Tuesday, July 31, 2012

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.

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