Saturday, June 30, 2012


Today was our last day in Chicago and while I was sad to see it go, I was even more excited to fly to Philadelphia!  We've had an amazing time in the Windy City and I am now sure that I want to apply to the University of Chicago and North Western University.  Today had a mellow agenda: we went to breakfast, made a quick visit to Navy Pier, and then flew to Philly at 6:00 PM.  It was a day of transition and preparation for the environment we will we be living in for the next four weeks.

This morning we ate at a great breakfast/lunch place called The Tempo in downtown Chicago.  Even though it was closer to lunch time, I ordered a breakfast skillet, a fresh-fruit smoothie, and some coffee to wake me up.  I did get a bunch of sleep last night though and felt well rested today.  Once we finished eating, we all walked along the lake toward Navy Pier.  The stretch was full of people and the small beach we passed was completely packed, but everyone looked like they were having a ton of fun.  I love how vegetated Chicago is, in that area at least, and that aspect combined with the warm weather created the perfect atmosphere for our long day of walking.
So Many Beautiful Trees!
Navy Pier was such a wonderful place!  There were a ton of kids and happy people everywhere. We didn't have the chance to take part in the activities and events there, but we were able to walk all around the pier and enjoy the beautiful scenery.  I hope to come to Chicago again some day and explore the city even further because even in the short three days that we were there I had an AMAZING time.  

Mermaid Ian

Mermaid David

Mermaid Cameron

Beach Fun!
View from the Pier

Mamma and Baby Duck

Inside Navy Pier
Ferris Wheel!

The airport process was much calmer today than usual...not sure why, but I really liked it.  We had a fairly short flight and I got even more reading done today for my pre-class assignment which was very good.  Everything went really smoothly following the flight and now we have settled into the Sheraton Hotel.  I am super excited to go to orientation tomorrow at UPenn!  I can't wait to begin the Social Justice class and meet so many new and interesting people this summer, I just know that we are all going to have a blast.

6 Days Later

Today I woke up with the realization that we would be leaving The Drake Hotel, Chicago, and Illinois in a matter of hours. I dragged myself out of bed to go to the hotel's gym for the last time. After a revitalizing work out I went back to the room, and finished packing the rest of my things. The whole Penn gang gathered together in the lobby for the last time, then together we left the hotel to get some breakfast.

Next on today's agenda was Navy Pier. I was surprised to see all the many different activities that are available to us. To name a few, there was a maze, a ferris wheel, and mini golf.  Unfortunately we weren't able to actually participate in any, but that didn't take anything away from our visit. The view of the lake was all we needed to make our visit memorable. Before we knew it, it was time for us to go back to the hotel where a shuttle would be picking us up to take us to the airport.

We went through the old process of checking in our bags, going through security, and boarding the plane for the third time this week. The next tme we go through it all again will be when we are on our way home, on June 28th. Time is passing by so quickly. That also applies to our flight, it felt really short when in reality it was practically two hours. We took a shuttle to The Sheraton, and got settled in for our last night together.
I'm really looking forward to moving into our dorms tomorrow, and starting the class!

Au Revoire, Chicago

Breakfast at Tempo Cafe
This morning we checked out of the Drake. After leaving our luggage with the front desk people, we headed over to Tempo Cafe for brunch. Wanting to get a little more sightseeing in before we left Chicago, we walked over to Navy Pier. Even though it was pretty hot, there was a nice breeze coming off of Lake Michigan once we got to the pier. The wildlife count at the pier was four baby ducks, a seagull eating a dead fish, and zillions of tourists. Eventually it was time to go, so we walked back towards the hotel to pick up our luggage. It would have been quicker and more comfortable to take a cab, but I didn’t mind the walk and I really enjoyed the chance to view Chicago on foot. It’s hard to get a feel for a place just by zipping around in a cab, so sometimes it’s good to hoof it.

Ivette and Alysa pose with our 24 items of luggage
Our last morning at the Drake

One quick plane ride later, we were all in Philadelphia. Although we got in around 10 PM, there were still people walking around the city. We passed several buildings bearing the words “University of Pennsylvania” as we headed to our hotel. All of a sudden, it came home to me that tomorrow we’ll be moving into dorms. I’m so excited to meet my roommate; as I roomed in a single at Brown last year I am eager for a second chance for the dorm experience. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Penn and Philadelphia from both last year’s Penn cohort and the Cornell cohort. I can’t wait to move in. 

Last view of the Chicago skyline

The Next Stage

After days of college tours and five star dinners, we have finally arrived to Philadelphia to begin the next stage of our journey: UPenn. Today, I woke up at 9:00AM with mixed feelings. I was sad because we were leaving Chicago, which I think is a very fantastic city. But then again, I was excited to go to Philadelphia and start the Experimental Physics Program. I didn't have to pack much because I finish most of it last night. Our cohort met up at 10:20AM in the lobby of the Drake. I loved the Drake so much that I think I will be Drake-sick instead of homesick at Penn. We ate brunch at Tempo Cafe.

Ivette, Alysa, and Clara
After brunch at Tempo Cafe, we walked to Navy Pier. The temperature was similar to that of Northern California. The morning was cloudy and windy, but then developed into something hot with a slight drizzle of rain.  The pier was filled with tons of entertainment. There was multiple musicians, rides, and boat rides. Unfortunately, time was not with us because we had to go back to go to the airport. At the airport, we had our final dinner in Chicago at Chili's. I am going to miss Chicago, but feel like I will get over at once we are at UPenn. I think that as much as I want to go to sleep, I am going to be too jumpy about going to UPenn tomorrow.
Chicago From Navy Pier

Welcome To Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Another day of rest was handled well as we rose at 9 am. We decided to eat brunch instead of breakfast so that we could have more time for a day full of travel. We went to a local spot recommended by the drake hotel. When we got there , it was just like home , I got my normal English muffin with eggs and bacon( mmh mmmh mmh).After breakfast we headed to Navy pier. We walked Lakeshore drive and even along the the beach.

When we arrived at Navy Pier , I was surprised at all the fun interactions that were available. Although I wasnt able to experience any of these fun activity, as we had only 30 minutes, I vicariously participated through the children that came out with smiles on their faces.After this we walked back to the Drake hotel and off were went to the airport  ready to go to Philadelphia.

When we arrived in Philly we all put are clocks a hour ahead and off we went to the hotel , which would be our last night together :(. But we all are excited for Penn!

Hello, Philly!

Today was a day for rest and recovery!
After waking up an hour later than I planned( 9 AM instead of the initial 8 AM), Ivette and I went down to the lobby to meet the cohort. We left all twenty-four bags with the bell captain at the Drake Hotel and then we walked to breakfast.

 For breakfast we dined at Tempo Cafe which was a couple of blocks from the hotel. We waited for what seemed like hours in the hot sun until we were finally called in. Over breakfast we discussed all the schools we visited so far and what we liked about them all. We also discussed fun moments so far on the trip. We all share the excitement of moving into dorms tomorrow and meeting our roommates.

We then walked along the beach to get to Navy Pier. All of us agreed that the water was really tempting and we all wanted to go swimming. When we reached Navy Pier we walked along the pier and took in all the beautiful sights. We spent a few hours at the pier then decided it was time to head back. The walk back to the hotel seemed so much longer than the walk there, but it was a nice workout. Once we arrived at the hotel, we got our luggage then piled into yet another shuttle van.

The next few hours were quite boring, as they were spent in the airport and on a plane. Right now we're having a "blogging party" and sharing our expectations for the program we will participate in less than twelve hours.

Next time I blog, it'll be from the comforts of my new dorm room.

The Final Destination

We have finally arrived in Philadelphia! I started the day at the late hour of 8 AM, took advantage of the Drake's amazing fitness center one last time, and met everyone, and their luggage, in the lobby.  We went to the Tempo Cafe for brunch where I had a delicious waffle.  Once again, we spent the meal laughing and talking with each other. 

To finish up our stop in Chicago,  we went to Navy Pier, which reminded me of the Santa Cruz boardwalk.  Sadly, right as I pulled out my camera to snap a picture of the baby ducks swimming in Lake Michigan, its battery died.  Even though I have no photo evidence, I can assure you that the weather was great, the lake was beautiful, and we all had a lot of fun.  After the pier, we walked back through the city to our hotel.  Before I knew it, I was waving good-bye to the Drake and heading to the airport.  Chicago was amazing, and I know I will be back there at some point in my life.

Once we checked in, we had dinner at the Chili's in the airport, and then we boarded our flight and flew off to Philadelphia.  We are staying in a hotel tonight and we move in to our dorms tomorrow.  I'm excited about finally being here, but I'm nervous about living in the dorms and not seeing my cohort everyday.  I can't wait to start class, meet new people, and explore Philadelphia!

What a Wonderful Day

I have had such an inspiring day and it's not even over yet!  We started out our day with yummy hotel breakfast, and I made sure to get a couple cups of coffee in order get myself ready for our information session and tour of North Western University.  This morning was fairly warm in the college town of Evanston .  I thought it was going to get super hot and humid today but the weather made an unexpected turn and the clouds soon covered the sky.  Although cloudy, I loved how warm the air still was when we began our journey of this new school.

The North Western experience began with a typical information meeting, but unlike the Chicago session, we were took our seats among a large group of interested students and their families.  A rising junior, Kristina, ended up being our tour guide and she was awesome!  Throughout the entire trip around campus, she was super enthusiastic and incorporated many personal stories into the tour.  I love how beautiful the campus is and the flexibility of courses provided at NU (North Western University).  I could definitely see myself on that campus and I'm not sure if it was just because Kristina was so inspiring, but I completely fell in love with the school and its atmosphere within a couple of hours.  This feeling only increased after having lunch with Kristina and a few more students from the school, as well as a couple admission officers.  I had a chance to get to know a couple of the students pretty well and their current studies greatly interest me. 

A More Modern-Styled Building with Lush Lawn

Beautiful Man-Made Lake on Campus
During the tour, the sky was pretty cloudy but I thought that it would clear up and get sunny and hot later on in the day.  This did not happen, and instead they thickened and it started to rain which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I know this is not an example of extreme weather, it gave me a bit of exposure to a warmer rain that I am used to in the Bay Area.  I think that I could handle living through actual seasons, and anyways, it would be good for me to experience a different scenery than that of California.  After this visit, I decided that I will for sure apply to North Western University and I am already excited to get started on this college application process.

Us Girls Standing Under the Fountain
Between the time that we left the NU campus and headed for dinner, we took the L transportation system to the Loop.  From the station we walked to Millenium Park where we had a chance to see The Bean and run through these giant fountains from which we got soaked! The guys did not join us, but us girls had a bunch of fun running around with tourists and other locals through the great fountains.  By this time the rain had disappeared and we decided to walk back to the Drake hotel in our refreshingly wet clothes.  While walking we were able to see all of the shopping centers that line Michigan Avenue.  Once we arrived at the hotel, we had about an hour and a half to freshen up and prepare for our last fancy dinner of the trip.

Cohort in Front of "The Bean"
David, Mariko, & Cameron

David & I Before Dinner
Mariko, Ivette, & Clara Before Dinner

Our Seafood Appetizer
 Tonight we went out to dinner at Mastro's Steak House, which is about five minutes away from our hotel.  Our guests tonight included the two admission officers we had lunch with, and a former ILC student from Hercules High School who invited six of her friends from NU. Since the party was so large, we split into two different tables for dinner.  My table consisted of two current students, one recent graduate, and one admission officer.  Mariko and David also sat at my awesome table this evening, and we all really had the chance to engage in conversations with our guests.  Our extravagant appetizer and main dishes varied from seafood to steak, of course, and then they were followed by delicious deserts which we all shared.  I had a wonderful time discussing different aspects of the admission process and hearing the experiences and stories of NU from the students themselves.  Although it would have been nice to get to know the other NU students from the other table, I am glad that my table was small enough for us to have conversations that I could really benefit from.  I have learned a great deal about the university in one day, and I feel that following up the sessions on campus with dinners outside of the Evanston area allowed all of the information I learned today to sink in.  From this I now have educated reasons for wanting to apply to this school in the fall and I am very excited to get started! 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Is That Lightning?

Waking up today was some what me what of a hassle. The plan was to be up and at breakfast by 7:45AM. I woke up at 7:30AM, not even hearing my alarm, and rushed my self to get ready. Since we are in Chicago and it is summer, I decided to wear light clothing suitable for the conditions. Unfortunately, this became a horrible decision later on in the day. We were able to meet up with our cohort at 8:00AM, before our departure to Northwestern.
The Lake
We arrived to what is a very green, isolated campus. The roads were filled with trees, which helped shield me from the burning sun and humid winds. I was very happy with our taxi drive because when we were giving him our destination, he appeared to be lost, but ended up dropping us at the front door of the Admissions Office. I loved the informational session, because they used a slideshow, which helped me input the information more easily into my brain. Then it was followed by our tour. As I looked around the campus, I noticed that it is more focused on education and had little distractions. At our previous tours, the campuses where a mile or two away from the big city, which is filled with distractions, such as stores, zoos, and more. With first hand experience of procrastination, I know that I want to be at a campus that has a bit more focus on whats on the campus rather than whats outside it. Also, the lake was interesting seeing. Then out of nowhere, it began to rain, which eventually lead to lightning. But rain or no rain, we finished the tour.
Later on we had our very own special tour of Chicago. It began by using the famous "L." We walked every where, without the use of a taxi, which helped me see everything. We were in search of a huge shiny bean, otherwise known as the Gate Cloud. After finding it, we then went into Millennium Park. There the girls practiced there gymnastic skills by performing cartwheels and hand stands. From there we continued our tour of Chicago.

Seafood Tower
Dinner was very exciting at Mastro's Steakhouse. I sat with an admissions officer and four students of Northwestern. We kicked it off with stories of Northwestern. By the end of the dinner, I was very excited about Northwestern, especially because of their great enginnering program. Also, I never really considered doing study abroad, even though I heard of it over and over again, until the dinner. Listening to all the wonderful stories and adventures they went on has motivated me to try out study abroad. Unfortunately, we were unable to talk with everyone because we had to be split up into two groups. Our waiter was also nice enough to take a picture of us. I can't wait for tomorrow knowing that each day is filled with multiple adventures.
Our Table
Cameron Developing His Taxi Skills

Gone Swimming

I expected to enjoy the Northwestern tour, but I didn’t expect it to be so exciting. First came a quick, 45-minute info session with about 40 other people. After that we split up into several different tour groups. We went with Kristina, a rising junior from Texas. As we toured Northwestern, she entertained our group with funny anecdotes and random facts about campus. For example, there is a longstanding Northwestern tradition that all students must paint “the Rock” at least once before they graduate. The Northwestern campus felt quite large, but I didn’t get bored doing so much walking on the tour because the campus is so beautiful. It’s right on the lake and there are lots of trees everywhere. It was also much cooler today, which helped make the tour enjoyable. It cooled off even more when it started to pour partway through our tour, necessitating a quick return to the admissions building.

The Rock
Admissions officers Aaron and Shannon, Kristina, and a few other Northwestern students joined us for lunch. We tried out the Northwestern dorm food, which I found pretty tasty, although Kristina kept reassuring us that the food was even better during the regular school year. Once we were done eating, Aaron gave us directions to the nearest L stop so that we could get back into Chicago. 

Beautiful Chicago skyline

Chloe can do handstands!
We disembarked at Millenium Park, where we headed over to the Bean to take pictures. After about 5 minutes the glare reflecting off of the stainless steel got too bright, so we walked over to the open-air amphitheater. We relaxed on the grass for a little while, joking around and trying to do cartwheels and headstands. When this got boring, we walked to the Crown Plaza Fountain. Chloe, Clara, Ivette, and I ran through the fountain multiple times, getting completely soaked. We tried to get Alysa and the boys to join in, but they refused. I was so happy that we had some free time today to go sightseeing, as it would be a shame to pass through an amazing place like Chicago without taking advantage of what the city has to offer.

Chloe and Ivette relax at the Millenium Park amphiteater
Tonight we dined at Mastro’s Steakhouse with Aaron and Shannon, Stephanie, and several other Northwestern students. We split up into two different groups because there weren’t accommodations big enough for all of us, so I ended up at a table with Chloe, David, Shannon, Stephanie, and three other Northwestern students. Shannon, as an admissions officer, was able to give us some valuable advice about the applications process, especially getting letters of recommendation from counselors. Since we only have two counselors for about 1300 students at ECHS, I barely ever talk to my counselor and wasn’t sure about getting a letter of rec from her. Shannon gave me a few suggestions as how to smooth this process, which was really helpful. After dinner it threatened to rain on us as we waited to catch a cab, which would have made it the third time in one day, but we were able to make it back to the Drake without the need to put newspapers over our heads.

Seafood tower appetizer at Mastro's

Hey there, Stephanie!
The main idea that came through to me was the diversity of Northwestern students. We met with about 10 different students throughout the course of the day, and all of them were involved in different clubs at Northwestern–various community service options, cultural clubs, freshman orientation hiking groups, to name a few. I thought it was great that these people could be such good friends and all have such radically different interests.
Shannon and Chloe

I’ve learned so much about myself for these past four days just through college touring–I can’t wait to see how much I’ll have changed by the end of July. We fly to Philadelphia tomorrow, and from reading the blogs of the Cornell cohort I suspect that I will love it. I can’t wait for the next chapter of our Penn story to begin.

Putting the West in Northwestern

Today was quite an eventful day, and a little wetter than we were expecting.  The sun was shining as we headed down for breakfast (some a little later than others) and hopped in two cabs that took us to the Northwestern University campus.  We started with a short and concise admissions information session led by an admissions officer and a current student.  They went through the six schools and what each had to offer.  On top of flexible scheduling, the school offers countless opportunities for research, jobs, and internships.  I liked that Northwestern students can receive an education and real-world experience simultaneously. 

The Rock
After the info session, we went on a campus tour led by Kristina, a rising junior.  We walked all over campus, which is beautiful.  Everything was very green and the buildings ranged in style and age, some built in the late 1800s and some in the 1980s.  One thing that really stood out was the rock, an old fountain that students have painted as a tradition for a long time.  It is said to have 9 layers of paint with everything from marriage proposals to class pride.  I love learning about schools' random traditions and the ways that current students keep them alive.  Kristina's tour was very engaging and I could feel the love she feels toward Northwestern entwined with everything she said.  

"Sunset" at 11 AM
As we walked around, the air started to cool and the sky got darker.  We looked out across the lake to Chicago and the sky looked like it was dusk, not 11 AM.  Five minutes later, it was pouring rain and thunder and lightning crashed above our heads. Luckily, we finished our tour and found a close dining hall to have lunch.  I sat with Kristina, and she told me more about how amazing Northwestern is.  She said that although she was skeptical at first, the university has helped her grow as a person and discover what she loves.  Wildcats are very cool, but with the way that she talks about NU, Kristina could definitely be the mascot. 

We took the L back to millennium park and spent some time relaxing as a cohort.  We looked at "The Bean," and explored the amphitheater.  Then, all the girls got in the Crowne Plaza Fountain and got soaked for the second time today.  The guys, sadly, were more content sitting on the sidelines, but we all had fun cooling off in the water.  We walked back to the hotel in hopes of drying off and had a couple hours to rest and get ready for dinner.
Taking pictures of our reflection in the Bean
Inside the Bean
Dinner was at Mastro's Steakhouse with two Northwestern admissions officers and some current students.  I sat at a table with Aaron, an admissions officer.  He was great to talk to about all aspects of Northwestern and the surrounding area.  I sat next to Shivon, a rising junior pre-med cognitive sciences major (it sounded like a lot to me too).  He has similar interests to me, like community service and science.  Talking to him allowed me to really put myself on the Northwestern campus and see that it has a lot to offer me.  After my amazing meal (seafood, New York Strip, and a profiterole), we all walked downstairs to hail a few cabs.  Once again, the lightening started and it rained the whole way back to the hotel.  

Cameron hails his first cab
Tomorrow we leave for Philadelphia.  No matter how much I have enjoyed these college visits, I am seriously looking forward to moving in to my dorm and starting class.  This experience has already changed my life, and it's only been four days!


Wildcats Everywhere

The "bean" at Millenium Park.
The first hour or so started off as usual; meeting the cohort for breakfast then hopping in two separate cabs to reach our destination for the day. The ride to Northwestern University seemed extremely long but my cab made it to the school first. While we waited for the others to arrive, of course we had to pose for a few pictures.
Posing for a quick flick in front of Northwestern.

Once everyone arrived, we headed to the admissions office for an information session. The college visits and information sessions have all provided me with the same information but each school has something that makes them a bit
unique. We then headed off on our tour with Kristina, who is originally from Texas. Kristina was really outgoing and truly expressed her love for her school. She pointed out every little spot on campus and encouraged us to ask questions. Her openness and willingness to talk to us made it easy to connect and relate to her experience. She even told us we were her favorite tour group ever and took a picture with us! As we were starting to wrap up the tour, we noticed something strange.

The sky was grey, there were random flashes of light in the sky, and water was falling from the sky.
Being from the Bay Area, we are certainly used to the rain, but normally it doesn't happen after it's just been ridiculously hot.
It was thundering, lighting, and raining raindrops the size of quarters and Kristina had us running to finish up the tour while making it back to admissions.

Soaking wet, we pause for a picture with our awesome tour guide, Kristina.

By the time we arrived back at admissions we were soaking wet and had worked up a appetite. We took a short break then headed to a dining hall near the admissions office with admissions officers Shannon and Aaron, as well as Kristina and two of her friends. Over lunch, Kristina shared her experiences at Northwester with us. She told us how she was so eager to get out of her hometown but once it came time to decide on a school she was completely torn. I think this is a situation that will become familiar to a lot of us. It's important to be smart when making decisions about your future. Kristina explained that she didn't want to leave behind her life in Texas but then she realized that she really wanted to go to Northwestern and that was the school for her.

After a long, insightful lunch we all went our separate ways and the UPenn cohort went to do some sight-seeing. We all bought tickets for the "L" or elevated train, which is very similar to Bay Area Rapid Transportation (BART) in the Bay Area. It only costs $2.25 to go anywhere! Whereas with BART, the ticket cost differs with location. We went and explored the Millenium Park area for a while then decided to walk the Magnificent Mile back to our hotel.

First time on the "L"!

At 6:45 our lovely cohort met in the lobby of The Drake Hotel for our final formal dinner of our trip. This Sunday we will be moving into our dorms at Penn and the very next day we start class. Dinner was a lovely affair shared with sixteen other people. Though I wish I had the chance to talk with everyone, I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations at my table. I was seated with Aaron, the admissions officer from Northwestern who also ate lunch with us; Johnathan, Andrew, and Shiven, who are all students at Northwestern. I was also joined by Ivette, Cameron, Clara, and Ian.

I definitely enjoyed dinner at Mastro's Steakhouse. The dining experience was very elegant and in such a calm yet lively environment. The college tours have been amazing and I for sure know which schools I'm adding to my list. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to tour these schools, meet these wonderful people, and of course dine at these extravagant restaurants.

Campus living, up next!