Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Day To Remember

My morning officially started at 7:30 AM with breakfast at a nearby cafe, Cosi. I was accompanied by Alysa, Clara, and Mariko. Together the four of us, with breakfast in hand walked back to the quad. We were going to start boarding the buses at around 8:15, and we had to be there early since it was a first come first serve policy. All of the girls in my cohort boarded bus #5, this is the bus we will always board when going on trips. The ride from Philadelphia to New York was kept busy with early morning chatter. We arrived at Columbia University at around 11 and we had until 1 to explore. We were shown where we would meet, given maps of the area we were allowed to be in, and given a set of rules. We had to be in groups of four in order to be able to go out and roam the busy streets, they were very strict with that. RCs were scattered all over the place, just in case a group of three decided they didn't need a fourth member. An RC would then have to walk with them wherever they went. They took our safety very seriously.

I've had my eye on Columbia for a while now. I am a rising junior so I still have a bit of time to think about it, but I know I will definitely be applying to Columbia. I didn't get to see much of the campus, but I saw enough to draw me in. The Butler Library. Although we didn't get to go inside because it was closed, I still thought it was pretty amazing. I didn't have to go inside to know it was a huge library, that was quite obvious by the size of the building. I am a huge bookworm and to me a library is like a mall, and well, the bigger the better right?

Butler Library

We boarded the bus at around 1:10, and then made our way to the famous Times Square. I had always wanted to visit Times Square. Before being able to start all of the planned shopping, rules were reiterated and we were shown the flash point. As soon as we were free to go, us girls clumped together and headed towards Times Square. I was so taken back by all the people, the buildings, the lights, and just the over all feel of the place. Before heading to our first store, we stopped for hot dogs. After finishing up our lunch, the shopping began. Some of the stores we went to were Forever 21, The Disney Store, and American Eagle. The time went by extremely fast, it felt as though we were only there for an hour when in reality we were there from two to six. At 6:15 we were all supposed to go back to the flash point (a Starbucks), and start boarding the buses. Minutes before, with dinner in our bags, we all headed back for the buses. The bus ride coming back was a mixture of emotions. I was happy because I had such a great day, sad because it had to end, and a bit upset because I didn't go to enough stores.

Maybe someday I won't be just a tourist in New York, but an actual resident. I guess we'll see, as for now I think it's time for me to go to sleep. Goodnight!

There were billboards everywhere!

On our way back to the flash point.

Summer in New York

First day of the weekend and we were off to New York!  This was a mandatory event, but of course we were all excited to go.  I have been to New York in the winter, but never had the chance to go during the summer until now.  Today was especially fun because everyone in the entire program went together so we had a chance to hang out with some new friends and meet others.
Ivette and I loved New York
Anika and Veena at Columbia
View from the Bus
During the two and a half hour bus ride I sat next to a bunch of people I only sort of know so I had a ton of fun talking to them and listening to everyone's different music.  Even though the ride was fairly long there was also movie playing in case we wanted to watch it, and beautiful sites to see out of the window.  Unlike many of my friends, I didn't fall asleep and instead I took in the environment around me for those two hours.  I repeated this entire process, in a slightly different way, during the ride home as well, since we had to get back on the bus we started with and our placement was the same there and back.  

One Section of Columbia University
While we were in New York however, we were to stop at two locations: Columbia University and Times Square.  I thought that the visit to Columbia was a little strange because we only had two hours there and there was no organized information session or tour. Maybe its just because I'm used to the regular routine of visiting schools that I felt a bit lost while we were on campus, but we ended up getting around the school area okay.  I have a friend who goes to Columbia so I got to see her for a bit and learn a little bit more about the school and its vibe.  It is definitely more of an urban city campus, but its very beautiful and quite large.  I wish we had more time there but I still had fun visiting the Public Library, walking around the spacious area within the campus buildings, and spending time outside The Columbia University Library.  Throughout my visit I was thinking about the topics we've discussed in class and wondered what underlying traits Columbia had that are not directly obvious.  Although I still cannot specify what these may be, I like that I have begun to think more like this and I will do more research into the school since I don't quite feel that I have gotten a complete sense of life at Columbia.

The time I spent on Times Square was full of window shopping, actual shopping, and tons of walking.  My energy was completely zapped by 6:00 PM when we met back up with the group to return to Penn.  There were a large number of RCs (Residential Counselors)  there (maybe all of them), but they allowed us to venture off in groups of at least four for almost 5 hours. For this portion of the trip, I walked around with my cohort and our friend Jacob.  We visited the M&M store, many gift shops, Forever 21, the Disney Store, and others.  The whole issue of consumption was in my face the entire time, and I couldn't help but feel that we as a country will ever stop this enormous and constant buying of goods.  Times Square could not have been a better example of extreme consumerism, and its not like I wasn't playing into it too.  I honestly need to spend more time thinking about what I can do about this issue and still live comfortably without all my "stuff." 

Overall, this trip opened my eyes in a lot of ways and I am glad that we were able to spend our Saturday off "resting" in the way we Americans tend to do so, because honestly, it is really fun to spend money on cool, new stuff.  I was pretty practical though in the items I purchased and tried to stray away from the impulse to take interesting items off the shelves and immediately decide to buy them.  When I don't take the time to think about what I really need, or "need", I end up wasting my money instead of feeling satisfied with my purchases like I was today.  So I guess what I want to first get people to do is simply ask themselves a couple questions when they pick up a new product.  How practical is this item and how often will you utilize this in your ever day life?  I think that if people started asking themselves questions like these on a daily basis, we could make just a small indent in the issue of consumption in this country.  However, after visiting Times Square today it is difficult to see that reality coming to life any time soon.

New York City

The first weekend of camp was to be spent in New York city. With there being a 2 hour drive , it meant that we all had to be up and ready by 8. So I promptly woke up at 7:30 ,brushed my teeth and brushed my hair, and out the door I went. When we got into the quad it was time to go. There were 5 big tour buses that we got to choice from. The only catch was that this would be the bus that you road in for the rest of our trips.I choose to sit with David , along with Ameer and Kim. 

Columbia Library
The first stop was to Columbia University. We walked around the campus for a bit , then got a chance to just wonder around and see what interested us about the campus. The campus was very pretty and had a since of prestige.We all had to meet back up and the meeting point and 1:00. From there we loaded back on the buses and headed to Time square. Which I think is the busiest part of NYC. When we arrived, we identified the areas that we could and couldn't go by the maps they gave us and whatever else we did in the time and space they gave us was totally up to us.

What else is there to do in Time square besides shopping.Well you can watch concerts or even decide to buy 4 dollars hot dogs. Yes that is right , a simple hot dog and a bun cost 4 dollars when the actual worth is somewhere around 1 dollar.Its all part of the NYC experience.It was not long before I got acquainted with,  the city. I was able to give people directions and even at times direct the group I was with. Did I forget , you were supposed to be in a group of 4 people at all times, and if caught otherwise you would have to walk with a RC until you either found a group or your group found you. The time spent in NYC was well spent mostly because it was my first time. I couldn't even imagine living there because after going there a certain amount of times , I would get sick of it. This is accurate with one of the students that attends the Social justice program
Mariko in front of Disney store

The Best Days Last Only So Long

It’s Saturday! The day most people sleep in, and take a break from life. Well, we are not most people. Today, we had our first Saturday trip to Columbia University and then to Times Square. I was very excited to finally be able live the New York experience that I have only witnessed in the movies: crowded streets, angry drivers, the notorious hot dog stands, and best of all, the endless shopping. So instead of sleeping in like a regular, I woke up at 7:00AM giving myself plenty of time to get fueled for the 2 hour drive. At first, I thought it was going to be a disaster having 50 people in a bus in 100 degree weather, but it wasn’t. The air conditioning contributed to the success, along with laughter of new friends and the showing of The Dark Knight, which took our minds away from the outside and into the inside of the bus.

The Huge Library At Columbia...I Want To Go Inside!!!
Our first stop was at gorgeous Columbia University. We were given to hours to tour the school and the neighborhood around it, which helped me get the type of vibe the area. Then the clock started to tick closer to noon and the sun was not giving us mercy. We were able to hide away from the burning streets in a numerous of places: Pinkberry, Tom’s Restaurant, and the New York Public Library. A half hour before we had to go back to the buses, we tried to enter library at Columbia University, but unfortunately it was closed. We stood behind the pillars of the library, in the shade, to hide from the sun and get the best view of Columbia ever.
Yes, The View Is Amazing

After a quick drive from Columbia University to Times Square, the adventure began. We were given four hours to explore, shop, and in the end have fun. The girls were going to go to Forever 21, so Cameron and I went to shopping with some other guys, which also didn’t plan on going to Forever 21. Within a couple of hours, we had our hands filled with bags from different stores, such as Footlocker, Levi’s, and Urban Outfitters. After nearly three hours of walking around Times Square, we decided to meet up with the girls, who seem to have spent most of their day Forever 21. Time was running out as it came closer to 6:15PM (boarding time for the bus), yet all of our bellies we empty. Mariko, Cameron, and I went to Five Guys, which is like an In N Out, but a lot better.
Where Do I Begin?

During the bus ride back to my cozy dorm, I reflected on my day. I loved New York and will definitely go back for a whole visit around The Big Apple. And then out of nowhere, it started to rain, which reminded me of the weird California weather (and that’s if you consider California as having weather, which I don’t). With many thrilling adventures happening every day, I can’t wait for what tomorrow has to offer. 


Today was both the most exciting and most exhausting day at UPenn thus far. All 200 plus high school students piled into five buses and drove up to New York City! We visited both Columbia and Times Square, and arrived back at campus around 8:30 PM.

The day began for the ILC girls with breakfast at Cosi, the breakfast cafĂ© next to Urban Outfitters located about 5 minutes away from the quad. UPenn doesn’t provide us with any meals on Saturday, and we all wanted to be well fed before our long bus ride. The ride itself was uneventful; I enjoyed looking at the countryside as we sped by, especially the tracts of forest and big green fields. The fields looked like agricultural something or other, but I have no idea what exactly was growing.
Our first stop was Columbia University, where we roamed along Broadway next to campus. I was a little surprised to find that we weren’t taking an official tour, but it was an interesting experience to wander campus on our own. The rest of the cohort and I explored the area near the UPenn meeting point a little, visiting a student center to use the bathroom and climbing up the steps to the Columbia library, which was unfortunately closed.

Chloe poses on the steps of the Columbia library
Resting at the top of the stairs
We also walked to a diner called Tom’s Restaurant, a place that was recommended to us by a friend of Chloe’s who attends Columbia. Fun fact–parts of Seinfeld were filmed there. Clara and I ordered milkshakes, and although it felt a little weird to consume such rich food without having lunch first, they were well worth it. On the way back to the meeting point, we passed a branch of the New York City public library. About a block after the library, I asked everyone if we could turn around so I could peek inside.

Me at the library!

Although I was the first one who wanted to see the library, once we were inside everyone enjoyed perusing the shelves. It makes sense that everyone in the ILC would like books. The library wasn’t the main branch; it wasn’t extraordinarily beautiful or huge, but I like libraries for what they represent. Every time I walk into a library my mood just brightens at the thought of so many books and so much knowledge in one place. Libraries are somehow simultaneously exciting and comforting to me, so I couldn’t resist the chance to say that I’d been inside a New York library. Call it a personal quirk.

The Penn Team browses the shelves
Times Square was spectacular. I somehow didn’t translate watching the ball drop on New Year’s into reality, so I imagined Times Square as this enormous open courtyard surrounded by stores. As a result, when I asked, “When will we get to Times Square?” Clara responded, “We’re already in Times Square.” Oops… Simply walking the streets of the Times Square area was an amazing experience–there were so many people bustling along the sidewalks and so many fancy advertisement screens. I saw a McDonald’s restaurant with an elaborate neon canopy, the kind that I have only ever imagined on a casino, and yet there it was attached to a fast food restaurant! The city reminded me of Tokyo and Beijing, in that there was so much technology, stores, and people, but also street vendors and bad smells. Probably all big cities have this incredibly vibrant feel to them, but I haven’t yet been to enough cities to back up this theory.

Times Square!
The Penn Team across the street from the crazy McDonald's overhang

I had somehow formed the opinion over the past few years that I wouldn’t want to go to an inner-city university, but after seeing Chicago and New York City I’m left wondering just how I decided that I didn’t like city life. I still love to go out into spectacular natural environments (think the Grand Canyon or the Olympic Peninsula rainforests) and stand there, just thinking about life. I still love to curl up on a rainy day and read book after book, even if I have too much homework for that to be a real possibility anymore. That part of myself hasn’t changed a bit, but I’m beginning to realize that I can still be myself and enjoy a college experience in the city.

From One Beautiful City to Another

This morning, after an early breakfast at Cosi, we traveled from campus to Manhattan.  I enjoyed the views from the bus window and it only took us about 2 hours to make the trip.  We started at Columbia campus and the surrounding area.  We had around and hour and a half, and although we didn't have an official campus tour, it was nice to get a feel for Columbia.  Mariko and I went to Tom's Restaurant (any Seinfeld fans out there?) for some delicious milkshakes, and then went in to the New York Public Library.  I really liked the area, and Columbia's campus was lusciously green and beautiful.  
Mariko and I at Columbia

Afterward, we re-boarded the bus and drove to Times Square.  I got to see a lot of the city through my window, and it was even easier to enjoy the sights inside the air-conditioned bus.  Just like at campus, we had a home area where we were allowed to wander freely for a few hours.  I walked around with Mariko, Alysa, Chloe, Ivette, and our friend Jacob.  I got a soft pretzel and delicious lemonade for lunch, and then we went to the M&M store.  I had a hard time tearing myself away from the three stories of chocolate and chocolate-themed knickknacks.  But, after some fun souvenir shopping, we headed down to Forever 21.  

Yes, those are M&Ms
Earlier in the week I signed up for to go to the top of Rockefeller Center in an activity called "Top of the Rock." "Top of the Rock" was an amazing experience.  I didn't see Liz Lemon or Jack Donaghy, but I did see a beautiful view of New York City.  In the elevator up to the 67th floor, the ceiling played a montage of the building's history.  Rockefeller Center has been there since 1933 and it has a rich past.  I spent quite some time at the top gawking at the buildings and parks in the city.  It truly is a beautiful place and I know I will go back in the future.

I was the only one of the cohort to sign up for this and I felt a little out of my comfort zone without everyone.  However, I met some new people from the program and I had a great time talking about the obscure TV shows I watch.  Tomorrow, I have nothing planned, and I am looking forward to a nice, relaxing day after a nonstop week.  A full night's sleep won't be a bad thing either.

Empire State Of Mind

After waking up just twenty minutes before I was supposed to meet the ladies of the Penn Team, I hurried down to the quad to head off to breakfast. This Saturday morning, just like last, we chose to eat at Cosi which is located just a few blocks away. Cosi sells delicious homemade squagels--square bagels. Today we decided it'd be best to just take our food to go because we had to board the busses at 8:15. After I ordered my Cosi club squagel(bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiched between the squagel of your choice) I waited for everyone else then we returned to campus. By the time we reached campus it was already 8:00 so we stayed close to the front gate in order to get the bus of our choice. The girls all chose to sit on bus #5 and this will be our bus for the remainder of our trips here.
Clara and Ivette pose for a picture during the bus ride.

The bus ride to Columbia University was about two hours long, though  it seemed much shorter due to the laughter and playfulness going on in the bus. When we arrived at Columbia the RC's told us that we had to be back at the front gate no later than 1:00. We had previously been given a map that outlined the areas we could travel to on our visit. The cohort and a few others set out to find a restroom. We then walked down the street to Pinkberry for frozen yogurt. I'd been dying to try Pinkberry forever! The way they operated was a little different. At all other fro-yo places I've been to, you serve your own frozen yogurt, than choose your toppings, and finally pay according to the weight. At Pinkberry you choose a size, flavor, and wether or not you want toppings at the register. The cashier then prints a sticker and places it on a cup. After that, a server puts the desired flavor of frozen yogurt in the corresponding cup, then  you tell them all of the toppings you want. I think I still like the other way of operation better, it calls for less traffic in such a small space. The frozen yogurt was great, nonetheless! I had watermelon frozen yogurt topped with organic gummy bears, strawberries, and watermelon.

Ivette and I keeping cool in the shade at Columbia University.
The bus ride to Times Square was a lot shorter and much more exciting. For a lot of members from the Penn Team, it was our first time in New York. Even the waiting was super fun. After going through the same process of being read the rules and being shown the meet-up place, we were free. We immediately made our way to Times Square and I was instantly captivated. All of the people, lights, and buildings were truly breath-taking. New York has always been one of the places I've wanted to travel to so I couldn't believe I was finally there. We didn't waste any time finding stores. We thought it was smart to eat before we got started so we stopped and ate at a hotdog stand. We then made our rounds to all of the stores we wanted to see. It would take way too long to talk about everything I bought and all of the sights I saw but everything was really amazing.
The huge billboards add to all the excitement!

The girls enjoying their hotdogs at Snack Box in Times Square.
First timers in New York City!
For the next couple of ours we all shopped around a bit. We went to major stores such as M&M World, Forever 21, the Disney Store, and American Eagle. We also made a few stops at small souvenir shops. At about 5:50 we headed back towards Starbucks on 42nd and 9th. I am proud of myself for being able to find my way around such a big city.

This Saturday trip was so fun and exciting, I'm not sure if the other trips will be up to par. I definitely look forward to more trips in the future.