Monday, September 2, 2013

A Changed Person

For nearly two years, I have been a part of The Ivy League Connection. It is hard to articulate into words how much I have grown since being part of the program. I have become a far more confident and engaged person. I have become a more independent learner, yet my ability to work with others has improved. I now understand how to approach and overcome obstacles in a more efficient way. The Ivy League Connection enabled me to expand my horizons. Because of Ivy League Connection, I now have a clearer idea of who I am and of who I want to become.

After participating in the Women and Leadership Program at Brown last summer, I wanted to try out a more academic program. I applied to the Constitutional Law Program at Columbia University in New York City. I remember the part of the application essay prompt clearly:
Considering the influence corporations and Super PACs had in these elections, does this Supreme Court ruling rise to the occasion of a Constitutional Amendment? Did the Supreme Court overstep their authority in their ruling?
After reading the prompt a few times I still didn’t understand it. I knew that I would have to do some research and put some serious time into writing in order to submit a solid essay. If I had not participated in the Women and Leadership Course last year, I may have just given up. Participating in this program, however, taught me to persevere despite all odds.
After several hours of writing, and even more time spent researching, I finished my essay. Before writing this essay, I knew almost nothing about the Supreme Court or the Constitution. After completing the essay, I couldn’t wait to learn more about it. I found the topic extremely interesting. Even if I wasn’t accepted into the Constitutional Law Program, I would have continued to learn more about issues surrounding the Constitution and the Supreme Court.
I vividly remember reading the email Don sent to inform the applicants of who made it to the interview part of the application process. I remember scrolling down the page to the list of names. A wave of relief flooded over me when I saw my name. I had made it to the interview part of the selection process!

Surprisingly, I was far more anxious for the interview this year. When I was interviewed for the Women and Leadership Program, I didn’t care as much if I was accepted. I had no idea that participating in the program would have such a profound positive influence on my life. This year, I knew that being accepted into the Constitutional Law program would ensure another life changing experience. When Don called my name to announce that I was accepted, a feeling of pure excitement overcame me. The smile on my face lasted for days. It was the middle of the school year, but I could not wait until summer.

Fortunately there were several ILC events during the school year that gave me a taste of my summer experience. At the Columbia potluck, I met my incredible chaperone, Ms. L, and my amazing cohort. The school board meeting enabled me to recognize the gigantic group of remarkable people I would represent during my time back East. I left the event knowing that I would have to consider a lot more than just myself when making decisions. The choices I would make would reflect not just myself, but my entire community. I felt honored to represent such an amazing and diverse group of people. The Columbia dinner in San Francisco was a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet and mingle with students and alumni of Columbia University. It was a privilege to meet these remarkable people and I left the dinner feeling even more excited to go to Columbia. By the time the orientation came, Ivy League Connections had already provided me with so many valuable experiences that it was hard to imagine that the bulk of my experience was still to come.

As our departure date grew closer, my anticipation for the trip grew larger.  Arriving at El Cerrito High at 2:45 AM was definitely the most anticipated moment of my summer. It was, however, pretty anticlimactic due to the fact that nearly everyone except Don was half-asleep. Still, it was one of the most exciting moments I’ve ever had while half-asleep. It was the first step to our trip across the country.

After a relatively uneventful plane ride, we landed in New York. Once we went outside, I was struck by the green landscape. Unlike California where grass must be constantly irrigated in order to stay green, the frequent thunderstorms on the East Coast keep the landscape lush. As we drove closer to the city, the green grass and forested areas slowly faded into an urban landscape. Eventually, the buildings grew taller and closer together and we found ourselves in the heart of New York City.  I was blown away by the size of the City. It was absolutely gigantic and I could not believe that I would have an entire month to explore this vibrant place.

Our first week spent in New York was incredibly full. Our mornings were filled with sightseeing while our afternoons were spent on college tours. Nearly everyday was concluded with a fancy dinner where we had the opportunity to meet with current students and alumni of Ivy League Schools. This week really got me thinking about what I want in a college. After seeing so many schools, I now feel much more confident that I’ll pick a school that is truly right for me. The people I met at the dinners are people I’ll never forget. I was so grateful to hear honest and insightful answers to my questions. I know I’ll keep in contact with many of these remarkable individuals.

The opportunity to attend these dinners is something only accessible to those who are part of Ivy League Connections. The chance to have a real conversation with students, alumni, and admissions officers of Ivy League schools is incredibly valuable. In just one conversation with a student, I was able to gain a sense of what their school is really like. Having the chance to introduce myself to admissions officers was such a privilege. Everyone I talked to taught me something important. I received advice that I’ll carry with me not only in college, but also throughout my entire life.

Despite an incredible first week, I could not wait to move into the dorms at Columbia and begin class. Waiting outside the long line outside of the Hartley dorm was one of the most exciting lines I have ever waited in. After we received our room keys and student IDs, the rest of the day flew by. That evening, there was a welcome dance where I met students from all around the world. I couldn’t wait to spend the next three weeks with these amazing people.

We dove straight into the material on our first day of class. I remember feeling the energy in the classroom. Despite our different values, backgrounds, and views we all shared a common love of learning. This made for an incredible three weeks of learning, debating, and growing.

Our first homework assignment was several pages of very dense Supreme Court cases. Simon and I spent hours in the library trying to decipher the text. It was the most difficult reading assignment of my life. As the days went on, however, the reading became much easier. I understood what to look for in each Supreme Court case. Eventually, I was able to finish each reading assignment with good comprehension of the material and in a timely manner. Having the challenge of such dense reading material enabled me to grow as a reader. I now feel much more confident in my ability to read college level material in an efficient way.

In my opinion, one of the most valuable aspects of the class was the essay assignment. The assignment was very open ended. Basically, we had to write a 2000 word essay on a topic related to the Supreme Court. I choose to write my essay the Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling. We had limited time to write the essay, so I knew that I needed to be efficient in order to complete the task on time. I also knew that my instructor would be grading us on a college level. After completing the essay, I became confident in my ability to write at a high level in an efficient way.

The three weeks I spent at Columbia University prepared me to succeed at a college level. The rigorous course work in conjunction with the distractions of New York City forced me to manage my time effectively. I now feel far more confident in my ability to succeed in college. Without The Ivy League Connection, I know I would feel very differently.

My trip to the East Coast was definitely the most valuable four weeks of my life. Each day I learned countless lessons and met amazing people. The best part is, though, that it doesn’t end here. I will share what I’ve learned with those unable to experience it for themselves and give back to my community in a positive way. Thank you Ivy League Connections for providing me not only the best four weeks of my life, but also with the tools necessary to go out and make my community a better place. 

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