Friday, June 29, 2012

Is That Lightning?

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

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

Gone Swimming

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

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

Beautiful Chicago skyline

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

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

Seafood tower appetizer at Mastro's

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

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

Putting the West in Northwestern

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

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

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

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

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


Wildcats Everywhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

First time on the "L"!

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

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

Campus living, up next!

My Love For Northwestern

This morning ,the alarm sounded at 7:30. Breakfast started at 7:30.We decided to skip breakfast and get an extra 30 minutes of rest. When we met up with the rest of the group it was time to head towards Northwestern, which was actually in a suburban city outside of Chicago. I thought this was nice because the college is in a quiet ,slow neighborhood compared to a big noisy city that could at times be relatively distracting. On the other hand when your looking for some fun, fun is not to far away as the city is less than 30 minutes away.

The campus was very nice , especially with the weather being cooler than the day before, well drastically cooler.(Hmmmm I wonder why?) When we entered the admissions office , I felt a warm comforting feeling. Everyone there made me feel so welcome. The information session was unlike any of the other we had attended before. There was a projector screen with all the information that was being stated which made it somewhat of an interactive session.Everything said about this school appealed to me and the only things left for me to finally decide whether I really liked the school, was the tour.

From the start of the tour I told myself , Okay , this is somewhere that I could see myself at for four years. The tour continued , and you remember when I mentioned that substantial change in the weather, well this is were that comes into to play. The skies got darker and darker and finally drops started to come down. Remember just yesterday it was 100 degrees, so I am dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. This is that wonderful east coast weather that I was told about.Luckily the tour just about came to and end when the rain started. After that we were off to eat lunch with a few students and the admissions officer that we would later enjoy wonderful steaks with that night.

After lunch we decided to catch the L , which is like the BART system in the bay area, back to downtown or the loop. from there we enjoyed the wonderful sites of  millennium park such as Pritzker Pavilion , Crown Fountain , Lurie Garden , and the Cloud gate etc.From there we headed back to the hotel on was and information walk , were I learned more about and whats is like to be in fast pace big city type of life. When we arrived at the hotel we had a couple hours to rest up for dinner at Mastro's. My favorite part of dinner aside from the wonder New York pepper steak , was my talk with the admissions officer. We talked about all of my interest and I found out that everything that I am interested in is held there at Northwestern. I had a wonderful day and overall a wonderful night viewing what was my favorite college yet-Northwestern

                                   At Mastro's



Watch Out For Those Sprinklers

After yet another lovely breakfast here at the hotel, we headed off to Northwestern University. Compared to the 100 degree weather of the day before, it was a rather cool morning in Evanston. Northwestern University isn't in the city, it is actually about two miles from Chicago. Upon arriving at the university we located to admissions building, and checked in the ILC group of eight.

The information session was pretty brief, and to the point. Immediately after it had ended we started our tour. Our tour guide was Kristina, a rising senior at NU. All throughout the campus they had the sprinklers turned on. Whenever we would walk past one we would quickly move away from it, nobody wanted to get wet. That is really ironic, because towards the end of our tour it actually started raining. Oh, and did I mention there was also thunder? The thunder and the rain sure did make the sprinklers seem like harmless butterflies. Maybe the sprinklers' persistance to get us wet was actually a harbinger of the storm that was yet to arrive! Thanks to that storm, when we made it back to the admissions building we were all soaking wet. After a much needed lunch in one of the university's dining halls, we left the campus for some sight seeing.

We took "The L" to our destination. It may not sound familiar to some and it really did not ring a bell when I heard it, and that's because in California we call it "Bart". After a couple of minutes and a few stops later, we left The L and walked on over to Millenium Park. We had been told by numerous people to go take a look at what they call "The Bean". So pur first stop was the famous bean. It's a sculpture that is covered in mirrors, and it is in the shape of a bean
Taking a picture of our reflection.

The Bean.


After spending some time at The Bean and relaxing in the ampitheater, we made our way over to Crowne Plaza Fountain. By this time there was no evidence whatsoever of the earlier storm. The sun was back up high in the air, embracing us in its rays. This gave us girls the idea of getting wet in the fountain. The water was very refreshing, I was immediately cooled down. They boys on the other hand, refused to join us. Once we were done playing with the water, we made the journey back to our hotel.

At 6:45 PM we all met in the lobby. Mastro's Steakhouse was the restaurant for tonight. I had heard of this restaurant once before this trip. It was on a TV show where they were eating at the restaurant, so I was really eager to see it in person! We had a large reservation for seventeen people, which were divided into two circular tables. Sitting at my table was Aaron, Andrew, Shevan, and Jonathan who were our guests for the night. Ian, Alysa, Clara, and Cameron were seated with us as well. Aaron is an admissions officer while, Andrew, Shevan, and Jonathan are students. I tried talking to everybody at least once, but I always ended up back with Jonathan. I really enjoyed talking to Jonathan, he cleared up a lot of questions I had about Northwestern. He also gave me advice on picking out colleges, such as what things I should be taking into consideration and the things I should be aware of.  

I ordered the filet accompanied with two sides that were for the table, lobster mashed potatoes and asparagus. I was primarily going to order the herbal crusted chicken, but then I thought to myself, "I'm in a steakhouse, why am I gonna order chicken? I should order a steak, since this is a steakhouse." I am glad I chose the steak, becuase every bite was better than the one before. The desset, eventhough I can't even pronounce or remember it's name, was just as good as my steak was!

Tonight is our last night here in Chicago. Leaving Chicago means no more college visits. I really enjoyed visiting WashU, NU, and UChicago! I am so fortunate that I got the oportunity to be able to tour all of those amazing schools, and meet so many wonderful people! As for now, UPenn is waiting and I couldn't possible be more excited than I am now. Philadelphia here we come!


Our day started out with a 7:30 AM breakfast in the hotel. The breakfast buffet had many things to choose from, but I kept it simple with fruit. After a short cab ride, we find ourselves at The University of Chicago. We were a bit early, so after checking in we had to wait a bit before our information session began. The informartion session included the 8 of us and Callie Brown.  Callie gave us a very thorough description of everything there is to know about the university. The topic that stood out the most to me was their application. They add a fun essay question in their applications. An example she gave us was, that one year the topic was a jar of mustard. The applicant then had to write about a jar of mustard. It is definitely not a common appliccation section, which is why it's so great.

It seems as though a pattern is forming, both of our tour guides for WashU and UChicago have been California natives! Our tour guide, Edgar, really knew how to entertain a crowd. He wasn't just showin us a building, he was taking us back in time to relieve an experience he had at that building. He had a story for every building. He made the tour personal, which I thought was a very good strategy. When we walked into the buildings, which all had air conditioning, he allowed us to take a break from the sun. He knew what to say to keep us focused. Edgar also joined us for lunch along with Janet, who is a student as well. We asked him a ton of questions and he answered them gladly in between bites of his hamburger. He told us about many of the events that have taken place on the campus. The one that he seemed the most enthusiastic about was the humans vs zombies game. It's a game where if a zombie touches a human, the human turns into a zombie. The last human alive wins the gane, and guess who won the game this year! If you guessed Edgar, then you are correct. Sadly Edgar had more tours to do so he had to leave us.

What I really liked about the campus was the different architectural structures of the buildings. Some of them were very hi-tech and modern looking, while others were more roman gothic looking. There was variety, not every building looked the same. The buildings aren't bunched up together, they're spread out. There were a lot of trees which provided shade from the heat. It really is a beautiful school.

Everybody was tired from walking around in Chicago's 100 degree weather, so after lunch we came back to the hotel. We all went to our rooms and enjoyed the free time we had. Tomorrow we will be visiting Northwestern. I can not wait to see what Northwestern is like!

Ladies First, Remember

The air was still quite humid at 7:45 PM when we departed for dinner at The Girl in the Goat.  So far today we received extremely positive feedback whenever we mentioned this reservation, so my excitement for dinner increased throughout the day.  When we first arrived at the restaurant we had about half an hour until our reservation so we waited outside in the humid heat for our guests, Callie Brown, Mario Gage, and his two friends to arrive.  This was only our second informational dinner and after the one we had with the Washington University admission officers and students, I could not wait to get settled into another intellectually stimulating discussion.  

I was surprised to see that the dress wear for the restaurant was fairly casual.  I felt that we stood out as a nicely dressed group compared to the table full of people dressed in jeans and a shirt outside.  Inside however there were a few with more formal attire, so I didn't feel that over dressed as I previously had.  Besides, regardless of the dress code, I think we should wear formal outifits to all of the dinners we have with admission officers or current students.  Our four guests were all dressed very nicely as well, and we quickly made our introductions before stepping through the revolving restaurant door.  While we had already met Callie Brown today at the information session, we each introduced ourselves to current University of Chicago student's Mario, Belle, and Ian.  As rising Juniors they were able to tell us more about the earlier experiences of college and I listened with great interest to these fascinating people.  

As for the food, each of us ordered one dish that would be made a double order and set at each end of our long, wood table.  This system worked out very nicely and we all had the chance to try small portions of everyone's desired dish.  At first I felt like I was not going to get enough food, but soon I realized that all of those small bites of each plate were indeed quite filling.  I must say that satisfying better describes how I felt after eating.  Throughout the night I was able to try bits of quail, escargot, green beans, beef tongue, lamb, vegetables, scallops, and even pig face.  Yes, the daunting pig face was recommended to us as the best dish of the house, so one of our brave guests, Callie, placed in the order.  This plate had all of us quite curious, but I myself felt ready to take on the new adventure.  By the time we received this dish, many of us had already formed a mental image of the actual face of a pig placed in front of us, so we were greatly surprised to find that the plate was delicately designed to comfort any worries the customer might have.  With an egg that covered almost hamburger-style patties, the dish was quite approachable and delicious.  Thank you Callie for making that adventurous decision for the rest of us, for it turned out positively eye-opening.

One Piece of the Quail

My Delicious Shirley Temple

Green Beans

Pork Ribs
Broccoli Dish
In general I had a wonderful time at dinner and had many great laughs, mainly with students Bella and Mario.  The atmosphere was inviting, but it was a bit loud and that prevented me from being able to talk to the other guests at the opposite end of the table.  Even so, I made interesting conversation with those who were on my end, which was definitely worth it for me. 

I Love Trees

While I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Washington University at St. Louis, our tour through the University of Chicago piqued my interested even more.  The campus was beautiful, the students friendly, and the variety in architecture really caught my attention.

When we finished eating breakfast and left the hotel this morning, the temperature was not nearly as hot as I thought it would be, but it was definitely warm enough to feel completely comfortable in my summer dress.  We took two cabs to the University of Chicago, which only took about 10-15 minutes, and were dropped off right next to a tall building covered entirely by leaves.  This turned out to be a common trait among many of the buildings we visited and I absolutely loved being surrounded by so much greenery.
Building in Harper Hall

One of Two Campus Libraries

Leaves Gave a Comforting Feeling to the Buildings
We were first taken up a few flights of stairs by an admission officer, Callie Brown, who brought us to a meeting room and presented to us a great deal of information about the school.  Ian had already given us questions to think about asking during one of these events back in St. Louis, but I felt that Callie really nailed many of those topics without us even needing to ask.  However, we each threw her some questions to which she responded with thorough explanations.  Following this session, Edgar Gonzalez, a rising senior at the University of Chicago, and a native Californian, eagerly gave us a tour of the campus.  I liked the fact that the buildings had quite a bit of variety when it comes to architecture, size, and location.  He was a great tour guide with all of his entertaining and funny stories at several different spots on campus, and I felt a strong connection to the university once the tour was complete.  In other words, I can really picture myself on that campus and most definitely plan on applying to the university.

One of my favorite aspects of the application process at this school, was the supplement.  They do use the Common Application and require one basic additional essay, but they also require applicants to respond to another essay questions that is rather unusual.  "Find x," Callie said, giving an example of an additional essay prompt.  I thought maybe this was it, but she went on to further questions that were more abstract and thought provoking.  This is wonderful piece of the application process, I think, because it really gives students the chance to write on any number of situations or experiences they have had in their life.  In addition to the general forms and sections of a students application, the creative essay allows the admission officers to get a sense of how the student's mind works in a more abstract way.  These indirect questions give way for a great deal of creativity and deep thought, which I greatly appreciate and am excited to respond to!

Be Adventurous

At around 7:45 PM we left the hotel lobby, and made our way over to the restaurant. Tonight's restaurant was Girl and The Goat. When we told people where we would be having dinner, they were in total shock. Appareantly it is very hard to get a table at this restaurant, you could be waiting up to four months. They gave us a bit of information, such as how the food is amazing. We were all incredibly eager to see this place.

The restaurant was a lot different from all the other restaurants we've had dinner in. The atmosphere was definitely a lot more relaxed. The decor, music, and staff really did make you feel comfortable. We sat at a long table for twelve, because we had special guests. Tonight we had the honor of being accompanied by Callie (the admissions officer for Northern California), Mario, Bella, and Ian (current students at UChicago).

The soft shell crab
Pig's face
I think we were all a bit confused when we were reading the menu. Some of the foods that seemed a bit unusual were the pig's face, beef's tongue, roasted baby octopus, and the escargo ravioli. All of these dishes were new to us, and a bit intimidating, but we din't let that stop us. We wanted to be adventurous and try all of these mysterious foods. So we did, we ordered all of the dishes I mentioned earlier plus the quail, crab, goat empanadas, lamb, green beans, broccoli, and a lot more! Every single one of those dishes was delicious. It was clear to me then why the restaurant was so popular. I'd say tonight was the most fun we've had, and how could it not be with great company and phenominall food.