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.