Friday, June 25, 2010

Third Day's the Charm

Day 03/From Rochester to Syracuse

With only four or less hours of sleep, it is a wonder how all of us made it through today. Beilul and I woke up to a glorious Syracuse morning. We couldn’t resist pushing back our room curtains to greet the beautiful Syracuse University that was just outside. It’s a shame that we missed visiting it on Thursday due to our mishaps with flights.

Even though our plans for yesterday all flushed down the toilet, today –Friday, showed a lot of promise. In thirty minutes, Beilul and I got ourselves ready and headed down to the Sheraton Lobby. The night before, Mr. Ramsey asked all of us to meet there at 7:15am so we could get the day rolling as soon as possible. And although some of us had trouble getting up this morning, we managed to get on the road in time to head down to our first stop of the day: Rochester University.

Team Kaplan and Team Ramsey got into their vehicles. Since Jacky had the GPS, Team Kaplan took the lead in all of today’s escapades. He drive to Rochester was not too long; it was only about an hour and thirty minutes. Unfortunately, all the radio stations just weren’t good that morning so the car ride was not as fun as yesterday night. In addition to helping Ms. Kaplan with directions, I’m sure I spent a good deal of my time dialing all the stations our automobile had to offer. And even though I was positive there was simply nothing good on, I kept tuning, secretly hoping we’d find a good station. In the end though, it just never happened.

I’ll admit that when we arrived, Rochester University did appeal to me visually. Besides the gorgeous plants and trees around the college, it was just one large brick building after another, or so I thought. All nine of us were taken into a waiting room as our guides prepared to talk to us. Our lack of sleep started to kick in at this point because nearly all of us shuffled over to the table in the back to make some free cups of hot chocolate. Oh, and did I mention they were the ones with the tiny marshmallows?

One of Rochester’s Admissions Officer, Patrick, came and got us first. He was responsible for giving us the Informational Tour, exclusively for us. In a little conference room, we all sat around a long table. I made sure to sit on the opposite end, because I’ve wanted to feel like an important figure in our little “meeting.” Patrick was a very friendly and understanding guide. He was more concerned with what we wanted to know over what he thought needed to be said.

Here’s a summary of what I learned about Rochester from Patrick: Rochester University is a small liberal arts college located in Rochester, New York. It contains a diverse student body with a powerful variety of different interests. There are about 4,500 undergraduates the last year, and the class sizes do not exceed 20 students per professor. All the professors at Rochester do not just teach; they are also known for their works in research. All freshman pretty much enter the college “undecided” because Rochester has a unique curriculum in which students do not have to complete any required courses. From the very start, Rochester students can choose exactly what they want to take. In other words, you could either dive right into your major or try a variety of interests just in your first year of college. Because of this system, Rochester is very proud of their general retention rate, which is 98%. Many of their students are very happy with their choice of studying in Rochester and many tend to remain in campus rather than move out of campus. Rochester University has a very strong music program because of the very famous Eastman School of Music. This third largest college in New York experiences all seasons and has an overall, very welcoming and nice atmosphere.

A sophomore from Rochester University named Jason also spoke to us a little bit about the college. He is from Austin, Texas and although he is 24, he is very glad to have finally picked Rochester to study in. He really enjoys the people within his school and how he was able to afford it with a lot of help from Rochester University.

To conclude our Information Tour, we had the honor of hearing someone named Jerard speak with us. He just finished his freshman year at Rochester and is the first person from our district to go to this school. Raised in Berkeley, Jerard went to Kennedy High School. I was extremely impressed with him and to say that I was inspired by him, would be an understatement. He maintained a GPA of 4.5, was president of his class, and played in a very successful year for varsity basketball. He entered Rochester University on an all-expenses-paid-for ticket from the Renaissance Scholarship he received from his college. Only 20 people get this prestigious scholarship. While it was so wonderful that Jerard came from our district, I thought it was more inspiring when he told all of us how he managed to get into Rochester. He did not grow up in a perfect life and he even admits that high school wasn’t the best. But to ensure that that wouldn’t stop him, he took his education into his own hands. And his hard work has definitely paid off. He really opened my own eyes. I am ready to also take my own education into my own hands; I will get myself to where I want to go, no matter where or how hard it takes.

After the informational tour, we had a campus tour, directed by a graduated Rochester student, John. And since pictures do speak a thousand words, I hope you enjoy my thousands of words below regarding what we saw at Rochester’s campus. Needless to say, my original outlook of this seemingly bland school was completely turned around. It may be the most amazing school visually, but it was definitely a real gem. It’s made me remember: it’s what’s inside that counts, and in the case of Rochester University, it just couldn’t be truer!

The end of the tour marked the beginning of lunch. It was now off to “Dinosaur BBQ” with another Rochester University Admissions Officer, Haniya. She was a really engaging and intelligent woman. (She knew 6 different languages and is studying to be a Middle School Counselor!) I’m glad I got some questions answered while I was there because it was hard to have any sort of formal chat with her with the blaring rock music and the distractions from sitting outside.

Lunch took a lot longer than we thought and Mr. Ramsey simply sat back and admitted: “We can’t make it to the Erie Canal.” I was heart-broken to hear this. The Erie Canal was one of the spots I was most excited for. I really wanted to take advantage of being in the East Coast by visiting at least one historical landmark. However, not everything goes perfectly in life so we decided to save time and move on to the Susan B. Anthony Tour by starting earlier than scheduled. Perhaps we will visit the Erie Canal some other time in the next few weekends ahead of us.

The moment I noticed the Susan B. Anthony museum, I was in awe. If you didn’t know, I absolutely adore all things history, and the history of woman’s suffrage was one I especially like. Walking through Ms. Anthony’s restored house museum reminded me of my elementary school field trips. Our tour guide, Joanna, did a fine job taking us from room to room, and telling us about everything Susan B. Anthony. My favorite part was when we went into her second drawing room. Inside was an original family rocking chair, one in which Ms. Anthony was seen sitting in, in some of her photographs. I got goose bumps just looking at the little rocker; I couldn’t help but imagine her sitting there, rocking slowly and gazing off into the distance. “That’s where Susan B. Anthony once sat…” I whispered to myself. I learned a lot from our one hour or so tour and hope to apply what I learned to the famous female philosophers we shall be studying at Cornell, such as Mary Wollstonecraft.

By the end of the hour-or-so tour, many of us were exhausted. Although I was getting a little bit tired, I couldn’t help but feel lucky that I wasn’t Mr. Ramsey or Ms. Kaplan. They were our drivers and we’ve been on the road for many hours both today and yesterday. Now we were heading back to the Sheraton Airport to drop off our two rental cars and pick up two new ones. Team Kaplan and Team Ramsey boarded their rides with sleepy enthusiasm as they prepared for another 3 hour drive.

The final event of the night was our dinner at “Scotch and Sirloin”, a well-known restaurant in Syracuse. It was a semi-formal event because we were inviting the Admissions Officer from Cornell University that evening. Her name was Jill and she somewhat reminded me of Samantha Berg, a young alumni I met from our Alumni Dinner back in May. The ten of us sat in another long table, underneath some relatively dim lights. Immediately, we started ordering our dinner and asking Jill our questions.

It was a long night. While all of us finished our dinner, Jill had trouble finishing her food due to how frequently she spoke with us about everything Cornell. As I hear her answer the same questions we asked Rochester, I began to compare and contrast the two schools. In a nutshell, both were similar top schools. They both really like reading essays and really getting to know what an individual student is like through their interviews, rather than just basing everything on grades and SATSs and such. The two schools also have a small teacher-to-student ratio and quite safe on campus. However, they were also very different. Rochester allowed their incoming freshman to choose whatever classes they wanted to take, but at Cornell, students were required to take some courses. Rochester is much more urban than Cornell, which is really an isolated college amongst a beautiful college. And while all Rochester students begin as “undecided”, it is preferred that all incoming Cornell students have some ideas on what they may like to major in.

In conclusion, the third proved productive and very memorable. A lot of valuable information was given and many sights were seen. From visiting Rochester, which, by the way, was the first college I ever toured, I became very interested in it. However, I refuse to jump the gone and put too much interest into it yet, since I have only seen one college fully in my whole life. The Susan B. Anthony tour made me very proud of the wonderful woman’s rights advocate. I learned a lot from simply hearing our guide and walking amongst her restored home museum. Talking with Jill was another great part of the day. I think that the more talks I share with admissions officers like her is making it a lot more comfortable for me to talk to them. Perhaps this will be very helpful when I shall do my many college interviews still to come.

Tomorrow we head off to Cornell University for the Weekend Opening Orientation. See you at Ithaca, New York!

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