Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's So Hard To Say Goodbye

Christian, the only other guy in Lived Religion!
Candid photos are the best--Lived Religion 2012

It's so hard to say goodbye. By tomorrow noon, VSA will not be continuing but a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I feel like that I've really changed as a person just these past three weeks. I'm truly an adult now, ready for the world to come at me head-on. It's not that difficult for me to get along with my peers back in Pinole, but VSA has truly made it extremely easy for me to open-up and just be myself--much faster than what took me probably my entire Freshman Year to fully open up and make as many friends that I have today in high school. I honestly can consider every single one of my peers here my friend. It was interesting how everyone was saying "Hi Chris!" to me today. I guess that poem yesterday really made me known to everyone; I'm just glad I touched everybody's hearts.

I finally found out after our research presentations my "affirmations", or classmate descriptions, of me. My Lived Religion classmates, and my teacher, are truly the kindest of them all. "Outgoing", "sociable", "funny", "random", "risk taker", and "brings energy wherever you go" were just some of the descriptions they gave me. I'm glad people perceive me that way. That's definitely what I would like to come off as. Well, all I can say is that I couldn't have asked for a better Lived Religion class. The laughs, the personal stories, the insight--I'll never forgot this wonderful class.

I was also surprised to find out that I received an award by my VSA proctor, Trevor. The award for me was called "Mr. VSA", and I honestly didn't expect that from him. To get an award like that--to know that I was the "definition" of VSA--was a great honor; I was so happy. In addition, I won two superlatives in the VSA Termbook, Friendliest and Most Talkative.  I don't think of myself as very talkative, but I guess the friendliness goes hand-in-hand with the talkativeness. No matter, I was extremely honored again. I never win any superlatives. My first ever superlative award was just this year at the end of Band for Most Likely to Brighten Up Your Day. I honestly don't seek attention much, but I just like to make a lot of friends and say "hi" to everybody, because it's the right thing to do. Don't you love meeting new people? Maybe it's just me. Oh, wait I didn't even mention we have a VSA Termbook (yearbook in three weeks). Isn't VSA the best?

To end VSA, of course, we had another dance! The VSA staff really do go all-out for the students here. To be honest, this dance wasn't as special as the first one. Now don't get me wrong; this dance was still one of the best dances I've ever been to. However, the first dance was definitely the BEST dance I've ever been to--and that surpasses even Prom or Senior Ball. The first dance was just too perfect. And perhaps the fact that this was the last time I'd see most of my peers made me a bit sad. I didn't end the dance as energetic nor as excited as I was the first one. Instead of kicking off the end of the first week with a dance, it's the kick-off for the end of VSA forever for me with a dance. I really do hope that the friendships I've made here will last forever. I just couldn't imagine myself not seeing them again. I wish everybody here just went to my high school, or perhaps I wish that I could go to any one of their schools.

Well, there goes the last night of VSA--forever. As you can see, I'm not too happy about this. Good night.

Like A Handprint On My Heart

I’ve learned so much these past few weeks and now that this adventure is pretty much over, I felt the need to make this last full day mean something and I am happy to say that I accomplished just that. This day has been full of amazing accomplishments, Hollywood dances, and tearful conversations and in the end, I’ve had such an amazing experience.

This morning, I was a little nervous for my group’s presentation – I mean, we had to evaluate each other individually even though it was a group effort. Besides, I wasn’t nervous about the fact that we had to speak for about 25 minutes, but because I wanted to be completely knowledgeable about my research proposal and answer any questions that I would have to face. Once we got up there though, my nerves quickly dissipated and before I knew it, it was over. Our group had to leave the room so the “judges” could evaluate our ADD/ADHD medication proposal in privacy. While we were outside, I was just wondering about what they could possibly be thinking about my own research study involving children and college students. However, I didn’t get to think about it too much because they called us back in soon after.

Our prize.
The rest of the presentations went by quickly, like a blur. I was also impressed with everyone else’s proposals and I can really see all the hard work they out into it. Anyway, when all of our presentations were finished, Dr. Sulikowski and our TA, Sarah discussed about all our projects. I am not sure if they decided who did the best or if the class did but regardless, our group won. I was so proud of my whole group and I; all our hard work and group effort must have really shown and I am so glad we won. We even got this little prize, some chocolate, and a used coffee cup with all our signatures on it. I know that coffee cup thing is pretty weird, but we all signed it in the beginning of the session so it was only right we gave it away in the end. Afterwards, we got this sheet about drugs and we had to extend the branches on it. This was something I did in the beginning of the session and I clearly remember I barely wrote a few words – as did everyone else. Now, I pretty much filled the whole page! This really shows how much I’ve learned over the past few weeks and you know what? There was probably a lot more I could’ve written, but I just couldn’t think of more in one sitting.
My awesome team!
This was my last day in my Pharmacology class, and I really am going to miss it. I am going to miss Dr. Sulikowski’s crazy sense of humor, Ally’s helpful brain, Hunter’s hilarious laugh, Esohe’s creativity, and even Campbell’s wackiness. This group of people was great people to learn alongside; from our heated discussions to silly games of beach volleyball, we really had a great time.
Best Buddies
Paula and I

After our last class, we began to get ready for the last and most anticipated dance at VSA: The Hollywood Dance. I am not one to wear flashy clothes so I didn’t. I think my pair of jeans was much more comfortable to dance in than a dress would have been. Anyway, the dance was pretty amazing. The music was great and everyone was happy, joyful, and just wanted to have a good time. I have never been to a dance at my school, and I hope that the dances there are just as fun as they are over here.

Once the dance was over, my proctor group went to Tessa’s room for our official, last proctor meeting. This meeting really wasn’t a meeting though; it was kind of like emotional pre-goodbye time. And when I say it was emotional, I really mean it. All of us basically just talked about all the different things we loved about each other and what we will miss about each other once we go our separate ways. Overall these girls, including my proctor have become such prominent people in my life, and I will never forget them. “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave handprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.”

Last Day At Vandy

Me and my roommate, Anna, before the dance.  
Lucy! I love her!
Alexis, one of the smartest girls I have ever met. 
The lovely girls in my proctor group 
I woke up earlier than usual this morning feeling rather dazed. I lay there in bed for several minutes, trying to get my body to fall back asleep, but to no avail. I sighed as I stared at the plain and pale ceiling above me. I propped myself up on my elbows and peeked over at Anna, who was sleeping peacefully in the bed across from me. I reached over to my bedside table to grab my cell phone to check the time; it was 6:25 AM. 

" Ugh, " I groaned. Anna turned in her bed. I mentally kicked myself for my outburst and quietly got out of bed. I knew I wouldn't be able to fall asleep, so I decided to take a quick shower and muddle over the thoughts floating in my mind. The bathroom was empty (which is rare), so it was a good opportunity for me to meditate and get my thoughts together before I started my day. 

When I returned to my room, I discovered that my roommate's bed was empty and the lights were on. I dressed quickly and after had time to spare. To pass the time and wrote a little parting note to one of my friends and cleaned up the remainder of my belongings.

After breakfast I headed with my classmates to our classroom for our final lesson. We spent a majority of our time in the computer lab, finishing the remainder of our stories. Then, after lunch, we finished our day by watching "Sherlock" and taking some class pictures.

At around 5 o'clock we attended the closing ceremony. Many of my peers received awards, and I was surprised to receive an award myself. Then, they played a slideshow of pictures on a large projector. About two hours later, the final dance of the session had begun. In my opinion, it was not as fun as the first dance, but that was probably because I knew everything was ending.

At 10 o'clock the girls in my proctor group ordered pizza. We all hung out together gossiping while we ate our pizza. After that, I moved my mattress into Katherine and Amanda's room, where they hosted a sleepover for the rest of the girls in our group. 
My professor, Dr. Jan and TA Chris

Memories Will Last Forever

My experience here at VSA is really ending on a wonderful note. After a nerve-wracking morning, I can tell you I turned out to be more confident in myself. My group was the first group to arrive at our classroom, so we assisted our professor to run and grab Dunkin’ Donuts. This was probably the last time I will have Dunkin’ Donuts in a long time; I have never been to one in California. Aside from a little treat this morning, my group decided to go up and present first, so we can get it over with and enjoy all the other presentations.

My research project group!
As we began to prepare for our presentation, I was super nervous. That morning, we were notified that each student was not only to grade each group, but also each individual. It kind of upset me that we were to grade each individual within each group, against each other. I felt like since we were a group and we all worked together, we shouldn’t be judged individually. Nevertheless, we just went with the flow.

Practicing our presentation a couple of times really did help us, because we got a feel of how our presentation will flow. 

Two of the main coordinators were in the classroom during our presentation; it made us even more nervous. As I was presenting my study on ADD/ADHD medication, many questions from other students came up. There was one question that just threw me off of my whole study. It basically defeated the whole purpose. However, I kept talking about my research study. My group never considered this aspect on my project, but I realized in the end that it is the whole point of presenting it to other people. You are able to put together ideas to make your research proposal even better.  Some questions really stumped me while I was presenting, but with the help of my teammates we were able to overcome it. At times, we didn’t know how to answer the question, so we just acknowledged the question to consider it for future changes of our project. (We aren't really going to change it, since we aren't real researchers.)

After our presentation was over, there was a big burden lifted off my shoulders. We were happy that we got through it. I was pretty bummed, thinking I screwed up my whole portion of the project; however, I did the best I can and I’m at least satisfied with it. After each presentation, the previous group had to step outside as the other students discussed their research project and ranked each individual. This is similar to how actual research proposals are discussed and voted on. This research project was a good learning experience.
Our last lunch at VSA
My full concept map!
After our last lunch spent with my classmates, we headed back to our classroom to do an academic evaluation. On the first day of class we created a concept map on what we know about drugs. At that point, I really didn’t know a lot, and my paper was pretty empty. On the other hand, the concept map I made today filled the whole paper. There is so much we learned these past three weeks, that it was so hard to remember everything. I’m pretty sure I left a few things out, but I thought our teacher really did a good job. I can say I know a whole lot about drugs now, and the class fit exactly what its descriptions stated!

We continued presenting projects. After each group presented, we all ranked each other’s research project, depending on what we would most likely fund. By popular vote, our group won! Our ADD/ADHD research study came in first place, and we were so happy. We really thought another group won, but I will always remember to expect the unexpected! I am very proud of my group, and all our hard work paid off!
The Pharmacology class!
Our research project won 1st place!
After our last class session, I began to pack once again. I really hope everything fits back in my luggage properly, and it doesn’t end up being over 50 pounds! I had to send a package home with extra souvenirs, just in case!
My last dinner...
All dolled up for the Hollywood dance!

My lovely roommate and I at the photo booth!

It was then time for Closing Ceremonies! Surprisingly, Yessenia and I won the award of "Most Likely To Be Blogging!" Chris and Narges also won awards; representing our school and the ILC proudly! The directors, coordinators, and proctors all instilled in each one of us students that the world is in good hands. Their words of inspiration really touched me, because they are all so happy that we have grown to be a part of their Vanderbilt community. They’re all excited to see us finish up our high school years and maybe even see us on the Vanderbilt campus in the near future. Their confidence in us has just pushed me to do the best I can no matter what. Being a part of the Ivy League Connection program and attending the Vanderbilt Summer Academy has been a big step for me. It proves that I, and we can be whatever we want to be and do whatever we want to do.  Not only did the leaders of VSA prove our worth in this world, but also my fellow proctor group members. 

After the exciting Hollywood dance, we ended our last full day here at VSA with a proctor group meeting. We read off the last bit of POGO, and our proctor left us each a meaningful and memorable note.  Each day I can look at the note, and it will be a reminder that no matter what I struggle with in the future I have the ability to push through with a ball of sunshine! One thing that I will always remember with one of my group members Sierra, is that she will have our backs no matter what. If anyone tells us we’re not capable of doing something or puts us down, she will with no doubt stand up for us. With all the tears and heartfelt words of the night, I can honestly say we have grown as a family of sisters. Tessa, the most sincere, genuine, and friendly proctor is our older sister. She is someone we can talk to at anytime, and she will listen. We are her 14 little sisters, and each person has made my time here at VSA a memorable one!