The Suite Life of Hartley 5A

One of the biggest differences at the Columbia summer program, in comparison to other programs I've attended and/or heard about, is the suite life. Rather than sharing doubles or occupying singles, the girls at Columbia are lodged in suites.

Suites operate, more or less, as communities. Like the other dormitories in John Jay, Hartley and Wallach have separate rooms for singles and doubles. Rather than having the whole floor connecting each other, rooms by each other are grouped together to form suites, that are then separated from the general space by another door.

The Hartley and Wallach are slightly different, to my knowledge. Wallach seems to have suites that are contained on one floor, whereas the Hartley suites have stairs within the suite. As a result, our suites are double the size of suites in Wallach and have two RAs instead of one.

The only mechanical advantages for suites is: (a) it is safer, if safety is ever an issue; (b) there is a kitchen and more private washing facilities used only for residents within the individual suites; and (c) everyone becomes friends with each other and collectively create families -- no matter how different they may be. I must admit, after meeting my suite mates, I doubted that I would ever become close with them. I saw them as the people I would wave and say hi to in the hallways or on the streets. But I can also happily admit that my impressions are slowly but surely changing.

Tonight, one of the girls in our suite realized at curfew-check that she had lost her phone while dancing on the lawn after the campus-wide scavenger hunt. We all gathered together as a family to comfort her, as the RAs kept trying to call her phone and notified the senior advisors on campus. The girl lost her iPhone, which is her most expensive gadget, so she was worried that her parents would "ground [her] for life."

Because I have so much homework tonight, I was planning on dropping in to say I was there and heading right back to my dorm to finish reading. Instead, I decided to stay and talk to her and join in on contributing some funny stories to cheer her up. Before we knew it, the conversation carried easily from losing items and finding them to meeting strangers to stalking cute boys. That was when an idea popped into their heads. Another girl pulled out her cellphone and texted one of the guys they were hanging out with. Soon enough, he sent a text back saying he had picked up her cellphone and turned it into the lost and found. Problem solved.
Now... back to work!

Another Day of Chemistry

Today I finally managed to get up at a reasonable time of 7:30 which allowed me to take a relaxed shower and eat breakfast before class. 

The weather also improved, as a breeze brought the temperature to much more hospitable levels. 

Our lab today involved the distillation of an ethanol-water solution through both the simple and fractional processes. We ended the lab with a qualitative test that involved setting the final solutions alight; it wasn’t the most precise method of measurement but it was very dramatic. 

After the lab we had lunch with some of the graduate students in the department. The man I talked to was a material engineer named Zach who happened to have grown up in Richmond, CA. He showed us around the building and explained his work in the synthesis of quantum dots which I admittedly did not fully comprehend. We ended the day with a lecture on the applications of chemistry in the modern world by Ronald Breslow, an internationally acclaimed chemist.

After class I explored the campus gym with Jamie and a chemistry classmate and then had dinner with them. Once I finish my homework I’m going to try and get to bed relatively early so that I can start to recuperate from my recent lack of sleep.

One Crazy Day!

I have so much work to do it's insane. Fortunately, I've thrown Procrastinator Beulah to the wind and have decided to be Responsible Beulah from here on out :-D. 

I am actually ahead on my research paper and making progress on the enormous reading assignments. Yet another library tour today that tried to put me to sleep, but it failed thanks to my trip to the gym this morning and my highly nutritious breakfeast. I'm trying to stay positive under this mountain of homework so I keep telling myself that Responsible Beulah is one awesome girl and she doesn't give up. We'll see how this works out. Didn't solve the laundry emergency yet--no quarters and no one with change for a 5 so we'll also have to see how that pans out.

This is pretty much what my life will look like until the weekend :-(

Oh, Reagan

I can’t believe it’s only Wednesday! I feel like I’ve been in New York for so long! Today Beulah and I woke up early to hit the gym. We were pleasantly surprised because Columbia has a really nice facility. 

We had yet another library orientation at Butler library and we worked on our research papers. I read a lot today about Reagan and Grenada. It’s so interesting that Reagan had a list of justifications for invading the country but they didn’t have much evidence of being true. I’m really excited to discover more about Reagan and his use of speech to convince and persuade America.

Tonight I’m attending the campus-wide scavenger hunt. Hopefully it’ll be really fun! Then later I think our suite is watching The Hangover together. Have a good night everyone!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chem Class and Classy Jazz, Getting Jazzed About the Chemistry of NY!

Today the ball started rolling! I woke up to my alarms (yes, I set more than one) at 7:00 as planned but I lay back down to collect myself and next thing I know, my roommate is waking me up for a class that starts in fifteen minutes! Never making that mistake again. 

I managed to get to the building in time for a lab activity where we charted the cooling curve of glacial acetic acid. A lot of the groups (including ours) had trouble getting the probes working. It was a nice reminder that even at college and higher levels of research, technical difficulties can and will occur! 

After our lab and lunch break, guest speaker Professor Ged Parkin took the time to talk about his work on Bond Stretch Isomerism. He gave a fascinating account of a (false) theory describing non-existent phenomena where the same element of atoms in identical molecules held different bond lengths. He emphasized the point that even the most dedicated professionals have their blind spots and can misinterpret data. 

After the seminar, I took a trip to the Fat Cat Jazz club in Greenwich! After receiving a stylish identifying hand stamp, we played pool and Scrabble as we listened to live Jazz performances. 

On the way back to campus, we stopped at Magnolia, a sweets bakery that officially sells the best cupcakes ever made. Even at three dollars apiece, a few students went back for seconds after devouring their first cupcake! During tonight’s outing, I met an international student from Norway who was surprised and impressed to hear that we had a Norwegian exchange student spend a year learning at El Cerrito High! It’s amazing how global the population is here! 

Whilst eating my cupcake, I was standing in a circle chatting with about ten other people when we realized that everyone (with the exception of myself) was at least bilingual! But while internationality is nice, I grow proud whenever I meet another fellow Californian. Thanks to the ILC as well as independent contributors, California is well represented in this program! Well, tomorrow is going to be another big day, so I’ll log off and get rested.

Jazz club hand stamp

First Day in the Lab

Today I slept through all of my alarms and got up at 9:10 for my 9:00 class. I immediately rushed to the classroom without regard for food or hygiene and was fortunate enough to get there before the start of the lab. 

The focus of the investigation was the freezing of glacial acetic acid, and although my group literally spent three hours of calibrating some finicky pieces of equipment, it was both fairly interesting and a valuable experience in the lab. 

Following the lab we had a guest speaker on the topic of stretch-bond isomers. The lecture was especially interesting given that our speaker himself had been the one to discover that these isomers were actually illusions causes by unforeseeable contaminating reactions.

After class all six of us ILC members gathered and had dinner together. I decided to visit Times Square and the Rockefeller Center with Winston and Yueming. We spent some time exploring the various stores that populate the area, although a disappointing number of them closed early and I forgot my camera. 

I’m trying to fit my alarm clock on my headboard so I don’t oversleep again tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to seeing what else the class has in store.

Day of Work

Today was the second day of class, and already we're getting used to the research procedure. 

We had a brief introductory lesson on how the catalogs work and how to search through the Columbia database by the librarian in charge of the political section of the database. (I think I might have misheard.) Anyways, he was really helpful and informative about all the different little tips and tricks you can use to dredge up information on the internet or databases. 

Afterwards, he took us on a quick trip around the library, and then he left us to do research for the next hour. 

At lunch, I had a quick bite, then took a nap and woke up in time for the second session, where we researched for another two hours. Even the three hours we had to research today was barely enough to stay on track however. 

Without doubt, this course is going to take a lot of effort and concentration to avoid falling behind. I'll blog more about Columbia tomorrow, but for now I need to try to finish reading articles and start my second book.

Time Warp!

It's really wierd, I feel like time is flying and moving at a snail's pace at the same time. It feels like I've been here (at the University) for two weeks already but then it feels like I just got here and I can't believe two days have passed. 

My class is really difficult -- very research intensive and immersive so I definitely agree with the teacher that we'll be experts on our various topics by the course's end. Yes the class is hard but I'm sure it will be fun when we get to the discussion portion. 

For now we're just learning about how the libraries work, we won't start that until Thursday. I set up my consultation with a research librarian and am excited to start uncovering history. 

On a different note, I just had my first laundry emergency today when I mixed dark and light clothes; but not to worry, I spoke with my mother and she said the stains will come right out. Since I'm trying not to get upset, I'm choosing to believe this and will worry about the results of my second attempt when it happens. 

TTYL guys!

Easy? No Way!

I woke up to a bright and sunny morning; what a great way to start the day! Our class met in one of the 20 some libraries on campus for an orientation on research. I am really excited to take advantage of all the resources on the Columbia campus. During lunch Beulah and I took a cha cha class offered by one of the Resident Assistants. I can’t dance but I thought I’d give it a try; turns out, it was a lot of fun! I’m really excited about the next two and a half weeks because there is just so much to do! We spent our afternoon class in the library beginning research on our papers. Oh no!

Here is what my life will consist of for the next few weeks:

Research Day

Like any class we will take, the first day of Presidential Powers was, to be completely honest, fairly dry and boring. Since we take classes everyday for 2 2-hour intervals, the time we have in class is strictly limited, which is both good and bad. 

At yesterday's morning session, we really didn't have much time after going over the syllabus and course schedule, briefly introducing ourselves, and brainstorming ideas for possible theses for our research essays. And, as you can imagine, it was quite tedious. 

The afternoon, on the other hand, was spent touring one of two main libraries we will use as research resources -- the Butler Library.

This morning, we went over to the Lehman Library. There to meet us was Jerry Breeze, one of the research librarians at the library with a special focus on government. He graciously took time to show us how to use the Columbia search engine offered at the library to find information crucial to our essays, and even gave us a quick tour around before returning to his work. After that, it was free-time to scavenge for useful information. The afternoon was pretty much a continuation of what we started doing.

I remember last summer at Cornell that we didn't have much free time to do anything but classwork. During the last week of the summer course, a bunch of our friends went together to take peeks at the various buildings on the Cornell campus. One of those days, we entered what we called the "Harry Potter" library. Although we didn't exactly go there to study or to do research, we had such a great time and I remember thinking, oh man, I wish we discovered this place earlier so we can come here, even if we can't do anything there but blog. Obviously what we're doing at Columbia is different. We will literally be going to at least one library almost every day during the week to study, read, or research, so not going to the libraries will not be a regret this summer!

And while we're on the subject of libraries, I might as well mention just how different these libraries are in comparison to our local libraries. Although I've only gone to the Hercules, Pinole, Rodeo, and El Sobrante branches, I can assure you, many of these libraries on campus are much much bigger than what we have. Also, things are organized in letters, numbers, and decimals. The shelves are also more compacted together, so people can't walk side-by-side with each other while retrieving the books between aisles. A lot of the aisles are also very dim... and creepy. Of course, I would notice the lights that have been so conveniently and cleverly installed at the ends of bookshelves AFTER I finished looking for books in the dark. It takes a few tries to get used to the new organization system at these libraries, but once familiar with it, finding books is quite an easy task.

Sorry I'm Late!

I'm not talking about my very first class by the way, I'm apologizing to you the readers. 

Last night after a group outing with my fab ILC friends, I crashed under a mountain of homework (and slightly neglected my blog responsibilities). This is going to be one difficult class. The teacher seems awesome but reading 5 books and doing a 20 page paper in three weeks is quite an undertaking for anyone. 

On the bright side I know that by the time I'm finished with this class, I'll be even more of a genius than I was when I came here, and totally prepared for a career in politics :-). 

I'll keep you guys posted on how it goes today.

Monday, June 28, 2010

First Day of Class

My day began today with bagels served by our RA in the recreation room of our floor before we attended an orientation where we received our ID cards and schedules. 

From the orientation we went to our respective classes, in my case this was Intense Seminars in Modern Chemistry with Professor Luis Avila. 

Although I’ve only had a single day to form an impression of the class it seems to be very interesting. In only an hour or two we were shown several demonstrations of chemical phenomena including the condensation and combustion of liquid oxygen, the blue shifting of a semi-conductor based light with liquid nitrogen, and the use of a cooled superconductor to levitate magnets. Aside from being a chemist, Professor Avila is also in charge of numerous historical artifacts related to chemistry that populate the halls of the building and he took us on a tour of the building and the history of chemistry at Columbia. The focus of the class seems to be on lab work so I don’t share as heavy a workload as my fellow ILC members in the Presidential Powers course, although I do have longer class times. 

I’ll end this post with my thanks to the ILC for making this possible, I’m really looking forward to the rest of the course. I included a shot of the dorm room to give an idea of what the living quarters are like.

"Dr. Z"

Today was the first official day of class. After attending the program-wide orientation with another 1600 some students we were finally given folders with general information ranging from class schedules to a campus map to midday activities. From there, our suite groups branched off and went our separate ways to find our classes.

I recalled checking online a while back to see the various programs. By that time, the Presidential Powers course was already closed off from additional applications. After taking the Cornell Hotel Management course with a total of 70 students, I realized that a filled class probably meant at least in the 30s. I didn't expect that our class's maximum size would be 12.

I finally got to meet our instructor, Martha Zebrowski, aka "Dr. Z." We were immediately handed a syllabus with a list of books that needed to be purchased, as well as a detailed schedule of where we will be and what we need to accomplish by certain dates and times. These are some of the materials we need to read:
  • Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay
  • Eyewitness to Power by David Gergen
  • Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy by Charlie Savage
  • The Presidential Difference: Leadership Styles from FDR to Barack Obama by Fred I. Greenstein
  • A Manual for Writers of Research Papers by Kate L. Turabian
Others include the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution and various other websites and handouts. We also have two books listed under recommended readings and another book that is held in the reserved section of Lehman Library, one of two main libraries we will be using primarily for the course. In addition to a long list of readings, the final product of our course will ultimately be a 20-page research paper focused on one topic in history that can be related to the presidencies. Luckily, we'll be required to hand in a 12-page draft so the work is better spread out. I bet you know what I'll be doing for the next 3 weeks!

3rd Day: "Boot Camp"

Today was the first day of actual class! 

This morning, I woke up early to have breakfast with my RA and other students from my floor. The dining area was packed, as over 800 students were trying to eat at the same time. 

After we fought our way through the hordes of hungry students to get breakfast, we went into Lerner Hall for the orientation. There, the Dean of the School of Continuing Education spoke to us passionately about the program and the roles she hoped for us to fulfill. In her words, "To use knowledge and understanding to benefit those around us." That really inspired me, because it sums up what I hope to achieve in life.

After orientation, we went to our class, American Presidential Powers at Home and Abroad: From George Washington to Barack Obama. The teacher turned out to be very different from my expectations. I was expecting a young, inexperienced teacher to be assigned to us; after all, we were only a group of 12 high school students. However, we instead received an experienced teacher who taught a similar class, but of a slightly higher caliber, to actual college students on this campus. She seemed very knowledgeable and eager to help our group of high school students achieve all we could achieve. However, to achieve this end, she assigned us a huge load of work, including an additional 4 books to read, and a 20 page paper to be finished by the end of the course. 

While this does seem to be a lot, it is what we expected, seeing as we are attending a rigorous course in one of the world's most prestigious institutions. 

At lunch, we went down to the bookstore in order to buy the necessary books, and were ready to begin research on our topics for our papers by the second session of class. At the second secession, we were taken on a tour of the library by our teacher, and were given a chance to begin our papers. My topic will likely be about how FDR used the lessons learned from WWI in his management of WWII in domestic and international relations. This paper will be the hardest paper I've written yet, but I'm looking forward to it nonetheless! 

Well, I should start reading my 4 books, so I'll blog more tomorrow!

First Day of Classes

Today was our first day of classes. 

Unfortunately, I was incredibly tired for them. 

The a/c in my room was leaking water, so my roommate and I were forced to turn it off, making sleeping very difficult. Maintenance people are supposed to come fix it up either today or tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to that. 

The first day of class was fun! We met our instructor, Professor Luis Avila, who gave us a tour of the Havenmeyer and Chandier buildings. He took us into his office, where he showed us pictures of his daughters, as well as his bongo drums. The building's history was showcased in a row of shelves displaying photos and equipment from the time the building was built. Our professor himself was the one who assembled these trophy cases! 

After class, I went with an RA to see Toy Story 3 in IMAX 3D. Not only was the movie great, but the Toy Story series is something from my childhood, so seeing so many of these characters after so many years brought back a lot of fond feelings. 

While I had to go over a lab we'd be preforming tomorrow, I'm relieved that the workload is less than what the Presidential Powers students are going through! 

My roommate is asleep right now, but I'll see if I can upload some pictures I took sometime tomorrow. 

I'm really glad that I came with a group of people, because while I'm meeting new people every day, many of the people on my floor have already established cliques, which limits potential group activity. 

Anyways, I'm off to bed. Good night!

The Beginning of A Long Road Ahead

Today we had our first class! 

I was surprised when I walked into class because there are only 12 students total! It’s supposed to be like a seminar where we discuss our reading for the first two hours of class then for the next two, we go to the library to work on research papers. 

We had to choose our research topics and I decided on Reagan’s use of the press to sway the American voters. The paper has to be 20 pages double-spaced so I’m really nervous. 

We also got assigned like five books along with United States documents (i.e. Articles of the Confederation) to read and analyze. 

So much to do!

Moving Into Columbia

We woke up at the fairly relaxed time of 10:20 to pack up and get ready for brunch with the applications reader for Yale in Northern California. The brunch was delicious and the admissions officer gave use some great advice. We then returned to our hotel where we picked up our luggage and headed off to campus.

We arrived on the Columbia campus around mid day where we were directed to our respective dorms and rooms. The rooms are comfortable; my roommate and I each have separate spaces and there is an air conditioner in the room for which I am eternally grateful. The eight of us who share the same RA all had dinner together followed by an orientation, all of them seem really nice and I look forward to getting to know them further. 

Classes start tomorrow so I’ll need to get plenty of rest for my first day.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I Think I'm at Home

I'm from a really big, really close-knit family so naturally I've been feeling a little homesick even though it's only been a few days. However, I have felt really at home here for the first time since I left. I knew that Columbia was my dream school on paper and I had this really strong feeling that it was the one, but when I got here I knew it was more than just a feeling. I have felt at home here from the minute I've stepped on campus and I am soooooooo juiced right now. My suitemates are awesome and I'm roommates with Michelle (thank goodness) so I know this is going to be the best summer ever -- even better than the one when I was seven :-). I can't believe I'm really here and I definitely can't wait to experience more. Moving in was absolutely awesome.

On an equally fantastic note, the NorCal admissions officer for Yale is AWESOME. He is so personable and nice that it made me want to apply. He makes it sound like the place to be and gave me some valuable insights on the admissions process. The brunch was also very tasty so it was only a plus :-)

Moving In

Today marked the beginning of the actual Columbia portion of our trip to New York! 

The morning started out with a fantastic brunch with the admissions officer in charge of the Northern California region from Yale. He was very different from my expectations of an admissions officer. He was humorous, friendly, and seemed genuinely interested in helping us succeed in applying to the school of our choice, especially Yale. He also explained how the application review process works, which was really enlightening. His main tip for us when applying was to make sure that we sounded "genuine and authentic", meaning that we should distinguish ourselves as individuals with regard to clubs and grades, instead of just being a collection of test scores and grades.

After the delicious lunch, we then picked up our luggage, and went to Columbia to get ready to move into our dorms. It was a relatively straightforward process, with almost no hassle, which was an unexpected relief. I think all the ILC students were split up, but I'm not entirely sure. I was suprised at the variety of students attending, and also the sheer volume of students. There were around 800 residential students, and my RA, Kyle (who is really casual and relaxed), said that there were at least that many commuter students also. We then had the opportunity to relax until around 5:00, where there would be a "Welcome Barbecue" for the students. I took advantage of this time to take a nap to get rid of the last of the jet lag.

The dinner was actually very good, even though it was a far cry from the fancy expensive dinners we had started to be accustomed to. Even so, it was nice to be able to dig into a hamburger without having to worry about proper dining etiquette. Plus, I really missed the taste of fast food. After the dinner, Kyle took us to the lawn to go over the rules and such of Columbia, and it seems like it is a really relaxed and casual program, which is really cool. The campus itself is very beautiful, and it has a nice brick and stone style, which is different from much of the glass and metal style of New York. I can't wait for classes to begin tomorrow!

Welcome to Columbia!

Today was our last morning at the hotel. We took cabs out to Beacon Restaurant where we had brunch with Alexander Richardson, the NorCal admissions officer at Yale. He shared with us his job as an admissions officer, what he looks for in an application and a student, along with some insider secrets on the admissions process. He was really personable and open to answer all of our questions. Overall, the brunch was really informative and encouraged me to consider Yale. I also talked to him about visiting Middle College High School for the first time.

After our wonderful brunch we came to Columbia University to move into our dorms! The campus is absolutely beautiful and welcoming. We met our suitemates (who are pretty chill) and had dinner together. Tomorrow we have orientation and our first day of class. I’m really excited to embark on this new adventure!

First Day at Columbia

The New York heat is starting to get to me. 

Today, we ate brunch with a Yale Admissions Officer, Alex. While I would have liked to have asked him more about his major, astrophysics, but learning about the admissions process was the purpose of our meeting, so talk of black holes came second. 

What is really important about today, is that it’s our big moving day! After eating, we grabbed our already packed bags, and taxied over to Columbia University. 

The campus is beautiful, but the weather is as hot as ever. On the other hand, I’ve talked with some students from Florida who assure me that this level of heat is nothing. 

What’s really surpised me is the huge variety of places that people come from. In our RA’s group alone, there are three people from California, one from Indonesia, one from Korea, one from Connecticut, and only one actually from New York. In a few minutes, I’m going to meet with my group for an orientation of sorts, so I’ll cut this short. Have a great day everyone!

Officially at Columbia

Hello everyone!

Today began with a great, late start. It was a bit sad that it was our last morning at the Beacon and we were in such a rush to get out to go to brunch at Beacon with Yale's Norcal admissions officer Mr. Alex Richardson. Although we only spent a little over an hour with him, I learned a lot by listening to him answer all of our questions, ranging from the general admissions process to his major in astrophysics. For instance, I learned that he does not toss any application, even if it falls below par. Instead, he typically speeds through the rest of a "bad" application, and slows down to read more carefully through a "good" application. I've always thought that if the admission officer didn't like an application, he'd toss it before getting to the end. Hopefully other admission officers are just like him! Also, Mr. Richardson told us that he is the ONLY Yale reader for Northern California. He will be coming to visit El Cerrito High School sometime in the Fall to give a college writing workshop if anyone wants to meet him!

After brunch, we rushed back to the hotel to pick up our luggage to head down to Columbia University. And we took a cab instead of the subway! It was interesting that taking a cab is, in this case, less expensive than riding a crowded subway train while hauling luggage bags.

Check-in was really quick and simple, and it went much smoother than I had expected. I am rooming in Hartley Hall in a combined 2-floor suite. Unlike last summer at Cornell when I had a double with my friend from New Jersey, this year I have a single. While there are ups and downs about rooming alone, I think it's a good experience, to try a double and to try a single. Moreover, we are living in suites, so even if we're roomed in singles, we can always walk down the hall and mingle. And one more thing, I won't need to worry about having a roommate whom I can't get along with.

All in all, the first official day at Columbia has gone smoothly. I am quite ready for bed. Must gear up for class tomorrow morning and we'll be up for an early start. Goodnight everyone!

A Day of Touring in the City

Today began rather hectically as the three of us that share a room awoke to find that we had all overslept and had to rush to the lobby immediately with almost no time for preparation. Thankfully, the rest of our day was much more relaxed. We had a nice breakfast at a diner which stands adjacent to our hotel, and then set off for a day of touring.

We began by walking to Central Park from where the tour buses we intended to take set off from. These double deckered buses allowed us to see a large tract of Manhattan, at the slight cost of consistent sun exposure. As we drove through the city I was impressed by the sheer quantity of things to do, especially given that we had only seen one borough.

After a few hours and countless skyscrapers we returned to Central Park where we had a light snack at the Plaza Hotel, an establishment that which now includes stores and condos in addition to actually being a hotel.

From there we headed back to our hotel to prepare for dinner at Bar Americain. The meal was excellent despite the fact that the air conditioner had failed; I had duck with wild rice.

Tomorrow we move into the dorms, it’s exciting to imagine what it will be like. I’d like to especially thank Ms. Kronenberg for her assistance as we said goodbye to her tonight.

First Full Day of New York

I’d like to apologize for the tardiness of this post; I started writing the post rather late last night and the internet cutoff due to the fact that we can only purchase it in twenty four hour intervals of time.

Today we got up at five so that we could take a train to visit Bard. Unfortunately, the train we intended to take left significantly earlier than expected so we were left with a four hour void to fill until the train for Poughkeepsie left. We decided that we would go to the Empire State Building with our spare time. The 86th floor offered sweeping views of the island that even my fear of heights could not detract from.
Our subsequent visit Vassar stood in stark contrast to the urban sprawl we observed in the city. After a pleasant train ride along the shores of the Hudson we arrived in the town of Poughkeepsie which houses Vassar. The college has a very rural feeling to it; the entirety of the campus is blanketed in green. We stayed for an information session and tour after which we returned to the city. We dined at Oceana, a fine seafood restaurant where I had a swordfish steak and sea snails. The meal was again delicious and a fine end to our first full day in New York. 

I'm definitely looking forward to the beginning of the chemistry course and all that it entails. My thanks to everyone who’s helped to make the ILC possible.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tours and Goodbyes

If I thought that under the vastness of New York from the Empire State Building, I was wrong. Viewing things from that high up messes with your perception. There’s a limit to how much our brains can handle. For example, if you see a building from the observation deck, it is just that: a building no different from any of the other thousand. But when you get down on the ground you realize that the building is full of thousands of people and it has several restaurants, markets, and is utterly unique compared to all of its surrounding buildings, which are also unique in and of themselves! So while yesterday, we saw New York from afar, today, on the Greyhound tour bus we traveled around the island and got a closer glimpse of things. What it has really shown me is that there are so, so many things to explore.

Tonight, we said our farewells to Mrs. Kronenberg, who, during her time with us, has been a wonderful chaperone. After her final dinner with us at Bar Americain, she prepared us for our meeting with the Yale admissions officer.

After every day, there's just more and more to look forward to. Next up: Columbia dorms!


Well, today was a nice relaxing day compared to all the hustle and bustle of yesterday! Even though the day started badly, it still ended on a high note! 

In the morning, I woke up after a deep restful sleep. I yawned and happened to glance at my watch, which said 9:00. The implications of this didn't kick in until a second later, when I realized, "OH MAN! WE'RE SUPPOSED TO BE DOWNSTAIRS AT 9:00!" 

Long story short, our room managed to get downstairs in 10 minutes, which was before everyone else was ready, so we survived. After that, we had another sumptuous breakfast, and after that we went to find a Grey Line bus to tour New York in. However, on the way there, I was walking along in the shade, when I was suddenly, out of the blue, I was hit by bird droppings. Needless to say, it was an unpleasant experience which I hope I will never have to repeat. After that, we got onto a open topped bus, where we got to ride around the upper half of New York, which included Harlem and the Museum Mile.

Afterwards, we promptly boarded another bus, this time to see the downtown portion of New York, which included the tenement houses, many shopping streets, the Financial District, etc.

Overall, it was a very interesting trip to learn about New York itself. I definitely know more now than before I started, and really enjoyed the humor of the guides and drivers. After the bus tours, we went to the stores in a hotel to buy a quick snack, and checked out other stores. Afterwards, we walked back to the hotel through Central Park to gather ourselves and prepare for dinner.

We had dinner at Chef Bobby Flay's Bar Americain, where we dined excellently on various American cultural food with Flay's signature twist on each one.

Thanks to Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Ramsey, and everyone else!

Seeing New York

--United Nations AKA My future location of employment?--
This morning we had the privilege of sleeping in! We had breakfast at a little cafĂ© right next door to our hotel. After, we made our way to Central Park where there was a multitude of people walking around. We took a tour bus to see New York. We went to Harlem, through Times Square, Greenwich Village and nearly every corner of Manhattan. I could not stop taking pictures! Though we toured for hours I never got tired of the city; it’s just so beautiful and historical; there’s always something new to learn about it. I was surprised to see that Wall Street is actually really small and narrow.
--Central Park's Great Lawn--
After touring we went to the Plaza Hotel, one of the most esteemed hotels around the room, where we had a snack. Eventually we left and made our way back to our hotel by walking through Central Park passing the Great Lawn. We spent over an hour relaxing and enjoying each other before heading out to dinner at Bar Americain (Bobby Flay’s restaurant).

At the restaurant we discussed our plans for tomorrow: leaving the hotel, having brunch with a Yale admissions officer and moving to Columbia. I am so excited to talk one-on-one with an admissions officer to fulfill all of my curiosity about the college admissions process. Columbia, here we come!