Tuesday, July 31, 2012

If Nothing Ever Changed, There Would Be No Butterflies

As I stand outside, enjoying that refreshing Bay Area breeze, I begin to think about how this journey has changed my outlook on college, the east coast, and people in general. Throughout my life, I have been taught to always be close to home, because family will be all you will really need. I have believed that until now; however this journey has changed my perspective on this completely. I now know that one must branch out to different places, meet new people, and experience new things to get out of this contained box and finally discover who one is. I never would have found this out so soon without being in the Ivy League Connection.
My life-changing journey with this program began last winter when I received a note to come to an informational meeting. There, a couple past ILCers came to speak about their journey, how it impacted them, and how we can be a part of it as well. All of it sounded really interesting and all, but I really didn’t think I was ready for the responsibility it would impose. After all, I had absolutely no confidence in myself. I mean, there were people trying to get in that were way better that I was. How could I possibly compete with them?
My mind was nearly made up about not trying until I had a talk with one of my friends. After I told her about my worries, she looked at me straight in the eye and said, “You can’t let this fear of failing stop you from trying to do what you want. It would be way better to at least learn something from your failure than learn nothing from being hesitant to try.” I have heard something like this before, but the way she said it really convinced me to write my required essays and send them in.
Although my friend did motivate me to try, I still had major doubts that kept tugging at the back of my mind. These doubts just got bigger when I got accepted for my interview. I tried to diminish these doubts, so I did a mock interview with a couple teachers at our school. In all honesty, I didn’t think the mock interview would help much, but it really did. It gave me a sneak preview of what was to come, so I could come in with no surprises.
When the day of the interview came, I nearly went into panic mode. For the most part I could hide it really well, but once I was in the waiting room I couldn’t help but tap my foot vigorously and pace the room nonstop. However, once I came into that interview table, something just clicked. I don’t really know how, but I immediately relaxed and greeted some of the people that had to interview me. The interview went by in a flash, and once we were called back for the results, I braced myself for the possible rejection. However that rejection never came; I made it through! I immediately thanked God and head back to my Spanish class where many of my peers congratulated me on my success. Most of them went on to say that they would not have been able to do such a thing. I related to them; many are also afraid of failing and don’t even try. I told them that they can do anything they set their minds to do because honestly, I see such potential in my peers, and I hope they see it too.
After a couple months, it was time for the busy month of May. There was so much going on; from the Board Meeting to the fancy dinner, I was really occupied. Even so, all these events gave me an opportunity to do things I never would have dreamed of doing. Through this chapter of the ILC, I actually got to give a little speech in front of the Pinole City Council. This is seriously something I probably never would have done if it wasn’t for the ILC. I also got to go to a beautiful restaurant in SF where I got to meet Vanderbilt alumni. These people were incredibly intelligent and I really enjoyed talking to them about college life and their personal experiences with Vanderbilt. All of these things really prepared me for my journey ahead and made me extremely excited to learn about the universities we would be visiting during the first week.
During the first week on our trip, we visited several prestigious universities such as, Duke, Georgetown, and UPenn. I have seen pictures of these grand universities with their beautiful gothic architecture and green plants. However, I was never able to picture myself there; it just always seemed out of reach, as if it were on a different planet. This is why I always felt safer looking up colleges in California; they seemed safe. As I walked around these colleges for the first time, I realized that these places are not as foreign as I thought they would be. In fact, I could actually see myself in one in particular – Duke.

Besides its outstanding academics, Duke really impressed me with how close its community was; everyone was very friendly. I also loved how much academic freedom Duke gave students; freedom is definitely something I value when thinking about college. Besides all that, Duke felt right. I tend to make decisions based on my intuition, and something about being at Duke made me feel at home. Although being so far away initially made me afraid to ever leave California, in the end, going to all these universities really showed me that I have so many options for college. I now know that I am not limited to the colleges in CA and with this many choices, there is bound to be a university for me somewhere.
Talking to the admissions officers and students of these universities also helped me learn about each university in two different perspectives. There was the admissions officer’s view, which had almost any general info about the school and what it can offer you, and the student’s view, which showed me how life at the college really is for that particular person. I also learned that the universities here really want you to succeed and are absolutely willing to give you any tools necessary to complete your goals. I especially love this about the schools here; it’s just really nice to see that the number one goal for each school is success for each student.
One thing that has worried me over the years however, is money. I was one hundred percent positive I would not be able to afford college, even if they paid for 75 percent of the expenses. Going to a UC was not going to help my money situation since these schools were going through money problems as well. However, the colleges over there can pay for so much more, and it takes a huge load off my chest knowing that money will not be an issue for me if I got into one of these amazing universities. In the end, I learned so much through these talks; so much more than the internet could have shown me and ultimately, these talks have shown me that whatever reputation a university has, it really doesn’t matter because college life is how YOU make it.

After this huge learning experience, I thought that I have learned nearly all there is to know about college. Fortunately, I was wrong. My final three weeks at Vanderbilt were definitely one of the most life-changing weeks of my life. Here, I actually got to experience college life for myself complete with a college professor, challenging coursework, diverse people, roommate, and most important of all – dorm food. In all seriousness though, these weeks have exposed me to so many things and changed me because of them.

First off, the people there were absolutely amazing. Even though we all come from different backgrounds, we shared such a close bond and I really felt comfortable with them. I felt so comfortable, that I actually did something I’ve never dared to do at my own school: I wore shorts. Yes, shorts. Wearing shorts is something I’ve avoided doing nearly my whole life; it wasn’t because I wasn’t allowed to, it was because I did not want to. See, I have this huge birthmark on my right leg and I have been afraid of being ridiculed because of it for the longest time. When I first showed it I did receive a few stares and questions, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In all honesty, the welcoming environment at Vanderbilt really let me be myself; I could let my true colors show and I never regretted any of it.

Besides the people here, my time in the Pharmacology class was a great experience as well. I initially decided to take this class because all my life, I have been interested in medicine and anything medical-related. As a child, I preferred to watch something on the Discovery Health Channel to something on Disney Channel; it was something that piqued my places of interest because it included medical science and the well-being of others. I learned so much about the drugs we use on a daily basis, and this has made me want to start some sort of drug awareness thing at our school. I’ve talked about it with Hannah and she also thinks it is a great idea. I want to show other people that drugs not only affect your own body, but also the whole world.

Learning in this new academic environment was also a great and interesting challenge for me. At my own school, I almost always knew what I was doing and never really had to rely on anyone but myself. In the pharmacology class however, that changed. We went through about a million things every day and I admit, I struggled a little to keep up with many of the AP Chemistry students in there. Even so, I am glad I struggled because it allowed me to ask questions and become more motivated to work with everyone else. I enjoyed having heated debates about interesting topics with everyone even though it was a little difficult for me to speak out first. In the end, all my hard work paid off because I was a part of the winning group for our final project. This project was a great way to work together on something modern chemists and researchers do all the time; there really was no way to actually be able to do something like this if it wasn’t for this program. My time in this class showed me to have more confidence in myself because anything is possible; even if you don’t live in wealthy area or go to a prestigious high school.
With that being said, VSA has really changed me as a student and person. I am now motivated to become much more involved in the classroom and express my opinion more often. I actually have confidence – something I’ve always wanted but never knew how to get. I now know what it takes to succeed; you not only need to work hard, but you need to work well with others too – it’s not just a one-man show. Being in VSA has also let me have the ultimate college experience before college could actually begin. I was not only exposed to being taught a college-level course taught by a college professor, but also exposed to everything college life has to offer. Now that I’ve had this experience, I can’t wait to really go off to college in a couple years. I used to dread the day I left for college but now, I am looking forward to it. If it wasn’t for this experience, I don’t think I would have applied to any colleges on that side of the country but now, I am positive I will.

All in all, I would really like to thank all of the people that have made this life-changing journey possible. Thank you my Vandy cohort, for being the best group of people to travel with. I will truly miss our late night blogging and Girl Talk with Chris. Thank you Don, for always keeping us in check and making sure we had what we needed for our trip. Thank you Ms. Kronenberg, for putting all of that work you do for the ILC. Thank you Mr. Ramsey, for being the head of the ILC because we all know that this program would not have existed without you. I really can’t thank you all enough for letting me go through this fantastic change within myself. I can’t believe that a couple months ago I was afraid to go through this huge change, but now that I have realized that change is absolutely necessary to become a better person, I welcome change with open arms. Now that this adventure at VSA is over, all I can say to you all is: thank you for reading!
The best cohort ever. Seriously.

Flipping Back Through The Pages Of My Journey

Our first dinner as a cohort.
My  journey began one afternoon when I was called for a meeting to possibly be a part of the Ivy League Connection. With much thought and drive, I followed every step necessary to be called an ILC ambassador, to be able to make connections outside of California, and to get a taste of college life. My older brother had tried his junior year, but unfortunately didn’t make it. I must say I’ve been following in my brother’s footsteps my whole academic life, with hopes of surpassing his own successes.

With many expectations put in front of me, I always turned to my parents to make sure they were willing to support me in this process. Joining the ILC was not an easy task, but I must say it is very rewarding. I decided to only apply to the Vanderbilt program, because they offered a variety of courses that interested me. During winter break I diligently finished up my essays, leaving much room for proofreading and revising.  I wanted to make sure I put much effort in, in hopes of getting a lot out of it. I never once regretted writing the essays, because look where I am now. 

Last February, I constantly checked my email for the list of Vanderbilt students who made it past the essay stage. There it was: my name written on the email. I then took every opportunity to practice for my interview. I am very thankful for Mr. Wilson, Ms. Vasquez, and the PVHS ILC alumni who held mock interviews for us. Without their support, I wouldn’t have grown to be the young lady I am today.

The WCCUSD board meeting.

The clock kept ticking as I waited for my interview. I was the last one to be interviewed, and boy was I nervous. I walked in confidently with a smile on my face, a little scared, but ready to tackle this challenge.  There was no turning back now, I was there, sitting in front of a panel of judges: the sponsors, alumni, and leaders who decided how my summer would be planned. With much relief in the end, it was time to announce the Vanderbilt cohort for the ILC.  As soon as I heard my name, I was filled with joy and excitement. I never expected my summer to be so overwhelming, yet so amazing.

The ILC did a great job preparing us for the trip physically and mentally.  Before embarking on this trip to the East coast I had only a few expectations in mind: busy schedules, hot weather, and a bunch of memories. I didn’t really know what to expect with the prestigious colleges we visited and the summer academy I attended. But there it lies, a month of exploring new places and things, a month of new experiences, and a month of unforgettable memories.

A few days have passed since I arrived from my summer adventure, and it’s hard to describe the journey I experienced in just one word. Flipping back through the pages of my journey I’ve learned so much; I’m surprised my brain hasn’t exploded.

At Georgetown University.
Let me begin with our first week of exposure to different Universities: Duke University, Georgetown University, and the University of Pennsylvania. In my life, I have only been on two college tours: UC Berkeley and Stanford University. Back then, I didn’t know what questions to ask and I didn’t know what to look for. However, my experience with the ILC has taught me that there is much more than the higher education offered in California.  Those colleges that I never heard of before, that never crossed my mind, don’t seem so far to reach anymore. Coming from a low-income school isn’t stopping me from aiming high at those prestigious schools. The ILC has proved to me that although I may a little fish in a pool of outstanding applicants, there is no such thing as impossible. A rejection letter from a school may be just their way of saying,  "We’re not the right college for you." I used to be worried about not getting accepted because of low SAT/ACT scores, but I learned that’s not the only thing they take into account.  It has given me relief that colleges take into account your grades in the context of your school, and don't just focus on one aspect of your college application. College admissions officers look at every part of your application, so one test score won't necessarily determine your acceptance to a college.

Although I am still in the process of discovering whether or not a school outside California is best for me, I am thankful that I was exposed to something different. I may be ahead of the game in some cases, however; I still have a lot of searching to do. The ILC is pushing me to discover myself more, and is personally challenging me as I continue to discover what type of college is right for me. I will be open minded to the possibilities outside of California because of the wonderful opportunities they offer such as: the freedom of class choices, internships, and study abroad programs. These are really important aspects to consider when applying.  I was amazed and overwhelmed with all these endless academic opportunities; how much these institutions care about each student’s success. In terms of financial aid and the application process, I must say I am far more educated than I was before. Although I know it still will be a stressful process, I am much more confident in myself.

The dinners with college alumni and talks with college admissions officers were a great privilege and opportunity to get to know the colleges better. Yes, the tours were amazing, insightful, and beautiful, but there’s nothing better then having one on one conversations with those who are directly involved with the college. Throughout each meeting, I was getting better and better at asking questions and getting as much answers as possible. Their words of encouragement and advice will not only stick with me throughout the college application process, but throughout the rest of my life.

My time at the Vanderbilt Summer Academy was definitely a big highlight of my trip. The experience placed a big stamp on my heart. I will absolutely never forget the connections I built with the many other brilliant students. I may have not experienced dorm life in any way, but through the ILC. This program was a rare opportunity for me to live in a dorm for three weeks. I didn’t fill out any roommate questionnaires, but VSA matched me with a perfect roommate. Everyone around me felt like a stranger in the beginning, however we all grew to be a family. Throughout those three weeks, I was able to step out of my comfort zone and be the bubbly Hannah I am around those who are close to me and whom I have known for a long time. I had the opportunity to be surrounded with people just like me, but who otherwise came from different backgrounds and cultures. I have learned to not be afraid when meeting new people, but instead if the opportunity arises, take it and dive in. I am now less intimidated when it comes to meeting new people, because I know they are just like me. I will always cherish the memories I've shared with the friends I met at VSA.

Honestly, it was harder to interact with other students in the academic environment. It’s really challenging when you’re in a room full of other bright students, because it really tests your intelligence. By the end of my Pharmacology class, I learned that I couldn’t always be the shy little girl in the classroom. I am capable of being as just as intelligent as the others, and nothing should hold me back. I must admit I was shy in the beginning, but I began to adapt to this new environment. During our final research project, I was able to prove that although I didn’t take an AP Chemistry, AP biology, or Organic Chemistry class like the others, I can rise to the top. It was an amazing feeling to know that my group’s research project won first place! I may have been perceived as a student who didn’t know much at first, but after much knowledge acquired from the course, I knew that I could rise to the top of a class with many brilliant students.

I chose Pharmacology as my first course choice because I wanted to be educated on how drugs work and use this information in my pursuit of working somewhere in the medical field, and also educate my peers about how drugs negatively affect their bodies. We explored the biology and chemistry behind drugs and how it affects the world around us. I was challenged with a bulk load of knowledge that it was so hard to capture and understand every single detail. The rigorous curriculum really kept me on my toes in class and kept me thinking, how will I educate my peers back at my own school? Yessenia and I definitely have a lot of information to share. For example, we learned what is actually considered a drug and what to be careful with when consuming drugs. Hopefully this will help change the minds of those who consume drugs, particularly street drugs. The use of illegal drugs has taken a big part in today’s society, and I hope Yessenia and I will find a small first step to combat this problem in our local community. The task at hand is not easy, but I pray that by the time I leave Pinole Valley, I will look back knowing I sparked a change.

Entering this program, I had the dream that I wanted to become a pediatrician; that dream has now changed. Through this Pharmacology course and talks with current college students and my roommate, my mind has changed on a few things. I do like science and working with children is my passion, but perhaps the path of becoming a doctor isn’t right for me. My roommate took the Med School 101 course, and her stories didn’t really discourage me from becoming a pediatrician, but a realization ran through me that spending over 10 years in college might be too much for me. Additionally, my passion for science and working with kids does not mean a pediatrician is the only possible job. As I sat in a workshop on Personal Etiquette, something just sparked within me. I realized that maybe I want to be a child therapist or even work at a University as a college advisor or counselor. The ILC not only exposed me to new knowledge, but VSA taught me that the world is not limited to the dream jobs of either a politician, doctor, teacher, or engineer. There is so much out there and it’s only normal for you to change your major in college three times. I have a good feeling my mind will change many times, but I still hope I end up doing something I’m happy about.

I must assure you, VSA was not just about going to class, eating, and sleeping. It was so much more than studying under a professor, eating cafeteria food, and sleeping in the dorms; it was preparing us for college. We took part with the Vanderbilt community for three weeks. It wasn’t just 6 hours of class each day, but it was creating a community of brilliant students. It was socializing with other people from around the country and even the world. It was learning how to dance together in the Dance Around the World Arête class and learning how to fence in our fencing class. Just as many colleges offer extra-curricular classes, VSA provided a well-rounded college experience. More importantly, they provided us with resources for our success in college. Not only were the coordinators and proctors available for us, but we even had a night where college admissions officers of Vanderbilt gave us actual college applications. It gave us an opportunity to have an idea of what kinds of applications are accepted, wait listed, and denied. I don’t think I’ll ever get an opportunity like this again, and for that I am grateful.

With all that being said, I as an individual have changed into a more independent, intelligent, and inspired young lady. I am no longer afraid of leaving my parents for college, although I will truly miss them. It won’t be easy, but I know that it is a part of life and I can conquer any challenge put before me. I have acquired the most knowledge that I can during this past month, and without the ILC I would have never experienced taking a college course in the South. I was surrounded with many inspirations throughout my trip, which has instilled more confidence in myself. It has pushed me to succeed beyond my potential and fulfill all my responsibilities. From blogging everyday to being prompt to activities, I have grown to become a representation of my school, the district, and most importantly the Ivy League Connection.

First and foremost, I’d like to thank God for bringing me this far. I’ve experienced a once in a lifetime opportunity, and none of this would have been possible without Don Gosney, Mr.Ramsey, and Ms.Kronenberg. I would like to extend a warm blanket of thanks to not only the ILC coordinators, but also to the sponsors for supporting this program financially. I cannot stress enough how wonderful it is that you people are extending a helping hand to the students in our district. I am also thankful to my parents for supporting me along the way. I cannot forget our chaperone, Mr.Mannix; thank you for caring for us and making this experience memorable. I’d also like to thank my cohort: Yessenia, Narges, and Chris. I couldn’t have asked for any other group. Thank you for the smiles and laughter; we've grown so much together, I can now call you guys my brother and sisters. Last but not least to all the readers: thank you for watching us grow throughout this journey. This trip has not only done good to me, but it has changed me.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Nostalgic Day For My Arrival Back Home

The last day is what I like to describe it as nostalgic and uneasy. If you notice that a lot of these pictures are similar to some of my old blog posts, you aren’t kidding yourself.

First, we went to the Pancake Pantry, again, for breakfast. The first day full day in Nashville, we ate at this place. Now it was our last full day in Nashville, and so we ate at the Pancake Pantry one last time on our Ivy League Connection Journey. It was weird, because I didn’t want to eat pancakes, which was pretty much why we came. Instead, I had their special hash browns that had all this stuff on and in it, from cheese to eggs to salsa. It was delicious, of course. Anyway, this was the first sign of nostalgia that I was getting on the Last Day. Well, actually, the first sign of nostalgia was probably when I had my own hotel room to myself again.
Embracing  Southern culture one last time

Another sign of nostalgia Saturday was when we decided to go to Downtown. Hannah and Yessenia didn’t get the opportunity to come down here, and Narges wished to buy something for her family, so we decided to go here. I also didn’t mind, because it was really my last look at Nashville. Walking down Broadway, I couldn’t help but feel as if I went back in time to two weeks ago Sunday afternoon, when I was on my Sunday excursion. I couldn’t help but remember all the friends that I’ve made that day of whom I’ll never forget. I couldn’t help but remember all the pictures taken and the fun times I had with all my VSA friends that Sunday. To make it even more peculiar, the weather was probably exactly the same as it was the day I was first in Downtown. The sky was just beautiful, and the heat felt nice and warm, but not “kill-me-now” warm. It truly was a weird and nostalgic feeling being back in Downtown for the last time in our trip.

This picture looks nearly the same as the one I took with some of my VSA friends.

This one also looks very similar to my other picture two weeks ago.

One of the final signs of nostalgia happened inside the plane on our way home to Oakland International Airport. We made a pit-stop that I didn’t know was going to happen; we stopped in Las Vegas to drop off and pick up passengers. Right now you may be wondering why I felt so uneasy about being in an airplane in the middle of the Las Vegas airport. Well, the reason for this was because some of my relatives live in Las Vegas. I haven’t seen them in at least 6 years, and to be perhaps only a 30 minute drive away from them was probably the weirdest feeling I have ever felt. I remember the green lights on the runway when I was about six or seven, and so when I looked at those lights it triggered that memory. I felt as if I was shot back in time, when there were no worries about college or my future—just that I’m on an airplane, and I’m going to see my family. Naturally, as we waited for the passengers to board the plane, I had to call my grandmother. It seems that the nostalgia and uneasiness truly didn’t end until I set foot in the Bay Area.

Backtracking a bit in the day, the fact that we were leaving Nashville and ending our epic adventure after these past four weeks finally hit me when we were preparing and putting our bags in the car to head to the airport. It made me really sad. All the friends that I’ve made at VSA were already gone the day before, yet this was probably the saddest moment. As we made our way to the airport check-in, I only wished that time would slow down so I could get my last seconds of Nashville air, but it didn’t. Time only seemed to speed up, and by the time I knew it, the Vandy cohort was already in Oakland. 

On a side-note, I don't think I've ever been on a more beautiful plane ride. The sunset was beautiful, and all the scenery outside my window really gave me that reminder that I should appreciate nature 

It’s a weird feeling being back home. Absolutely nothing about my house or my family has changed. All the books, the papers, and just everything are in the same place in my room. It’s almost as if I never even left four weeks ago. However, looks can be deceiving, of course. Although nothing here has changed, I as a person have changed a lot these past four weeks. I’ve truly grown up. This trip has been the longest I’ve ever been away without a family member with me. It has reassured me I can absolutely go to college out of California without feeling homesick; I never wanted to leave Vanderbilt! So although my routine and my way of living have come back to me again, I just can’t help but want to break that routine. It seems I’ll truly see how much I’ve changed as the days go by more and more; only time will tell.

It's Good To Be Back Home

First picture back in my room!

It is a bittersweet feeling to be home again. I woke up at noon this morning, slightly confused at to where I was. It felt strange not waking up to Anna shuffling around our room, trying not to wake me. For a minute, I thought that the last four months had just been a very long, pleasant dream. However, a smile crept to my face when I saw my bags and suitcase laying open on the floor, the contents of them strewn haphazardly across my room: they proved that the trip was most definitely real. I pushed the heavy blanket that immersed my body in warmth away from me as I got up out of bed. I walked over to my bags and plopped down in front of them, thinking of my last day in Nashville.

I had woken early to check my bags and repack some things I threw into my suitcase last minute. Yessenia and Hannah had woken up by the time I was done. The three of us got ready to leave while we watched the Olympics, though none of us really seemed to be paying much attention to the T.V.

At 11 o’clock, the three of us knocked on Chris’s door. He answered with a smile on his face and luggage in his hands. We all headed down to the lobby together, basking in the fact that this would be our last time lugging our bags through a hotel together. We met Mr. Mannix and went down to the Pancake Pantry (this time by car) for our final breakfast together.

After we finished breakfast, we drove to downtown Nashville for some last minute shopping. It was so crowded with tourists that I almost bumped into someone several times. It reminded me of Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Warf back home in San Francisco. We went in and out of several stores, but none of us found anything we liked enough to buy. I suggested going back to the bookstore that was close to the university for some last minute souvenirs, and no one disagreed so we went. I ended up buying my parents matching Vanderbilt shirts.

 Then it finally came time start for the airport. We sat in silence and listened to the music coming from my phone as we drove, taking in our last sight of Nashville. When we got to the airport, we did all the procedures that had become second nature to us; check in our bags, get our boarding passes, go through airport security, etc. We waited for what seemed like hours before we boarded the plane.

 The plane ride back home was, to me, the longest plane ride of the entire trip. I was exhausted from our morning adventures and eager to get home and rest. However, the time seemed to go by excruciatingly slow. I groaned with dissatisfaction when the plane stopping at Las Vegas to board more passengers. When we were landing, I peeked out the window and saw all the lights from the city and it made me want to stay there for a day. However, we were only there for about 15-20 minutes. Then, we were in the air again.

            About an hour and a half later, our plane had finally landed for good. I eagerly jumped out of my seat, grabbed my backpack from overhead, and ran out from the plane with my cohort following behind me. We walked together to baggage claim, where large throng of people was congregated. In the midst of the crowd, I saw my mother’s face. She was staring at me, trying to discern if it was truly me she was seeing. I waved and saw her face light up. I ran down the escalator and into her arms. There is something about being in the arms of your mother that is just so relaxing. I no longer felt tired or stressed when I was in her arms. I just felt warm and like I was at home.

She greeted everyone else and told me to go to my dad, who was waiting by the conveyer belt where the luggage was supposed to come. I snuck up on him and he hugged me tightly. I waited with him and my mother for my suitcase to come, and when it did we said our goodbyes to everyone and headed back home.

 I knew they were eager to hear all about my trip, and I tired by best to tell them as much as I could, but at some point I fell silent and just took in the view as we drove. I appreciated that my parents did not pester me to go on; I think they could see how tired I was.

 When we arrived home, they helped me move all my bags to my room. They kissed me goodnight and told me we would spend all day tomorrow going over every aspect of my trip. They left and I was alone in my room. I looked around and everything was the way I had left it…it was like nothing had changed since I had been gone. I smiled and collapsed on my bed. It’s good to be home again. 

The End To Our Adventure

Our last morning in Nashville went by as quickly as a heart. We started off the morning at the Pancake Pantry once again; this small pancake place never fails to satisfy. Afterwards, we strolled around downtown Nashville, which I have never seen before. Upon arrival, I could see a wave of people at all corners of the street. I have never seen Nashville so full! It was not only hard to keep track of each other but it was also hard to not stop and take a quick listen at all the bands and singers we saw every other building. Nashville truly is Music City; there is always a new singer or band trying to have their time in the limelight.

Man-powered vehicle!

Train tracks to no where
Walking around, we went to several souvenir shops for last minute shopping. Although we were only there for a little while, we were pretty exhausted from walking around in the heat. We’ve been in this humidity for nearly a month and we never got used to it.

After our last trip around Nashville, we all head to the airport for our long ride to Oakland where our parents would be picking us up. Although I am not fond of airplanes, I would have to say that this trip, although very long, was not as uncomfortable as the others had been. I was actually able to relax for the first 4 hours and have a peaceful plane ride. However, there was a minor mishap in the plane. Apparently, water bottles tend to spew water when you open them on a plane. It really was embarrassing; once I flipped the straw thing open to take a small sip, water just flew out everywhere. I kind of freaked out so I just froze in horror as the water drenched Narges, me, and a man sitting in front of us. I also wet Hannah a little, but that girl sleeps like a rock and didn’t even flinch. Besides this little accident, everything else went smoothly.
Once our plane arrived, I felt a huge explosion of joy within me. I was finally home! I couldn’t believe it, I have been gone for so long and being so close just made me even more excited. Besides waiting for my luggage, I was also looking for my mother who would be picking me up. As I saw her in the crowd with one of my sisters, I came over and gave her a huge hug, the first one in nearly a month. My wheel-chair-bound grandmother and my littlest sister also came to see me. I really feel loved since my grandmother came all this way, especially at nighttime just to see me. I have missed my family so much and I am so glad to be seeing them again. Once it was time to go, I gave my cohort one last hug and said our goodbyes. This really isn’t goodbye though, since we will be seeing a lot of each other at school. I have had such a glorious time with these people and I really could not have asked for a better cohort.
All I can do now is thank the Ivy League Connection for this incredible journey. Thank you Mr. Ramsey, Don, and Ms. Kronenberg for letting me spread my wings and fly in the wind. This was a trip like no other. I also want to thank Mr. Mannix for being the best chaperone possible and for putting up with many things like our slow-paced walking. Although I am sad that this trip is finally over, I am glad to have learned so much about college life and my role in it. Now, it’s just really good to be home.

Flying Back Home

It was finally time to return home. I woke up in our hotel room knowing today was the last day we’ll be in Nashville, Tennessee. After our bags were packed and ready to go, we partook in our last meal at the Pancake Pantry. The Vanderbilt alumni who recommended this place to us were right about checking it out. It’s definitely a popular eating spot, and at any time of any day there will be a line past the entrance door. I also got the opportunity to eat a watermelon popsicle from Las Paletas, which is a local homemade popsicle company.

We then ventured out to downtown Nashville. Nashville is truly the Music City; you can hear a country music singer at every other restaurant. The city was full of guitar playing, cowboy boot stores, and tourists. It felt like Nashville’s version of San Francisco’s Pier 39. With bustling streets and country music heard around every corner, I definitely enjoyed spending some time at the heart of the Music City.

The "Batman" At&t building
Sooner than later it was time to head to the airport. As we filled the trunk of our rental van with our heavy luggage, it finally hit us: we were leaving the city of Nashville and flying back to our home sweet homes. The sad realization ran through us that our Ivy League Connection journey on the East is over. Although we were feeling sad, we were also looking forward to seeing our families and friends back home.

After stopping at Las Vegas, we arrived safely at the Oakland airport. It was a wonderful, eye-opening experience back on the East, but I am really glad I’m finally home. As soon as I arrived at my house, I noticed the living room rearrangements and then ran straight to my brother’s room. I gave him a big hug, and I was really happy to see him. I will make the most out of the next three weeks I have with him, before he leaves for college in New York. I then entered my room to see a welcome home sign; it feels good to be back in my own room.

After settling in, I enjoyed a nice home cooked meal. Honestly, after three weeks of the same cafeteria food, it isn’t very satisfying. While savoring my mom’s home cooked Filipino food, I shared with my parents just some of the many things I learned at VSA. It’s really hard to talk, when you’re mind is focused on the delicious food.

I am blessed to be back home and see my family again. I am blessed that I was able to explore colleges back East. I am blessed that I was able to get a little taste of college life. I am blessed that I was able to meet new friends that became family. I am blessed that I had the best cohort and chaperone. I am blessed to be a part of the ILC.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Our Tearful Goodbyes

My empty dorm now
As I woke at my usual waking hour, I looked over at my roommate who was still asleep (like usual) and began to pack the remainder of my things. It has been a terrific couple of weeks at Vanderbilt and it is my final day here. Now that I am leaving, I realize that I will not be coming back here for a long time. I took one last look at my dorm, felt its emptiness, and left for breakfast.

Although the food at breakfast was the same as always, the vibes at the tables were completely different. People were even leaving right then and there to catch their planes. Even at breakfast, many people were on their way home. At this time I said goodbye to a couple of my friends from Chicago who were crying; it was terribly sad. They were the first of many who would leave before we did.

After breakfast, my friends and I roamed around Hank Ingram House for the last time, saying our farewells, taking pictures, and signing our term-books which are yearbooks for VSA. Roaming around was very fun and a little sad at the same time since I said goodbye to everyone who wasn’t in my proctor group. 

Speaking of my proctor group, I was kind of expecting this part to be the saddest so I saved those emotional for last. I wasn’t expecting to cry or anything, but in the end it was much sadder than I thought it would be – especially our group hugs every time someone would leave. As I watched my proctor sisters leave one by one, from Elizabeth and Ayanna to my roommate and good friends Meera, Anna, and Alexa, I felt a small gap in my heart from their absence. It really saddens me from the fact that I will no longer eat breakfast with them or even pass them on my way to Commons. I have learned so much from them and I love how we were all so different, and yet so similar. All these people were incredible people and my time spent with them has meant so much to me.
Anna and Meera
Our beautiful proctor group
Once I left Hank House our Vanderbilt cohort was finally reunited; it kind of felt like old times when we all went to the Vanderbilt bookstore together, and ate lunch at a delicious Jamaican restaurant. Now that I am sitting here at the Loews Hotel, all I can think about is how much this journey has impacted me to become even more open-minded, confident, and happy. Although I am sad that this boat has nearly docked, I still can’t wait to see my family tomorrow night. Next to God, my family will always be the most important people to me and I am really looking forward to see their faces again. 'Till then, goodnight!

Stuck Between the Past and the Future: The Present?

5 AM
And I'm gone--gone from my wonderful little mid-way college world. How can three weeks pass already? It's not fair how you have to make such close bonds with people who you have to say goodbye to in less than a month. I truly hope that the friendships I've made here weren't just temporary three week bonds. In three weeks, I've become strangers to "best buds" forever with some people here.

Last night I stayed up until about 4 AM just hanging with all my floor mates, writing and exchanging autographs in our Termbooks, and writing extensive letters to some of the friends that I promised I would write to. It was a weird feeling writing all these farewell letters and autographs for my friends/peers. I was only writing autographs for Pinole Valley High School students just a little over a month ago, and to write these again in such a short time again, really made this year the most friends I had to say goodbye to ever. This school year really will be the start of the end of my old life, and so a new beginning is coming very soon. I couldn't wait for college before. Now I just wish it would start right now. Wouldn't it be great if I was accepted to Vanderbilt and decided to go here, and one of my friends from VSA decided to go too. We would definitely be roommates.

I set my alarm for 5 AM; Yes, I set my alarm for 5 AM. I woke up and headed down to the basement where my "Chicago friends" and other friends within this group of friends passed time. The reason why we met up so early was because all of the Chicago people had to leave very early for their flight, 8:30 AM. It was so sad to know how fast the morning would pass by and how fast the goodbyes would be this morning. I don't want to believe that most of my friends that I've made here are thousands of miles away from my town. No matter how sad I am right now to see everyone go back to their homes, I know that very soon I will see them all again--in one way or another. I just need to keep in touch with these people.

By 11 AM, nearly all the students already left, and the Vandy cohort were some of the last to leave. With as many tight hugs and goodbyes before we left, the end of VSA truly came to an end. There's not enough words in the English dictionary to describe and explain how I feel right now. I'm excited for the future but reminiscent about the fun past that I've had these past four weeks. Now, I'm just stuck in the middle of my thoughts--the present.

Soon, I will be reunited with my OTHER friends and family back home. I know for a fact it will be different, because I've definitely grown up and changed these past four weeks. Well, back to reality, my home, or was Vanderbilt my true reality, my true home? I guess I'll know for sure by tomorrow night. One thing's for certain; I'm definitely applying to Vanderbilt.

A Very Melancholy Day

I am back at the Lowes Hotel, which is the hotel we stayed at on our first night in Nashville. It is probably the most opulent hotel I have ever stayed at in my entire life. As I lay in the in the giant, queen sized bed buried underneath the pale, soft blankets, I can’t help but feel out of place.  I have grown so accustomed to my smaller, twin-sized bed back at the dorm that this newer bed feels strange. In fact, not being in my dorm room right now, sitting in a comfortable silence blogging while my roommate watches One Tree Hill on Netflix feels strange.

Today was a very melancholy day as it was the day everyone left Vanderbilt. I watched as my fellow VSA camp members filed out of the dorms, luggage in hand and tear-stained cheeks flushed.  The usually crowded university seemed to slowly grow more and more empty.

I spent my last night at VSA in the dorm of two of my friends who were roommates. They hosted a sleepover for the girls in our little group. We stayed up late into the night gossiping and playing games. At some point in the night, I just stopped what I was doing and looked around at my friends. They were all smiling and laughing and carrying on as though it were any other night. My smile faded when I realized that this was the last night that we would be together in a very long time.

My sadness only deepened when I woke in the morning to my friend gathering her things. I hugged her good-bye and told her to keep in touch. She smiled and nodded her assurance that she would do so before she left; the other members of my small group did the same.

I was the last one in my group to leave. I walked over to my room after saying my final goodbyes to my friends and collected my things. I paused with my back to the room before exiting. I turned around and examined the room that had been my home for the pass three weeks; there were no more clothes strewn about the floor and the beds looked naked without their unmade sheets. The room looked lonely and desolate instead of warm and inviting, like it did on the first day.

I closed my eyes and swallowed the lump that had formed at the back of my throat. I grabbed my luggage and the rest of my bags at left, walking the halls of level 3 in Hank Ingram for the final time. I took the elevator to the fourth floor, where I met a crying Hannah, a sad-faced Yessenia, and an ambiguous Chris. I rested my suitcase against the wall, bent down behind it, and silently cried.

It was 11 when Mr. Mannix came to pick us up. It was nice seeing him after three weeks. It felt nostalgic, the four us being together again. We lugged our multitude of bags down to the parking lot and he helped us mount them into the rental van. We drove to the hotel and checked in our bags. After that, we went to eat lunch at this Jamacian restaurant, which I really liked because it was something new.

Now Hannah, Yessenia, Chris, and I are sitting in the hotel room, each of us typing away furiously at our keyboards, stopping occasionally to watch some Spongebob Squarepants. We have much to discuss with one another, so I predict that we will be up late filling one another in on our experiences. I look forward to having girl talk with Chris once again after such a long time…
My Jamaican Lunch.