Monday, June 28, 2010

Kramnick Kids and Hotelies

Day 06/ "Swimming" through the First Day

Thanks to the wonderful thunderstorm last evening, I didn't get a good night of a sleep as I originally wanted. Despite this setback, I carried on with my morning routine as the minutes to my "Freedom and Justice" class drew near. The storm had subsided by this morning, but the sun was still nowhere to be seen, and the humidity? Still very high and uncomfortable.

For breakfast, I sat with my fellow "Freedom and Justice" (ILC edition) peers. The Hotelies had class at 8:30 and their classroom was pretty far away, so I didn't get to see them for too long. I had a nice breakfast, but no matter what I stuffed into my stomach, I couldn't overturn that awful and familiar feeling I knew so well. It's one I've had in the past, and although it wasn't so bad this morning, I knew what it's presence meant. I was nervous. I was intimidated for class. I know I've prepared, but there was still some doubt that lingered within me. What if I don't understand what Professor Kramnick was talking about? What if I don't do well?

However, do not mistake me. It may seem that I'm scared out of my life about this class, but I'm actually much more excited. I was so happy that all the work we've done for the past 6 months was finally a few minutes away. Plus, Prof. Kramnick seemed like a very good teacher and I was very open about learning some new things, as well as expanding my horizons.

Alex, the Andrews, and I got to class about 20 minutes prior to 9:00am, the starting time. We made sure to sit as close to the front as possible. Mr. Kramnick arrived a little bit before the start of class. The rest of my fellow students sat silently, waiting. Our four T.A.s sat in the back of the class, but we didn't know at the time.

Lecture took about an hour and a half. We all followed Prof. Kramnick's outline, which he wrote on these really high-tech blackboards. The lecture flew by faster than I believe most of us would imagine. Near the end, Prof. Kramnick introduced to our class just how ethnically diverse we were. Twenty-five percent of our class was from outside the United States, and most of the students from he U.S. came from the East Coast.

After lecture, Prof. Kramnick read out the list of seven students who were to eat lunch with him later in the day. Unfortunately, my last name was pretty far away when it came to the alphabetic order he was using, so it was going to be awhile before I have lunch with him. Prof. Kramnick also split our classes into their four T.A. sections.

Our T.A.s were; Simon C., Simon G., Desmond, and Alison. All of them were on their way to gaining a PH.D and they all either came from Britain or in a colony that used to be ruled by Britain. Andrew G. and Alex Elms were paired together; they had Simon C. Andrew Woo and I were paired together in the last group and we had Simon G.

My TA's classroom, in Rockefeller Hall, was not air-conditioned and had no fans. The chairs were jammed-packed together and some of the chairs had difficult side tables to pull out and maintain. There were bright green vines surrounding the two glass windows in our room. Sunlight entered through them and brightened it up. I sat in the 3rd row.

The first thing Simon G. told us to do was to get to know someone sitting around you so you can introduce them after the activity was over, to the rest of the class. I met a new classmate this way; his name was Max from Westchester, New York. He wants to be lawyer someday and when he told me this, it made me realized that some of the students taking this class were aspiring to work in the field of law someday.

Our first section discussion with our T.A. was a bit long. We had a hard time getting started on what we wanted to talk about but when we eventually did, we just couldn't stop talking. I didn't know what the other T.A. sections were like, but I had a hunch that they were not as "passionate" about their topic discussions than we were.

Lunch followed soon after. Andrew Woo and I made our way to the Trillium after getting lost for a brief moment. The Trillium was packed with not just Summer College Students but also some Cornell College students as well. I grabbed some Middle Eastern food for lunch and sat with my fellow "Kramnick Kids" at a table at the back of the room.

By 1:15pm, our writing workshop with our T.A.s started. This was probably the highlight of my day. On the board, Simon G. wrote down our essay prompt: "What does freedom mean to you?" When I first saw this, I admit, I thought it wasn't so bad, but I soon found out just how wrong I was.

Simon G. gave us 40 minutes to write our essays. After 5 minutes, I found myself erasing and re-erasing many of my sentences in my introduction paragraph. I've always had trouble when it came to my starting words, but this time, that wasn't the case. I was really having trouble defining the word, "freedom".

Defining the word freedom proved to be tough as it is, but I also had to apply that definition to myself, since the question specifically asked what the word meant to me. Afterwards, I developed 3 different definitions for my essay:
  1. My personal freedoms, which are often taken for granted (ex: when a teenager gains the freedom to stay out later than they used to as a child.)
  2. My freedoms based on those given by my country. (ex: America's basic rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.)
  3. My freedom based on how people in the past have shaped it, not just for me, but for people in general. (ex: comparing freedom today to freedom in the past.)
Because I had trouble coming up with good answers for my prompt, I busily had to write the essay in a hurry. The essay was finished and turned in, but I was not satisfied with it.

After our essays, we engaged in a group discussion, where everyone was supposed to share what they wrote and what they believed freedom meant for them. The discussion soon picked up a fast pace and became very heated. Nearly everyone in the class contributed, either disagreeing, agreeing, or providing a new point. I consider this part of my day the highlight because I was very amazed at all the various answers my classmates were giving. I've never sat in such an engaging classroom in my life. This was something I've never experienced before at Pinole Valley High School. Everyone was very interested in the topic and contributing their own opinions. And although we didn't reach a solution (how could we after all?) and we talked circles, it inspired me to become even more open-minded when it comes to my writing.
After class, the walk back was absolutely horrible. It was raining cats and dogs and our dorms were a whole 15 minutes away. We all had no umbrellas and we didn't wish to waste any time. Needless to say, our "swim" down Central Avenue proved to be a very wet one. I entered Donlon Hall like a dripping mop. Oh, how I just adore Ithaca's weather!

Dinner's almost here! I have more studying and writing for tonight. I can't wait for class tomorrow, esp. for our discussions.

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