Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Fancy Dinner to Remember

It was a hot summer evening, as my mother and I headed to the BART station to make our journey with the Ivy League Connection to the restaurant One Market in San Francisco. It was an interesting feeling for me on our journey to BART; I hardly felt nervous this time--compared to the tutorial session. However, I was that last one to arrive at the BART station, but I figured I couldn't change that; and so I let that go and had my mind set and ready for the dinner. Even on the BART I felt at ease, and just went with the flow. Perhaps the only thing I was nervous about was my table manners and how to eat the such elegant food with, well, elegance.

As we entered One Market, I felt an entirely new environment. This new environment made me realize that I am no longer a teenager, but a young adult soon to enter college. I just couldn't help but smile and observe the fancy dinner tables and soothing jazz music playing in the background. In entering, I was asked several times by waiters and waitresses if I wanted these elegant-looking mini-appetizers. I of course said "yes" with excitement almost every time. And I'm not even going to kid myself, it felt good to be treated with such prominence,  by not only the workers at the restaurant, but all of the others joining us for dinner--that all my hard work payed off into getting in to the ILC and that perhaps in the future I will be living this luxurious type of life.

The Vandy cohort was split up when we sat into our tables. Because of this, I had to opportunity to make conversation with Vanderbilt's alumni and the people who have sponsored me into going to Nashville this Summer. One of the very first things both alumni said was, "There's nothing bad that I can say about Vanderbilt." Now I know they wanted to show off Vandy, but it really did seem like they were being totally honest. 

We spoke a lot about the area, Nashville, itself. The estimated population of Nashville is a pretty good size, with over 600,000 and over a million in the metropolitan area. Yet, everything is very spread out, and it's a very "chill" city. No one's rushed like in the Bay Area. One won't be surprised if they're suddenly making conversation with a stranger. So although the South is politically conservative area, this doesn't mean their people are. It won't surprise anyone in Nashville  to walk in a restaurant and hear live music by a famous music star, or even go on a date (with a tie and everything) to a football game. Compared to life in the Bay Area, the social environment in Nashville might be a good change for me.

On the campus itself, all students are required to live on campus for all four years. This really gets all the college students involved and closer together. Many are in fraternities or sororities, especially women--half of the female population at Vandy are in a sorority. Ironically enough, the campus library is where all the students socialize (well at least they have good intentions, right?). By my senior year, I would probably be able to know everyone in my class (which one of the alumnis did).

After talking a lot about the social life in Nashville and the school, we finally started talking about the education at Vanderbilt. No matter what area of study you wish to pursue, you'll know it's a top-ranked course in the nation. The class sizes are nice and small (10-15 and the most is about 40) with some of these classes even smaller than some of my high school ones at Pinole Valley. This would give me opportunities to actually know the professors, instead of going to a UC lecture hall and never even saying one word to them.

Vanderbilt also gives you the opportunity to take a variety of different classes. You can even double major or make your own major. But whatever it is you wish to pursue and decide to major in, Vanderbilt will make it work for you. Also, being a Liberal Arts school, Vandy has certain classes that are mandatory. They make you take a philosophy class, which is actually a good thing because I'm very interested in philosophy. But all in all, Vandy doesn't just give a student a good education; it prepares them for the real world, giving classes ,just like philosophy, to help make a student the person they'll be for the rest of his/her life. With all the different types of courses I'm interested in--English, History, Humanities, poetry, philosophy, sociology, psychology, marketing, international relations, and etc. (and of course religion)--I know Vanderbilt will have them available for me and let me major in them in any way I want.

 Overall, the dinner was a great experience, and it was an honor to have finally met my sponsors and the alumni--not to mention my principal, Ms. Kahn--who seemed very excited for the four of us to study at Vandy. I've learned a lot about Nashville and Vanderbilt, and I know the next couple of events will just make me more excited for our trip. 

To end this entry, I just like to say I am truly grateful for everything the ILC has done, and I don't think I've could've said it any better than Hannah when she gave her speech. I just truly hope that the students in our district know there's so much more to life than just the Bay Area, or California.

With the cohort and the alumni after dinner.

The First Dinner

"I'm proud of you." They were words that I had not heard in a long time, but they made a special night even better. 

Yesterday evening, my fellow Vanderbilt cohorts and I attended a dinner at One Market restaurant with our parents, Don, Mr. Ramsey, and several other important people. We were the first party to arrive, so we waited until everybody arrived before we took our seats in the room that was reserved for us. As we waited, we were served some hor d'ourves, but I was too nervous to eat anything. My anxiety only grew as more people began to arrive and the hall in which we had gathered slowly grew more crowded. What should I say? How should I act? I asked myself, as I accepted a glass of water from a tray a waiter had offered me. I sipped the water and felt my anxiety dissipate as the icy water went down my throat. The sudden coldness made me shiver.

Soon it came time to enter the dining area and we were ushered to our seats. As I sat down next to my father, I scanned the room. It was small, yet it maintained a sense of elegance. I noticed how crowded the room had become and aware of the fact that all these people were here for Hannah, Yessenia, Chris, and myself. I felt like a celebrity. 

We ordered our food and listened to various people speak while we ate our salads. Our table was very crowded, so I tried to prevent myself from knocking anything down and making any noise with my glass and silverware. In the end, I decided to wait until everyone was done speaking to finish my salad. 

Once everyone had finished speaking, I began to converse with the people sitting at my table. I much about them: where they went to school, what they majored in, their experience at school and in the real world. I also learned from Casey, who is a Vanderbilt alumni, that Vanderbilt's English department has very small classes. That instantly appealed to me because I like smaller, more intimate classes rather than huge, distant classes. She also answered the one question that has been hovering in my mind since I found out I was going to Nashville: how culturally diverse is Vanderbilt? I was worried about being the only Middle Eastern person at Vanderbilt, but Casey assured me that there are many culturally diverse people at Vanderbilt. 

All in all, it was a great night. I learned a lot about Vanderbilt and about the people who are sponsoring my trip. However, the highlight of the night for me was after the dinner, and after the BART ride. My father and I were in our car heading home. I asked him if he had fun and he replied with a smile, and slightly teary eyes. "I had fun watching you speak to them, you sounded like such an intelligent young woman." I smiled and thanked him, not sure if he meant his word. But then he reached over and grabbed my hand and said"I'm proud of you", and I knew then that he meant what he said. 

A Dinner Filled With Vanderbilt Alumni

I must admit, I am not a fan of BART rides, they are too crowded and I get sick from all that motion-and yesterday was no exception. However, the dinner at One Market really made up for it.

When we walked into the tastefully decorated restaurant, the waiters ushered us into an area where they offered us the most delectable hors d'oeuvres: a crunchy tuna tostada, and a juicy slider. I figured that if we waited any longer, I probably would be filled up on those snacks before I even sat down!

Right before all of us sat down though, I got the chance to have a quick chat with one of the many Vanderbilt alums, Casey Word, who finished graduate school there. We talked a little about life down in Nashville, and how it was a city in perfect balance between city life and small town life. The area was neither too small nor too big, which made me feel like I could fit right in.

When we found our seats, I discovered that I would be sitting with alumni John Tilsch, Rachelle Soderston, Casey Word, and School Board member Madeline Kronenberg. As we talked about Vanderbilt and how their personal experiences were for them, I expressed my concern for the lack of diversity there. Even though Rachelle agreed that Vanderbilt was not the most diverse, she assured me that it would not be a problem. Casey and John also confirmed this by saying that I can find any type of person at Vanderbilt, and that I would have a great time meeting people and making new friends.

As I was digging into my strange-looking Caesar salad, Mr. Ramsey talked to us about how the ILC came to be. It is amazing to hear that in just seven years, this organization has grown so successful. I was also surprised to hear that there is nothing like the ILC in the United States. This really shows how unique this program is.

Throughout the dinner, I had a great time speaking with all the people at my table. They all had very different and interesting lives. I learned that John is in a business that helps couple’s boutiques expand, while Casey is an analyst, who is someone that calculates the costs of insurance per individual. As we talked, she spoke about her experiences with grad life, like roommates. Although her Vandy roommates were great, her roommates after did not fit that description. In the end, she got a restraining order against this roommate of hers. “Never again,” she said, “I am done with roommates.”

I also got some great information from Rachelle regarding financial aid at Vanderbilt. She said that the financial aid there is great and I would not have to worry too much about the money. Ms. Kronenberg also told me that if a family makes below a certain amount, then they don’t have to pay a thing in some universities. I couldn’t help but laugh a little at the sound of my mothers’ sigh of relief. I think we are both glad to hear this valuable piece of information. 
The Incredible Tart

Overall, the dinner proved to be a great experience. I am so glad I got to meet all of these wonderful people because without them, the dinner would not have gone as well as it did. I am especially grateful for the delicious food I got to eat; the filet mignon was exceptional and the strawberry tart thing was so delicious, I definitely wanted an extra one of those.

This dinner has made me even more excited for Nashville, and I can’t wait to spend three glorious weeks there with my cohort. I give my thanks to Mr. Ramsey, Don, Ms. Kronenberg, and everyone who was there for a memorable night of great food and fun. 

Memorable Night of Making Connections

The Vanderbilt cohort!
Excitement and nervousness filled me up as my dad and I drove over to the BART station. I made sure to leave my house extra early, just in case we got lost. Fortunately we got there early, and our ride to San Francisco was pretty quick, arriving at One Market with time to spare.

 My nerves began to build as more and more people began arriving at the restaurant, but I was happily distracted by the delicious appetizers and kind service. I enjoyed the ahi tuna and of course the cheeseburger sliders. As I began chatting with some alumni and my chaperone, Mr.Mannix, I realized that there was nothing to be nervous about and that all these people are here to support me.

As we entered the dining room, about 30 of us: ILC sponsors, administrators, district members, alumni, our chaperone, my cohort and our parents, looked for our names on the tables. We were all split up, to be sure we get to know new people, and make new connections. At my table sat: my father, Tyler Sanchez and Summer Preve, two of the eight Vanderbilt alumni that attended, and also two sponsors of the Ivy League Connection program, who were both architectures. It was awesome to know that one of the ILC sponsors was one of my interview panelists and is even the architecture for the future Pinole Valley High School.
It was a great experience to talk with Tyler and Summer about their high school experiences, and their life at Vanderbilt. I learned that they both were greatly involved in sports, leadership, and community service in high school which paid off in the end, as they received many scholarships at Vanderbilt. One interesting thing that I learned, was that Vanderbilt allows you to create your own major, to study specific courses which you are truly passionate for. Both Tyler and Summer both studied areas which they loved, and now both work for the company Google. Another interesting fact I learned, was that Vanderbilt is very safe. You can have a police man escort you from your dorm room to the library if need be. I was amazed to learn how Vanderbilt is very closely knit, with buildings surrounding the whole campus. In addition, you will able to build a one on one relationship with your professors. Compared to many Universities out here in California, average class sizes are hundreds upon hundreds, while at Vanderbilt there's about twenty to twenty-five students in each class. I believe that this is a very important aspect of colleges to consider when applying. It was a fun experience to be able to connect with these alumni, and I am very grateful to them for offering their own time to be with us.

 Amidst all the wonderful conversations I had with the alumni and sponsors, it was an honor to speak as the student speaker for this Vanderbilt dinner. All my nerves were gone as I began to speak, and I spoke from my heart, letting everyone know how excited I am to be attending the Vanderbilt Summer Academy, and also giving a big thank you for the opportunity the Ivy League Connection Program has set before me.

 I must not forget the wonderful food at the One Market restaurant. Although I didn't quite understand the names of each dish, I can say the crab soup, the bacon wrapped filet mignon with mushrooms, and the tart-like dessert with strawberries and ice-cream were all quite delicious. It was very satisfying and I enjoyed the pleasant meal.

Lastly, I'd like to give a warm blanket of thanks to the whole Ivy League Connection program, especially, Mr.Ramsey, Ms.Kronenberg, and Don for believing in us, continuing this Vanderbilt program, and paving the way for our future.