Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Still Amazed: Day 2

Waking up this morning was very similar to the previous morning. I had less than four hours of sleep. It was still difficult (although not as difficult) to fall asleep. I woke up immediately when the alarm on my cell phone rang. Although perhaps there were many differences waking up this morning compared to yesterday. One being I have a hotel room all to myself, and another being obvious; I'm on the east coast! In terms of comparing these first two days, I'd say they were very similar, still being pretty smooth, with everything working out the way it should be.
The Undergraduate Admissions Office
The "Crew", before our meeting with Mr. Carpenter 
The "Team" had the opportunity after breakfast to have a little meeting with the Northern California Admissions Officer, Mr. Samuel Carpenter, before our Duke Tour. I was a bit nervous to meet him because I wanted to give a good impression to him. But that feeling of nervousness immediately washed away once he entered the room. He was so energetic and welcoming. Very charismatic would be the best phrase to describe him. 

Mr. Carpenter was very informative—and in the quickest ways possible. He gave me strong confidence that the personal statement and teacher/counselor recommendations is what really is looked at, and Duke takes a student's personality and their story into account a lot, and I don't think many people know how important they are. I've come to realize this, when he said that everyone's going to have good grades, many extracurriculars, good standardized test scores, but what truly sets them apart is what they are like. 

He mentioned that Duke doesn't want students to come and be smart; Duke wants students to fully immerse themselves into the culture and life of this university. 

Everyone is unique, with students coming from all 50 states and other countries as well. He mentioned something very philosophical; diversity isn't what race one is but what kind of person they are, how they act, and how they think. This is what makes Duke diverse and what gives everyone a different experience here.

And they sure do a good job at picking the unique 1,700 of the 31,000 applicants. I really didn't expect so many people to visit Duke, and the tour guide said today's turn-out was rather small, which made me realize just how popular and ideal this school is to many people. Some came from as far away as Canada, Hong Kong, and Hawaii. I guess my competition won't be very easy.
Grandma and Mom—I’m praying, and I'm at church—okay? (Duke Chapel) 
To further elaborate on the diversity of students, Duke has a special program called Duke Engage, a community service program that is totally paid for by the school. Pretty much, you can leave the country to engage with a different country's culture and people--to do community service. See, what I really like is that Duke doesn't require community service, but the students do it anyway--out of the goodness of their hearts. This, again, just shows how involved students are, but not only that, it shows that the students are in these programs not because they have to, but because they want to (you get no college credit for these programs). If I go to Duke, I can truly make a difference in this world, because I do, and of course, not because I have to, but because I want to.

I don't want to say this, but I don't think I'll change my opinion about this school. Duke is one of the best schools, if not the best, I've ever laid my eyes on. Well, not only is it visually sensational—making you feel as if you live in a castle deep in the woods—but the people and the academics are excellent. If I had one word to describe Duke it would be this: FREEDOM (or perhaps very, very, very liberal, but that's more than one word). I learned yesterday that there is only one required course, a writing course, but today I learned that undergraduates, if desired, can take a class with graduates. Duke also ENCOURAGES combining different studies. I think this is perfect for me, because I really don't know what I want to do, because I want to do more than one thing in life, so I think it's great the school wants you to do this. Liberal Arts just became more liberal.

The main thing that I want in any school is "good" people, and there are definitely "good" people at Duke. Yes, the academics at some school may be great, but if that school doesn't have the people that you enjoy, that school is what I believe is a waste of a person's four (or more) years. Now I said "people" for a reason; I didn't say students. I said "people" because I mean EVERYONE on the campus you must enjoy being with, otherwise your money and your time in life is a waste. The faculty is very spirited, just like Duke's students. The students are on very good terms with the Duke President, and even give him a nickname, which I don't remember, but he likes it. You are able to have many advisors from each department, and the student/faculty ratio is 8:1, very small. And there's also no excuse not to know your professor, because you are able to schedule a meal with a faculty member one on one in this program called FLUNCH. It's just amazing how engaged and spirited the faculty is.

To further talk about the "good" "people" at Duke, it's very nice that the East Campus is where all the freshmen are required to live. From the very beginning, you'll know your class, and be very close to them by the time the school year is up. In the information session, we were able to see a short video about the East Campus and how there is a big welcoming event for the freshmen. Everyone is very sociable, and so this tells me that Duke is a place where you can make friends very fast and very easily. This is because the faculty knows how important it is to have sociable and engaging students, because the faculty themselves are sociable and engaging. An example of the kind of faculty members at Duke would be a professor (I forgot his name) that plays trombone for the pep band during basketball games, and he pumps up the students even more than they already are. Anyway, at the end of this event, the freshmen all gather for a panoramic picture that is in the shape of the year they will graduate. Pretty cool—and memorable—isn't it?
On the U.S. Airways plane to D.C. 
Well I can go on and on about Duke, but even then I wouldn't be able to fully talk about this unique university. All I can say is that I'm very, very likely to apply here. We unfortunately didn't have the time to see everything. Instead, we said our goodbyes to this magical college, and left a little after noon and took the 3:15 PM flight to the nation's capital, Washington D.C.! By now, the Team and I and are pretty used to air travel (being our third time taking off from a plane in two days), and this flight was very short—just a little over an hour. The plane, I have to mention, was much smaller than the Southwest one when we arrived to Durham on. I'm guessing it's because of how close the two cities are together that there's no real need to fly unless you're like us and need to go places fast.
Back of the White House 
Once at D.C., we waited for our SUV (well we didn't know what vehicle it was going to be, but yes) to drive us to the Holiday Inn in Georgetown. As we drove through Georgetown, I observed the wonderful independently owned businesses and interesting connecting, colonial looking, houses.

But enough about Georgetown. I'm sure there will be plenty of things to talk about this town, but for now, let's leave it at that.

I'm so glad we're staying at this hotel for four nights, so I can unpack a bit in MY (and only my) room—although it's much more fun and less lonely to blog with the girls, which I'm doing right now. We went for a little swim (because we wanted to for ages) before we prepared ourselves to dress formal for our dinner at Our Founding Farmers.
Our Founding Farmers is a restaurant like no other. They like to recycle everything; all of their foods are organic and fresh. And you can really see, but especially taste the freshness in their food. The only heads-up I'd give, however, for future ILCers is this restaurant should be semi-formal, not formal. Well, that's okay, because one can never be over-dressed, right? In terms of our dining experience, we all had a blast, and the desserts definitely gave us a second wind. Overall, I highly recommend this restaurant for anybody, and I'd love to come again.
Lemon Meunière Diver Scallops 
I came to the realization, again, how grateful I am for this program. I would've never thought to even come to North Carolina, if it weren't for the Ivy League Connection, or find a dining place called Our Founding Farmers. I would've never experienced or encountered these things with the ILC. Anyway, tomorrow is our "off" day, where we get to explore D.C. for the 4th of July. Keep following us!

Freedom At Duke University

Well, I must say, Duke really stole my heart today. From the meeting with one of the admissions officers to the official university tour, Duke wormed its way to my list of universities I would actually like to attend.
Even though we didn’t get to bed until late last night (1AM), we still made it on time to the Hilton lobby for our 6:55 AM call time. In all honesty, I felt wide awake, ready to absorb all the information that would be presented that morning at the Duke Admissions Office and tour.

As we arrived into the Admissions office, I noticed how cozy everything looked, with its comfortable sofas and warm colors; it felt really welcoming. When the admissions officer for Northern California, Samuel Carpenter, came in, the whole room lit up from his huge smile and strong presence. He each gave us a sturdy handshake, and when we all introduced ourselves we began to ask him several questions about Duke and what the admissions officers really look for in an applicant.
The Admissions Office
Mr. Carpenter made it very clear that Duke does not rely so heavily on SAT/ACT scores and instead focuses more on the personal essays, and letters of recommendation. Even though many colleges do this kind of thing, it is nice to know that Duke does this as well. Like Mr. Carpenter said, “We only know how a student is like in real life if the student actually expresses who he/she is as a person through these essays.”

Another nice thing Mr. Carpenter told us is how affordable Duke is for low-income families. For example, if an accepted student is unable to attend because of the hefty price tag, Duke will try very hard to make it affordable. This is definitely something I worry about since I don’t come from an upper-class family with the money to pay 50,000 dollars per year. However, Mr. Carpenter assured us that there are many methods to take care of this such as numerous need-based scholarships and loans, which only add up to $5,000 a year.

When we finished with the meeting, we all said a friendly goodbye to each other and went off to the informational session. By the end of this meeting, I was excited for that since I would be learning more about this interesting school.

The informational session combined with the tour was very long, (about an hour and a half) but overall, very interesting. Our speaker was Ms. Ashley Taylor, the admissions officer for Southern California and a 2010 graduate of Duke. She was an excellent speaker, and explained the several things about Duke at a pace where everyone could understand.

One of the most important things that stood out is how easy it is to take any class you want to. Duke is extremely liberal in terms of the things you want to do there, and while you may be a Pre-Med major, you can still choose between several class choices that seemingly are not related.

If you were in Pre-Med you would still need to take those few required science classes. However, you can still choose things like politics and history, to give you a broader view of the world around you, and not just for the job you want to take. I believe this is phenomenal plan, and I also believe it helps all students get ready for the world when they graduate. During our tour our guide, Natalie, also told us about the several “shadowing” programs (where you basically see the daily life held by a specific job) which further helps a student get ready for life after college, and even help in choosing the right job in the future.
Overall, the beauty of the Duke campus still astounds me because of the wonderful trees and lush green grass. I can see myself walking through these grounds one day, whether it is on my way to the Pre-Med building, or the university gym, I am able to see myself here. I really feel like this campus is a great fit for me, and when the time comes, it probably will be one of my choices for school.

After our tour, we hurried to the airport to catch our 3:15 departure to Washington D.C. Luckily, we made it on time and with plenty of time to spare. I have mentioned previously that airplanes make me nauseous; they still do – however this flight was not as bad since it was quite short.

We exited the plane “Hollywood Style,” (climbing down the plane’s staircase with the engine fan-things blowing into our hair) and made our way to the Holiday Inn nearby.

Once we arrived, we took some time to unwind and to swim in the cool and refreshing pool. However, I was only there for about 20 minutes because I had to get ready for the dinner at Founding Farmers.

After our bus ride to the restaurant, we decided to do a little bit of sight-seeing, and wandered around the back of the White House. There really wasn’t much to see, since it was behind the White House, so we headed back to the restaurant.

Founding Farmers is a very busy and beautiful place. However, we were told to dress formally, and although that’s fine with me, I don’t think formal is the way to go for this dining place. All the people there were dressed in your everyday clothing and in all honesty, I felt a little out of place. Nonetheless, the dining experience was spectacular. I ordered the 3-cheese ravioli which was huge and yummy. The cheeses coincided with each other perfectly and it was neither too salty nor too bland. The pesto sauce, however, was not as yummy; it was really salty. Even though the sauce wasn’t perfect, we still had a blast enjoying each other’s company in this welcoming environment. I can’t wait to share many more of these kinds of moments with them in the future!
A Lovely Poster 
This day has been long and very busy but I truly I think I learned a lot about Duke and what it takes to be there. What I love about Duke is that it lets us make our own choices, and it doesn’t lead us the same way. I love the freedom this place gives and I am grateful to have visited here. Duke is a university I probably never would have considered, much less toured if not for the Ivy League Connection. I can’t give enough thanks. This has really changed my perspective of eastern schools and made me realize that they are not as imposing as they seem.
Up next: our free 4th  of July in Washington D.C.!

A Family Trip

Sitting in front of the Admissions Office.
It was yet another productive and enjoyable day. We began with a quick, hearty breakfast, gathered up all our belongings, and headed straight to Duke University for a great chat with Samuel Carpenter, the Admissions Officer for the NorCal region of Duke.  We entered the admissions office and they had a living room that looked like a room at the White House. I must say, Mr. Carpenter was very dynamic, well spoken, and answered our questions about Duke very straightforward.  His answers were very confident and you can tell his passion for Duke was outstanding. As he talked about diversity, he not only talked about ethnicity, how Duke has students from all 50 states, and 11% of students are international students, but he discussed the diversity of classes and extra curricular activities.  In the end of our informational chat, I learned that although Duke may not be the best college for everyone, it is definitely for one who is willing to explore different things and leave a marking footprint on the University.

Mr. Carpenter then guided us to a different part of the building, to take yet another amazing tour. We checked in, put on our “I visited Duke” stickers, gathered a big stack of brochures pertaining to the different majors at Duke and additional information, and then headed into a big room to start an informational session.

I was surprised to see so many people on a Tuesday morning gathered in a room to take a tour. The room was just about full, and as everyone introduced where they each were from, it came to prove the diversity Duke has. There was a student from a Hawaii and even a family touring all the way from Hong Kong. It was amazing to see such diversity, and know that people take the time to fly in from another state or country to explore the wonderful opportunities Duke has to offer. I never would have thought to fly to North Carolina on my own, and I am very thankful that the ILC program is giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity.

A Duke alumni presented the information session, and the three words that stood out to me as she spoke about Duke were: innovation, independence, and involvement. Being a liberal college, Duke allows you to explore classes, is very flexible with different courses, and gives you an opportunity to even create your own major and be innovative. Living on campus is like living in a whole new community. It is being who you are and becoming what you want to be. Nobody is pushing you to go a certain direction, but you are your own unique person, making your own choices, being independent. Additionally, those who are admitted to Duke are chosen because the admissions officers know they will make an impact on Duke, on their new home, and also in the outside world.

When you arrive at Duke you may think the college is in its own bubble and all you do is stay there. On the contrary, city life in Durham, North Carolina is very lively. Durham is part of The Triangle, and in The Triangle, holds the largest research park in the world. You can say it’s really nerdy, but it’s amazing to know that it has the highest concentration of MDs and PhDs in the world!

I was so overwhelmed with all the information given to us at the informational session, it’s best that you actually go on a tour of the school yourself!  I highly encourage those who like to try new things to definitely check the school out!

It was another very hot day, which was a downfall to the walking tour. Fortunately, our student tour guide, Natalie, was great! I enjoyed the beautiful views, the enormous library, and how down to earth our tour guide was. She talked a lot about her experiences, especially as a pre-med student. The amazing opportunities she described kept my mind off the weather. Natalie was able to make connections through the programs at Duke, and was able to get an opportunity to shadow someone in an actual hospital on campus. Whatever college I attend, maybe even Duke, I hope to be able to actually experience working in a hospital, in my hopes of working as a doctor someday. Her stories really inspired me to work hard, and grab every opportunity that may benefit me, because if I can set my mind to it, I can do it!

The beautiful pipes in the chapel!
The stain glass  bible stories!
During the tour, we also explored the chapel more. When I think about a chapel, I think of a small little church, but this looked more like a cathedral. It was great to see a pipe organ, and all the different sizes of pipes. It brings back memories from when I attended organ camp a couple of years ago. I was also astounded to know that all around the chapel there are stained glass windows depicting all the stories of the Bible. You can literally go through every picture and basically read the Bible through like a picture book but on windows!

This tour gave me a little more motivation and purpose to perhaps apply to Duke University. I will definitely keep my experience in mind as I apply for colleges next year.

After doing a little shopping on the campus store, and eating a filling lunch, we were on the roll to catch our next flight to Washington D.C. With a little hustle and bustle we were able to make it to the airport with even some time to spare. The US Airways plane was a really small plane, but fortunately I didn’t feel as queasy as before. I am thankful for another safe landing, and happy we had some time to cool off in the hotel pool before exploring the city.

Next, we got ready for our formal dinner at The Founding Farmers. Arriving a little early, we began walking down the street to find the White House. We took a few snap shots, and then walked straight back to the restaurant just in time for our reservation.

Black Pepper Soy-Glazed Wings!
The food was absolutely delicious at The Founding Farmers. I was amazed to find out that everything was eco-friendly. From our chairs to the food, each item in the restaurant was an effort to make the earth a better place.  The food was just to die for, from the appetizing ranch popcorn, to the nice and round crab cakes, I would never turn down an opportunity to try this place again. Everything is just so unique, and picking our entrées was a pretty tough decision. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. We had many laughs, and after eating that rich chocolate milkshake, you can say we were on a sugar high. I was endlessly laughing, it was hard to even take my first bite in the large red  velvet cake.

I can ask for no better cohort. Although it has been only two days, we have bonded as a family, and you can always see a smile on our faces. It’s been an exhausting day, but I must say it was a day well spent. I am super excited for a whole new adventure as we explore our state capital tomorrow!
We're a family!