Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Summer Well Spent

To this day I remember speaking with Don Gosney on the phone and listening to him describe all of the wonderful programs the ILC had to offer. When I heard about the physics program, I knew I had to apply. What Don described to me sounded rigorous and intense but by no means did that stop me. Even though my last physics class had been almost two years prior, I walked into the interview confident and hoped that my knowledge would shine through. Evidently it did, or I wouldn't be writing this blog today.

The first week of our trip was one of my favorites, definitely. It was filled with lots of fancy dinners and spending time getting to know seven other unique individuals with whom I'd be spending five weeks with. Washington University and University of Chicago were on my lists of interests before this trip so it was great to get to talk to admissions officers and students from both of these schools. The websites do a good job of portraying the school but nothing beats getting to visit the school and hear first hand from people who eat, breathe, and sleep the air of the university.

I was sad and excited once July rolled around because it meant a change of pace. No more moseying around site seeing, we would be fully engorged in our studies in our various programs for the next four weeks. The first week was hard because everyone seemed to be on different levels of physics so we had to play catch up. The weeks after didn't necessarily decrease in difficulty but my level of understanding increased tremendously. At the beginning of the program if you would have asked me how to measure the speed of light, I'd be just as lost as you were. But now I can explain to you how to find the speed of light using your very own device.

Of course I didn't come so far in the field of physics by myself, a big thanks to Bill, Ryan, Craig, Brian, Penny, and everyone else who helped out sometime during the course of that class. It was such a joy to work with such an amazing teacher like Bill. I looked forward to class everyday just to see what crazy, whacky, and sometimes dangerous demo Bill would use to give his lecture that day. I must say, I also looked forward to seeing his t-shirts everyday because they almost always foreshadowed the events of that day. Seeing someone do their job with that much excitement is inspiration and motivation for me to go after what I want. No one should settle for just anything. Do what you love and love what you do, otherwise there is no point in doing it.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't always class and hard work. The people at Summer Discovery did a great job of providing lots of fun activities for students during the week and also on the weekend. The staff at Summer Discovery was amazing as well. When the Penn Team first stepped on campus a man at the registration table asked us what we had for dinner the previous night. At first we were all confused and asked him what he meant, he repeated his question and then told us that we ate at Chilli's in the airport. That made it all clear. This man read our blogs every night before bed. It was Eli reading our blog and Ed knowing who we were without us having to introduce ourselves that made the faculty and staff at this program unique.

Though I chose to study physics this summer, that's not all I learned about. I learned a lot about myself and the world around me. I've mentioned this before, but a major theme this summer was the idea that you can do anything you set your mind to. Now that I look back, the theme to my hall in Lippincott was "the sky is the limit". The guest speakers we had in class, the lectures given by program administrators, and even the talk my RC Naya Wilson gave to us on our first night all helped to remind me that with determination I can do anything. I can see how much I've grown as a person and I couldn't be any more grateful for being able to experience such a wonderful experience.

This summer I am glad I made the choice to spend my summer studying physics at an Ivy league school rather than stay at home. Over the past five weeks I had the chance to live in a college environment and get the feel for a new city. The people I got to spend my time with were amazing individuals and I hope that our friendships will last long after our time with the ILC is over. I continually give thanks to the Ivy League Connection and all of those who made this summer possible for me.

Decision Mean Everything

All it takes to change your life forever is one decision. I made that decision at the end of last year, to compete for a position as a 2012 ILCers. When I first heard Don talking about the ILC, I thought it was a one of the best opportunities I would get in a long time. I had just finished taking Physics and knew that I wanted to dive deeper into it. I saw the Physics Academy at Penn on the list and just knew it was destined to be. I had to go for it. Then I became one of the lucky ones to get accepted. I was shocked. Every other interviewee, appeared more qualified than me, but somehow, I was picked. Excitement rushed through me as I realized that I would be going from coast to coast. 

At the time, I did not stop and think about what I did. I just went with the flow, trying to get to summer as fast as possible. I enjoyed the mandatory events because they gave me a chance to met the faces behind the program. I will have to say that everyone: Don, Charles Ramsey, and Madeline Kronenberg each talked with great passion towards the ILC, which made everyone more excited about the summer. I felt that the dinner at La Folie, was the best one because it gave me a chance to met my cohort, the sponsors, and eat some of the best food ever.

The first week of touring colleges and dinning with admissions officers left me speechless. I have never in my life looked at colleges and I didn’t even know what I should be looking at aside from if they had the class I needed. The information sessions and dinners gave me a sense of what makes a colleges perfect for the student. At that moment, I started my list of colleges, some made the cut, others didn’t. While we weren’t touring or dining with admissions officers, I had a grew friendships with some of the best people in the world. Yes, I am talking about the Penn cohort: Alyssa, Cameron, Clara, Chloe, Ivette, Mariko, and who can forget our chaperone Ian. 

The Physics Academy at Penn was more than I could have ever expected. We dove really deep into physics really fast. I had to push myself to understand to extras, which were essential in doing the labs. I can still remember our first lab, second, third, etc.. but the first ones were warm-ups for the hard stuff. The harder labs were left me in utter confusion. But to get out of my confusion, was the Physics Team, which was made up of Bill, Ryan, Craig, Brian, and Penny. I owe each one of them endless amounts of gratitude because they made my summer at Penn, the best summer ever, and will most likely remain the best one. Bill was a true example of doing what you love. For 15 years, he has done the Physics Academy, and it appears as if he has never lost his passion or excitement for the program. I want to be just like him, love my career with all my heart, never losing my passion or enthusiasm. 

After taking the Physics Academy at Penn, I have come to realize that there are two things that are immeasurable: how awesome summer at Penn is and the amount of gratitude I have towards Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg, and Don. My summer at Penn was beyond any level fun. I had a chance to make friends with people from every continent, except Antarctica…but I am working on that. Everyone who tries to describe how great summer at Penn is, is underselling it because summer at Penn is, as I mentioned before, indescribable. I can say thank you to Don, Charles Ramsey, and Madeline Kronenberg over a million times a day, for the rest of my life, yet I still will not be able to express my gratitude. They gave me the chance to experience college life before I even started thinking about colleges. On top of that, they gave me a chance to sit and eat dinner with college admissions officers, where I was able to talk with the same people who will be judging my application. This was all possible because I was given the opportunity, I decided to take it, instead of ignoring it. My whole future depends on the decisions I make today. The ILC has opened my eyes, now its my turn to keep them open and use them.

The Best of Two Worlds

I’ve been home since Saturday, but it feels like forever ago that I was at UPenn. It’s a whole new world over on the East Coast, and being there changed me even more than I was anticipating. The college tours were so helpful what with college apps coming up, the classroom experience was invaluable, and the people were incredible.

Even though it costs a lot more money than to simply send us straight to UPenn, I believe that the college touring portion of the trip is an indispensable part of the experience. The university that we study at over the summer, in my case UPenn, isn’t guaranteed to be the best college for all of us. Therefore, the opportunity to view more schools and get a better feel for what I was looking for was invaluable. During the college tour, I realized that U of Chicago is one of my top schools, which is something I never could have anticipated just by looking at the school on paper. I would never have toured all of these prestigious universities without the Ivy League Connection, and I’m truly thankful that I had that chance.

Being in the classroom was especially valuable to me because it was different from anything else I’ve ever experienced. At ECHS, I’m able to do well without studying until 2 AM or anything like that. I knew going into the program that physics at UPenn would be very different from any prior experiences, but I had no way of knowing just how difficult it would be for me. It took me about a week to adjust to more rigorous classwork and lecture-based teaching, but once I did, it was amazing. Having class for three hours straight with only a few breaks was excellent practice for college, and afternoon lab was always really fun and challenging. Bill, Ryan, Craig, Penny, and Brian all worked tirelessly to ensure that we had the best possible experience with PSSA. Their love of physics was inspiring, and the hands-on approach made modern physics feel accessible.

Quite possibly the best thing about this experience was the many different people that I met. Getting to know my roommate, Christine, was one of my favorite parts of the summer, and I hope we stay friends for a very long time. My classmates inspired and challenged me to do even better, and I have the deepest respect for all of them. I met people outside of physics through pick-up soccer, and it was great to meet people from all over the world who shared the same passion for the game that I have.

Most of my fellow students at UPenn came from privilege–their families and schools have more money, so they have opportunities that aren’t available to most of us in the WCCUSD. However, I realized that going to ECHS has given me a unique perspective on life and learning that I wouldn’t have if I went to some rich private school, and I actually wouldn’t give up my high school experience for anything else. Of course, there were six other people at UPenn who come from the same school district that I do. Clara, David, Ivette, Chloe, Cameron, and Alysa are all fantastic people, and they became my closest friends at UPenn. I am so glad that these friends, at least, I’ll be able to see again and again throughout the school year.

I’m especially lucky to have been to both Brown and UPenn for two different programs. Last summer, the Ivy League Connection sent me to Brown to take Women and Leadership. This summer, I took physics at UPenn through the ILC. I feel so thankful that I was able to take two amazing programs at two world-class universities, and I know that I’ve grown as a person and as a scholar because of the two incredible experiences that I had. Women and Leadership involved more activism and social issues, while physics was obviously more of a hardcore science class. Each class had something wonderful and unique to offer, and I loved them both.

The combination of the two experiences has convinced me that while I am happy in both areas of study, the best place for me is somewhere in between. I still don’t know exactly where I fit in, but at least now I have a better understanding of myself. Without the Ivy League Connection, I would have no idea whatsoever, and I can never thank them enough for the opportunities they have given me these past two summers. My time with the ILC has been life changing, and I have enjoyed every moment I’ve spent on the East Coast.

It's Over, But Not Really

I've been home for three days now, and I still haven't adjusted to the colder weather.  However, all this time spent walking around in winter coats and hunkering down under blankets has given me the opportunity to reflect on the journey I just returned from.  Going to Penn was the most amazing thing I could have possible done with my summer.  It changed me as a person and a student and taught me more than I had ever hoped to learn about Physics and myself.  

When I went to the first ILC presentation at my school, I automatically knew that this was the program I would apply to. Julia and Brian, close friends of mine and two thirds of last year's Penn cohort, spoke so highly of it, I knew I couldn't let this opportunity pass me by.  Every day, I am glad I stuck with it, even when I didn't get the first interview and even when I was so sure I had made a fool of myself in front of the panel.

The first week, when we toured colleges and met admissions officers, ranks pretty highly on the scale of awesomeness.  It gave me a clear sense of what I want in a college and introduced me to one of my new top choices- The University of Chicago. Sometimes it seems that when I send of my college apps they will be thrown in the air, and the lucky few that land in a certain spot will get acceptance letters.  However, meeting admissions officers, the people who will read my essays and applications, helped ground my worries and give the process a much more personable spin.  During that week, I sparked friendships with David, Alysa, Cameron, Chloe, Ivette, and Mariko that grew tenfold over the following month.  I loved seeing parts of the country that were unfamiliar, and, of course, the food we ate was an experience in itself. 

Once we started class, things shifted.  To be honest, that first week was incredibly challenging.  I soon realized how smart the people in my class were, and how much I had to focus in order to understand science, something that usually comes naturally to me.  The period of adjusting was tough, but after a while, I realized that we were all in the same boat, and maybe the people who initially surprised me were just smart in different ways.  "Smart" is a funny word, and this trip changed my personal definition of it. 

Every day of class was amazing, and I am very thankful to Bill, Ryan, Craig, Penny, Brian, and Joe for making it that way.  I'm not a person who will just accept things as they're told to me, so I appreciated the hands-on and visual aspects of our class.  Seeing Bill dash around the room, doing the same things he's done for the past 15 years with mountains of enthusiasm, showed me how important it is to find something in the world that I love to do and just do it.  I grew to love Philadelphia, heat and humidity included, and met people from all around the world.  I realized that there is so much out there, a concept I though I understood, but never really proved to myself before this trip.  

Having returned, my life has settled pretty much back into its old rhythm, but I do feel like a different person.  Studying at Penn instilled a new sense of confidence in me.  Even in a room with 35 other students, top of their class, straight A's, future rulers of the world, I could hold my own. As I begin my college applications to schools both in and out of California, I see the long road a head of me, littered with essay drafts and stress-filled nights.  The next couple months will be by no means easy, and they may shape my entire future. However, if I play my cards right, it just might be a little fun.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Leaving Penn?

Its crazy to be reunited with my parents , after a month of being away. On the drive back home ,I felt as if I were hallucinating. I just felt different, the car , and even the house. The time seemed to go by so fast, and the thought of me being in Philadelphia just that same day  was crazy.

The morning I returned home, I woke up at about 5:30 because my roommate was leaving. We said our goodbye's , and I watched as the door closed all the way , and I knew that I would not be seeing him ever again in my life. It was sad but I will always have the memory of him being my very first roommate, Fred. I then knocked out for a few more hours , so I would be well prepared for the trip to the liberty bell.

Around 7am was when I woke up again , promptly getting dressed so that I could finish up packing. After I was finished packing , I was pretty sure that my bag was under 50 pounds(it was 42.5) I brought my stuff down to Ivette's room , then headed back up to my room so that I could say the last goodbye's to what once was my cave. After about 30 minutes Mr Lawrence was there waiting for us , and we checked out and returned our keys. If we were to had lost the keys , it would cost over 100 dollars. Luckily none of did. Now it was time to head to the liberty bell , so we dropped our bags off at the hotel and got on the SEPTA. Once we got to the liberty bell sight , the sun decided to torture us with heat and humidity. We were relieved once we got inside the building. After we took a few pictures and read a few articles we had lunch and back we were to the hotel to catch our shuttle to the airport.

There , a 5 hour plane ride awaited us. On the plane I did about to things, slept or listened to music. When the plane arrived , I started to get butterflies because I knew that I was finally in the same proximity as all my close friends and my parents. After getting my luggage , I said goodbye to the gang which had truly formed into a family , and there I was riding home in the car thinking about how I felt and thinking about the past month  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Penn There, Done That

It feels so weird to be home!  As soon as I got off the plane it really sank in that I won't be seeing Ivette, Alysa, Cameron, David, Mariko, and Clara on a daily basis anymore.  We began this trip as acquaintances but now I feel so close to all of them and I hope we maintain that friendship now that we're back in our own lives again.  

On the other hand, I loved seeing my mom and brother at the airport!  I missed them so much and it was so wonderful to go back home with them.  The only thing that was super weird about seeing my brother was finding out that he outgrew me in the one month I was gone!  My little 15 year old brother is now taller than me; very strange. We also hung out with some close family friends last night so there were a lot of hugs, smiles, and conversations among us.  I was able to finally tell them, in person, how the program was for me, and I went on and on about how amazing it was.  Seriously though, the Social Justice class with Prof. Lamas and Michael was incredible and I was thrilled to share my experiences with everyone last night. 

I think that it is going to feel strange for a little while living back home without my cohort, but I life will return to "normal" in a couple weeks.  I put quotations around normal because I don't think that I will be able to go through my days without critically thinking about what is going on around me.  Although I believe that I was quite thoughtful and aware of my surroundings before the program, this class has widened my perspectives and taught me how to think even deeper about my actions and the actions of others.  Already, I have noticed a change in how I take in what other people say to me, and I try to respond in a more thoughtful way.  I am not saying that I am a totally different person, because I am most definitely not; but I do think that I have changed in some ways that I believe will allow me to move through life with more critical analysis and understanding.

I am excited to share the hundreds of pictures I took with family and friends, and I hope that I am able to hold on to my identity this next school year while I continue through my personal transformation (we discussed this with Arnold Farr).

2,875.6 Miles Later

It's crazy to think that just this morning I was across the country. I woke up in my dorm room for the last time. I made sure everything was packed, because the last thing I wanted was to forget something. I then made my way outside to meet the rest of my cohort and chaperone, and get the signing out process over with. My roommate helped me with my bags, an stayed with me for a bit. I didn't know how to say goodbye to her! I felt like no matter how we said goodbye to each other, it wouldn't come close to capturing our true emotions. Anika was the best roommate ever, and I feel lucky to have met her.

We weren't going to head out to the airport until one, so we had about three hours for historical site seeing. We had decided a couple of days before that we wanted to go see the liberty bell, and that's exactly what we did. We dropped our bags off at the Sheraton Hotel, that's where Mr. Lawrence stayed during the trip, then began our trip. There was a line to see the liberty bell, and lucky for us we had to wait in the 95+ degree for about twenty minutes. I was a bit uncomfortable, but I tried to enjoy it because that was the last time I was going to be in the hot Philadelphia sun. We took a few pictures with the liberty bell, and read about its history. The air conditioning inside the building felt great, but not good enough to satisfy our hunger. We headed across the street to a food court for brunch. We ordered Mexican food and cheesesteaks. After finishing, our chaperone asked if we wanted to do a bit more walking around since we had some time left before the shuttle would pick us up at the hotel. We all said no, I don't know why everybody else said no, but I can tell you why I did. I wanted to spend more time with cohort, and every time we're together it's just nonstop laughs and great conversation. Today was no exception.

As we headed to the airport in the shuttle all I could think about was how in a matter of hours I'd be back in California. We checked our bags in, went through security, and bought an early dinner before we were able to sit down. We boarded the plane shortly after that. The plane ride was about six hours, but it went by so fast. I think it went  by fast for me because I wanted to spend more time with my cohort! We talked and laughed so much during our final hours together, and it just made it that much harder to accept the fact that our trip was coming to an end.

I was so overwhelmed when I saw my mom and sisters,and they were holding a welcome back poster. My mom was clearly overwhelmed as well, because she began to cry almost immediately after she saw me. I was welcomed back with tons of hugs and kisses. Now that I am laying in my own bed I can finally say it,I'm home.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Home At Last

Today, started off early, as if it was a normal Saturday. But instead of a trip to a major  city on the East Coast, our destination was home, back on the West Coast. I managed to get ready early enough to see most of my friends leave. By the time the Penn cohort was leaving, the quad, a once lively place, seemed very sad and lonely. I felt sad leaving Penn after experiencing many great memorable moment.

Once the Penn team officially signed out, we had three hours to pack with one final memory. Ian Lawrence said that he had lived in Philly for two years and never has seen the Liberty Bell. He suggested that we all go, which we did. As we waited in line to see the bell, we had our usual talks and sharing of memories. After playing a game of hide-n-seek with the clouds, trying to avoid the sun, we made it inside the museum. I feel that after seeing the Liberty Bell, that I could leaving Philly, feeling like I did it all. We then went to grab our final lunch together, half got cheese steaks and the other half got Mexican food. Although, this was not most high quality food in the world, the moment in itself was high quality. We reflected on our journey and how it has only been over a month that we were all strangers packed in van. Yet now we see each other, not as strangers, but as some of the best friends one could wish for.

I think that TSA was a whole lot nicer here in Philly, in comparison with other airports. They helped us quickly get through, and be off with our day. We each grabbed a small bite for the 6-hour flight. I loved the flight. It was a very calm flight overall, but I found it a great time to reflect on my journey as an ILCer. I give many thanks to the ILC, and with everything they have done and asked of us, I still feel as that I owe them a ton.

We arrived at San Francisco Airport at 7:05PM, which lead to the final moments of us being together. While I was packing, I didn't notice that I place my Penn sweater in with the big 50 pound suitcase, so I was unable to wear it for our last group picture. After baggage claim, we were all started to dissipate with each of our families. Then, POOF, the team that went through life at Penn was split up for the first time. I know that I will miss everyone from this marvelous journey, but I also know that we will meet again but until then, I have some catching up to do with my bed.


I woke up. Class didnt start untill 10 today. That means that I was well rested and prepared for what was to be the last day of class which is exciting but also means that the family that grew during these past month would be broken up. Bittersweet memories and pictures would be all that would be left.

Today , we were learning about currency in other cities in the Us and how they are trying to stray away from the U.S dollar. To further elaborate on this topic , Professor Lamas played a video that one of his former students made.It was a very interesting video that had interesting facts regarding inflation and the different problems alternative currency faces against the U.S dollar. An example of alternative currency is the Ithaca hour. Now obviously , the Ithaca dollar can only be used in Ithaca New York, but the Ironic thing about it , is that one hour is 10 U.S dollars.

After lunch , We all came in for what was our last afternoon session , a somewhat emotional session. It was setup in as a Socratic seminar. We were all in a circle and what we talked about was all up to us. Many people had many interesting question. After about an hour , we were let out to go pack and finish up any necessities. I said goodbye to a lot of friends that were becoming close friends and couldn't seem to let a hug go. I ended up hugging Alana Rebbeck for over a minute long.

This was the hardest part of the day , so after I finished packing I ended up coming back for more hugs! After everything was over I felt bittersweet , but there were still more festivities to come. Summer discovery was throwing something that was similar to a drive-in movie. This was the last chance to bond with every one  before we all headed our separate ways.

Home Is Where My Bed Is

This morning I woke up to an unusually quiet dorm room. If it were any other day I'd be able to hear the hustle and bustle of people scurrying to the bathrooms before class. Not today though, today was departure day. I packed the last of my stuff and then went outside to take pictures with all of the new friends I made. Ian came to get us at about 9AM and we were off. It was actually kind of sad leaving the Penn campus once and for all. We left our luggage at Ian's hotel and went to do some last minute site-seeing. After being in Philadelphia for a month we decided we should probably see the Liberty Bell. We waited in a long line to see the magnificent bell and went to grab our last meal in Pennsylvania. We all sat around two small tables and shared many laughs and made more memories together before going to the airport.

The shuttle ride was rather quiet. I think everyone was trying to digest the fact that we were actually leaving. The plane ride home was a long six hours but I spent my time reading Freakanomics, a book lent to me by Ian, and watching the scenery slowly change from clouds to mountains to cities. We took one last group photo in our Penn sweatshirts before going to baggage claim. Once we reached baggage claim it was time to say "see ya later" rather than "goodbye". We all hugged and promised to stay in touch then we all went our separate ways.

There is no doubt in my mind that one day soon we'll all see each other again, but after spending more than a month together it is kind of hard to just walk away and return to "normal" life. I will miss Philadelphia and all of the people I met while there. While dorm living and university life were quite the experience, the moment I've been waiting for has finally approached, time to hop in the full-sized bed awaiting me just a few feet from where I sit.

Home Again, Home Again

Twelve hours ago, Christine and I were struggling to carry my two suitcases down the stairs so that I could check out of the dorms. Ten hours ago, I was at the Liberty Bell on a last-minute sightseeing mission. Eight hours ago, I was buying food with the rest of the Penn cohort at the Philadelphia airport. Now I have no roommate, no Philly, and no cohort, but I know that the memories of this experience will stay with me for a very long time.

After a lot of tearful goodbyes, we left the Fisher-Hassenfeld quad for the last time. Mr. Lawrence sweet-talked the front desk people at the Sheraton into watching our luggage for us while we took a quick trip downtown to see the Liberty Bell. There were a bunch of exhibits before the bell itself, discussing its forging and past uses. I was surprised that the exhibits mentioned the contrast between the declaration of liberty that the bell represented and the reality of oppression that women, African slaves, and other minority groups were facing at the time. It wasn’t something that I had expected to see at such a patriotic museum, and I appreciated the honesty.

Once we took pictures by the historic landmark, we bought lunch at a nearby food court. I got a Philly cheesesteak, my first ever. It wasn’t amazing, but I think that’s because it came from a food court instead of one of the famous restaurants. I’m just glad that I got a chance to try one before leaving Philadelphia.

Our plane ride was pretty uneventful. I spent most of the time reading Fast Food Nation, my summer reading assignment for AP Lang. Although I don’t usually read nonfiction, the subject matter is fascinating and I’m looking forward to class discussions about the book. We walked off of the plane to greet our parents, each of us proudly wearing UPenn sweatshirts. I’m going to miss being so close with everyone in the cohort, and even though we’ll hang out, it won’t be the same. I was really happy to see my family again, but I'm going to miss the independence that I had at UPenn and the friends that I made there. I'm so thankful that I had this opportunity to branch out and experience college life before beginning college apps, and words cannot express my gratitude to the ILC for making this possible.

30 Degrees Colder

I can't believe I was in Philadelphia this morning.  I woke up a little after 7 and jammed the remainder of my stuff into my suitcase.  Once I had packed up my room, I said good-bye to my roommate, Temi, who left on an early shuttle. The following hour consisted of hugs and good-byes.  A couple people left as early as four in the morning, and sadly, I didn't get to say god-bye to everyone I wanted to.  

Ian came to get us around 9, and we went to see the Liberty Bell.  Seeing as we spent a month in Philadelphia, we thought it was about time to visit the historical sites.  I learned that the Bell, although having no legitimate account of it being rung on Independence Day, became a symbol for freedom in many aspects of American life.  The exhibits preceding the bell held many accounts of the suffrage and abolitionist movements use of the symbol.  After seeing the bell and snapping a few pictures, we got our last lunch in Philly and spent almost an hour laughing and talking, taking advantage of our last opportunity to bond before heading home. 
Our flight was pretty uneventful, although moderately turbulent.  I spent most of the six hours reading my summer assignment book for AP Language, a significant reminder of heading back to reality.  Once we arrived, things got a little sadder. Although we promise to see each other again (a lot), our trip is over.  We all rolled out, in our Penn sweatshirts, to our awaiting parents.  It was amazing to see my parents again, and after pulling my suitcase off the carousel, I said my good-byes and left.  

We stopped at Gordo's Burritos on the way home to get real Mexican food for the first time in a month.  I definitely missed that place while at Penn.  The Liberty Bell was great, traveling was fine, but I think the most amazing thing today was getting in my own bed.  In some ways, this trip felt like a lifetime, but in others, it feels like I never left.  I have more than a month's worth of experiences to remember, and I can't believe it's over all ready. I guess Einstein was right; time really is relative.

Expectations Were Exceeded!

I can't believe that tonight will be my last night in this room. I will never again sit in the chair in which I'm sitting right now, sleep in this room, look up at these walls, walk with Chloe to class, have dinner with Clara and Mariko at Houston Market, have late night talks with Anika (my roommate), but the most saddening part is that I probably won't see any of the people I met here ever again.

I thought class was going to be extremely sad, and that many tears would be shed. I wouldn't say it was like that at all. Well, okay, it was a bit sad but I felt lucky. Lucky to have met all these wonderful people, take this amazing class with Prof. Lamas, and had the opportunity to be a part of a program like this. We took pictures in the morning to be able to look back at this experience in the future, and remember who was there with us through the journey.

Prof. Lamas did lecture for a small portion of the class. He played a video about currency in different places. The video was made by a former student of his, and it was very interesting. I thought it was going to be boring, because money is what everybody talks about, and I'm tired of hearing about it. The video wasn't about U.S. dollars, it was about how cities have developed their own unique currency systems. An example would be in Ithaca, New York, where they use hours. I'm not referring to just an hour a concept of time, it is a paper just like our money is. One hour would be the equivalent of $10, and half an hour would be $5. It was so fascinating to learn about how all of these different communities came together to organize a whole new currency system that they would all benefit from.

The afternoon part of the class was set in a socratic seminar style. We all sat in a big circle so nobody had to look at the back of some one's head, we were all facing each other. We reflected on yesterday's visit to Juntos, and our overall day. Prof. Lamas wanted to know what we were thinking, how we were feeling, and if we had any questions about anything at all. At about 3, he allowed anybody who wanted to leave to do so at that time. I really had to go because I had not even started packing, and everybody was supposed to be packed by 5 today. I just couldn't say goodbye, so I left until the end of class which was at 5. It was sad saying goodbye to Professor Lamas and Michael. They have made such an impact on my life!

I wasn't expecting this trip to be as wonderful as it was. It has been an unforgettable experience, but it is time for me to go home. It's hard to imagine that by this time tomorrow I will be sleeping in my bed!

Friday, July 27, 2012


If I had to compare today to the last day of regular school, I would have to say that it was harder to part with this program; mainly due to the fact that many of my classmates live in entirely different countries and I most likely will not be seeing the majority of my new friends after tomorrow morning.  Although we spent some time, near the end of class, reflecting on the last four weeks and saying our goodbyes, Prof. Lamas spent a large portion of the time teaching us about alternative currencies.

One way that many communities throughout the U.S. and cities in other countries are building their communities is by straying away from dollar bills and circulating new currency that is specific to their area.  Cities like Ithaca, NY, Berkshares, Massachusetts, Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo, Japan have all adopted this method of alternative currency as a way to bring prosperity to their communities.  People feel extremely comfortable with this because this way they know where the money is going and, in turn, they are able to create closer relationships with people in their communities.  The less economic stress that people feel, the more they are able to focus on helping others, and having alternative currencies relieves that pressure.  In a film that we watched on this topic, the alternative currency is still paper money but the images printed on them are of local significance, giving the users of this currency a stronger sense of community.  Many local markets, restaurants, and other businesses in these cities accept about 10-100% of the alternative currency.  The banks within these areas have generously printed these notes and supported this method as well.  This idea relates back to the days of barter, but is more modernly adapted of course; however, the system in Greater Buenos Aires is more closely related to the past trade system.  When inflation rises too high, bartering takes over the community to bring it back up to speed.  In the film many people in that area talked about the great variety of goods provided at the station, and I thought that it was amazing how smoothly the process worked, and works, for them.  Maybe I could start some sort of alternative currency within my own community, although I am not sure exactly how well it would work out.  I do support this idea though, despite its cracks and complications, and I am so glad that Prof. Lamas used part of the last day of class to provide us with more interesting information and develop deep discussion.  

Iris and I being silly
I cannot believe the day has come that we have to go back home!  I am very excited to see my family again and sleep in my own bed, but I will dearly miss my Social Justice class here at the University of Pennsylvania.  Today in class, I was imagining how I would feel after a week back at home, and I knew that not long after I got back, I would wish I was back East again.  This thought made me appreciate and love every minute of class today, even more than I normally do.  I have absolutely LOVED taking this course and meeting Andrew Lamas, Michael, and Nantina who is one of our T.As.  I cried a little when we were saying goodbye because, even though I have most of my classmates on Facebook, I don't know when I will ever see any of them again, and that is the saddest thought going through my mind right now.  I will make sure to keep in touch with everyone though, and I wish I lived in Philadelphia so I could take classes with Prof. Lamas in the Fall!  I am very jealous of the residential students right now, but I can always email Andy whenever I have any questions or anything.  I cannot believe how wonderful our teachers and guest speakers were in this class!  They are all truly incredible people and I hope that I can effectively use my widened perspective to create change in my own community back in California.  Goodnight Philadelphia, I will miss you so much.

Sappy, (Sad + Happy)

Today, everybody was excited for the day to end, so that they can go home. Or this is what they thought before that day had a chance to progress. We began class with our Hershey Park presentations. I loved how everybody integrated a video of their ride, which made me feel as if I rode.  I am definitely coming back to Pennsylvania to ride all the rides at Hershey because they made them look like so much fun.

After that, things became emotional. Eli kick started the emotions by talking our future, Penn, and the number one determining factor of everything we ever attempt to do in life: determination. He included an example of Ben Franklin with his speech, which is customary whenever he talks about Penn. Then he put us on the spotlight by talking about our blogs, which made me feel a rush of joy. He then went on to talk about one of my previous blogs, Swimming With Dolphins, and what a coincidence it was that it was nearly identical to the Penn Summer Motto, Swim With Dolphins. I then was given a post of the Penn Summer program, which I now regret placing at the bottom of my suitcase because I forgot to take a picture. I almost forgot, I need to give a shout-out to Alec because he asked for it and he reads my blogs.

Emotions hit everyone when Bill nearly cried while he was talking about the fun we had. Then thanks to Penny, we watched a slideshow of the whole summer. This was a very heart warming slideshow because it added on to memories of all fun we shared. I have to thank Brian for giving us a CD with everything we did over the course of the program. We then got a chance to know Bill from a powerpoint that showed the evolution of Bill, from prom to present. So as usual, we tried things up with a laugh. After class, everybody stayed to take a picture with the best physics professor ever, Bill. I even got him to sign my poster of Penn. Boy am I going to miss him.

Bill, The Best Physics Teacher Ever
After class, I went to my room to finish up packing. Once done, I had my final moments with some of the best people I have ever met. We spent our time talking about the great memories we shared along with a game of pool. Later that evening, we attended a special talent show and then watched our finally movie together, 21  Jumpstreet. Once the movie ended, we went back to the lounge and continued remenicing about how much fun we had together. Then the sad part came, floor time, where everybody said their final good-byes and hoped that we will meet again. It was a roomful of hugs and sadness. But apart from being sad, I am thankful for having the opportunity to have such a marvelous summer here at Penn.

Until then, let destiny bring those who were close, together in the future.


This morning I had a hard time getting up. Didnt get such a goodnight sleep , so I found myself waking up at about 8:30. As soon as I woke up , I took a deep breath and said two more days. I Suddenly felt overjoyed but at the same time sad(bittersweet). The people that I have come to know so well and that I finally got comfortable with , would be leaving and so would I. Possibly never to see again in life , with the only communication being a non expressing cellular phone or computer. After all the deep thought off I was to class.

Today we had two guest speakers , one by the name Judith baker , who is a a lawyer and a social worker who also works with the HIAS foundation. She spoke on the topic of of immigration , as that was the topic for the latter part of the week. She specifically gave us information on Asian immigration , along with the reasons that there is immigration. Our second speaker , Javier Hernandez , spoke on the topic of Mexican immigration. He shared many personal stories regarding this topic and also shared a lot of opinions of the immigration laws , facts and statistics.

Today we were not having lunch at Penn. We made our voyage to Juntos. This is a Latino immigrant community that fights for human rights as workers, youth, parents , and of course immigrants. This was basically a continuation of the morning session.We got a chance to speak with some of the students that were being mentored . This young lady explained her experiences being an immigrant and becoming accustomed to the U.S. Going through High school , she explained how she was always bullied because of her accent, and it came to a point were she wanted to go back. Her mom forced her to back because she knew it was best for her. through her perseverance she graduated high school. Another hard point in her life was that all her friends were applying for colleges and seldom asked her if she had got any acceptances.  The answer for her would be no because she hadn't applied to any because she was un-documented. That meant no support from the government and she would actually be paying double what a regular american would pay for college. So if tuition was 60,000 , she would be paying 120,000. With high aspirations of  going to college she had to choice the cheapest route, and is going to be attending community college this fall.

I truly learned a lot today, and was glad to be able to learn from so many different people.

Clear Eyes Full Hearts

When I first walked into the David Rittenhouse Laboratory four weeks ago, I must confess to some butterflies about spending so much time away from home, studying with intimidatingly smart people from around the world. Now it’s time to leave, and I find that I don’t want to go. I feel so lucky to have spent this time with my incredible peers, at a beautiful university, with such good teachers. I may not ever see most of these people ever again, but I know that they’ve helped shape me into a new person over the past four weeks.
Today, the Hershey Park groups gave presentations about each of their rides. My group analyzed the wooden coaster Wildcat. We showed graphs of our acceleration in the x, y, and z directions (side to side, height, longitudinal) and explained how they related to the altitude graph, which was basically a schematic of the ride itself. We also did a little algebra to find the maximum speed and acceleration. Each group had presentations similar to ours, but each group added their own twist to the presentation. Some groups focused more on calculations, while others compared their own data with the statistics offered on the Hershey Park website. Each presentation was unique and easy to understand. I thought that every group did a good job presenting their data in a clear, concise format.
Saying goodbye to Ryan and Craig

After the presentations, it was time for the farewell speeches. Eli popped in to thank us for a wonderful summer and wish us luck in our future endeavors. He also thanked Bill for being such an amazing educator, at which point we all burst out clapping. Bill also gave a brief speech about how much this program means to him.
He told us that we were all wonderful people and that we should never lose sight of the things within ourselves that matter to us. He also thanked Ryan, Craig, and Penny for helping him make this program possible, as he is “not a responsible adult.” If Bill is the definition of an irresponsible adult, then I definitely want to be one when I grow up. His combined passions for teaching and physics are inspirational, and his teaching style helped make modern physics fun and accessible over the past four weeks.

Bill also included a surprise announcement in the middle of his speech–a shout out to the ILC, telling our classmates to check out our blogs to find out what kind of horrible rumors we were spreading about them throughout the month. I was also startled to discover that Bill, Ryan, Craig, and Penny have been reading our blogs ever since the program started; I hope that they’ve enjoyed them. If you are reading this now, thank you for an amazing four weeks at PSSA. All of you are wonderful teachers, and you made my summer one-of-a-kind.

I felt like the whole program was over when class ended, but we still had an entire afternoon on our hands. I finished packing, went to Pod for dinner with Christine, Clara, and two of my floormates, and attended the talent show. My floor screamed especially loudly when Rosemary, who lives a few doors down, gave a heart-wrenching rendition of A Time To Say Goodbye. Her incredible talent aside, it was a nice change to hear something new after so many pop songs. I also found her selection particularly appropriate, as we’re all going our separate ways tomorrow. Mr. Lawrence is going to pick us up at 8 AM to do a little sightseeing before heading to the airport.

I will miss my roommate, my classmates, and my teachers, but although I’m sad to be leaving, I can’t help feeling so thankful and happy that this happened at all. Everyone here had such a unique perspective on the world and I learned so much from them all. Thanks to everyone who made it possible for me to be here, at UPenn, learning physics with the coolest teacher in the world and the best classmates ever. I leave with clear eyes and a heart full of the experience of a lifetime.

Bill and the PSSA chapter of the Penn cohort

The Grand Finale

This morning in class, we were the teachers.  Our subject: roller coasters.  Each of the nine groups presented the roller coaster they rode at Hershey Park.  I was very proud of my group's presentation, and we got to go second, which made the rest of the morning way more relaxing.  I enjoyed watching each presentation, learning the characteristics of each ride, and seeing the different approaches that groups took to analyze their data. 

When all the presentations were done, Eli came by to talk about Penn and our possible futures here.  He also took the opportunity to mention our blogs to everyone.  If any of you are actually reading this, thank you! You make me happy.  Then Bill gave a sentimental closing speech.  He has been quite the inspiration these past four weeks, and it's clear to see how much he loves what he does.  To finish up, we got some more NASA-related things from Penny.  Then, we watched a slide show of Bill through the years, a very light note to end our last day of class.

I ate an early dinner at Pod with Mariko, Christine, and a few other friends before the Summer Discovery talent show at 6.  Everyone here, despite being incredibly intelligent, is amazingly talented, and the show was quite entertaining.  For the rest of the evening I watched 21 Jump Street on a huge projector screen in the quad and ate pizza.

Everything today had a "last" attached to it. "This is the last time we'll eat lunch here." " This is the last time we have to sign in." "This is my last piece of pizza."  It didn't really hit me until today that this experience is ending.  Of course it will have lasting effects, but I will never get to sit in class and watch Bill do a demo with this same group of people ever again.  I am so thankful for this past month, and it is something I will never forget.  Still, I am excited to see my family tomorrow and experience Bay Area weather again.  As long as I can get my sheets and pillow into my suitcase tomorrow morning, it should be a smooth day of travel, and a nice homecoming.

Smile Because It Happened

Today was a very exciting day for everyone, it was the last day of classes! I stopped by Einstein Bros to get a bagel and stock up on retail items then went to class. I was very excited to learn that there would be no afternoon class today. The morning was spent on Hershey Park roller coaster data analysis presentations. I found all of the presentations to be very exciting. Of course the data was interesting, but my favorite part was seeing how each group put together a presentation on the same information. They were all so unique!

 Next came my absolute favorite part: the heartwarming, tearjerking speeches. Eli Lesser talked to us and repeatedly told us how remarkable each and every one of us is. He even mentioned the team of spies that has been blogging every single night of the trip. Yup that's right, he mentioned the Ivy League Connection. After Eli's truly inspirational speech came Bill's. Bill choked up during his speech and for me that really showed how dedicated he is to doing what he loves. When I saw Bill get emotional, it reminded me of a Dr. Seuss quote that can be applied to almost all "goodbye's" in life. "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." Yes, it's been a truly amazing journey over the course of four short weeks and the speakers today reminded us of all the hard work we put in, but that doesn't mean we have to be sad it's over. We also don't have to say goodbye just yet. It's more of a "see ya later" with hope that someday, somewhere we'll all cross paths again.

We ended our last class with a slideshow presentation of pictures from over the summer. It was really nice to see how the program played out in front of my eyes. When I sit back and think back to when I first entered the class, I can see how much I've grown.

To end the day there was a mandatory talent show which was very entertaining. I absolutely loved all of the acts! Who knew I was surrounded by so many musically inclined people? A few hours after the talent show, "21 Jump Street" was shown on a big inflatable screen in the quad. There was also food served, which was great since I didn't eat dinner.

I'm now sitting in my dorm getting ready to climb into my loft bed in Lippincott 108 for the last time to get a well-deserved 8+ hours of sleep. All day my mind has been exploring the growth that I've seen in myself in just four weeks. What really stuck with me today was how important determination is. Bill and Eli said that in order to distinguish ourselves from the  other thousands of people who will be competing for spots in college, we have to be really determined. Not everyone has had the chance to go study at an Ivy league school for a whole month. Like Bill said, we could be sitting at home playing video games like everyone else but instead we chose to dedicate our summer to physics, this already says a lot about us. If I keep going on, my reflection blog will just be a repeat of everything I'm saying now.

A little over a month ago I wrote in my departure blog how the next time you'd hear from me I'd be on the East Coast. Well the same is true this time around, except I'll be returning home.

Goodbye East Coast, it's been fun!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

South Philly in the Hot Hot Summer Sun

Since I was a little girl, a certain path of life was ingrained in my mind.  I would go through primary and secondary schooling, head off to college, and find a career that fit me.  Although I have gained perspective and understanding of the world over the years, I still expect myself to continue on this "track to success."  The thing that I never really thought about however, is that there are so many immigrants coming to the United States that once believed this path was possible for them too, but then had their dreams shattered when the time came around to apply to college.  This issue is extremely complicated and I am just beginning to understand the life that many immigrants live, and their struggle to obtain rights that I take for granted.

Today, we talked about immigration into the United States and every aspect of that topic itself.  We had a guest speaker named Judith Bernstein Baker who works for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society that has been around for the last 130 years.  Once an organization that helped Jewish immigrants, it now serves people from many different ethnic groups who are trying to enter this country.  Nowadays, the primary reason for immigration is for family reunification, but there are also still a great deal of people who seek freedom from the persecution they face in their home countries.  Judith explained the lengthy, nit picky, and slightly skewed immigration process that everyone must go through to try to obtain some sort of legal residency in this country.  The periods of time that people are permitted to stay can range from a couple months to many years; but still, the extensive process causes many people to enter illegally, which is the most dangerous and risky ways of reaching America.  

In the afternoon, around one or two o'clock, we visited the Juntos organization in South Philadelphia.  Here, we were able to talk to a number of undocumented students, many of whom are in the same grade level that we are.  We broke into smaller groups and they shared their experiences of entering this country; most of them came when they were very young.  They also wanted to hear our stories and learn about the everyday reality that we live in.  When this one guy Eric talked about how difficult it has been for him to even keep trying in school because of all of the setbacks and discouraging advice he has received, I felt such empathy for him, and his story made me understand how important it really is for youth especially to have full citizenship in this country.  Without it, they are restricted from being able to make the best life for themselves, and many feel such pressure that they end up falling into the "pipeline prison."  

I am so glad that we talked about this issue today because, while I know a bit about the problem, I have never had a direct conversation with someone my age who lives this reality.  Not only did I learn more about the history of pro-immigration and anti-immigration organizations in Philadelphia, but my mind was widely opened to the struggle of these people; which is one that I only knew the surface of before. 

Appreciate It

This morning's class was taught by two guest speakers, Judith Bernstein Baker and Javier Garcia Hernandez. Judith is a lawyer as well as a social worker, the foundation she works with is called HIAS. She talked to us about what her organization does, the history of it, and immigration here in the U.S.. Yesterday, we focused on Asian immigrants, and so today we turned our attention on over to Mexican immigrants. Javier gave us a lot of information and personal statements regarding the current immigration laws, hardships faced by immigrants, and facts and statistics. I don't want to go into detail about this topic, because I, being Mexican, would be clearly biased to one side. What I will say is that if you'd like to learn more about the organization Judith is a part of, you can visit their website: www.hiaspa.org.

Today's lunch wasn't a normal lunch for me, or for anybody else in the class. Instead of letting us go at 12 so we can go get our lunch and reconvening at 2 for the afternoon session, we took a trip. We went to Juntos In the organization's own words, "Juntos is a Latino immigrant community led organization in Philadelphia fighting for our human rights as workers, parents, youth, and immigrants." Since the morning's topic was immigration, more specifically Mexican immigration, it only seemed right that we visited that organization. When we arrived we were ushered into their cafeteria, and they served us lunch. They made us tamales and flautas, which I thought was incredibly thoughtful. Now I don't know if any of you know, but it takes so much time and effort to make tamales especially for a large group of people like us. I felt really welcomed and comfortable in that environment.

After we all finished up the delicious lunch, the organization's leader, Miguel, spoke to us. We separated into small groups of about six, and each group had a member of the organization to talk to. My group had Eric, and he was amazing. He was a bit shy at first and asked Miguel to answer a lot of the questions that we had asked. After a bit of time, he began to open up a bit and confessed that he doesn't talk much because he feels that his English isn't good enough. He wants to go to college but without a social security number, it might not be possible. Eric knows where he wants to go, what he wants to study, and that he will work as hard as he has to, to accomplish his goals. He really made me realize how lucky I am. I can apply to any college I want, he can't even apply. There are so many opportunities here in America, but most of them are only available to citizens. It is hard for Eric, it has been hard ever since he came to the U.S. when he was four, but  he seems so confident that he'll accomplish every goal he has set for himself. He was an inspiration.

The rest of the day was quite productive. The class walked around South Philly mainly at the Italian Marker, with a quick stop at Geno's (cheesesteak place). We looked around to see the influence immigrants had and continue to have in those areas. After walking around for what felt like a million years in a sauna, we headed back to campus on the Septa. I did my last load of laundry, well I hope I don't have to do more tomorrow. I also began to prep my things for packing, all of my drawers are empty and my clothes are all separated and folded. I went to the gym for one of my last work out sessions, but that wasn't until after I returned from a dessert outing with the girls from my floor and RC. The night ended with Chloe, Alysa, and myself pitching in to buy Insomnia cookies. Alysa had been telling me nonstop for the past week that I cannot leave Penn without trying the famous Insomnia cookies, so I thought I might as well get it over with. I must admit they were pretty good, but nothing extraordinary. I think I had set my expectations a bit high since I had heard so much about them, but either way I'm glad I tried them!

Should We Purposely Blind Ourselves?

Today, began as every other day of this week, early and then to Einstein Bros. As strange as it is, I didn't even feel hungry for breakfast, but I pushed myself to finish my conference dollars. This feeling of fullness, in my theory, happened because I have been buying a ton of snacks and drinks at lunch.  And then continuously eating them throughout the day. Nonetheless, I had a huge breakfast to start the day.

These past days, we have had weird scheduling that some may even call disorder. But today, the laws of physics were broken and the disorder became order. Bill started class with a morning lecture, like the good old times were the end was not near. Now if you are a physics buff, you might have guessed what he lectured on, any guesses. If you guessed thermodynamics, then you are correct. For those who guessed wrong, thermodynamics is about the laws of mechanical energy and heat. 

We were then joined by a guest speaker, Professor Phil Nelson, who lectured on the human eye and its reaction with light. So apparently humans don't have the best eyes in the animal kingdom, falling short to our food, the chicken. Our eyes only detect three colors, that combine in different mixtures to form all the other colors. Chicken on the other hand, can detect four, thus giving them a better scope of color vision. Hope is not lost, but it comes with a price. This solution if for those hardcore High Definition fanatics whose dream is to get more color. This is used mostly for the blind, where light receptors, which are far superior than that of the human eye, are placed in the eye sockets and then connected to the brain, thus giving the patient the best vision possible. This is a bit extreme for me, I love my eyes and don't plan on losing them ever.

I suffered from the same feeling of fullness at lunch, to that of breakfast. I decided to eat less and buy just water bottles. Even though my backpack ended up filled with these bottles, I didn't mind it because it was in the 90s today. I will trade in thirst for tired legs any day of the week.

After lunch, we had our second set of presentations. Today was interest groups, which leaves Hershey Park for tomorrow. I found our presentation on the cloud chamber really differnent to that of all the others. Everyone else was able to perform some type ot test, which gave them numbers as data. We had no numbers, but instead pictures and videos.  It was really fun sharing our experiment and know that I will definitly build my own cloud chamber at home, using the YouTube videos Craig showed us.

After class, my Hershey Park group met up to power through our presentation. I got my first chance to actual analyze the data and was shocked. On the GLX, the data appeared only graph, but using LoggerPro, we were able to break it down into three graphs. Thus making it more understandable....thank you LoggerPro. 

The rest of my evening was spent doing laundry and packing everything back into my suitcase. I was then cut short because it was my uncle's birthday today, so I ended up have an hour long conversation with everybody at his bday party. Tomorrow is my younger brother's birthday, and I just know that I will have another hour long conversation. I'm just glad I started packing today. With tomorrow being the last day of class, I just don't know what to feel: happiness to go back home or sadness because I will have to say good-bye.

Red, Green, Blue

I feel like time is slowing down for our last few days at UPenn. In contrast to last week, which flew by like crazy, this week has passed at a more sedate pace. I’m glad that this is the case, since it means that I can savor my last days at UPenn more thoroughly. I remember that when I first came here, I felt like I didn’t have enough to do after class. Now, I feel as though there couldn’t possibly be enough hours in the day to do everything that I want to do before leaving.

This morning was our last lecture, a fact that didn’t fully sink in until writing those words. Bill gave a talk about thermodynamics, one of the topics covered in the latter part of a high school physics course. Most of the talk was review, but it was good to hear the information presented from a new perspective. The talk included heat energy, which is highly relevant to the current energy crisis. As always, our lecture ties in to something current, which just proves that physics is related to everything.

Bill’s lecture was followed by guest speaker Professor Phil Nelson, a faculty member here at UPenn. His talk covered human vision and the nature of color. After so many cosmologists, I enjoyed hearing about a completely new subject. Human eyes are made up of photoreceptive cells, and each cell is one of three different types that each read a different sensitivity on the light spectrum. The three main colors that the human eye detects are red, green, and blue. The rest of the shades are mixtures of these wavelengths. I was a little annoyed at Sesame Street during the presentation, because for most of my life they've led me to believe that the primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Obviously, I was a bit confused as a child. Another cool thing we learned was that there are a few shades of color, like certain butterfly wings, than can be detected by the human eye but can’t be simulated by computers.

Today was our second day of student presentations. My interest group presented our radio astronomy project to the class, going up first.  We first gave a brief overview of the radio waves and their applications, and then explained our experiment and results. I had a lot of fun working on the radio telescope last week, and I’m glad that we had a chance to share our project with everyone. It was also great to hear about all of the other experiments; everything sounded fun and exciting. Like I said, this has been a powerful incentive for me to try and do some sort of research in college.

I met with my Hershey Park group immediately after class to go over our presentation. Clara put together the PowerPoint that we’ll show in class, and she did an amazing job. We went over which part of the ride each of us would be covering, and I think that tomorrow will go smoothly.

The rest of my day was a combination of two things–a fun activity and an impossible task. The fun bit was the Harry Potter marathon going on in the lounge, and I dropped in throughout the evening to see bits of the movies. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, and I appreciated that Summer Discovery included that particular activity. I’m especially impressed with their weather control. Engineering a thunderstorm to come roaring in during the marathon was quite appropriate, and the UPenn weather wizards are to be congratulated.

My impossible task was to stuff all of my belongings back into my suitcase. I know that they used to fit because I brought everything here, but all of my possessions seem to have exploded and scattered themselves throughout my dorm room. Add the books, clothing, and souvenirs that I bought while I was here and my suitcase situation is looking pretty dicey. Christine and I will do a thorough room check before we leave to make sure we don’t forget anything, and I think that because I started packing a day early I’ll make everything work. I’m going to really miss Christine, but we promised each other to keep in touch, and I don’t plan to be the one who breaks that promise.

Penultimate Presentations

Yesterday, about 3 and a half weeks too late, I found out that the bagel place at Houston Market takes our Penn ID conference dollars.  I headed over there with Mariko around 8:15 and bought an extensive breakfast, trying to use up the money left on my card.  My breakfast was delicious, and I think I'll eat at the Einstein Bro's Bagels for the rest of the trip- one day.  

For most of the morning, Bill lectured on thermodynamics.  Although most of his lecture was covered in my high school course, he approached it in a completely different way, and included many demos. To finish up the morning, we were joined by Professor Phil Nelson.  He spoke about light and our eyes, combining technical biophysics and information on new medical technology.  We only really see three colors that combine to create the rest of them.  Chickens, on the other hand, see four and therefore have a larger scope of color vision.  Work done to expand our spectrum correlates with advances in genetics and neurology. 

After lunch, where I attempted to spend even more money, we all presented about our interest groups.  No matter how interesting everyone's presentations were, I still felt confident that Quantum Mechanics was a great choice for me and, most likely, the best group (though I may be a little biased).  I felt that our presentation went well and I hope we were moderately clear in explaining our very confusing topic.

I spent most of my afternoon packing, and I;m almost positive my suitcase shrunk over the past month.  It will be a miracle if I can get all my stuff in it, and an even greater achievement if it ends up under 50 pounds.  To finish my day, I caught the tail end of the Harry Potter marathon.  As we started the final movie, a huge lightning storm raged across the sky, it was very poetic.  I think I have seen more lightning on this trip than any other time in my life. Tomorrow, we present our roller coaster projects, and then we will be released for the rest of the day.  I can't believe our class is wrapping up.  There will be many good-byes tomorrow.

A Morning With The Einstein Brothers

I started my morning off with an Asiago bagel with cream cheese and a cafe mocha from a place I discovered thanks to David. This morning David and I were surprised by the long line at Einstein Brothers because we thought it was a well kept secret. Once we both got our orders we went to class and sat through a lecture on thermodynamics. After the lecture, Phil Nelson, a biophysicist came in and talked to us about the relationship between the human brain and colors. It was really fascinating to learn how our brains are so easily fooled.

Lunch time was filled with students buying as much food and retail items as possible to spend up the last of the their conference dollars. We now have one more day to spend the balance remaining on our cards. Tomorrow I plan to buy a lot of snacks for our journey back home on Saturday.

When we came back from lunch we started on our group presentations on special interest groups. My special interest group focused on non-Newtonian fluids, more specifically oobleck. Our presentation went more into detail with our experiments since the class already got to experience the strange properties of oobleck last week.

After class, some of the people on my floor went out to dinner with RC Naya. The six of us ate at a nearby Chilli's. Dinner was a great chance to talk to Naya who will be finishing her senior year of college in a few months. It is always nice to receive advice on college from multiple people. Chloe and I returned to the Quad and played a little in the rain. Later during the night, Ivette, Chloe, and I ordered a box of Insomnia Cookies and enjoyed each others company and laughter.

Tomorrow is the last day of class and I still can't believe it! I have to go plan out what goodies I'm going to  buy tomorrow!

The Divide

Since the founding of the United States of America, people have immigrated from far and wide corners of the world into this land known for its fundamental rights of freedom and roads paved with gold.  The opportunities provided by the U.S. have, and continue to bring in a variety of cultures, which in turn has shaped our extremely diverse nation.  Today's issues with immigrants have resulted from a combination of both past and present events, and involve a number of ethnic groups from all over the world.  For class today, we focused primarily on Asian-American immigrants and their struggles in Philadelphia.  

There was no in-class discussion today because we went on two different field trips!  The first being a visit to Philadelphia's China Town, and then after lunch we headed out to West Philadelphia to visit the Philadelphia Folklore Project.  Personally, the only knowledge I have of injustice toward Asian Americans is what I have learned in the history books at school, so it was very interesting to actually go out into these areas and learn to understand their feat from primary sources.  

We had a visiting professor by the name of Domenic Vitiello who, as stated in the syllabus, is an Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning at University of Pennsylvania's School of Design.  This morning Domenic led us around China Town and we observed the economic structure of the only concentrated Asian-American community in that area.  We noticed how the community was structured so that the occupants did not have to leave China Town to survive if they did not want to.  Domenic was telling us about the many development projects that were once possible threats to the community, and how this caused the people to organize and fight back against these projects.  The justification for tearing down churches to build more urban complexes was that there was nothing going on in China Town and therefore those developers were free to "rejuvenate" the land.  This lack of respect for Asian-Americans' cultures was also discussed when we visited Asian Americans United (AAU) and spoke with Ellen Somekawa.  This organization that she works for is actually a public school which provides the necessary services for English language learners, and it lies just outside of China Town.  Their official mission statement is that "AAU exists so that people of Asian ancestry in Philadelphia exercise leadership to build their communities and unite to challenge oppression."  Although it is a small school with only 450 students, it is one of the only public areas in that neighborhood, as that area lacks any parks or other open spaces that are designed to bring young people together.  Ellen talked about the injustices that Asian Americans in that area have faced in just the last decade, as well as how inhumane the police and other members of that area have responded to having immigrants from Asia come into "their" area.  Overall, the social system in place oppresses Asian Americans throughout that area to such great extents that they are actually dehumanized in a multitude of situations.  This is why I think that it is so important for organizations like AAU to exist because, like Ellen was saying, if the people of China Town want to maintain and even possibly expand their community, they need to be able to mobilize their citizens so that they can counter that dehumanization and speak out on their own behalf.  

During the second field trip, we learned about serious long-term hate crimes against Asian-American students in South Philadelphia High School.  While this issue exploded in 2009 and drew a lot of attention from news stations, the information regarding this story was quickly recreated and twisted into something that the students no longer related to.  As a way to avoid spreading misconceptions about this event, the woman working the exhibit we went to asked us not to photograph the texts or write about the story, as it takes away from the truth of the matter.  The We Cannot Keep Silent exhibit however, tells the journey the students went through to achieve justice, but through their own words.  They were a large part of creating the exhibit in the first place, and they were the final deciders on what to keep as well as what they felt was not relevant to their fight.  We only spent about half an hour there, but I made sure to read up on every section of the exhibit, and I found that these students used a lot of the tactics we talk about in class to fight back against the oppression they faced.  This trip and the visit to the AAU opened my mind more to the everyday struggles that so many people face and how people really fear for their lives on a daily basis.  This is such a terrible and frightening thought that I cannot possibly understand because I have not faced such extreme injustice in my life.  Tomorrow, we are with Domenic again, so I hope that we have time to go into further detail about what we saw and learned during out two trips today.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What Year Are We In?

For both the morning and afternoon class we went on a field trip! The first trip was to Chinatown, where the topic was Chinese immigration. We were told to walk at a slower pace than usual, and really take in everything we around us. It was a bit hard to read some of the signs, but there were a few people in our class who read Mandarin so they helped us out. Once in a while we would gather up in a corner for a small lecture and discussion. We talked about what we saw, and why we thought it was there. We were then led to a public high school. What was so special about this school was that it is the first of its kind. It is only available to Asian Americans, and it helps with the oppressing issues they face in today's society.

We went  back to campus for lunch, then at 2 met for the second trip of the day. This time we took the trolley to a museum. This museum is pretty tiny, and they usually have one display. The display they had available for us to see was about what happened in South Philadelphia High School on December 3, 2009. Throughout that whole 26 students were attacked and beaten by their peers, while nobody did anything to help. Out of those 26, 13 ended up in the hospital with serious injuries. Asians had been facing racism for a long time in that school, and on December 3 the hate due to their race had gone to all new extremes. Nobody helped them and they realized nobody ever would help them. They had to stand up for themselves, and they did. They organized an eight day boycott where they refused to go to the school where they did not feel safe. During the boycott, the students asked to meet with Philadelphia School District Superintendent Arlene Ackerman about their safety concerns, but Dr. Ackerman refused, saying she would only meet with them on school grounds “where they belong.” It wasn't until December 15, 2010 that the Philadelphia school district addressed the anti-Asian violence issues. It took them one year and twelve days to admit that there was a problem, that it was a racist hate crime. As I was reading all of the different testimonies from some of the 26 students, I was speechless. All I could think about was, "What year are we in?". That happened three years ago, that is really recent! I thought we were past all of the racist stages, but no I guess not, and that is so sad. Our country's name is the 'UNITED' States of America, but we aren't united, we've never been and we may never be. Even now all I can think about is what a victim from that day said, "I thought 'Oh my god, maybe I'm gonna die today.'" I don't think I'll ever forget those words, and I hope I never go through a situation that will cause me to think that.

Our short debate session.

After visiting the museum, we walked over to a nearby park. At the park we divided into four groups. We were debating on whether the U.S. should remain as it is now with closed borders, or change to open borders. My group was open borders, and it wasn't hard at all to come up with a strong argument for that side. Sadly, we hardly got any time to actually debate on it with a closed border group, because we ran out of time.
The best Mac & Cheese ever!

Mr. Lawrence reading the card we gave him.

Today, as you all know is the 25th, which means it has been exactly one month since we embarked on our journey together. I really cannot believe it has been a month already, it feels as though we just left El Cerrito High School. To celebrate, Mr. Lawrence took the Penn team out for dinner. We went to White Dog Cafe which is just a block from campus. We spent the whole night laughing, talking about the wonderful moments we've spent together, and enjoying the amazing food. We also bought our chaperone a couple of things as a way of saying 'Thank you'. The night ended all too soon, and so will this trip!