Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Day of Self-Reflection

My energy level was much higher today. It was probably the most productive day since last week.

Today's class was very "chill" and relaxing but still very productive and insightful. A guest speaker arrived who was the director of the American Center for Outreach. Her name is Remziya Suleyman, and she was born in Kurdistan, but has lived in Nashville ever since she was five. She is Muslim, a political activist, and a feminist. She is only in her mid-20s. I really admire her and what she does. Being all these characteristics, she's obviously in danger all the time; the risks she takes to do what she stands for is inspirational to me.

However, I didn't just admire what she stood for. I also liked how informative she was about the misconceptions people have about Islam. She answered many of our prepared questions about women in Islam, and I learned a lot. She's taught me that Muslim women actually get a lot of privileges that men don't get, and to some, they might actually have more privileges than the men do. Many people think that the veil that covers a women's head (called a hijab) oppresses women, when actually in fact, it's meant to do the exact opposite. Muslim women have a choice if they want to wear the veil; Remziya didn't start wearing it until four years ago. The hijab is meant for being modest and having a stronger "bond"--submission with God. She also told us something that many people think is a simple tip, yet many don't do it. She told us that we should always ask and not assume. The world has so many misconceptions about Islam and its practices, and if people just asked Muslims about their practices, Muslims wouldn't mind answering and having a discussion about it. These are the main things of the many things that I learned in this discussion with Remziya today.

Before lunch, we had "Quiet Time", which was a self-reflection period in which we answered four questions about how we were feeling about the class so far. I wish I could tell you more about what I wrote, but I turned in the paper after class. Let me just say, however, that the way I'm learning is very different than what I'm used to. I think that because there is no real "grade" in this course, students in my class actually want to learn--not just for the good grade. The class is also very small (12 students), so we can get very personal--especially in discussions. I'm used to having 32+, sometimes even 38 students, in my high school classes, so it's nice to experience a new learning environment--especially with students who are so intelligent, hardworking, and insightful. This class hasn't changed me too much as a person yet, but I'll tell you more about my self-reflection another day. I know by the end of this class, however, I will definitely have something changed about me--academically, mentally, or spiritually.

The rest of class was devoted to discussion about how we were feeling about the class so far (of course) and watching a documentary about Muslim active feminists. The video was pretty much to reinforce what we were learning about Muslim women. When our T.A., Eli, saw that we had some time left over, the class watched The Big Bang Theory. It was a great way to end class.

VSA's evening activity was a bit more of a serious one. We were having dinner with the Dean of Hank Ingram House, Dean Wcislo, and some admissions officers. The dinner was surprisingly quick, and we had Mexican food that reminded me of Chipotle, which made me a bit nostalgic because I always eat at the Chipotle in Pinole. Anyway, here's some pictures of some of my friends!


Alexa, Eric, and Anna


Some of "the guys" and Avery

After dinner, the students, along with an admissions officer, got into groups of about twenty. We, the students, were pretending to be an admissions committee. We had four applications and were only allowed to accept one, deny one, and wait-list two. Being in an admissions officer's shoes and seeing what it's like to actually go over an application and make a decision of who to accept was very helpful for me. I already knew mostly how they accept you, but it made me realize that every single thing on one's application matters, because that packet is the only thing the admissions officers know about a student. Even one's email could mean something. For example, a student named "Juan", had an email ID called "iamnumberjuan". This really doesn't matter, but perhaps this shows something about the person. This is because it was obvious in Juan's application that he was lazy. Even his teacher recommendation said something bad about Juan, that he turned in late homework. And Juan being lazy reflected in his average grades. His test scores, although high, meant nothing if he couldn't work in a classroom and turn in work on time. This is why although he had extremely high SAT scores, most of the committees denied Juan. This goes to show that the person who is more well-rounded will get in. I pretty much knew this already, but it's just nice to be in the admissions officer's shoes.

One thing that frightened me a bit, however, was the realization that I had to raise up my standardized testing scores. Although colleges look at an applicant's application holistically, test scores still do play a big part, because many of the applicants will have high test scores already. Well, I still have time to study and practice, so I can raise my SAT and ACT scores. I shouldn't worry too much, but this is the only part of my application that I'm afraid of. When I come back from this trip, I'm definitely going to practice and study for these standardized tests.

Today was a great day for self-reflection. I looked back at my faith and what I believe in, and I started to think more and more about my college applications. I am not frightened; I just know that this school year will be an intense and exciting one.

Wow, tomorrow's already Thursday. Good night!

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