Friday, July 6, 2012

Philly and More D.C.

Today was our last day in Washington D.C.! Well, technically it was our last half-day because until 3:30 PM, we were at the fifth largest city in the U.S., Philadelphia. I have never been on a long trip on a train, and it was a great experience. The train stations are amazing, although judging from D.C.’s and Philadelphia’s stations along with Mr. Mannix’s input about them all looking similar, they all seem like they’re made by the same architect.

                                                                           The train station in Philly!
One thing that I believe UPenn wished to emphasize in the presentation (and a little bit of the tour) was its wide range of academics. At Duke, there are many courses available, over 3,000. At UPenn, there are over 4,200. From coordinated dual degrees, such as a class that mixes psychology and biology, to taking classes in any of their four schools. It’s also great that the College of Arts and Sciences at UPenn doesn’t have any course requirements, so I can truly explore if I apply at that school, which I probably would if I applied here. Nonetheless, any of the four schools here are very liberal and encourage students to explore. To be honest, however, all the three schools that my cohort and I have visited so far—Duke, Georgetown, and Upenn—have very similar academics and are pretty liberal in their academic choices. They all encourage students to try courses that they wouldn’t think would interest them at first. They have a large number of courses available, and their classes could be pretty small or pretty big. Still, I believe Duke is the most liberal because you’re really only applying for one school, unless you want to be an engineer. I know that any of these schools would give me a great academic education and will help me to graduate and get me far in life. So when it comes down to picking a right school for me, I don’t just want a good academic education, but a good environment for me to live in for four years. And to be honest, Duke has sold me out; I don’t see any flaws in Duke, except for the fact it’s so far from home and that North Carolina wouldn’t be my first state choice.
Ben Franklin--Penn's founder!
So, would I see myself at UPenn Fall of 2013? I’m not really sure. Yes, I love the city, but Philadelphia doesn’t seem like my kind of city from the first impression it’s made on me. It reminds me a little bit of Oakland. Don’t get me wrong, UPenn’s security is one of the best, and according to our tour guide, he never felt unsafe. I think perhaps if we stayed longer in Philadelphia, I might’ve connected more with the city. The campus itself, however, is beautiful, and some parts are enclosed which makes it sometimes feel as if you’re in your own little town when the city is right next door.  
"And by the end of this pathway, you'll probably have about 20 flyers by the different student organizations here."-our tour guide
 UPenn had no problem making it seem their school was EXTREMELY difficult to get in. It's probably because everyone knows it is, but the administration don't have to make it seem harder than it already is. When I saw the AP scores you had to have to pass out of one of certain subjects, most of them had to be a 5. All the requirements--essays, interview, letters of recommendations (admissions officer said was crucial), TEST SCORES, and extra curriculars--just seem so overwhelming. Of course, I still might apply here, but I guess I'll have to do some more research of my own of this school.
One great part of my day today was seeing Cameron Fulton, who is currently in the Social Justice Program at UPenn. We were really excited to see someone we knew from our school more than 3,000 miles away from our home. It's sad we didn't get to eat together, but that's okay--I'll see this guy back home at Band Camp.

After the train back home, we finally visited the Lincoln Memorial and the MLK Memorial. They were just extraordinary, and our time at D.C. this evening was a time of great picture taking and more fun times with my cohort. It was definititely much more humid in D.C. than Philadelphia, which is always great right?
Outside Lincoln Memorial

We wound up eating dinner at a Japanese restaurant, and it was very tasty. It was a great way to end the day.
A slide?

It is actually very interesting how the ILC has arranged the schools we’re visiting. Duke is a suburban school. Georgetown is an urban school but more away from the main part of the city of Washington D.C. UPenn is practically an all-out urban school. It’s in the heart of the city, with police, ambulance, and fire truck sirens sounding off every five minutes; this is because there are three hospitals very close by. The ILC really wanted us to get a taste of the different types of school environments we would have when applying to the East Coast, and I just realized that when I was on the tour at Penn. Like I said before, the academics are all very similar, but the environments are way different. I wish we could’ve visited another totally urban college like UPenn, such as Columbia, but that’s okay. With that said, I’m super excited for Vanderbilt!
The side of MLK.

UPenn: My First Ivy League School

The Amtrak Station
I can’t believe we got up so early to catch the train for Philadelphia! I was so sleepy – I mean, even if I went to sleep at 9 last night, I still would’ve felt tired. However, once I ate my small breakfast I started to wake up, and before I knew it, I was on my first train ride. On the way there, the AC was blasting through the vents and I nearly froze from the cold (a first here in the east coast).
Once we arrived, I got out of the building and was once again in the heat. This time was different though; the air in Philly was not as humid and it didn’t feel like I was swimming in the air. Yes, it was still hot, but it felt a lot better than the weather in D.C. After looking around for a while we eventually took a cab to the University of Pennsylvania.

Who knew UPenn’s 271 year-old campus would look so beautiful up close? I sure didn’t; in fact, I was expecting it to look very run-down and old. However, as I arrived on campus, I saw how extraordinary it was; the buildings were huge and the campus was filled with enormous green trees giving it a grand and serene look at the same time.

As we came in to the Admission’s office to check in our names, I was a little excited to be checking out my first Ivy League school. I have never even been near one before, and here I was, walking around the grounds of a campus that was once so out of reach.
Anyway, as the admissions officer began talking about UPenn and all its glory, I noticed that she was speeding a little through the presentation. Going so fast isn’t such a bad thing, but since there wasn’t a slideshow or visual aid available, it was a little hard to keep up with her. Even though she did this, I did learn some things about Penn I didn’t learn before.
For example, they have no actual major for a path to medical school. Even so, Penn still has an 80% admission rate from Penn to a medical school. The reason for this is because students can major in something else while preparing for the core subjects that medical school requires. I liked this a lot since it allows students to discover new things from the exposure of taking different classes rather than getting little exposure from classes that are all in the same area.
Also, UPenn has some of the best financial aid I’ve heard thus far. Almost every single student has some sort of help and the best part is that they really review every single aspect of your money situation. They view everything; from family size to family circumstances, and will talk to you or your family personally if there are any problems in the paying process.
After our session, we all went on a tour of the campus. As I have mentioned earlier, the campus is a wonderful sight to see. The tour guide was also great since he was really engaging and hilarious. He was extremely knowledgeable about everything as well, always answering every question shot at him as well. Speaking of questions, I noticed that everywhere we’ve gone so far, hardly any parents ask any questions about the school. However, that was not the case today at Penn. It was nice to see so many parents actually caring about the school their children are interested in going.
In the end, I think that UPenn is not the right school for me. It is an incredible school, and anyone going here is very, very lucky; however, I feel as though there are many other choices for me besides this one. If I am going to go to a university for four whole years, I’d like to make sure that I am completely happy with the choice I’ve made;and I don't think I am completely happy with UPenn just yet. 
After the tour we took a quick bite to eat and went on our way back to D.C. The trip this time was the total opposite of the one before. This time, it felt like a long time before we arrived back. Also, it was pretty hot inside the train. For some reason the cold air did not reach the seats in the back. Anyway, once we came back to D.C. we headed out to the Lincoln Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Both were beautiful and majestic landmarks and I am glad I got to visit them before I leave D.C. tomorrow.

As our stomachs began to growl, we all agreed it was time to have dinner. After a long walk around the area we finally settled on a small sushi place. Unfortunately, I think sushi tastes gross. However, the sushi here was actually not that bad. I definitely don’t regret going there for dinner – it really filled me up.

Now that our week of college exploration is over, I am excited to begin our programs at Vanderbilt University. I know my Pharmacology class will be a blast – I can’t wait!

One Adventure Ends, And Another Begins

A slide at the Lincoln Memorial

Not many girls my age can say that they have had the privilege of traveling to several different cities in different states to tour some of the country's most prestigious universities all in the span of a week. I still can't believe that I rode on a plane three times, visited several major cities in the southeast, and toured Duke University, Georgetown University, and the University of Pennsylvania all in a week. All those tours and dinners have helped me to narrow down my once broad options for university, and now I have a better idea of which schools I like and which I don't.

Today my cohort and I woke up at 5 o'clock AM to visit the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. We groggily made our way to the lobby and took a taxi to the Amtrack station ( which looked more like a mall than it did a train station). I was excited to ride on a travel train for my first time, but sadly it was nothing too special; it was just a fancier version of the BART train service  back home. 

Chris and I on the train to Philadelphia
We were pleased to discover that Philadelphia was not as hot as Washington DC. We walked a short distance to the university campus and looked around for Cameron, a fellow ILCer as well as our peer at Pinole Valley High School. However, he had class and we were going to be busy learning about the university. 

The information session was similar to the previous ones we had; the admissions officer for UPenn talked about the history of the school, the various programs and schools the university offered, SAT statistics, and the admissions process.This admissions officer spoke with more conviction than the one at Georgetown, but she was not as jovial as the one at Duke. She answered questions from the audience for a majority of the session, which I enjoyed because many of the questions asked were ones I had flowing in my head as well. By spending more time answering our questions than spewing out facts about the school, she made the session feel more candid and personal. 

After the information session we had a tour of the campus. Our tour guide was, once again, better than the one we had at Georgetown, but still not as friendly as the one we had at Duke. However, he was still a very good tour guide even if he was a little more distant than our Duke tour guide. He answered all our questions thoroughly, gave us interesting facts about the university, and talked about his own experience and that of his friends. He kept us all interested in him and distracted from the heat by sneaking in subtly jokes here and there while he talked. 

On the train ride back to Washington DC I began to think about the past week and my experiences at each of the three schools we visited. I learned a lot of very interesting facts about the University  Pennsylvania, and I loved all the history behind the school. The campus itself is also very beautiful; there is a good mixture of tall trees, historical buildings, as well as newer ones. However, despite all of these positive attributes, I found myself comparing everything to Duke University. Although I liked UPenn much more than Georgetown, it still could not compare to Duke in my eyes. I did not get the same feeling from UPenn or Georgetown that I did from Duke, which tells me that Duke is more my type of school. 

We ended our very busy ( and long) day by relaxing a little and exploring DC for one last time. We visited the Lincoln memorial and saw a man propose to his girlfriend there. Then, we went to the Martin Luther King Jr. center afterwards. We finished off the evening by grabbing a quick dinner at a sushi place and reminiscing about the first time we were interviewed to attend Vanderbilt as ILC ambassadors.
Chris, Myself, and Abraham Lincoln

The Lincoln Memorial

My delicious Chicken Teriyaki dish for dinner.
Today one series of adventures and discoveries have ended. Tomorrow, however, we leave for Nashville and then the next day we move into the dorms for Vanderbilt. I am nervous about my classes and meeting new people, but I am also incredibly excited. One adventure ends, and another begins.

I saw a dragon at Philadelphia

Our train back to Washinton DC was twenty minutes late, so we took pictures to pass the time.

A Beautiful Day

Our first time on the Amtrak!

Today we visited our first Ivy League school. We woke up extra early for our train ride to Pennsylvania. It was my first time on a train, and I must say it is way better than a plane ride. The Amtrak station looked very similar to an airport with many shopping stores and a food court. Once we got on the train, it was very spacious and it was cool to be able to go through other different states. I am thankful we arrived there safely, and the weather was great! It was not too hot, but it was still a nice sunny day at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A beautiful day at Philadelphia!
 After the information session at University of Pennsylvania, you can say the school is kind of a mixture of Duke and Georgetown University. You enroll into one of the four colleges like Georgetown, but the school encourages exposure to different other classes that may help you in the real world outside of college. This freedom resembles how liberal Duke is.

The one thing that I liked about the University of Pennsylvania was their School of Nursing program. Although it is the smallest school on their campus, at the beginning of sophomore year, students begin a clinical rotation and get plenty of work experience working in a hospital.

We had an exceptional tour guide. David, a rising senior at University of Pennsylvania was very engaging with the students and parents, always paused for at least 15 seconds to ask if there were any questions, intelligently discussed many aspects of the school, and as a comedian, threw in a little jokes here and there. This Ivy League is very beautiful and is intertwined within the city. The actual city of Philadelphia is not the safest city to be in, but David assured us the college makes sure their students feel safe. Having 116 police officials, you can ask for guidance to go from one place to another if you feel scared.

Relaxing with some good laughs on the UPenn lawn.

 Without a doubt, University of Pennsylvania is an outstanding school. I didn’t fall in love with the school and I don’t think it is a school for me. There’s a different school for everyone, and I just couldn’t picture myself attending this school. I would prefer a college in the outskirts of the city, rather than in the heart of it.

After the tour, I received a voicemail from a man at the Vanderbilt Summer Academy asking if I wanted to take Pharmacology instead of Lived Religion, because there was an opening spot. I didn’t hesitate to call back and accept it, because it was originally my first choice. I am even more excited now that I am taking this class with Yessenia Reyna!

After the amazing tour, we stopped at a food truck to grab Philadelphia’s famous cheese steaks. We also met up with Cameron Fulton, another ILC ambassador from Pinole Valley currently studying Social Justice at the University of Pennsylvania. It was nice to have a quick talk with him and hear that he’s having fun.

We then took the train back to Washington D.C., and explored the city a little more. We visited the Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. They were both spectacular, and we couldn’t leave without documenting our rare visit.  The views were absolutely beautiful and we even witnessed a proposal right in front of the Lincoln Memorial building. That was one very lucky woman.
 Our last night here at D.C. was spent at a Japanese restaurant. Because sushi is my favorite food, it wasn’t hard choosing my meal. It was very filling, and I enjoyed every bit of it.

This past week has been quite overwhelming, but very memorable. I have already turned a few shades darker, and my cohort tells me I’m golden brown now. From taxi rides to long walks, every moment I spent here was totally worth it!