Monday, June 25, 2012

The Beautiful St. Louis

Today seems to be the longest day of my life!  In the best way of course.  Right now it feels a bit surreal that we are in Missouri right now, but it sure does feel good.

Although I originally planned on arriving at 2:15 AM this morning at El Cerrito High, I ended up arriving at 2:35 AM due to my confused, sleepy body.  Even so, I managed to stay awake today through all of our great adventures.  

 I already love traveling by plane and the two we took today were super fun.  While we flew over each state, I could not stop myself from looking out the window and onto the land below.  From urban cities to mountain ranges, forests, and desert valleys, our plane soared over each type of landscape and they were all fascinating to view from up above.
                              Sky View of Arizona
 Once we arrived in St. Louis, the heat really begin to set in and I got my first feel for the humid weather.  The rental van was initially even hotter, but once we turned on the AC the temperature was cool and the car ride was awesome!  That car took us all over the place today, from the long road to the Knight hotel (I say long because we were a bit lost) on toward Dominic's restaurant where we ate an amazing dinner with two Washington University admission officers and two of the university's current students.

During the dinner we were able to ask the Washington representatives all sorts of questions regarding their experiences with the school.  Over delicious appetizers, entrees, and deserts the group of us really had the chance to get to know one another better and we ILC students learned a great deal about the university.  In fact, after having heard about the experiences of the school from each of our guests, Washington University has officially become a top choice for me in my college search.  Tomorrow we will be touring the campus and I am extremely excited to learn even more about this place after meeting with such incredible members of the school.  Not only does this school seem to be a friendly and inviting environment, but the campus is absolutely gorgeous and full of beautiful greenery.  While tonight I must catch some sleep, I am thrilled to further explore this campus and the city of St. Louis tomorrow!
Beautiful, Tall Trees Cover Washington University

I'm Ready For Bed

"What did I forget?", that was the one question I kept asking to myself as I, along with the rest of my family, arrived at ECHS. I was praying I didn't forget anything, because I was really worried that my suitcase would be more than 50 pounds. While Don was weighing my suitcase I was already thinking of what I could get rid of, because I was 110% my bag was more than 50 pounds. Can you imagine how surprised I was when Don told my suitcase was barely 30 pounds! I wasn't relieved, I was actually quite upset. I could have packed so many more things! Oh well, I packed everything I was going to need, and that's what matters. In almost no time at all we were in the shuttle, on our way to the airport.

Once at SFO things happened at a steady pace. We checked in our suitcases, went through security, and got a quick breakfast. We boarded the plane shortly, and the view was breathtaking.  I was seated next to Mariko and Clara. We managed to stay awake by talking to one another.  All three of us were ready for this 35 day journey to begin. Before we knew it we had landed in Phoenix, Arizona. We exited the plane and made our way over to Gate 28, where we would be boarding our next flight. The plane ride was a bit bumpier than the first, but nothing major. We arrived in St. Louis at around 1:42 PM, and we were never happier. Sitting down through two flights (even if they were pretty short) took a toll on my body. I was extremely sore and exhausted of course, but I can't blame it all on the plane ride. Please remember we had to be at ECHS at 2:45 AM.

We picked up our rental car, and that was when we felt it. We were clearly no longer in California, and this was no bay area weather. It was hot and very humid. I was wearing a sweater, but it felt like I was wearing 10 sweaters and standing in a sauna. You can imagine how happy we were when we finally reached the hotel, which has air conditioning! The air conditioning wasn't the only reason why we were so happy to here. This hotel is amazing! They have a fitness center and a complimentary snack pantry!

We ended the long day with a lovely dinner at "Dominic's". We were joined by four lovely guests. Together we shared many laughs, ate delicious foods, and enjoyed each others' companies. As for now, I am exhausted from a very long day and I am ready for bed. After today, bed may be what the Penn cohort is looking forward to the most. Goodnight!

Day One, WashU (Washington University)

I woke up today at 1:45AM in San Pablo, its now 9:48PM and now I am St. Louis. The journey to get here has been extremely exhausting due to the fact that I have been awoken for over 18 hours. It started off in El Cerrito High School. I walked up to Don Gosney with my luggage, praying to God that it wouldn't exceed 50 pounds. It was 47 pounds, three pounds away from 50. The extra jacket, the extra shirts, and the extra jeans that I had some space for would have jeopardized me. I said my final good-byes to my family and then off we were to SFO airport.

There was some traffic at baggage check-in and security, but we were able to push through. The security seem some what paranoid. I say this because as I put everything that was needed into the trays to be scanned, they wanted to see my plane ticket. Then once they checked my carry-on luggage and my ticket, I tried to place the ticket back into my pocket. They suspected me of hiding something in my pocket, so I had to hold the ticket in my hand with my arms up in the air as I passed the metal detector. Then when I got out, I tried to place the ticket, a small little piece of paper, back into my pocket. Now another security personal tells me to stop trying to hide something in my pockets.  Nonetheless, I got out alive.

The plane rides were to much fun. It was filled with laughter and jokes. As we got off in Phoenix, the heat started to hit me. Back home the weather was slightly chilly. There I got what Don was talking about the humidity. To summarize it, "It Was Hot!!!" But that was only the beginning of the new weather experience. St. Louis was even hotter than Phoenix at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Hotel Room
                     The Washington University

We got to Washington University at about 1:00PM, and were in our  rooms at 1:30PM. The rooms were amazing and I say the best part was that I could not hear the loud construction going on next to the hotel. I was only able to enjoy the room for a couple of minutes before I had to get ready for the dinner at Dominix. We were accompanied at the dinner by two students of Washington University and two Admission Officers. One thing that interested my was that many students at WashU have double majors. This was only one of many traits of WashU that was interested me. The food was extemely tasty. I felt that the made many of their dishes on the quantity side because nearly everyone was filled yet they didn't even finish their plates.

The Appetizeir
The Pasta
The Lobster Picante

Now I am at our first blog party. There is talk of all the fun adventures await us in our near future. But at the moment I just want to sleep.

At Last,St. louis

As the alarm clock sounded at 1:30 this morning, my rested body hopped out of bed with the excitement of a young child on christmas morning. Next was to get dressed in something somewhat comfortable for the overall  total of 3 hours of plane travel.After the sweet good by hugs and kisses I was off and on my way to El cerrito high school to meet my cohort and go to St. Louis.

When I got to El Cerrito high school, I took my luggage out (two big bags) and was surprised that Don gave me a funny look, which told me "ugh which one are you going to take because if you take two that will add up to cost hundreds of dollars". This led me to pick the biggest of the two and begin to stuff things into my carry-on.With the help of other parents and Mr Lawrence I successfully packed all of my things. Next was a group picture and then the shuttle came and we were off to San Francisco International Airport.

When the plane took off there was a lot of time for me and Chloe Alston to get to know each other a lot more: a lot of valuable time spent talking and laughing.

As we got the rental shuttle and headed towards the hotel I actually found out that the hotel was on the campus of the Washington university. This made me very excited as I got a chance to see the campus before our actual tour.We got our keys and were advised to by the elevator at 5:15 ready to head to dinner.

When we got to "Dominics" the two students and two admissions officers were just driving up. We introduced ourselves and sat down to have what was to be a long entertaining conversation about the adventures and endeavors that they experienced while attending WashU.

Overall , through all the traveling , talking and laughing, and ear aches, I had a wonderful time and looking forward to more to come !

Let The Races Begin!

After waiting in the cold for what seemed like ages, we were finally off to our first destination: the airport. We all said our final goodbyes to our loved ones and piled into the large van that would serve as our shuttle. There was very little traffic and everyone was so lively for it to be 4 AM. When we arrived at SFO we had to check in our bags and go through security. It's been a few years since I took a plane and evidently the security measures have changed. Not only did I have to do a full body scan, but I also had to be pat down by a security officer. After going through the ridiculously long security line, we headed to our terminal where we would board our plane a few minutes prior to departure time. While waiting, we headed to grab something to eat. When we returned, it was time to board the plane. We boarded and sat in our assigned seats. I was seated in the window seat with David and Ian. For the next couple of hours I relaxed and conversed about our upcoming adventures with my seat mates. 
Bye, Bye Bay Area.

When we landed in Phoenix we rushed to the other side of the airport to make it just in time for our plane to St. Louis. After another seemingly short flight, we landed in the hot and very humid, St. Louis, Missouri. 
On the shuttle to the parking lot.
After claiming all of our luggage, we boarded a shuttle that took us to the lot where our 12 passenger van awaited us.
All the girls in the van on the way to the hotel.
 Our hotel for the next couple of days is the Charles Knight Center on the campus of WashU. The hotel is very sophisticated and in a nice atmosphere. There is even a 24 hour guest pantry that has complimentary food and beverages!

We ended the night with a lovely dinner at Dominic's with admissions officers and current students at Washington University. Over dinner, we discussed certain qualities that made the university stand out as well as fun activities to do while we are in the vicinity. I ended my dinner with a lovely homemade cheesecake garnished with fresh strawberries.

I look forward to whatever adventures tomorrow may bring.

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Our First Day in St. Louis!

I rolled up to El Cerrito High School just before 2:45 this morning in a tired haze.  I showed Don my papers, thanked my lucky stars that my suitcase weighed under 50 pounds, and before I new it, I had said good-bye to my mom and we were on our way.

Mariko and I enjoy the window seat in our room
Our travel was pretty uneventful.  We had two relatively short flights with a quick layover in Phoenix.  Even with the challenge of fitting our luggage and ourselves into the rental van, we managed to check-in to our Washington University hotel by about 3:45.  It immediately struck me how different Missouri is from California.  The weather is hot and humid, the landscape is incredibly green, and a lot of the buildings are made out of bricks.  Due to earthquakes, the Bay Area doesn't have many brick buildings. The hotel here is beautiful.  It is on campus, the rooms are big and fancy, and we have even heard rumors of a complimentary snack closet for all guests.  Chloe, Mariko, and I are sharing a room and once we got settled in we freshened up and got in to our fancy clothes for dinner. 

For dinner, we met with two students from Washington University, Charlotte and Gideon, as well as two admissions officers for Northern California, Holly and Ashley.  I sat next to Gideon, who moved to St. Louis from Atlanta.  He is double majoring in Economics and Spanish.  In fact, around 70% of WashU students double major. Charlotte, a double majoring rising Junior, told us about her experiences moving from Chicago and some fun things to do in St. Louis.  Two that particularly stuck out were the City Museum, a huge jungle gym for all ages with a 3-story slide and a Ferris wheel, and the Zoo, where they sometimes let out the penguins to walk around with everybody.  

Of course, the food was delicious

Both Holly and Ashley grew up in Northern California, so they completely understood the transition and they told us about experiencing true seasons for the first time.  They were both very helpful answering any questions we had.  I was happy to learn that WashU has strong study abroad programs, great food, and an overall friendly and supportive student community. I am seriously looking forward to our campus tour tomorrow.  I have already learned so much about this school, but I'm excited to see what else it has to offer.  It's safe to say that today was a great start to our summer at Penn.

18 Hour Day

San Francisco sunrise from the plane
I arrived at El Cerrito High School just before 2:45, thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t the last one there. After weighing suitcases, picking up loaner items, and listening to Don’s last words of wisdom, we piled ourselves into the airport shuttle and took off for SFO. The flight to Phoenix went smoothly, and after a hasty dash across the airport to make our connecting flight, we were on our way to St. Louis.
Clara and Alysa in the airport shuttle
After arriving in St. Louis, we drove to the lovely Knight Center, where we’ll be staying for the next two nights. We’re staying on campus, which is a great experience as it gives a better feel for the university. Forest Park, a wide expanse of trees woven through with running paths that even includes a zoo, is only a few minutes away from our hotel. If we have time after our campus visit tomorrow, we might go on a walk there.

We arrived for dinner at Dominic’s with time to spare. I walked inside and was startled to find that the romantic, dimly lit restaurant was darker than the outside surroundings. We dined with Holly and Ashley, from admissions, as well as Charlotte and Gideon, current Washington University students.

Dinner–Veal with mushrooms and capers
The atmosphere at dinner was relaxed and friendly, as the admissions officers and students were happy to give us advice about Washington University, from the applications process to campus life to dorm food. (Apparently, the food is excellent.) Charlotte, who hails from Chicago, also told us about the weather in Chicago, as we’ll be traveling there next. 

I thought that it was really lucky that we were able to speak with
Holly and Ashley, who are both from northern California, and Washington University alumni. Holly grew up in Davis and Ashley grew up in Palo Alto, so it was wonderful listening to
Cheesecake with strawberries
them speak about their transition from the Bay Area to St. Louis. They both emphasized the mildness of the weather, and the friendliness and openness of the students. Charlotte entertained us with stories of her semester taking chemistry, where her entire floor studied for exams together in the common room. I was also impressed that both Holly and Ashley chose to stay at Washington University after living in the Bay Area their entire lives. I love the Bay Area, so it made a huge impression that they didn’t go back after college.

I’ll see how I feel after the campus tour tomorrow, but from what I’ve heard tonight, I have a very positive impression of Washington University.

Off to Penn ~ With Detours

You’d never know it from this photo but each member of our Penn cohort suffered from the same three afflictions: they were all anxious to start this adventure, nervous about the unknown nature of what lay in front of them and they all wish they could snuggle under their blankets for a few more hours before they had to leave.  I can’t speak for the first two afflictions but even I suffered from the last.  But, unlike our Penn cohort--who will board their plane in less than an hour--I will most definitely reacquaint myself with the comfort of my bed.

When our cohorts arrive for their departure from El Cerrito HS there are two informal games that are played.  The first being, which of our cohort will arrive first.  Alyssa and her father took first place in this one arriving nearly a full half hour before the required 2:45 AM gathering.  [On the other hand, there’s a much less enjoyable part of the game when we see which of our cohort wants to tempt Evil Don by showing up after the assembly deadline.  So far, with 25 of our ILCers having departed, no one has challenged Evil Don.]

The second of these games is “the weighing of the luggage”.  With the strict rules being imposed by the airlines with both the quantity and weight of check-in and carry-on luggage, we leave nothing to chance.  As we weigh each bag the air is thick with apprehension as each of our ILCers hopes that whatever scale they used at home was accurate enough so they don’t have to pay the overage at the airport. [Chloe and her mother took her bags to the local FedEx station to use their scales.]

Without naming names, several of the Penn cohort seriously tempted fate by packing their bags perilously close to the limit.  The Penn chaperone was the envy of all with a bag that weighed only 35 lbs--until Ivette arrived with her 30.5 lb bag.

Where we ran into a scare, though, was when one member of the group had two bags when the airline only allowed one.  It was a group effort that helped him repack and cram his belongings from the second bag into his primary check-on bag and his carry-on.  In the end, all was well with the world.

Just one week ago we shipped off two groups in one morning.  By itself there was nothing special about that except the weather: it was wet, it was windy and it was cold.  The temperature that day was only 54º but with the wet fog and the wind it cut right through us.  This morning, however, the mercury only rose to 48º but with the air being dry and with no wind it was a comfortable morning.

Rather than head straight to Philadelphia, our Penn cohort will head first to St. Louis to visit Washington University in St. Louis and then to Chicago to the University of Chicago before touring Northwestern with our old friend and ILC alum Stephanie Ny.

Stay tuned for the stream of blogs soon to come from our Penn Cohort.

The Wait is Over

I have been waiting for this trip for what feels like an eternity (almost four months), and it is finally here! It just hours away, yet it still doesn't feel real to me. Maybe it will finally sink in once I am on the plane. I'm ready for dorm living, campus tours, a different time zone, meeting new people, and the East Coast!

This whole week I have been asked how I'm feeling in regards to this trip, but I honestly don't know. I'm excited of course, but that's not really a new feeling. I've been excited since March 5th, the day of the interview for this program. So, I guess how I really feel right now is a bit scared. Scared that I will enjoy it, meet many wonderful people, and make amazing memories. Those are good things right? Why am I scared you ask? Well, when you're enjoying yourself, time tends to pass by rather quickly. Pretty soon this trip will be nothing but a memory. So my lovely cohort, let's make it an unforgettable memory.