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!


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