Sunday, July 1, 2012

Off to North Carolina

A few days ago I met up with students and parents for some dinner and to address any lingering questions and concerns about our Vanderbilt expedition. All of the parents seemed much at ease and very excited that all of the hard work their children have put into their academics (thus far) was about to come to fruition. The students, on the other hand, were full of nervous energy and even a bit of anxiety. There was some mention of sleeplessness and strange dreams, as well as vibrant discussions about expectations and minor concerns. I have been so busy with a variety of responsibilities this summer that I hadn't given too much thought to our quickly arriving departure date. Well, thanks to the energy and excitement emanating from these students and their families, I am wound like a top and ready to roll!

I have made a number of trips through the South but have never been able to spend a great deal of time exploring. I am looking forward to experiencing the culture, meeting the people, visiting the sites, and learning the histories of North Carolina and Tennessee. These are areas of this country with complex story lines and legacies, and I have a great deal to learn, reflect, and process. After all, I may be a teacher, but I am a student for life. While much has been made about the recent weather in Raleigh, DC, Philadelphia, and Nashville, I am looking forward to the onset of enveloping heat and the sweet smell of rain that precedes a summer thunderstorm. 

One of the rewards of teaching is getting to see learning happen in the moment. This adventure is going to set off a chain reaction of epiphanies and connection making moments that is going to place these students far beyond their peers. I am simply amazed at the fact that students from the West Contra Costa County School District are presented with such an opportunity. Narges, Yessenia, Chris, and Hannah have already demonstrated to me that they have earned this privilege, and I am anticipating endless examples of learning and achievement.

Finally, in case you didn't know, I am a music nerd at heart. I searched for songs about our first stop (Raleigh, North Carolina) and found this bluegrass number. Enjoy.

And Now We Begin

Tomorrow morning, I will already be departing Oakland International Airport for the East Coast! All I can say is that I'm ecstatic as I wait for my adventure to begin. It seems that if I were writing this blog post a week ago, I would say each day is going by slower and slowerthat I couldn't wait to leave the Bay Area. However, now that the weekend is here, it's as if hours are turning into minutes, and minutes are turning into seconds. Well, I guess I still can't wait to leave, but this trip is, indeed, coming much faster now.

I only wish that I could've spent more time with my friends before this trip. If this were last summer, or any of the summers before this one, I would feel differently. Not to boast, but it really does feel like my circle of friends has grownoptions of doing something and who to pass time with almost seem endless this summer. Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to spend time with some of them yet, and it's making me feel a little discouraged. You see, when I come back (July 28th), school will be pretty much starting up again. For example, School Registration will begin soon for everyone, along with band camp for myself. It seems this only means I just have to make every day count this summer. It is, well, my last summer of high school. Man, I can't believe I'm already a Senior.

I know the first few days are going to be a little crazy. Monday morning, the "team" and I will have to wake up just a little earlier than usual, congregating at El Cerrito High School before 3:45 AM! This week I've been trying to sleep and wake up a little earlier, so hopefully it will have paid off.

Departing the airport just after 7 AM, we'll be off to our first stop, Durham, North Carolina. There, we will visit our first college, Duke University. This university, in particular, is the one that I'm the most excited for. There's just something at Duke that I have a feeling will really spark my interest. Not only are they an academically prestigious school, butlike Vanderbiltthey have some of the best sports teams in the nation. In particular, their basketball team is exceptionally good, and basketball happens to be one of my favorite sports. If the sports are good, the school definitely has a lot of spirit. If the academics are good, then I'll definitely succeed in whatever I choose to do in life (not really sure yet). So, all-in-all, I'm guessing Duke would be a great college environment. This is not to mention, I love their colorblue. It seems I'll just have to wait until Monday and Tuesday to find out how much I'll really like this school. I am, however, pretty sure the other schoolsGeorgetown, UPenn, and of course Vanderbiltwill interest me as well.

I'm very excited for my course, Lived Religion: Abrahamic Faiths, where I will study the three monotheistic religions of the world. And I'm even more happy that someone I know, Hannah, will be taking this course, toonot that I need anyone I know in the class, but it's just nice that there is. I consider myself an open-minded Christian, and I know this course will help me discover new things about my faith. Not only will this course help me personally, it will also me help to expand my knowledge of the world, since religion plays a major role in the way many people live (even the way they're governed). I never even entered a mosque before, so I'm very excited to experience it. By the end of this course, I know I will have learned tons of new information about these three religions (for I know very little, except for Christianity). I'll just have to see what's in store!

I checked the weather forecast recently, and it's said to be 90's the whole week in every city we'll be going to. It also said there will be isolated and scattered thunder storms. In lovely Pinole, CA, it's only 60's and breezyjust the weather to prepare me for the other side of the country, right? Well ready or not for this weather, it will certainly be a part of what this adventure is all about.

I've never been away from family members for more than a week. Also, I haven't been in a plane for at least 5 years. I don't think these two things are of any issueat all. This is the time for me to become independent and to experience what's out there. And my entire cohort, I can tell, is exuberant about our trip, and I can't wait to see what lies ahead for us the next four weeks!


When I was younger, I was pretty satisfied with my life. I didn’t dwell too much on thoughts of other places, and I was very comfortable at home. It wasn’t until I entered high school and developed a curiosity about the world that I realized how much I wanted to see and learn and do. I dreamed for an adventurous life, filled with fun, laughter and the joy of achieving high goals. However, as I grew older I realized that my life had revolved around doing what my family wanted me to do rather than me doing the things I wanted to do. I wanted to make everyone proud and happy, but by doing that I was ignoring who I really am and making myself unhappy.

I fell in love with writing when I entered high school. I had always enjoyed writing, but when I was younger I mostly just made up stories and read them to myself. However, as a teenager I wrote to alleviate my stress and ease my troubles. It was my outlet and my escape from the awkwardness of high school and adolescence. I knew from my freshman year that I wanted to pursue writing, but I knew my parents would nag at me to aim for a more "honorable" career. As a result, I am a year away from college and I still have no idea who I am or what I want to do with my life.

All these thoughts occurred to me as I was packing my suitcase. I realized that I am seventeen-years-old, a year away from college, and still an ignorant child unaware of how the world truly works. I have been protected and sheltered my entire life. Whenever I had a major problem, I got advice from my sisters or my parents. When I was sick, my mom would nurse me back to health. However, when I go to Vanderbilt I will be completely on my own. The thought is daunting and it made me feel alone, but it was also a relief in a way. This trip is more than just a school trip; it is an opportunity for me to grow and discover who I am. I know that I will come back a more informed young woman ready for college and ready to face the world.

Bags Are Packed, I'm Ready To Go!

The time has finally come! This past week, I have been running from store to store picking up things I need for this long awaited trip, but just one more night in my own bed here in California, then I'm off to spend the next four weeks on the other side of the country. I must tell you packing was kind of stressful, making sure everything fit properly and didn't pass the weight limit. I'm scared that by the end of the trip I won't be able to fit everything back in, but I'll worry about that later. On a brighter note, I am full of excitement and anticipation, and I am eager to explore new places and opportunities!

As I've made the most of the past few weeks, enjoying my summer with my friends and family here, they always asked me, "When are you leaving for college?" While I explain to them that it is a summer program through the Ivy League Connection, and I'm not gone for too long, they still say, "I'll miss you." I will surely miss them too, and I hope that I come back eager to share my unforgettable experiences with them.

My time spent on the East Coast will be the longest I will be away from my family. On the other hand, I hope to grow as an individual, as I live life as a college student. Learning to become independent is an important aspect of growing up, and the ILC is preparing me as I get a taste of college life. I hope to make lifelong connections with fellow peers and also college admission officers that will be an advantage as I fulfill my dreams and aspirations. I hope to grow a deeper understanding of the three most practiced faiths, as I study Lived Religions: The Abrahamic Faiths at Vanderbilt University.

With many hopes at hand, I'm excited to represent the WCCUSD and my school, as an Ivy League Connection ambassador. I'm not really looking forward to the super hot weather, but I know my experiences will totally beat the heat! From fancy dinners, college tours, and even our 4th of July spent in Washington, D.C., I am looking forward to a summer full of new discoveries, new friends, and a renewed mindset of the world around me!

Up next, I'll give you my greetings from Duke University in North Carolina!