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.