Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Forever Indebted


And the journey begins... 
“ Welcome back!” my uncle greeted me as I walked up to the door. He was glowing and had  a smile plastered on his face. I hugged him and moved over the threshold into the house, removing my shoes as I did so. I placed my bag by the foot of the stairs and went upstairs to say hello to my grandma, who I found sitting on her bed watching her favorite programs.
“ Salaam Modar Jan,” I said as I walked over to her. I sat on the bed next to her and kissed her on the cheek as she wrapped her arms around me.
“ Salaam bachem,” she said in a weak voice. We sat together for a while, feasting on almonds and drinking black tea as she bombarded me with questions she had asked five seconds before.
Soon, my mother entered the room dressed in old clothes. She had an old rag in one hand and a bucket of cleaning supplies in the other. She grabbed some stuff from the drawers next to my grandma’s bedand headed towards the bathroom that was outside in the hall. “ Make sure she takes her medicine,” she whispered to me as she left the room, pointing at the small, rectangular plastic container sitting in front of my grandma. I nodded and watched her walk into the bathroom and begin cleaning before turning my attention back to my grandma.
“ Grandma, you should take these,” I said, pouring the contents of one of the small compartments of the box into her small, wrinkled hand. She stared at the colorful, small spheres and cylinders in her hand with melancholy eyes before lifting it shakily to her mouth. The look on her face as she stared at those pills made something churn in my stomach and feel horribly uncomfortable. When she caught me staring with my sympathetic gaze, she merely smiled, gently grabbing my face in her hands to kiss my cheeks. Her eyes, however, betrayed her smile; they conveyed a deep sadness, far beyond anything I could ever comprehend.

I was feeling uncomfortable so I decided to go downstairs in the kitchen to get something to drink. As I walked into the kitchen, I saw my uncle standing behind the sink washing dishes. I smiled at him as I reached over to get a glass from the cupboard.
  “ How was you’re trip?” he asked as I poured some water into the glass. I grabbed my drink and walked over to the table, where I sat and took a drink before answering.
“ It was awesome,” I responded excitedly “I learned a lot and I met some great people.”
“ That’s great!” he said, working on a particularly stubborn stain on one plate. “Did you like any of the colleges you saw there?”
“ Well, I fell in love with Duke University and Vanderbilt was nice as well, but UPenn and Georgetown didn’t make much of an impression on me.”
 Oh really, why not?” he asked, his eyes glued to the plate with the stubborn stain.
“ Well, when I stepped foot on Duke, I instantly felt this connection. I was totally impressed with the campus because it looked like a castle! I love gothic architecture, so I really liked it. I felt like I was in Hogwarts or something, so it was pretty cool.”
“ That sounds more scary than it does cool,” he said, finally tearing his eyes away from that wretched plate to give me a skeptical look.
“ Exactly.” I took another sip of my drink.
“ Is that all you liked about Duke?” he asked, returning to his complicated task of cleaning the plate.
“ No, I also liked the community there and the sense of school spirit.”
“ What do you mean?”
“ Well, during our time there we had a tour of the campus with four students who attended Duke. They were all so nice and intelligent. I just enjoyed being in their presence.”
“ That’s great but that’s only four students. I’m sure there are unpleasant people there as well.”
“ Well, obviously there are annoying people all over the world, but I don’t know, I just got this feeling from the people I saw and talked to over there. They were all so friendly and they interacted well with us. Unlike the people at Georgetown.”
“ What happened at Georgetown?” ”
 “ Everything there just seemed so impersonal: from the presentation by the admin officer to the tour, it was all just so dull. I didn’t get that feeling like they were genuinely interested in me.”
“ Hmmm, I see. What about Penn?” he asked, finally surrendering to the plate.
“ Penn was great. I liked the campus and everything; I found it rather unique, and the tour and presentation was pretty cool too, but I just wasn’t feeling it.”
“ Really? I’ve heard of Penn and it sounds like an awesome university”
“ It is, but it isn’t for me. I really liked touring the colleges for the first week though. I learned so much about my own preferences. I realized what type of college suits me best.”
“ Oh really, and what’s that?” he inquired turning off the sink and walking over to sit next to me.
“ Well, for example, I really liked how Duke was surrounded by trees, but at the same time the city was only a few miles away. Vanderbilt was the same as well. I liked the balance of civilization and vegetation.”  
“ That’s good. Most students don’t realize how important the university campus is to their life at college. The university you choose to study at is going to be your home for the next four years, so if you don’t like the campus then you are not going to be happy there.”
“ Yeah, I’m really glad I got the chance to see those colleges. I know I never could have convinced my parents to take me to see them.”
“ Yeah, you lucked out kid!” he said, his brown eyes playful. He looked behind me at the clock mounted on the wall and got up from his seat. “ I better head to work or I’ll be late.” He kissed me on the cheek and went upstairs to say goodbye to my mother and grandma before leaving.

After he left, I found myself rather drowsy so I went to lie down on the soft, crimson loveseat situated in the far north corner of the room. My mother was busy bathing my grandmother upstairs, my other uncle was sleeping, and the uncle I was just talking to had just left for work, so I had the downstairs room to myself. I closed my eyes and basked in the peaceful silence.
My thoughts soon began to drift, and I began reflecting on the events that had transpired in the past month. It was amazing how much I had changed in a mere month after my trip to the southeast. I chuckled to myself after I realized how much my perception of college had changed. Everything I was once certain of was completed eradicated and replaced with newer, more definite certainty. Now, I know for sure which schools I will be applying to this fall, and I also now know where I want to spend my four years of college studying.  I know now what to expect when I am in college, and it’s all because of the Ivy League Connection.

I must say, when I first heard about the ILC I was skeptical. It seemed incredulous to me that I would be given the chance to tour some of the most prestigious colleges, attend fancy dinners, and actually live and study on the campus of one of the most prominent universities in the country for free. I thought I would have to sign a contract that said I would have to sell a vital organ or give up my first born some day as a catch. However, fortunately, I was just being my paranoid self and nothing of the sort was required. I had qualified for the program and signed up to get the essay prompts from a Mr. Don Gosney to fulfill the first stage of the application process.

Sometime during my winter break I was inundated with emails from Don. After reading some of his emails I had come to the conclusion that he was quite an interesting character, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with this feeling of foreboding that told me these were just the first of many emails. I scanned the prompts and grew excited with the challenge the posed. However, there were many prompts, and I did not want to drain myself of all my energy by applying to every single school. Therefore, I decided to wait until I learned which classes were being offered at which schools. Eventually I learned that only three schools were offering classes I was interested in: Vanderbilt, Yale, and Pennsylvania. As a result, I only applied to those three schools.

A few weeks after I had submitted all my applications, I received an email telling me I had made it to the interview stage for Vanderbilt University. I was very excited and very proud of myself. My parents, however, were not. They were carrying around the same doubt I once held about this program, and they didn’t think I could get in even if it was a legitimate program. I was slightly disappointed that my parents were not being very supportive, but luckily I had my sisters to cheer me on.

The ILC brought me to Washington DC for Independence Day, and I was able
see the most beautiful fireworks I have ever seen in my entire life. 
The interview was nerve-racking, but I got through it pretty well. I kept replaying the questions I was asked and my answers to them during my classes for the rest of the day. At lunch I finally learned that I had made it into the ILC and I would be going to Vanderbilt University to study. I was ecstatic. I called my parents to tell them and they were very surprised.

After that I had a plethora of paper work to complete, dinners to attend, and emails to respond to. It was rather stressful at first, but without realizing it I had developed all these new skills; I was able to write and respond to emails more formally, I learned to be diligent and regularly check my emails, but most importantly, I learned how to follow directions from my superiors. I was already being molded into a better student and individual without even realizing it.

The trip itself was a life-changing event. Before the ILC, I never even knew about Duke or Vanderbilt or any of those other great schools. All I knew about were UCs and private universities here in California, and I was intent on going to one. However, once I saw the beauty of those other schools, my mind was completely opened. I saw that there are schools outside of California that have so much more to offer their students. I came to the conclusion that I would not be happy if I stayed in school in California because I would not be allowing myself to grow to my full potential; all the schools in California I had originally planned to apply to were close to home, so I would still be dependent on my parents instead of on myself. I did not want that. After being away from my parents for three weeks at Vandy, I realized that I thrive when I am on my own. I realized that I could flourish so much more.

The ILC gave me the chance to fly for the first time,
and see the world in a way I had never done so before.

Washington DC
Washington DC
I met some amazing, intelligent people while at VSA, and I am thankful I met
these wonderful people. 
The ILC showed me beautiful things. 

The ILC showed me Duke University. 

I just added this one because I love the masks :) 

The ILC brought me to Nashville, Tennessee. 

The ILC allowed me to teach new things. 

And finally, the ILC allowed me to have fun. 

My trip to Vanderbilt University has opened my eyes, mind, and heart. I have met so many great people and learned so many great things. Most importantly, however, I have learned so many things about myself and about the world. The ILC has made me realize that there is a life for me outside of California, and that the sky is the limit. My parents are now completely supportive of my decision to apply to out-of-state-schools, a feat I know never would have happened without aid from the ILC. I want to thank every one from the ILC who made my trip possible; Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, Don, the sponsors, Mr. Mannix, and my parents. Because of you all, I am now ready to face college and any challenges it make cause me. I am forever indebted to the ILC.