Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Let the games begin

Some of my top experiences of all time include; visiting Washington D.C., getting the game winning hit, visiting Disney Land, and of course being a part of the Ivy League Connection program. Though most people only saw the end result of the program, which was every student succeeding in a rigorous college course, there was a lot of hard work that each student, chaperone, parent, founder, and sponsor had to put in. This whole experience has been breath taking, and one of the greatest life changing experiences I have ever had. There are so many words I can say about this whole experience, they cannot fit on one page. Before I even start on my reflections of the experience I want to thank; God for all the care and comfort, my family for their support, my illustrious chaperone Mrs. Kaplan, Mr. Ramsey, my fellow Cornelian’s and everyone else who sincerely supported me. I couldn’t have completed this journey without you all there to support me.
From around December of 2009 the ILC has made me mature each and every day. Starting with the essay, and interview process I had to go through. Both these taught me to do what was best for me, and not what the status quo was. When there was about 40 students called in to hear about the ILC, what it was, and how you get in, a lot of my peers said “this is too much work,” or “we’ll never get in, so why try,” these words were meant to discourage me and prevent me from even applying because I was afraid of failure, but when I found out my essay had been selected, and I had been accepted into the ILC based off of the interview, I was overjoyed. I learned no matter what others say, nothing is too hard, and in the word of Susan B. Anthony “failure is impossible.” But then when I heard Cornell had to accept me as well, I became a little nervous. But by this time the ILC had already started to have effect on me because I was not afraid of rejection, but I took the challenge head on and didn’t worry. About a month later I was informed that I had been accepted by Cornell, and I was extremely proud of the will and determination I displayed. I felt the maturing process already taking hold of me.
As soon as I was accepted into the program, I continued to hear this famous beep on my phone letting me know I had a received an email. It seemed like I heard that beep more than my name being called. It continued to tell me I had received an email from Mr. Ramsey, Or Don Gosney. At first I didn’t comprehend why they had to send so many, but now I know it was for my good. If would have responded quickly there would have been no need for some of the emails. But some were for my own good, to urge me the best ways to go about doing things. They explained that in the business world, they rely on quick responses to emails to maximize efficiency, and the ILC was no different. As Plato describes efficiency is morality in the community. Well now I have learned to be more efficient and quick in responding to emails. This will be a good trait to carry over into the work place.
Preceding departure to Cornell University, we had to read in depth texts to prepare for our class. This reading was intense and at first very foreign to me, but with the help of my insightful chaperone and my fellow Kramnick kids, I was able grasp the texts, and apply it into everyday conversation. Leaving to Cornell was a greater journey than we had all imagined. Getting stuck in an airport for 23 hours, and then having to drive another four hours just to get to Syracuse, New York, provided a great lesson in how to endure trials and tribulations. As my first blog as a Cornelian read, “Patience is a virtue,” but also as I said, it is an obtainable virtue.

Once arriving at Cornell I learned a lot, and had to mature fast. Without being able to use my parents as a crutch, I knew I had to grow up, and be independent like a real college student. I was unable to activate my Cornell I.D., and without my parents I had to take matters into my own hands. I “got on the ball” so to speak, and figured things out for myself. Though it took an hour or so, I was able to accomplish it, and this was my first independent task completed at Cornell. From there the sky was the limit because I knew if I can complete tasks on my own; with the help of my Cornelian’s together we could do anything.
My first college roommate was almost a polar opposite of me. He played no sports, was from Austin Texas, and his idea of studying was almost absent. He got his work done but didn’t take to the idea of studying the same as I. Everyone has their own learning styles, and I truly learned this. He and Alex actually became the best friends. We did eventually get really close, and I’m sure he’ll be a lifelong friend. I could tell though he was a little reluctant to be my friend but I was unsure as of why. As we got really close, at the end of our journey at Cornell he admitted that he had never had “a black friend” before so he was a little unsure as of how we would get along. He said I was one of his best friends, and this goes to show no matter the differences anyone can get along.
I think one of the biggest lessons I had to learn at Cornell was time management. With so many activities to do, and so little time do them you have the tendency to want to slack off your work and just have fun. Or vice versa, you work too hard and never have fun. But at Cornell I learned to promptly study, and do my work, and then still have time to go do activities such as visit the mall, bowl, play pool, watch a movie, or even go swimming. To quote the beloved Mr. Ramsey “we work hard, but we play hard as well.” Effectively managing my time was the key to my success. I was able get my work done, and then relive my pressure from the work by doing a fun activity with my friends.
Another key aspect to enjoying my time at Cornell was collaboration. Sometimes the work load seemed unbearable and too much to handle alone. That’s when we were all able to form study groups, and form a cohesive, indestructible force. We used each person’s strengths to the group’s advantage, and this balance enabled us to be efficient in our studying, hence we had more free time to do miscellaneous activities. Not stressing out about the rigorous course, nor being too nonchalant was the best possible balance for me. Even when we couldn’t figure something out together we had our T.A.’s to consult with. Usually at school I don’t have to ask the teacher too many questions just because I can breeze by, but hear at a college level class, asking questions is pivotal to success. I learned not to be afraid or ashamed to ask questions. Just because you ask questions doesn’t make you inferior, it just shows you’re really trying to comprehend the material. This is something that I can carry with me the rest of my life.
All the relationships I made at Cornell were unbelievable. Too many people to name, but I truly had fun spending every second with them. I made various connections with students who are truly tomorrow’s future, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of us was the future president of America. But the best friends that I will have are the ones I had to sleep on airport floor with, ride countless hours in a car with, and this would be the students from Pinole Valley High, and Hercules High. My fellow Cornelian’s have really made a great impression on me, and I’m not ashamed to say I love each and every one of them. They became like my brothers and sisters, my partners on this educational spree, I couldn’t have chose a group of six other people I would have rather been with for those three weeks. They were all very funny; talented, brilliant, caring, forgiving, and I really got know and love them. Out of all the insightful things the ILC has presented, and given to me, the friendship is the greatest. I will never forget Alex, Andrew, Dyana, Chris, Beilul, and Jacky. Each one of them had different characteristics that added to the cohesiveness of our group. I can’t express how much I truly love you all. I also had the pleasure to really get to know our chaperone Mrs. Kaplan, and I truly love her as well. Even though I saw her around school some time, I never really got to know her. I just thought she was another average school administrator, who would not really care about me personally. But on this journey she really took time to get to know me, and we spent countless hours together in the car singing, dancing, or even pulling over to look at a yard sale. She was truly the best chaperone anyone could ever ask for. If I have the pleasure to be accepted into the ILC next year, I will like to put in an early petition that Mrs. Kaplan be my chaperone. Getting to Know Mr. Ramsey was also a pleasure. He is very funny, and a pleasure to be around. I enjoyed his company every second, he always provided the group with intriguing discussion, and something to discuss
This trip was such a great experience and I cannot express how grateful I am. I just want to let the chaperones know that, the money they put into each student provided an experience of a life time. I know if it were not for the ILC, I would not have even thought about having the opportunity to go to Cornell. I urge that the sponsors continue to give to this program because it will be for their benefit in the future. I will not be afraid to say that each and every one of we ILC students will go on to be great success in life, and give back to our community that helped raise us. I appreciate all the hard work and dedication everyone put into me personally, and I will put just as much hard work in life so that your work does not return void. For now I will enjoy the rest of my summer, and know how lucky I am to be a part of the best program on Earth, the ILC is remarkable!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Summer We'll Never Forget

Ivy League Connection
Cornell Summer College 2010
Hotel Operations and Management: Tactics for Profitability
Beilul Naizghi’s Reflection

The Experience “This is Summer College, not summer camp!”

Reflecting on these past three weeks, it honestly feels like a dream. If it weren’t for the blogs and my Cornell memorabilia, I would swear it never happened. During our time at Cornell, I met new people, learned about the world’s most dynamic industry, completed a college course at an Ivy League university, went canoeing, did my own laundry, lived in a dorm, bonded with my fellow ILC peers, and much more. This trip has cemented my notion that I do want to come to the East Coast for college; be it an Ivy League Institution or a liberal arts college.

So, what did I learn during my three weeks at Cornell? It is hard to explain. I learned more than I ever imagined I would about hotel profitability, but outside of class, the most important things I learned was to be independent and responsible. I woke myself up for class, I made sure I got something to eat, I was responsible for doing my assignments, I did my own laundry and I loved it. It was incredibly empowering and inspired confidence in me. I left Ithaca knowing that after what I had accomplished, there is little else in the world that I cannot do.

The ILC Application “Before the Real Thing”

I was incredibly lucky to have been accepted into the Ivy League Connection this year as a sophomore. Upon being accepted eight months ago, there were many milestones that we passed to get to where we are today. It began with writing the application essay, going through the interview, the filling out the Cornell application, meeting with last year’s Hotelies, becoming familiar with Microsoft Office, our presentations to the School Board and our City Councils, the alumni dinner, and the ILC orientation. Sadly our trip ended on Saturday as we arrived at the San Francisco airport, home at last.Looking back on this experience, it was incredibly daunting at first, but in the end it was absolutely worth it. When I first learned about the ILC during my freshman year, I was intimidated by the application process. But, as one former ILC ambassador told me: it is better to go through it now so that you don’t make a mistake on the real application.

The ILC Family “Good Strings”

Though we have only been back for 2 days, I already miss my ILC Cornellian counterparts. Andrew Gonzolas, Jacky Lares, Dyana So, Alex Elms, Andrew Woo and Chris Habash are all amazing people and I am dearly going to miss all the fun we had together. Among those times are our adventure in O’Hare, the various long car rides, cruising and canoeing on Cayuga Lake, and our blogging parties. If it weren’t for the blogging parties, I don’t think I would have seen the Freedom and Justice students at all because of the difference in our schedules. And, of course, I honestly do not think we could have gotten a better chaperone for our trip than Mrs. Kaplan. She was always on call whenever we needed anything and always planning fun stuff for us to do on the weekends, so that we can get away just for a little bit.

The Schedule “Time Management”

At our graduation ceremony, Abby Eller, the Summer College coordinator said she often spoke with students in the various Summer College programs and asked them how they liked Summer College, their course, and their roommate. When their roommate was in hotel, the response she would get was “they’re in hotel- I never see them.” Thus goes to like of a hotelie. With enough class hours to make up an entire semesters worth of class time, hotelies were never without something to do. So, to illustrate my point, what follows is a typical day at Cornell as a hotelie:

7:20-7:50 breakfast at Appel Commons

7:50-8:10 walk to Statler Hall

8:30-11:30 Class

11:30-1:00 Lunch at Trilliams

1:00-4:00 Class

4:00-4:20 walk back to the dorms

4:20-6:00 break time

6:00-6:40 Dinner at Appel

6:40-7:00 walk to office hours

7:00-9:00 office hours

9:00-9:20 walk back to dorms

9:20-11:00 time for blogging, homework, etc.

10:55-11:10 bed check

11:10- anything you want to do in your dorm

Of course, everyday is slightly different, but you get the gist of it. On days with lots of work, many students found it more effective to stay from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the computer lab, thus skipping going back to the dorms all together. Due to the vastness of Cornell’s campus, Cornell Summer College students spent a considerable amount of their day walking to and from class. The average hotel student spent 80 minutes each day commuting.

The Course “Learning more than I ever thought I would”

The Cornell Hotel Operations and Management course is intense. Mark and Reneta are amazing and their lectures were always entertaining. They divided class time into lecture with Reneta and computer lab with Mark. To keep the material interesting and diversified, they even brought in guest lecturers who were other distinguished faculty and alumni of the Cornell Hotel School. The guest lectures ranged from hotel designs, human resources, business writing, to hotel management structure. The course content tends to be very straightforward (like all good business writing) but it is the quantity it is assigned is what made it seem unmanageable. Mark and Reneta are both very detail oriented and want the final products to be as perfect as possible. This means students must proof read their work, proof it again, and proof it once more. Throughout the course, one invaluable asset to utilize were the TA’s. All of them are students at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration and many of them also work at the Statler Hotel. They are present at all office hours and are more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Besides the TA’s, Mark and Reneta are more than willing to answer any questions students may have had or just to chat.

Our GroupsThere’s no I in team!”

A big aspect of the course is working in groups. On the first day of class, we took a behavioral analysis test which decided who our group members would be for the remainder of the program. My group consisted of Adrienne, Arian, Max, and myself and I really couldn’t have asked for a better group. We got along very well, and while other groups had difficulties working together, my group worked efficiently and collaboratively from start to finish.

Group 6A:

The Assignments “So much to do, so little time”

Our first assignment was to write a memo to Mark and Reneta with the prompt they provided for us. It would behoove future hotelies to learn the basic memo format. During the first week of class, they had taught us the proper memo format, had us create our own memo template and brought in a guest lecturer to teach us about business writing. Combining all of these elements, by the end of the first week, we had to turn in a memo we created about our proposed CHESS expenses. This is the style of learning used throughout the course. Everything builds upon what we had learned in the past.

The Students “You’re from Where??”

Everyone in the hotel class is intelligent, motivated, and hardworking. Many come from families with extensive previous hospitality experience, and many more have family members, be it siblings or parents who attended Cornell. Our class was filled with students who came from France, Bombay, Indonesia, and Greece as well as California, Tennessee, Utah, New Jersey, and many other countries and states. Furthermore most students have intentions of attending the Cornell Hotel School or entering the hospitality industry in the future. Because of this, the class environment is very different from that of regular high school classes. When you gather together some of the brightest, most driven high school students in the world taking a course that they are all interested in, you come up with quite an extraordinary class.

Dorm Life “Shower Stalls, Roommates, and Check-In”

This year, all seven of the ILC students lived in the Mary Donlon dorms, with the girls on the 4th floor and the boys on the 6th. The dorm was in a close proximity to the Appel Commons, which is where we ate breakfast and dinner as well as the RCCP, a student lounge with a general store that was located right across the street. Most dorms had two people per room and were only equipped with the most basic necessities. There are two bathrooms on each floor, with about 4 bathroom stalls, 4 showers each and 8 sinks each. I was very lucky in the room assignment process as I my roommate, Alisia, and I got along very well. A drawback to dorm life was check-in, simply because they only had one RCA every night who had to check in everyone on the floor, which took a while.

The College Visits “What are you looking for?”

In spite of our say long flight delay, we still were lucky enough to visit two of the colleges we were scheduled to visit: Colgate University and the University of Rochester. These trips really put the college selection process in perspective. I learned how much of a factor location is for me, personally on our two hour drive to Colgate as we passed miles and miles of cornfields and cows. I realized I have a lot more research to do when I found out the University of Rochester has a similar open curriculum to Brown. During the tours, I learned a lot about what makes each school unique as well as what I am looking for when I eventually pick the schools I would consider to attend.

Thank You “..And I Owe It All to You”

As I conclude, I would like to extend my thanks to the WCCUSD School Board and the ILC sponsors for your support of the ILC. It is through your political and financial support that this program exists and continues to make an impact on the lives of very lucky students in WCCUSD. I would also like to thank the Hercules Middle High School staff for their support of all Hercules students as well as the many talented teachers that have prepared all of us to compete with students that come from schools with much more resources than WCCUSD has to offer. Of course, no proper thank you could be complete without a HUGE thank you to Don Gosney, Mr. Ramsey, and Mrs. Kronenberg. They are the heart and soul of the ILC and I really appreciate everything they have done to prepare us for the rigor of the Cornell program. It took a lot of time and effort on their part but it was greatly appreciated. And finally, I would like to thank my parents. They have supported me for 16 years and always believed in me, pushing me to do things I didn’t think I could. I would not be where I am today without their undying love and support for all their children.


Beilul Naizghi

P.S. I would also like to thank all of our blog visitors. It fills me with joy to know that we were not writing for deaf ears, and hopefully you enjoyed reading about our adventures as much as we like writing about them.


“Big Red” Tips
by the ILC Cornellians of 2010

While the seven of us were away at the East Coast, experiencing life at Cornell and exploring the educational aspects of New York, we compiled a list of tips and advices for aspiring college students/curious parents. During our three weeks on the other side of the country, we had the chance to visit: Rochester University, Colgate University, and Cornell University. This list consists of what the seven of us believe are some of the most important information to leave any college tour or fair with. Happy Reading!

a.) Isolated vs. Urban: Do you want to go to a college that is in the center of a busy city or a college in which the students make up more than half of the population in the town? A university like Columbia is located in the wonderful New York City; you will never have trouble finding things to do outside of school and you will always be inspired by the ever changing and quick lifestyle of your urban surroundings. A university like Colgate and Cornell on the other hand is more isolated. In other words, they are located far from big cities and often make up half or more than half of the population in a town. An isolated university offers: easier focus towards your education, a closer relationship with your environment and town, and more school-related events that often leads to tighter bonds with your classmates.

b.) All Planned Out vs. Undecided: Do you already know what you want to study in college, or are you completely unsure and rather go undecided? Either way, a good example of a college that is beneficial to both sides is the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. Rochester University allows their students to choose whatever courses they want to study; in other words, there are no mandatory classes you have to take by a certain year. That means, if know what you want to, pick all the classes that will speed up your process for getting the major that you want. Or, if you’re going in undecided, try a variety of things until you figure out what it is that you really enjoy doing. Liberal Arts colleges are also a great idea for those who plan to go undecided.

c.) Financial Aid: What the seven of us learned from touring some universities in the East is that they have money. Don’t hesitate to ask about their funding/financial/scholarship programs. They will list so many! But ultimately, they will say the same thing: “don’t worry about the money, you do well and you’ll get there.”

d.) Transportation: College campuses can be quite big. Next time you take a tour, look around. Do you see a lot of bike racks? Chances are, bikes are the way to go in most East Coast colleges, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask your tour guide. For example, while a student at Colgate can find all that they will need in the little town of Hamilton through the convenient bus system, one of the students stated that she likes having a car around to drive to other towns and cities.

e.) Food: The seven of us all agree that this aspect of college life cannot be more important than you’d think. Don’t forget to ask about the type of food you can get at college. While dining at college is great, make sure there are always several backups. And if you’re like Jacky, also remember to ask about Starbucks.

f.) Demographics/Foreign Exchange Programs: Perhaps you’d like to go to a school that has a lot of diversity. A school like Cornell is heralded for their large diverse community; schools like Colgate has more than half of their student body participate in international programs. In addition, this information can tell you where you stand on the spectrum of cultural diversity at the school.

g.) Retention Rate: Or, as the University of Rochester likes to call it, the “Happiness Factor”.

h.) Weather: Believe it or not, weather plays a big role in East coast schools. Unlike sunny UC San Diego, schools like Cornell and Colgate experience all four seasons of the year. However, don’t let weather discourage you. In Rochester for instance, they have a “tunnel system”, in which many students have been known to never step a foot outside and have remained in a pair of shorts and t-shirt. It’s a good idea to ask about weather in the east coast because you don’t want to be deceived by the seemingly nice weather of your summer tours at that particular school.

i.) Athletics: Whether you’re a big-time athlete or someone who likes to intramurals, ask what the school has to offer! Colgate University, for instance, is proud to say that about 80% of their students participate in athletics and still maintain great grades.

j.) Safety: Of the three colleges we visited, the safety of the campus was very high. Of course, that is not to say there are not those occasional campus crimes, such as theft or vandalism. However, what you should consider asking is the safety of the city in which the college is located in.

k.) Greek: Charles Ramsey is proud to be part of the Greek system in college. If you’re interested, make sure you ask about it!

l.) Class Size and Teacher to Student Ratio: Do you want to sit in a lecture hall with hundreds of students from your class to one teacher, or about a class size of 20 or less to one teacher? Dyana will tell you that she personally prefers a small class size over a larger one, simply because you can get to know your professor better and get help easier. A school like UC Berkeley has rather large lecture hall-type classrooms while many schools in the East Coast have smaller class sizes.

*More “Big Red Tips” may follow.

Life Lessons Learned

We went from complete strangers, to acquaintances, to friends. The Summer College 2010 Hotelies are people I will never forget. From the very first moment we all met, there were shy faces in the room, there were awkward silences, and curious stares. But as soon as we were just a little bit comfortable with each other, all of the walls came down.

There were endless days, with endless amount of work, class hours, lectures, and office hours, but in the end it was all worth it. We spent three weeks away from home and while at first I couldn’t wait for them to go by, in the end, three weeks wasn’t enough time. I still can’t believe how much I learned, how attached I got to the friends I made, and how everything can change in the blink of an eye. Sunday night as I was laying in my bed, I realized it had only been a couple of hours ago that I was on the other side of the country. In the morning when I woke up, I realized it had only been the day before where I would have to get up and go to Appel Commons for breakfast. Today is Monday, and now I realize that last week, I was in class at this time. Learning all about Hotel Operations and Management.

The experience started July 23rd, as we headed out from El Cerrito High School. The problems started, after we landed in Chicago O’ Hare airport and didn’t realized our connecting flight had been cancelled. We spent 23 hours in an airport. Finally, we were on a flight to Hartford, Connecticut. From there we drove for about 6 hours to Syracuse. It was all smooth sailing from there. Lesson learned: Keep calm, stay reasonable, and keep a positive attitude, even under the worst situations. Once you’ve reached rock bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up.

June 26th, we were in Ithaca, New York. This is where our real adventure began. Students from across the country, throughout the world all poured into one room with their parents. We were introduced to Cornell’s Summer College Program. We were constantly reminded, we were in Summer COLLEGE not Summer CAMP. I never confused these terms, it was very clear to me, the amount of work that was ahead of us, but I had no idea how much I would actually learn from the course work. Lesson learned: expect the unexpected.

After the first two days of class, time began to fly. I would meet people one day, within the next three, they were my best friend. I felt like I had known these people my whole lives. I knew their life stories, and they knew mine. They warned us in class, our professors said, some the friendships made in this classroom last a lifetime. Lesson learned: believe the unbelievable.

On the very last day, as I had to hug everyone goodbye, tears started rolling down my cheeks. I had no idea how attached I had gotten. I honestly didn’t think I would cry, but it’s hard having to say goodbye to people especially if you’re unsure of when the next time you see them will be. On the plane ride home, I couldn’t believe how much I had accomplished in the past three weeks. I couldn’t believe how many months of preparation had gone into our three week adventure. Lesson learned: good things come to those who wait. Sometimes anticipation is the best preparation.

The most valuable life lessons come in the most unexpected packages. I’ve gotten a small taste of college life. I know what I need to look out for, and what I need to consider before I make a choice that will affect the next four years of my life after high school. I have a lot of thinking to do, but truthfully, I feel like this experience has prepared me to take the next big step. To go outside of my comfort zone and pick a school that’s best for me, not just the most popular school that everyone knows about. I'm truly grateful for all of these.

Rewarding Summer

Disclaimer: I will try my best to be as cheesy-free and hallmark moment-free as possible.

I don’t even know where to begin. It is currently Monday, July 19, and I am sitting once again in my own bed, in my own room, in my own house, in Hercules, California. I can hardly believe it. Yesterday was such a blur, being the first full day back home. At first, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t even attempt talking with my family, interacting with anyone, or exploring the house. I found myself going to my room and going on facebook. Yes, this doesn’t sound like me, but first off, let me just say that I finally got a facebook about a week before leaving for Cornell. My reason?

Only to stay in contact with whomever I will make friends with in Cornell, for I suspected I will make a few. But never did I think that they will be so amazing, or so many. I remember sitting in Andrew Gonzales’s/or was it Alex’s room in Mary Donlon, saying, ‘I really want to have 200 friends on facebook. Immediately, Jordan Ng, Andrew’s roommate, said, “here, I’ll add you.” And there, I had 200 friends. Now I have about 270 friends, and everyone in between were a result of my friendships in Cornell. I think that says something, especially since there were 80 kids in my class, some of which I’m sorry to say I barely spoke a word to, but the vast majority of which I will stay friends with for a long time.

To get back to yesterday, and the brief moments on Saturday, I found myself going back to what I have done for the past three weeks. I couldn’t stay away from my friends and anything Cornell related. I looked over my material, my assignment, and my group project. I felt like I should be in Cornell doing something, going to class, or working on an assignment. I then realized what a lasting experience it’s been that really affected me. Not to say that I ignored my family, I now sit comfortably and socially among my family members, whom I missed greatly. It seems that everything is back to normal now, being back in my house. I’ve just recently completely unpacked, and I’m ready to settle back in. However, I find myself trying to get in contact with all my new friends in whatever way I can. It will take a few days, but I will really miss Cornell. Why?

Let us go back a little over a year from now. I am a sophomore and I decide to apply for the Ivy League Connection. I am not so fortunate this year, as there was no available spot for me. I am now a junior, and I decide to give it another shot. I go through the interview again, thinking I screwed up again, but lo and behold, I was asked to stay behind, as I was chosen, along with Beilul and Jacky, to attend Cornell University this summer.

Eight months ago this whole shebang started, and now it has ended, well, to a point. I cannot believe we have survived this rigorous process, not to mention the college-level course. Honestly, during the school year, going through this process, I wondered what I got myself in to. Was I really capable of going to one of the top schools in the world, not to mention enrolling in the world-renowned class of hotel management, taught by Reneta and Mark McCarthy? I can NOW proudly say, yes. There were times when I thought to myself, “Why do this to yourself over the summer? When you could just stay home and do nothing again?” That was exactly the problem. I didn’t want to stay home and waste away another summer. I wanted to challenge myself, to experience something new, and to see what college life was like. Going to Cornell University for three weeks, I got what I wanted and more. I not only met my expectations, but I also exceeded them, a rule I learned in the hospitality business was called “the double platinum rule.”

I remember the first day of class. I was so nervous and unprepared for what was to come. I walked with a strange group of people for what seemed like an eternity from our dorm, Mary Donlon Hall, to the Statler building. The building was so unfamiliar and I’ve never been in this environment before. Class was a whole different story. There were 80 people from all over the world in one class, and everyone seemed to know EVERYTHING about the hotel industry. They were ALL well-to-do students with the wealthiest parents in the world who owned hotels throughout the world. Some had parents with hotels in Africa and one student was even the daughter of the owner or manager of Starwood. Everyone raised their hands and had all the answers to every question, while I sat there clueless listening to Reneta having back-and-forth conversations with students about managing a hotel. I was confounded and thought to myself, “what am I doing here?”

The first week was probably the toughest week ever. I was so lost most of the time, although I had a rough idea of the subject matter. The whole experience was very bipolar for me. There were times when I was so frustrated that I just stared at the computer and wanted to punch it. I even left the lab and called my mom to talk to her. She re-assured me that everything would be fine and that I shouldn’t worry too much about it. I felt much better after that and after finishing my assignment that day. It was all temporary. There were times when I felt on top of the world, after doing exceptionally well on a quiz or on my company presentation. And then I felt miserable again, for lack of understanding something as quickly as the others.

My solace had to be during the weekends, when we could all just let loose and enjoy ourselves with the mothering Ms. Kaplan, who I have to say, is the coolest and hippest chaperone ever. I had many firsts on the weekends and just being in Cornell in general. It was the first time that I had breakfast on a boat ride on a lake, the first time I went canoeing, the first time I was on my own and managed my time by myself, and the first time I’ve been this long by myself away from my family.

By the end of the second week, I felt so much more comfortable in Cornell. I knew my way around, I understood the class structure and what we were expected of doing, and I had many new friends to talk to. My greatest advantage and what kept me comfortable was all the people that I knew and all the people that I met. I speak truthfully and respectfully about every single person. I honestly could not ask for a better group of people to spend three weeks with. It was so incredible, I was friends with everyone in this group and we were all one big happy family. We all hung out together and we were closer than ever over these three weeks. There is not a single person who stood out of the group or I didn’t like.

Andrew Gonzales: He was my roommate in the Sheraton Hotel and is a very close friend. We talked late at night and we laughed about silly things. He is honest, extremely comical, and hard-working. He probably put the most smiles on my face. He always lightened the mood. I will never forget him.

Andrew Woo: I didn’t know Andrew very well in the beginning, but he was my roommate in the Hilton Hotel, and we also got to talk a lot. He is very calm, intelligent, soft-spoken, and ambitious. He was a joy to have around and will go far. He had the perfect balance between fun and work. I will never forget him.

Alex Elms: Let’s admit it; everyone was envious of Alex for being so far ahead in scheduling events. I never thought I’d get to know him, but I did. He is a great person, very mature beyond his years, and extremely dedicated. We enjoyed bowling, playing pool together, and talking together. I will never forget him.

Dyana So: I had the honor of knowing Dyana fairly earlier than others. I greatly enjoyed talking to her during the dinners and will never forget our conversation on BART. She is the most talented, exciting, and outgoing girl I know, not to mention insanely smart. She always took up an opportunity to do something new. I will never forget her.

Beilul Naizghi: When I first met Beilul during the interviews, I thought she was the most ambitious sophomores I ever met. Off the bat, I remember her saying, “I’m going to be the principal of Hercules.” I have no doubt she will. I love seeing her confidence in her work and even when she walks, although she might not notice. She is very authentic, endearing, and charismatic. I will never forget her.

Jacky Lares: The person I have known the longest, Jacky is incomparable to anyone else. She’s always been so very gregarious, friendly, and open. She always looked to make new friends and always had the right answer to everything. “I’ll just GPS it” was her catchphrase, because I have no doubt she will turn every right direction in life. I will never forget her.

Sewellyn Kaplan: Being with Ms. Kaplan in the car most of the first week out, I really got to know her well. She was more than our guardian who we met up with on weekends or whenever we needed something, she was our friend. I can’t remember laughing more or having more meaningful conversations than with any other adult. She is charming, witty, shrewd, caring, and nurturing. I will never forget her.

I have made many friends from all over the world, including Forrest from Singapore, Jordan from Texas, Sagar from India, Chris from New Jersey, Louis from France, and Veronica from California. I believe they will be long-time friends.

Lastly, I would like to thank Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg and Don Gosney for making this all possible, for seriously, without them, I wouldn’t even be writing this, or reflecting upon what is arguably the best summer ever. They really opened my eyes to college, because being in Cornell really made me think, “Do I know what college I want to go to?” and “I really want to explore other colleges now.” Meaning I want to spend more weeks at more colleges to see if they can potentially be my future school.
I learned I can rise to a challenge and I really want to say that I gained more confidence in myself.

I feel like I can talk to any adult now and have an intelligent conversation. I learned how important it was to manage your time because in Cornell it seemed like we had to be somewhere every 30 minutes. I feel like I'm repeating myself because these were words similar to what I said doing our old-fashioned and intensely personal Graduation Ceremony. I can't believe that Mark and Reneta chose me to speak in front of the class, not to mention parents, families, and the TA's. I've never spoken in front of a larger group of people, and I'm very proud of myself. I feel somewhat comfortable looking back at the tape because I was comfortable speaking in front of everyeon. I really enjoyed our ceremony. The TA's threw us a little PowerPoint Presentation, with sentimental music and pictures of everyone, from day 1 to the last day. It was very touching, and many students shed a tear, including myself.

I know that a few months ago, I had nothing to offer, but now, I can honestly say I would like to help as much I can to improve the Ivy League Connection in future years. I really think that this is the best group so far, in terms of connection and understanding the program, for we can provide insight and suggestions for the Ivy League Connection. We even thought of possibly being on the panel of interviewers next year, because who better to judge a possible candidate than someone who went through the process and the course. I would like to extend a hand and my generous gratitude again, to Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Don Gosney, and Ms. Kaplan.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's Not the End; it's the Start

Day ???/ The Turning of a New Leaf

I'm only just starting to get used to this gray keyboard that I've used in my room for who knows how long. I know it's only been about three weeks, but like all my other ILC peers, it just doesn't feel like it; Actually, it felt like we've been gone for at least a month. As I sit down at this familiar desk and stare at my room's familiar tan walls, I wonder, was I really just at Cornell University? Was this rising Junior of Pinole Valley High School just at one of the greatest ivy league colleges in America, studying among 67 other intelligent students all over the world? I am proud to say that yes, she was.

The trip back home went accordingly. Coming back from Cornell was definitely not as "spontaneous" as going there, which was a good thing because a.) we were too tired anyways, and b.) our families were ready to take us back. On the 3 hour or so flight back, Jacky, Beilul, and I were luckily seated together in the row of three seats on the right side of the plane. I thought this was especially nice way to end the trip, since Jacky and Beilul were the other girls from our trip and in addition to that, this was probably the last time I was too see them so frequently. They will be returning to Hercules High and I to Pinole High.

It was such a strange but wonderful feeling to return back home. My feet were once again walking across the nice carpeted floors and the smell of my mother's cooking filled each room on the upstairs floor. However, as great as it was to be back at home again, it was very short lived. As soon as I entered my room, the lights were turned off and I was knocked out on the bed.

My cousin and aunt were staying at our house in Hong Kong so my entire day today was spent outside of home. The weather was a nice break from muggy, hot Ithaca; it was warm but there was also a nice, crisp breeze that I had forgotten about. Driving along the road here is different as well. My surroundings wereno longer green, but yellow. As I sat in the family car- no longer in the shotgun seat with Jacky's ipod blaring her wonderful playlist into our ears and us, singing at the top of our lungs, I started to think about the past couple of weeks that I've been at Cornell. It had been a life-changing and illuminating journey, and while most of you may find it an end, I think it is only my beginning...

Cornell Summer College Class of 2010; a Reflection by Wing So

I could still remember eight months ago, when I was just starting off as a sophomore. The most I had done in terms of planning for my future was probably going to the Pinole Valley College Fair the summer before and occasionally day dreaming about what I wanted to be when I grew up. It was on that one fateful day when the school library had excused me and some of my classmates for an unnamed presentation, that my journey as an official ILC Ambassador began.

Writing the first essay was not that bad, but it was also one of many obstacles I had to pass through to reach the final destination. From there, came interviews to more essays to applying for Cornell Summer College itself. And while waiting for Cornell's letter of approval was quite exciting, there wasn't much time to be very anxious since my peers and I were underway with our plans for our three weeks at the East Coast.

Preparing for Cornell University was a rough climb, considering that it had to go side by side with my work in high school. In addition to wondering what the university would be like, there were, I admit, also times when I wondered if I was really ready. This attitude, of course, finally went away as the penultimate month of the eight month wait came around the corner. After the formal Cornell ILC dinner and the end of sophomore year, I could feel myself getting extremely enthusiastic about Cornell. I was nervous about class but at large, I was ready for the challenge.

In this journey, I was able to learn so much. In addition to being a pupil of Professor Kramnick, I found myself being a pupil to my fellow ILC peers, my new friends and classmates, and the entire experience in general. There is nothing like learning through experience, and I'm very happy that I got to learn everything through all of my five senses. I definitely feel a lot smarter and more mature than before. I feel like my world's enlarged and that culture enriched. I do not feel like the same person I used to be before I left for Cornell; I feel like a whole other person and I like what I'm seeing.

From my course at Cornell, "Freedom and Justice", I was able to learn so much about political philosophy both in its historical and universal aspects. I took this course, not because my future career path had something to do with law (currently I'm undecided), but because a.) I enjoy learning new things, b.) my school does not have a class with material like this, and c.) I just love a good challenge. And in addition to the great information I've learned and implanted within my books and notebooks, I have also taken away with me the invaluable lessons I've learned by simply being in the classes everyday.

For the first time I was able to experience what I would think was, the-closest-thing to an actual college class. I was competing in a class in of strangers that all had the drive to work hard and succeed; they were fearless when it came to participation and understandable when it came to studying long hours with. Professor Kramnick was a great teacher and never failed to deliver, day by day, informative and helpful lectures. He introduced to us the importance of reading and taking notes when it came to college. He told us that while you may have a class, a teacher assistant, and even the professor him/herself sometime later in your college years, the real learning takes place outside of class when you're on your own. You will make the most of your education, the teacher assistants and classes are there to help you along the way. Therefore, one should never stop reading and always take as many notes as possible. In addition to Professor Kramnick's great advice, I also learned a lot from having a TA. I learned the importance of getting help when you have any doubts of misunderstanding anything. Don't ever be afraid of the sophistication or importance of your questions; the TAs are there to help you out, that's why they're there. It's a good and wise idea to take advantage of every opportunity that is given to you. It was this very idea that got me involved with the ILC in the first place: the saw an opportunity and I grabbed it.

Being on campus and around such a diverse group of student taught me more than you will ever imagine. The experience I got from walking around Cornell and having dinners with tables of diverse cultures is something I can guarantee would not be found in any books. There is something about brushing your fingers across the walls of brick buildings to the chairs at an old Cornell bowling alley that makes you feel intertwined with the past and present of the campus. And there is definitely something incredibly magical about learning some Arabic phrases from your Qatar friends to meeting a fellow marching band member from Austin, Texas. Everyone was unique in the eyes of everyone else. There was no such thing as a boring person at Cornell. In fact, there was never really a boring minute within Cornell; there was always something planned and taking place.

In addition to all the things I've learned at Cornell, there were also so many things I learned outside of Cornell. The East Coast was a whole other experience of being an American. Everything in countryside was green, every house along the roads had a "yard sale" sign or something of the sort. I do not see "Carl's Junior" but I do see "Dunkin' Donuts". I do not feel the breeze from the Bay Area, but the blanket of East Coast humidity. The natural community here is different from the one back at the east. Back home, I'm used to dry, sunny California, but at Ithaca, I was completely taken by surprise by the thunderstorms and rain from time to time. I enjoyed the East Coast very much; it has further convinced me of applying to school here someday.

And to end my reflection, I'd like to tell you about the important personal lessons I learned about character. The first is courage. After Cornell, I feel that I have become more fearless. However, that's not to say I''m also more reckless and foolish, enough to jump into anything without much thought. I have gained a lot of bravery but I do not jump to conclusions. With this new-found courage, I was able to participate in various Cornell events, meet lots of new and friendly people, and take part in class discussions on a regular basis. The other important characteristic I've appreciated more from being at Cornell is: self worth. Never compare yourself to others. You must always strive for your best and not the for that of anyone else. You must always believe in yourself. And if you ever fall backwards, no matter how hard you were knocked to the ground, the important thing is knowing to get back up and to do it as quickly as you possibly can.

Cornell has taught me countless and countless of things. I cannot define my experience in a novel of any length. I cannot bottle it up and keep it forever. But what I can keep is all the great memories I've made in the past couple of weeks. Those memories will be hard to forget, if it is even possible.

Thank you so much to everyone of the ILC program who has helped me get to this point of my life. You have no idea how much I appreciated being there. Thank you for adding such a fantastic chapter to the large book of my life. I look very forward to starting my new chapters which will come after the previous chapter pages you have given me. The ILC is a wonderful program and while I do not know just how everyone from the program feels deep down, know that you have inspired and made better the life of one of your many ambassadors. Her life has changed and she's ready to embark on another journey to college. THANK YOU!

I'm Back on the Beaten Path

The tables have turned and I feel like I’m in a foreign place now that I’m home. Cornell had become my home after three wonderful weeks there. I knew the lay of the land (on the North and Central Campuses anyway) and Donlon had become my house. I had fallen into a niche at Cornell that it will be difficult to get out of. No more will I have Jim just three doors down, or Jordan at the end of the hall. I won’t be able to barge into Chris’ room only to find out that Forrest is the only one home. So many things that I used to take for granted are no longer applicable to my life. I shall miss my Cornell life dearly and hope to return one day, whether I am enrolled there or just visiting.

My experience has taught me so much. I think that the number one thing that I’ve learned is perseverance. Whether I was in an airport for nearly a day or trying to read and comprehend John Stuart Mill, I just kept telling myself to persevere and keep working. This was especially important. I needed to make reading my number one priority. Even though it was hard sometimes, I still did it so that I could be prepared for the next day of Prof. K’s class. Perseverance also has social applications. You can’t just introduce yourself to someone and then say that you know them. You have to keep interacting with people and spend time getting to know them on the inside. For example, I spent a countless amounts of time with Jordan and Kelsey and we became excellent friends. I was in Jordan and Andrew’s room so much I felt like their roommate! I think that even though I didn’t meet a lot of new people, I got a better experience because I really got to know them. The connections you make with people are really what make the experience and I’m really glad I connected with all of the people I met

I’ve also learned the valuable skill of time management. College work takes a long time to complete and you can’t always just sit down and do it. I learned that you need to take breaks about every hour. I would always cherish the twenty minute breaks I took with Andrew Woo and Jordan to play Frisbee. I was able to clear my head and get some much-needed exercise at the same time. A good balance of work and fun is a necessity if one is to succeed in a college course. If I didn’t find a balance, I’m sure I would have gone insane.

I heard this a lot before we left, but I didn’t realize how serious the statement actually was: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If I hadn’t asked for help from my TA, Simon, I would not have understood a lot of what I needed to know for the exams. I spent a lot of time at office hours, whether it was to ask a question about a paper or just to shoot the breeze with Simon. That is one thing that I would stress a lot to any future Freedom and Justice scholars: take advantage of office hours. Another part of asking for help is studying in groups. We did this before we left and during the course; therefore, we already knew how to work in a group efficiently (that was a subtle Plato joke for those of you who didn’t take the course). I’m really glad I had Simon as a TA because he was helpful, but he left it up to you to figure out the answer(s) to your question(s).

I definitely feel like I have grown as a person. Three weeks away from your parents can do wonders for a feeling of independence. Being on your own (for the most part) really makes you face obstacles in a new way. These obstacles are mostly decision-related, but it still gives you a feeling of freedom nonetheless. If something were to have happened, I would have had to take full responsibility and that really makes you rethink the decisions you make. Plus, being in a dorm by yourself at night gives you a lot of time to think about who you really are and what you want to make of yourself in the coming weeks and even the coming years. That was the case for me anyway.

I would like to thank our wonderful chaperone, Ms. Kaplan, for making this excursion that much more informational and fun. She made the effort to be involved in our experience, even when we were not outside the classroom. She was always in the back of Prof. K’s lecture hall, learning with us and being a part of everyone’s Cornell experience. The weekends were especially fun. I was readily accepted into “Team Kaplan” and the fun began immediately. Whether we were having karaoke sessions, discussing Prof. K’s lectures, or listening to what Ms. Kaplan’s day was like, it was always fun in Ms. Kaplan’s car. She really made this experience unique and fun and it certainly would not have been the same without her. For all that she has done (and put up with) for the last three and a half weeks, I can never repay you Ms. Kaplan. Thank you.

I would also like to extend my thanks to Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Don and all of the sponsors of the ILC. All of you have given my peers and I the opportunity of a lifetime. I can certainly say that I never would have had the chance to learn all that I have and meet the people that I have come to know like family. I need to thank Mr. Ramsey especially because when I was an alternate in the program, I would always hear from Ms. Kaplan that “Charles is working on it.” He fought for me to have the chance to go to Cornell this summer every step of the way and I can never thank him enough. Mr. Ramsey’s support has never ceased, whether it was in getting us our materials or paying for dinner so that we could meet with a college admissions officer. I was also fortunate enough to be able to “roll with Ramsey” from Hartford, Connecticut to Syracuse, New York. We had a lot to talk about on the ride over and Mr. Ramsey always made it interesting. I also need to thank all of the sponsors who have given my peers and I the chance to attend the prestigious Cornell University. I certainly plan on “paying this forward.” This experience was priceless (to say the least) and I would certainly never have been able to have these experiences without all of your support. Thank you all.

My short-lived college experience has left me wanting more. My life at Cornell has made me regret having to return to my old life at school because I know that high school can never live up to the standards of the fine educational institution that is Cornell University. I’m back on the beaten path of my home life now and things seem much more normal now. These three weeks at Cornell have really helped me ascertain what direction I would like my life to take. I know a little bit more about what I want out of a college curriculum, a college environment and the kind of people I want to be surrounded by. This experience has changed my life and I certainly hope others will have the same opportunity I had. Thank you Ivy League Connection for all that you have done for me. Cornell Summer College is behind me, my future is ahead of me and I’m signing off.