Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Very Busy Day

Today made it official: I am going to apply (and get in) to Duke University. In the past, I never would have made such a bold statement. In fact, I never would have considered applying to any schools outside of California for college. However, after touring the awe-inspiring campus of Duke University twice, hearing an abundance of information about it, and talking to some actual Duke students, it kicked any doubt of applying to out-of-state universities right out of my mind.

The hotel alarm woke us (Hannah, Yessenia, and myself) up at 5 o'clock in the morning today. We weren't supposed to meet our chaperone, Mr. Mannix, and the lone male wolf of our group, Chris, until 6:55 in the hotel lobby, but we needed the time to get ready; three girls plus one shower and one mirror takes at LEAST an hour and half to get ready.

After we finished getting ready, we headed down to the lobby to have breakfast with Mr. Mannix and Chris. Once we finished our biscuit sandwiches, cereal, fruits, and coffee, we hopped in our rental van and headed for the admissions office at Duke University, where we met with Samuel Carpenter, the Admissions Officer for Northern California at Duke.

Mr. Carpenter was an interesting character. Usually, when I hear the words “college admissions officer” I think of a man with cold beady eyes and pursed lips pressed into a hard line with a stoic face who is annoyed with high school students constantly pestering him to reveal the secrets of college admittance. However, Mr. Carpenter was not like that at all; he was very friendly and warm. He greeted us with a warm smile and a firm handshake when we met him in a room that was designed like a living room. He happily answered the many questions each of us threw at him rather thoroughly—including Yessenia's "How culturally diverse is Duke?" question, for which he provided a very interesting answer.

He informed us that Duke was diverse in every sense of the word. Not only does Duke accept students from different parts of the United States, but also from other countries. In fact, 11% of the population of Duke are international students. However, Duke is also diverse in terms of the interests, skills, and abilities of the students who attend this university. So, really, you can find very different students at each corner of Duke.

I also asked him a question that daunts many high school applicants: SAT scores. Personally, it is a subject that makes me want to run in a closet and hide, but Mr. Carpenter lifted my fears. He told me that there is no “average score” for students who attend Duke, but rather a 25-50-25 system. What this means is that 50% of the students at Duke will score between certain numbers in each category of the test, but that means 25% scored lower and 25% scored higher. He stressed the fact that test scores and grades are things that only tell the school of your test taking abilities and academic skills, but nothing about who you are; the personal statements are what are important. 

After our meeting with Mr. Carpenter, we attended an hour and a half long information session about Duke University given by yet another admissions officer. She talked about how close the professors are to their students. In fact, one teacher actually plays in the marching band for the school, and another teacher once asked his students to scream at the top of their lungs in the auditorium to help alleviate the stress of their first Duke test. She also spoke about the study abroad program and the various things Duke students were given the opportunity to do abroad. 

Another interesting thing she mentioned was the certificates program, which is something like a minor program. Basically, what this program does is that is allows students to develop a deeper understanding of their major by putting in classes that pertain to their major in a more real world way. These classes apply everything students learn and focus on in their majors to the real world, instead of just focusing on the fundamentals. It is a great program that really helps students succeed in any job pertaining to their major.

After the information session ended, we participated in yet another tour of the campus, however this tour was much more informative and in-depth than the one we had our first day. My forehead glistened with sweat and my legs ached from all that walking, but it was all worth it because I got to see the lovely campus of Duke on a more in-depth level. I learned that Duke is religious, but it practices several religions rather than just focusing on one. There is even a house dedicated purely to Islam! I was jubilant when I heard this because no other school I visited practiced Islam.

The final stop of the tour was inside the Duke chapel. It was my first time entering a holy building that was not Islamic, and it was the most beautiful, magnificent piece of architecture I have ever laid eyes on. It was big and grand and very colorful, with stained-class windows that depicted all the major stories of the Bible. The images made me curious, as I was not familiar with their story; it made me want to learn about them. The beauty and grandeur of the chapel left me breathless.

After the tour ended, we trudged our way through the heat to our rental van and drove to return it. We then took a shuttle to the airport and went through the headache that is airport security before we boarded the plane to Washington DC.

The flight itself was very short, but it felt much longer to me. Perhaps it felt that way because I had so much flowing through my mind. I thought about Duke and everything I had learned in my two days in Durham. I pictured myself there and I tried to pick out one bad thing about it, but I simply could not find one. It literally has everything a student needs; it has a center that is like a shopping center where students can buy anything they need. There are also many restaurants on campus so students never have to leave to get a bite to eat. I have never seen a university with so many things to offer its students. Duke University is simply wonderful.

When we arrived at DC we were driven to our hotel in a big, black SUV. We had only one thing on our minds when we entered our air-conditioned room: blogging. Just kidding! We had just come from a blazing hot place with sweat from our bodies falling like Niagara Falls. Naturally, the first thing on our minds was the pool (but don't worry, blogging was the second thing).

We swam for about an hour and then readied ourselves for dinner at Founding Farmers, an organic restaurant that is close to the White House and recycles its food. We were a little more over-dressed than a majority of the patrons there, but that did not phase us. We ordered some delicious foods and spent the night chatting, laughing, and getting to know our chaperone. We even ended up saving some money on the bill because our vegan chaperone spotted a sliver of bacon buried within his salad.
Our delicious appetizer at Founding Farmers
Black Pepper Chicken Wings
House Salad
Stray and Hey Pasta
At the end of the day, we returned to our hotels via taxi. We then bustled into our hotel room, changed out of our formal attire into our pajamas, and readied ourselves to begin blogging when Chris knocked on our door. We let him in and the four of us began to blog about our day together. There were brief moments of silence where the only sounds were that of the air conditioner, mutters under breathes, and busy fingers typing furiously. Occasionally, one of us would break the silence and read our blog out loud to the other, asking for some advice and changing whatever we felt needed to be changed.

So far, this is the second night that we all blog together as a team, and honestly it is my favorite way to end a busy day.
Vanderbilt ladies waiting for our table
The two Vandy girls who are terrified of flying
My view from the plane
Outside the East Wing of the White House

1 comment:

  1. While the Duke people may be pleased with you all have written about Duke, I’m not sure that the Vanderbilt people—especially the alums we work with—will be all that pleased reading that before any of you even check out their fine institution you’ve all made up your minds to attend Duke. This should be interesting.

    Loved reading your perspectives, Narges, especially about the religious aspects of Duke. Considering your lack of familiarity with religions outside of your own, I’m sure that you would have gotten a lot out of the Lived Religions course that Chris and Hannah are taking. Too bad you couldn’t take both.

    It saddens me, though, to read that submersing yourselves in that cool pool ranked higher on your list of “to do” things than blogging. But, as we’ve tried to impress upon you so many times, part of being an ILCer is mastering Time Management. In this case, you could have blogged first (just to please me) but then when you returned from supper the pool option would not have been available.

    But, by using your daylight hours for the pool party, you were able to take advantage of your PJ time to have a blogging party.

    And don’t you all find that blogging together like you did has so many advantages over going the solo route?