Monday, July 23, 2012

The Calling

Today is what I like to call "The Calling". A calling is when one has a sudden impulse to follow a particular career or job. Today was when I truly realized my "future" is happening pretty much right now, but it's also always changing. From the lessons I've learned today in Lived Religion, to the College Search Counseling Session during free time, and to the Personal Etiquette Workshop after dinner, I've realized there is no more time to wait or stall for my future. My future is now.

What can I say about class today? It was probably the best class experience at VSA I've had so far. The first half of class was devoted to learning about the Christian concepts of the Afterlife and the Devil. These concepts are very complicated, and they weren't just come up with all at once. These concepts were developed over hundreds and even thousands of years. I find it very interesting how little the New Testament refers to "Hell" terms compared to how many times it mentions "Heaven" terms. It's also interesting how Jews believe God is personal, conventional, and changes his decisions, but Christians believe God is never changing even though there is plenty of evidence in the Scriptures that God does change his mind a lot. Also, most angels don't look like us, and they have these crazy-looking eyeballs all over them. We would all probably be very scared of one if we ever encountered an angel. I don't think this class is making me doubt my faith, but it has certainly made me even more open to other religions and their beliefs and practices than I was before. I was never a fan of believing everything religion tells me, and I'm glad I didn't, because this class really has had me thinking about the contradictions in certain beliefs--especially of Christianity.

The second half of class was "The Calling". We had four religious leader guests from four different denominations and/or religions; there was a Catholic priest that we've met before, a pastor from Watson Grove Missionary Baptist Church, a female reverend from another denomination of Christianity, and of course, the Imam from the Islamic Center of Nashville. All four of these religious leaders came and joined our "discussion circle", pretty much telling us their story of how and why they became a religious leader in their religion. All of their stories were amazing. All of our guests were in their late 20s or early 30s, and it was interesting to see that they became religious leaders at such a young age. Many of them started at the age of seventeen as official religious leaders, and they were already preaching. I just can't believe they became religious leaders at such a young age. I'm not sure if I would ever get that calling when I turn seventeen (in October).

All of the religious leaders in our panel discussion agreed that their main purposes in becoming a religious leader are to serve others, because that's what made them the happiest. For me, serving others makes me very happy too. Perhaps one day, I'll have a career in community service or religious leadership?

They gave us very helpful advice in our futures and careers; they said that the challenge in life isn't about achieving success but keeping success. We are constantly evolving as humans. They told us that we should never worry about the payroll in a job, because a job for money is destined to fail for you. The big question they told us to ask ourselves is, "What would you do for free?" Whatever makes you come alive is something that you should pursue. The three kinds of people that you need in your life, Rev. Faison tells us, is a pathfinder, a peer, and a pupil. This means you need someone who can mentor you along your journey, a friend who's on a similar road as you, and someone that you can teach and mentor your own experiences to. This was truly great advice, because we always thinking about a mentor and sometimes a peer who's in a similar situation as you, but we never think about needing someone that we can teach and mentor.

One thing is for certain about these religious leaders' callings, they didn't happen in a blink in of an eye. Their yearning to become a religious leader was developed and changed over time. In fact, they're still changing. And they kept reminding us that our calling and purpose in life is always developing--that you just have to go with what feels right and be confident in it.

I found some of the religious leaders' biggest fears to be intriguing. Rev. Sigmon, a lady reverend in the Christian faith, said that her biggest fear was failure--especially in something that she loves, such as preaching. Rev. Faison, the pastor from Watson Grove, said that his biggest fear is that his kids don't want God and don't love God--that he was so caught up in preaching to the public that he forgot his own kids in the process. Imam Mohamed's biggest fear is to walk away and be "free", that he could just forget about everyone around him. All these fears were very insightful, and honestly, they were very selfless fears to me. For example, "normal" people would say that their worst fear was the dark, spiders, or heights--death. But, of course, these guys obviously aren't "normal" people. We need more religious leaders in this world who are as selfless, loving, and approachable as our guests today. I can't believe I won't be able to see Imam Mohamed and his charismatic self for a very long time; it makes me a little sad.

In Study Hall, we did something very different. Our assignment was to describe each of our classmates in a few words or sentences in order to perhaps help them find their "calling". I never did something like this in any of my classes before. Once we were done describing our fellow peers, we got in a circle and described one person at a time with everyone's descriptions about them. I can tell you straight-up that this class is a very genuine and loving one. I'm glad my classmates are who they are. They're all so unique in their own way, and I hope they felt what I felt about them in my descriptions about them. I'm going to miss them all! I didn't get to hear my descriptions yet, and I'm curious to see what my classmates think of me. Well, I'll let you know tomorrow what they think.

My extra hour of free-time was saved for the College Search Counseling Seminar. It wasn't extremely helpful, but I still received plenty of tips, especially about narrowing down my college search. I think the best piece of advice I received in this seminar was that there are many places that can fit me. Well, I guess it wasn't as much of a piece of advice as it was of a reminder to me. It was a reminder to me that I shouldn't care what others think which school I'm going to or if I'm not "good enough" for a school and was not accepted to there, because honestly--as I learned from my visit at Duke--it really is you who makes your experience in college worthwhile. And I know that whatever school I decide to go to, I'll be just fine and still be successful in order to find that "calling".

The Personal Etiquette Workshop after dinner was another reminder of my "calling" and a reminder that adulthood for me is now. It is not when I turn eighteen; it is now. From my entering in the ILC, I am now an adult.  Soon, I will have to be applying for a job, and this is what the workshop was all about. It was useful, but I thought this workshop was helping us to find what our dream job should be. I was surprised to know during the icebreaker/introduction of the students attending the workshop that many of these students already have their career interest set, and they pretty much know what they want to do already. I guess this is what makes me different from the students here, and I don't know if that's a good or bad thing. I just don't want to have one career for the rest of my life; it sounds so boring. This sounds silly, but there is a little truth in it, I would love to have my own talk show. To just socialize, meet all these interesting people from around the world, to travel, and to perhaps even do community service work, being a talk show host wouldn't be half-bad. I'd like to replace Dave Letterman, perhaps, from the Tonight Show.

What can I say; I learned and experienced a lot today. My only regret about today was that I didn't take any pictures. Man, and there's only three more days of class? Do I have to leave already? I guess so. Well, until then, good night.


I am in a state of ambivalence. I have only four days left at Vanderbilt, and the emotions in my head are clashing like two colliding cars. On the one hand, I look forward to going back home and reuniting with my family, but on the other I do not want to leave here. Vanderbilt has been the greatest experience of my life, and I have the Ivy League Connection to thank for it. 

I never thought in a million years that I would be given an opportunity like this; to travel to a different coast, explore new colleges, live the college life for three weeks, and just learn all these new things. The opportunities that the Ivy League Connection has presented with are immeasurable. I will forever be indebted to this program for helping me become a more mature individual. 

Today was another normal day. I went to class and worked on my short mystery stories, then after I spent the entire day with my friends. I am going to miss them all after we leave. I know that we all say that we will stay in touch, but time is a cruel thing; it causes people to forget those who were once important to them. The memories that were once precious deteriorate and their importance dwindle. Therefore, I am not counting too hard on keeping in touch with the people I met here so I am not disappointed in the future. However, I will never forget what everyone here taught me and how they made me laugh until my vision blurred from tears forming in my eyes. 

I will also never forget my class and professor here. I have never enjoyed being in a classroom as much as I have in the past two weeks. Dr. Jan is so amiable and pleasant to be around, and she is brilliant at what she does. She is able to teach us college level material in a fun and comprehensive way that challenges us. The class is always lively and entertaining. I would strongly recommend this class for anyone, regradless of your preference for writing.

The last thing I will say before retiring for the night is this: all these trips are learning opportunities, so take advantage of everything. See as much as you can here and absorb as much as you can. The more you learn while you are here, the better prepared you become for the world. The ILC isn't just about developing brilliant minds; it is about cultivating brilliant young adults and citizens. 

The Amazing Antibiotics

As the day of our research presentations gets closer, the more nervous I get. Just the idea of speaking to graduate students who are probably experts in this field is definitely a frightening idea. Regardless, I know that if I research enough I will do fine. Besides, that was the first thing we did this morning. We all went to the computer lab to make sure we have our research study all planned out. Even though we had about two hours to do this part of our project, I really rushed to finish it and print it out. I’m serious – this project is quite challenging; in fact, Dr. Sulikowski (our professor) says that this is a study plan that take a long time to be made by professionals. This project might be rigorous, but I think that the difficulty of it is helping us in the long run. It helps us step into the shoes of the people who actually have to do this kind of thing.
Once we finished with our lab time, we came back to the classroom and had a whole lecture about antibiotics. Antibiotics are medicines that inhibit the growth of bacterial cells and also are one of the single most important discoveries of the last century, considering that it has saved more lives than any other method in history. These incredible, life-saving drugs work by sending the metabolites that stop or disrupt cell metabolism, interfering with the bacterial cell wall, and inhibiting DNA transcription and replication. It’s pretty amazing how we learned about the range of ability antibiotics have over such a short amount of time.
However, over the lecture I learned an interesting fact; apparently many antibiotics in the United States are used in animal feed to keep them healthy until slaughter. Basically, we are consuming these animals engorged with antibiotics. I know antibiotics are great and all, but I don’t like the idea of consuming these antibiotics with my burger at In-N-Out.
Anyway, we then spent the end of class going over a skit we planned for the class showcase on Wednesday. I’m not sure if our skit is supposed to be kept secret or not so I am not going to risk it by saying what it is. Let me just say this: it is pretty random. I am pretty excited to see how it turns out in the end though.
After class we had a whole lot of free time since there was no ArĂȘte class. I spent the time with a couple friends and wandered around 21st Street. We didn’t do too much but I had a great time with this small group of friends and it was nice to get to know them better. It’s always great to learn about their lives, and what they want to make of the rest of it. In the end, I had a great time in and out of class and I’m looking forward to what’s in store for tomorrow.

Discovering Myself A Little More

Pharmacology class was yet another informational session. We started off the morning with a trip to the computer lab. My group has been doing really well in creating our grant application for our research project. Although the project is complex and requires a lot of researching and revising, I’m really proud of my group’s progress. Today we particularly worked on our study design, the steps and interventions needed to complete this research project. I know our three different minds can produce something interesting and exciting.

Antibiotics, is the single most important discovery of the last century. Today we learned about this very special drug. Unfortunately, bacterial infection is a major cause of death in the world, however, antibacterial is responsible for saving the most lives. It’s just amazing to know how science plays a huge role in society.

The best lunch ever! Preview days are the best!
We took a step back to review all we learned about drug development. In drug development there are the three D’s: discovery, design, and delivery. In discovery, you must identify what your goal is and what you want to develop. Then you must design the drug, enhancing its effectiveness. Lastly, the drug must go through a clinical trial. Only 1 out of 10,000 compounds make it to the market as a drug. The other 9,999 compounds are tested as orphan drugs to treat diseases that are rare. I may not want to actually develop a drug, but it is interesting to learn how everyday medicine is developed.

I fell in love with zumba last time, so I decided to do it again today during our free time. A group of girls gathered and walked pretty far to get to the recreational center for zumba in the large dance room. I learned that zumba is actually a combination of latin and hip-hop dance. It was so much fun, and I had a great workout! 

This is our last week at VSA and they have packed our week with a variety of activities. This evening I attended a Personal Etiquette workshop lead by Cynthia Washington, who works at the Vanderbilt University Career Center. I am thankful I took this opportunity to gain knowledge on how to present myself to colleges and jobs in the future.

Here are just a few of the tips I learned:

Email Etiquette: Always remember to type a concise subject, address the person using “Dear Dr./Mr./Ms./Professor”, avoid “To Whom It May Concern”, use complete sentences, no text language, sign your email using “Thank You, Best Regards, Sincerely”, and remember to proofread and check your spelling.
Email Address: Avoid cute names, and rather stick to your first and last name. It is advised that you create a new email before you begin applying to college.
Online Presence: Colleges do track down your social media, so make sure you edit or remove any content that is inappropriate, and rather leave things that may attract college admissions. Anything you post online should be professional.
Creating A Resume: There are 4 sections: contact info, education, work experience, and extra-curricular activities. High school resumes should only be one page! College admissions only glance over it for 20 seconds, so if it’s lengthy they won't even bother reading it. Do not place a section to list things you are good at; it’s better to incorporate it in your experience or extra-curricular section.
Elevator Pitch: At college fairs, or when meeting college admissions people, you should be able to tell your story, highlighting your education and experience in 20 seconds or less.  Be confident, give a good handshake, make good eye contact, and overall make a good first impression.
College Fair:  At college fairs, you should dress for success, have resumes handy, and dress appropriately. Concisely, ladies should where a knee length skirt, blouse, and closed toe shoes. Men should wear slacks, a dress shirt, tie, and dress shoes.
Thank You Notes: Always remember to send thank you notes via email, to show your appreciation for their time to talk with you. It’s good way to follow up with them and leave a lasting impression.

In one of Vanderbilt's antique, but beautiful buildings!
They say it’s normal to change your major a few times in college. My experience here at VSA is already influencing my possible careers. As of now, I’m leaning a little more away from becoming a doctor, and more towards counseling students. I love interacting with other students, and I want to work in a field where I can help them. Whether it be a college advisor or even a child therapist, my mind has expanded to consider new possibilities. I’m excited as I search myself more and as I continue to explore what’s out there in this world.