Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reflection


Words seem like they do no justice to describe my experience with the Ivy League Connection and at Yale this summer – both experiences were just too great to put into simply into words. I had been told that being a part of these two programs would change my life, and I only now realize to what extent that is true.
I started my journey with the ILC almost two years ago, when I applied to the Brown DNA program. Unfortunately, I, having no advanced biology knowledge, did not get into that program. This rejection did not stop me from applying the year after – it is surreal to even think that it was almost a year ago that Don came to my school to introduce the ILC. With help of my counselor, peers, and parents, I got accepted to be a part of the cohort assigned to Yale University.

I still remember Don giving us our first reading assignment – Global Governance, Peloponnesian War, etc. I was warned of the rigors of this course from the beginning, but that definitely motivated me. Initially, I was afraid that I would not be a good fit when I saw my reading list, as I always did not think of myself as too good in history or social sciences. Again, as I began to read, I realized that I was mistaken. I thoroughly enjoyed my reading; this point of revelation was when my excitement escalated.

As May came along, I was overwhelmed with ILC events – dinner, school board meeting, city council meeting, and a tutorial, all of which introduced at least something new to me. The dinner was a brand new experience, as I have never had such an elegant dinner with so many honorable guests before. I got a chance to talk to Yale Undergraduates and alums who gave me a wealth of new information about Yale, including life, academics, and rigors, amongst much more. Having lived in WCCUSD for almost my entire life, I have never gone to a school board meeting before ILC. I really felt like I learned a lot about the district and a lot of people in it during the meetings. I’ve been to very few city council meetings, so going to this one through ILC was very special, especially seeing how proud the other delegates and I made the city. Finally, the tutorial was just information about the miscellaneous things, including the borrowed items from Don.
After the last event, I felt like I waited eons to go to Yale. But when I got there, the wait seemed so minute. The first week of touring colleges was informative, as I would have never had the opportunity to do so without the aid of ILC. Also, all of the dinners with the representatives from each school were fascinating, and for me, the Columbia dinner was the best one of them all. The hotels we stayed in, the restaurants we ate at, the places we went – all were simply amazing.

Then came the best part: the actual course itself. When we arrived at Yale, everything again seemed surreal. It was odd to think how many months had passed since I got accepted to ILC and all that it has done for me. The rigors of Yale were apparent immediately, as we started the lectures the night of our arrival. However, I also made friends as quickly, which made the tiring day seem bearable. Afterwards, we had lectures every day from 9:30 in the morning to 10 at night. The lectures versatile to say the least – one day, we began with a lecture on North Korean Foreign Affairs and ended with one about Winston Churchill. The lectures were did not have many assignments with them except various reading; this made the lectures all the more interesting, as the entire class was not forced to be preoccupied with assignments or homework. We were, as a class, receptive and extremely interested in all of the lectures. After the lectures came the biggest task of them all: the Marshall Brief. When we were introduced to our group members and given our topics, I was elated – I got the topic I wanted (Nuclear Proliferation in Iran and the Middle East) and my group mates seemed great. After long nights, panic attacks, and of course, lots of coffee to keep us awake, we managed to finish our Marshall Brief on time. The next task was to present it in front of a harsh panel dubbed the “Murder Board.” Although our panel was tough, we got through the presentation in one piece and as a group.

Overall, my experience in Yale was wonderful. I made wonderful friendships, saw a world outside of WCCUSD, listened to world-class professors lecture on incredibly interesting topics, and had an amazing time. None of this would be possible without the help of the Ivy League Connection. I think the Yale program and ILC have prepared me well for not only my senior year in high school, but also college, which is less than a year away. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Wait...There's More?

After the climactic way I ended my reflection blog, I genuinely believed that those would be the last words I would leave as an ILC student, at least for the foreseeable future. But here I am, one week later, blogging once again, ensuring that endings are never the end. Not truly.

But a few weeks beforehand, I was sent an invitation from Mr. Ramsey to take part in the Yale mentor program. The first event was a brunch at the famed Olympic Club (which hosted the US Open this past summer). I did not hesitate to join in.


Ever since I left Yale, I knew that the school was the fit for me. I had flirted with the idea of applying to Yale over the course of the program. As I went through my trip, my fascination and my admiration for the school grew and grew, until finally, I attended the Ivy Scholars Program.

After going through that, it was easy. True, it was only a taste, and an unrealistic one. Some of the best professors of the university had come to lecture us, some of the most talented students had mentored us. But that did not phase me at all, for if this was a taste, then I wanted more. So much more.

And so I found myself headed for the Olympic Club, with my mind both set on the school and very ready to learn more about it from alums.

I didn't really know what to expect as we drove up to the Club. Were we to just eat and talk, were we to meet up with the alumni separately, would I find a mentor off the bat, and so on and so forth. The questions swirled inside my mind and I juggled them in my brain, knowing full well that whatever happens, it would be an educational experience.

And by far, it was. I met with several familiar faces again at the Club, including Dave Olsen, Ken Yamaguchi, and Kao Mo Lau, all of whom I met earlier through the interview process and the Yale dinner in the spring. I spoke with them about my impressions of Yale and discussed several facets of the college life, including the Directed Studies program and the Residential College amenities.

I also had the pleasure to meet and speak with two alums, Melody Pak and Tyler He. Both had recently made their way back to the Bay Area and had been recruited by Mo for the brunch. Melody was a political science major with a background in education -- her dissection of the Directed Studies program to me was incredibly helpful and sold it even more to me, as it offers one of the few limited-student seminars for Freshmen on the campus. Yohanna had informed me of Directed Studies a few months ago during the Yale dinner, and as time grew, I wanted more and more to join it. It is my preferred program choice as a Freshman if I attend Yale.

The other alum I spoke with was Tyler He, a Bay Area native who was mentored by the Ivy Scholars Program Dean Nick Coburn-Palo. I spoke with him about the program, about Nick, about speech and debate and then Yale in general. He affirmed to me that for the personal statement, it should come naturally -- as it helped him with his application process. All of the alums stressed the personal statement, and it's importance. It was the chance to differentiate a candidate, as the basic grades, test scores, and figures usually qualified everyone for admission. It would be the statement that would make the deciding factor.

After the brunch, we exchanged contact information and all went our separate ways. But I must say, the event helped quite a bit in clearing my mind about what I have to do next.

But for now, au revoir. I will return on Sept. 30th, when we go to see the A's take on the Mariners.

From the Parents of Tanya Krishnakumar


Ever since Tanya got into High School, she has been talking about Ivy League Connection (ILC) program.  Fortunately, her good friends were prior ILC participants, who turned out to be great ambassadors for ILC. They instilled the aspiration in Tanya to participate in the ILC program.

She had prepared herself very well for the rigorous selection process.  We remember the day of interview in March; we were nervously waiting outside El Cerrito High School and as every student was coming out, we thought that Tanya’s probability of acceptance increased.  At one point, we could not bear the suspense anymore, so we approached a parent who had just walked out of the school and asked if they saw Tanya.  She mentioned that the only people inside were the finalists which meant that Tanya made the cut and we could not hold our excitement. 

Tanya walked out with three other students, her cohort for the “Grand Strategies” program in Yale.  Our joy knew no bounds; we shared this news immediately with all of our friends and family. 

The events that took place after the selection process were all coordinated impeccably due to the energetic and thorough ILC coordinators Mr. Gosney, Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg.  They had an action plan for every step of the program from selection through the actual travel and the summer course.  Don Gosney conducted the initial tutorial session giving us, the parents and the students a walkthrough of the program and a list of things that they would need to survive the travel and the stay in the dorms.  On May 17, we enjoyed an exceptional dinner in RN74, an elegant restaurant in downtown San Francisco amongst the Yale alumni and the ILC sponsors.  Both Tanya and I had great conversations with our tablemates during the dinner and learned a lot about the curriculum and the student life in Yale. Tanya walked out even more excited about going to New Haven, CT and started counting down the days.  I, as the parent, was convinced that this would be the best summer of her life. 

Before we knew, the travel date to Yale arrived on July 22, 2012.  We woke up at 1:30 AM to drop Tanya off at El Cerrito High School.  Here was another opportunity to witness Don’s exemplary organizational skills.  He had the talking points ready to prep not only the cohort traveling but also the parents who were left behind.  He handed us the contact information of all the travelers and the itinerary to keep us informed at all times of the travelers’ whereabouts. 

During the next week, we received a call every evening from Tanya, giving us the report of her day filled with excitement from visiting the campuses to the exclusive dinners with the administrators and/or alumni.  She also shared her experience through the blogs, which provided the visual treats to the reader.  They (the cohort) had travelled to numerous campuses including Georgetown, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, and Wesleyan to name a few.  The calls diminished as they went to Yale explaining the rigorous schedule of the course.  During one of the few calls that she made, Tanya mentioned about the Marshall Brief and the measures that they took to prepare for it as a group.  It sounded both exciting and exhausting based on the number of hours that they put in for the preparation and presentation.  We heard many good things about the exposure that the kids got through this process.

We could not wait to see Tanya on August 12.  However, we were disappointed to hear that her flight was cancelled and that she could not get back to San Francisco until the next afternoon.  When they finally arrived at SFO, the cohorts were visibly fatigued but glad to be back at home. 

Tanya came back with a positive outlook about the “outside world”, away from her comfort zone (both home and school).  She managed to handle everything independently and bravely.  She is confident about her public speaking skills, which was the biggest achievement from the course.  She learned a lot about the Yale culture, administration, campus and the life in New Haven.  She met some amazing people from around the globe and bonded with few of them.

At the end of the day, this was all possible only because of the Ivy League Connection and we need to thank the organization profusely for giving Tanya this once in a lifetime opportunity to preview the college atmosphere prior to her actual admission to college.  She is now well equipped to be a proud ambassador of the ILC and is looking forward to recruit future candidates for the program. 

At home front, she seems to be more matured and determined to get an admission in one of the Ivy League Colleges, which previously seemed out of reach to us.

Bharathi Iver and Kris Ramamurti

The Advantages Continue

Yesterday, I woke up bright and early. This situation is an anomaly for two reasons: one was that I woke up so early on a Sunday and two was that I was genuinely really excited for the rest of the day.

My mother and I went to El Cerrito Plaza BART station to meet up with the other ILC students, Don, Mr. Ramsey, and others to drive to the Olympic Club to meet up with our respective mentors. Immediately after we arrived at the Olympic Club, we were introduced to and encouraged to talk to representatives from either Brown or Yale. I found that everyone was more than willing to share their experiences and give their two-sense about the whole college application process.

We then ate brunch with a table filled with Yale alums (because I chose to have a Yale mentor) who were so enthusiastic about talking to us. Talking to them really calmed me down as I was already getting overwhelmed by the application process. As my anxiety faded, I felt a new wave of excitement as reality really sunk into me.

When I applied to be a part of Ivy League Connection, I had no idea that I would be a part of such a wonderful opportunity. I would like to express my gratitude for Mr. Ramsey for organizing this event and giving me the chance to have a mentor to guide me through my application process. Also, I would like to thank Mr. Izzy Ramsey for allowing us to meet in such a beautiful location.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Testament of a Believer

Bang. A bang. That was what hit me today at school. A bang and then a flood. A flood of wonderful, lasting memories that caused my heart to swell in nostalgia and my mind to exhaust remembering. I remembered everything that happened at Yale Ivy Scholars, the good, the bad, the exciting, the scary, the grand, and the small. Every single memory came flooding through my head and finally smacked me in the face with the realization that everything -- the dinners, the blogs, the traveling, the lectures, the breakfasts, and the people -- all of that was behind me now. It may have came two weeks late, but nevertheless, it came.

But before I put all of it on the shelf, before I leave it in my memory, buried as "Do you remember"s, "How are you"s, "Remember when"s, "Long time no see"s, or any other fanciful stories or callbacks, I have to regurgitate as much as I can at least once. I had been waiting this long after in order to write something because I did not think I could do the experience justice -- I still don't. But then the flood hit me and I know that I have to leave all of this behind to make room for tomorrow's stories and adventures.


So I will start where I left off. Not at Yale, but at Cornell.


Going Again?

The Hotel cohort and our friends on the eve of departure from Cornell University.
When I returned home from Cornell and the Hotel and Business Administration course last year, I was excited. I was about to be a junior, the world seemed to be my oyster, and this time around I was ready to take charge and get things done.

And so I did. I took my leadership positions at school seriously, I studied hard (despite falling flat in some areas), and I felt like I was finally growing up. I always had the earnest belief that I had grown up too fast beforehand, but this time it felt real. Perhaps it was because I learned to be active to live life, do things, and enjoy doing them. And Cornell was still on my mind -- it reminded me that there was always a world beyond school, beyond what I was doing. But it seemed so far away at the time.


Then one day, when I was trying to fix a schedule error at school, I was speaking to Ms. Ishmael. We spoke about the program, my experiences, and what I could bring back. Then the inevitable question came, "Where do you want to go next year?" I pondered it for a second, but I knew the answer. Yale. The program's reputation as the premier program of the ILC, the rigor, and the wealth of knowledge that was purported to come with Grand Strategy. I wanted to aim high, and I knew this was the highest I could aim. So I answered.


"Yale."


And from then on, I was determined. My mother encouraged me to reconsider, to try applying to the other programs. I considered it -- the fear of being rejected was strong. And it didn't help that Yale was the last program interviewed. I would only have one shot, and it was tough coming to terms with that. But I braced myself and watched each cohort get chosen to be sent back East -- Cornell, Brown, Penn -- on and on until the day I would be told whether I would be interviewed. Then the e-mail came -- I would be interviewed for the Ivy Scholars program. I was ecstatic.


The Interview


At the interview, there were only seven of us. Three of us were from Hercules. Two came from El Cerrito. One was from Pinole Valley. And the last from De Anza. It was a tense first few minutes in that waiting room, as no one other than the Hercules applicants really spoke or joked around. Then, we decided to break up and start mingling with the other students. The interviewers were late and after all, why not? If nothing else, it was great practice for the interview.
My headshot from the interview.

There I met Julia and Roger, who would join Tanya and myself in the cohort. At the time of course, I didn't know that -- anyone and everyone were variables. Still, I could not have asked for a better group, or better friends.


I walked into the interview slightly worried and slightly excited. I had no idea what kind of questions were going to be asked, who the interviewers were, everything was a mystery. But I walked in, shook hands, and took my seat. And as each interviewer fired questions at me, I could feel my confidence growing. I loved the Cornell interview, I loved talking to other people, and the Yale interview turned out to be no different. I found it particularly funny when someone asked me "When are you running for office?" I just hope I sounded more genuine than a politician.


They called all of us in as a group. First, they called out three names -- my heart stopped as I thought that was the end of it. But I was wrong. These people were asked to leave, and the remaining four of us were asked to sit.


I couldn't believe it. I was accepted to the program. Despite the amount of confidence I had and the experience I had, I was very surprised. And I was happy, so very, very happy.


Then the first bombshell hit -- we had a week to turn in the application with essays attached. It seemed much, but, as I look back on it, it was poetic initiation. A foreshadowing of what was to come.


The Lead-Up


The lead-up to the trip was not too different from the one to Cornell. I found out soon after we submitted the application that one of my favourite and respected teachers, Mr. Litvin, was going to be the one chaperoning us. Somehow, I found it in myself to become even more excited. Mr. Litvin set up a few meetings before the event season (my term for the period of time for ILC-required events to occur) began, going over the program reading with us and discussing the college tours and dinner circuit we were to embark on before attending Yale. Everything seemed to be coming into place very nicely.
Our cohort and our families enjoying a meal at Round Table.
Then we hit a snag. The original reading list was repudiated and we were left in a state of confusion. Luckily, everything sorted itself out soon enough, and we had a brand new reading list. Yes, it was another set of reading with some overlap with the old list, but at the very least, we were able to purchase all the books we needed with enough time to study them. 

The reading itself was sometimes tedious, sometimes easy, but usually interesting. I particularly enjoyed John Lewis Gaddis's George F. Kennan: An American Life and Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince -- the former because of its style and insight on a man who should be lauded through American history, but isn't, and the latter because of its realist rhetoric on governing.

Meanwhile, we were in the event season. First was the Yale cohort dinner at RN74. There, I finally got to meet Yohanna Pepa and Austin Long, Pinole Valley students turned Yalies, and a host of other Yale alumni, including Kao Mo Lau, a businessman, and Stanford Law School graduate Michael Montano. They told me much about Yale, what they loved, why they decided to go there -- and it sounded amazing. I was especially drawn to the Directed Studies program that Yohanna and Mr. Montano both went through. This is where my real fascination with applying to Yale began.
The cohort with Yale alumni at RN74.
We also went to community meetings -- the Hercules City Council meeting and the monthly WCCUSD school board meeting. It was strange being there at those meetings, having been at both before as a sophomore representing the Cornell cohort, in fact, I got a few chills when I saw the Cornell cohort walk past me and present themselves to the school board. Being at both all gave me the pleasure of watching Beilul and Terilyn, both Ivy League attendees and former ILC students (Terilyn having been with me at Cornell last year) give speeches looking toward their futures. The sands of time became quite real as I watched them take their podiums. I was proud to see them there and I can only hope one day to join their ranks.
The four Yalies at the WCCUSD School Board meeting.

Finally, there was orientation. Yohanna met with us once again to inform us of what the program consisted of and what we could expect when we went back East. Having worked at the Ivy Scholars program for a year and having won the Marshall Brief award during her time there, she was a very valuable resource to us. At the end of the orientation, Mr. Ramsey bid us farewell and good luck at we departed for the East Coast. We would the last to depart, so at the time, it did not feel so pertinent. But time is enigmatic, and it works far faster than I would like. Before I knew it, I was at my annual middle-of-the-night breakfast at Mel's Diner with my family, awaiting the departure time for El Cerrito High School.
Yohanna speaks with the four of us about Yale, the program, and what we could expect.

Running the East Coast College Circuit

I arrived first to El Cerrito High School -- the same as last year, and I awaited the rest of my cohort to come. First, my chaperone, Mr. Litvin arrived and we spoke for a bit. Then, one by one, my fellow Yalies showed, a bit drowsy, a bit quiet, but I could tell that they were as ready as I was to head out. Don gave all of us a quick briefing on the rules, gear, and the travel plans. He then took us aside for a quick group shot and then sent us on our way.

I was wide awake through the shuttle ride to the airport. How could I not be? I was going to see the East Coast, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, and New Haven. I was ready to jump off my seat (in my head of course, I was too physically tired to show that kind of excitement). I ended up succumbing to exhaustion though -- I slept through the majority of both plane trips.

It was already the afternoon when we arrived at Washington D.C. Jet-lag has never been much of a problem for me, but why let it set in? Once we placed our bags and belongings in our rooms, we immediately set out to explore the city. We had a quick run-in with Turkish food before exploring the National Mall -- we covered almost all of the five-mile area before taking in some nice Texan barbeque and eating it in the nice nighttime weather (or well, as nice as it can get in D.C. anyway). My first real time away from home was a trip to D.C. three years ago with the People to People organization -- being able to return there and see the sights again was a great treat. I noticed that even the buses have not changed -- a great callback to my younger days.
Yalies at the FDR Memorial site.
The facade of Healy Hall, the principal building of Georgetown University.
The next day, we visited Georgetown University. I honestly had heard little to nothing about Georgetown before, though, as I found out about the internship opportunities the school had, I became intrigued. It did not offer much in the hard sciences but had much by way of foreign relations and the humanities. I began to seriously consider applying to Georgetown even though it seemed out of the way -- I think I probably still will. We capped off the day with a nice dinner at 1789, where we ate near the Haitian Prime Minister, and took a cab ride home with one of the wisest cabbies I have ever met. He assured us that our dinners and our experiences was merely preparation to the future -- we were there to "give back to everyone else" when our time was done.
At the heart of the University of Pennsylvania.

The day after brought us to our first train ride and Philadelphia. The only real place we had time to go was the University of Pennsylvania, which looking back, I did not mind. The university is beautiful, an oasis in concrete with some of the only trees that I saw throughout all of Philadelphia. Dorms seemed a bit cramped, but the course requirements were much more lax and the ability to take classes between colleges (e.g. being a School of Arts and Sciences attendee, but still being allowed to take classes at Wharton) was very appealing. Even more appealing was the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business -- my program of choice if I go to Penn. The general attitude of the university though, the impetus based on creating something new and giving back to the community made the school especially attractive. 
Waiting for the train at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.

Next was New York City and Poughkeepsie, to visit Columbia and Vassar respectively. I must admit I completely shut Columbia out of consideration due to the fact that it had a strict core program, which by principle, I dislike. But then I learned about what was in the core -- must of Western philosophy, a bit on international studies, set arts classes and culture classes, as well as set science and math classes. Columbia's core was designed to create exceptionally well-rounded students, which ironically enough, made me fall in love with it. The visit turned my perception of Columbia around entirely, and it is now one of my top choices.
Columbia's central quad.

The Low Library, the centerpiece of Columbia University.

A statue of Pan, the Greek God of Nature at Columbia.


The Big Apple at night.
Contrasted with the big city and hustle and bustle the surrounded Columbia, Vassar was in Poughkeepsie, and it was incredibly remote. Almost as remote as Ithaca, though, I have to make a distinctions -- I think Ithaca was far more busy. Vassar is a nice, small, liberal arts college -- 2,000 students, close relationships between the staff and the students, and a heavy focus on the liberal arts. As much as I liked humanities and as homey the campus felt, I could not bring myself to like it. It just did not fit me, I had the same feeling as I did when I visited the University of Chicago a year ago. It was a great school, I'm sure, but I cannot see myself there.
The Vassar University main building.
Finally, we arrived at Connecticut. Here, we visited Yale and Wesleyan, both of which tout themselves to be liberal arts schools, although Wesleyan is much more secluded and much more 'alternative' in a sense (it seemed to be very artsy, very remote in comparison to Yale). Wesleyan turned around my opinion of small secluded liberal arts colleges, and I preferred the campus and the student life there to that of Vassar. The college itself was not too different in terms of curriculum, but there was a difference in atmosphere. Wesleyan seemed to have a pulse to it, a spark, that I could not find from Vassar. However, the suspension of need-blind financial aid seemed troubling; we had students reassure us that it did not mean aid would be cut off completely, however, the idea that aid was even suspended is frightening.

The central field of Wesleyan University.
Yale, on the other hand, had the air of importance and dignity all around it. But it also had the air of freedom and of intellectual curiosity. I felt the same spark that I did at other schools at Yale, but even stronger. There are over 2000 courses of study to choose from to satisfy any hunger for knowledge, and the campus's English gothic-inspired architecture was serene. Yes, it contrasted the surrounding area of New Haven, which, admittedly, gave off vibes of Richmond and San Pablo, but the school truly felt right for me. It had the call of 'come to me' and I wanted to follow it. Even the financial aid work ethic -- that the remainder tuition that the university provided in aid would have to be paid for by working for the campus -- fit my attitude entirely. It showed that the campus wanted students to learn the value of hard work, and I agreed with it wholeheartedly.
The architecture detail of the Sterling Memorial Library.
The Commons, the main undergraduate dining hall at Yale University.
The buildings of Yale University, along the streets of New Haven.
The Lux et Veritas shield, the logo of Yale University.

Roger stands in our bedroom at the Empire Hotel.
Before getting started on the program, I want to go over the accommodations we were provided through the week-long college tour marathon. In Washington D.C., we were put in a Holiday Inn at Georgetown. At first, it seemed like a very random selection. The bedrooms were somewhat spacious and comfortable -- I had a roommate for every day I was on the East Coast, so every room was a double. The Holiday Inn turned out to be strategically placed, near the college, easy access to downtown, and easy access to the 24-hour Safeway. In Philadelphia, we had the University City Sheraton. It was a very nice hotel with a lot of great accommodations including a spa, a pool, gym, and other great amenities. The only criticism I had of this was that it seemed like such a waste for only a one-night stay. When we arrived to New York City, we were housed at the Empire Hotel. This was one of the most spacious rooms and, on the surface, seemed like a very nice hotel. But there was a lot of strangeness beneath the surface -- there was no iron board or fresh water available off the bat, the shower was peculiar (there was a glass window and an opening -- there was no way of closing it), and the Wi-Fi was not complimentary. The beds, however, were the most comfortable of all the hotels we slept in, so I suppose there was a saving grace. Finally, in New Haven, we stayed at the Omni, which was a smaller-scale, but still nice hotel. The Omni's rooms were smaller and seemed somewhat cramped in comparison to the other hotels, and the Wi-Fi was only free due to the ILC's history with the hotel. Nevertheless, it had a great easy-access gym, a great shower, and the beds were comfortable. All in all, our accommodations were good in general, and quite comfortable.

Welcome to Yale Ivy Scholars

On the morning of July 22nd, Mr. Litvin dropped off the four of us at approximately 11 AM. Here, we began the program. We met the Director of Residential Life, Mrs. Willow at the gate. She let us in and escorted us to the distribution office. There, we received our Prox cards, our room keys, personal fans, and personalized Yale Ivy Scholars study materials (backpacks, wallets, canteens, and t-shirts). We then set out for tours of Yale's Old Campus and to meet our fellow Grand Strategy students. After, Dean Nick Coburn-Palo and Director Ted Wittenstein held the opening speeches in the John Edwards Residential College dining hall, introducing us to the program and introducing the program staff. Then, Director Wittenstein lead the way to the Trumbull Dining Hall for dinner. After dinner, there was a showing of Robert McNamara's Fog of War  and a following discussion. Already on the first day, we were discussing morality and the weight of policy making. It was the perfect beginning.

The Content

The program content was fairly broad, ranging from lectures about globalizing Yale to seminars about the importance of think tanks. I learned much about utilitarian philosophy (focusing on Hume, Kant, Mills, and Bentham) as well as ethical altruism. I also learned much about law philosophy, including legal positivism and legal realism. We covered a basic overview of how national intelligence works, and the main types of intelligence used by the United States government. There was discussion on the lives of Grand Strategists, writing strategies, the Constitution, and the future of international relations from an economic perspective and from a policy perspective. The lectures crossed into the realm of humanities, dabbled in the sciences, and covered bits and pieces of culture. Synthesis, really, was the name of the game.

Seminars were chosen according to personal preference, though I do not really remember whether I had actually chosen any of the seminars other than the writing seminar. Nevertheless, I enjoyed each one. I enjoyed the discussion we had on modern-day liberalism through the Marx, Nietzche, and Modern Morality seminar, which also included a bit on Rosseau's classical liberalism. But my favourite seminar of all was the writing program. The writing program took the place of four of the seminars I chose and I relished it. We had a specific focus on scenes and descriptive writing, covering the works of Rudyard Kipling and Robert Caro, spinning pieces that ranged from downright satiric and sadistic to the dreamy and fantastical. We ready each piece out loud in the seminar, a wonderful way to compare writing styles and tones with other students.

Finally, there were workshops. Mixed in with the lecture on law philosophy, were a few hypothetical pieces. I decided to write a court decision for The Case of the Speluncean Explorers, a famous law hypothetical that determines how one views law. I was fortunate enough to be called to defend my decision during the seminar to the postivists, which I hope was both due to the content and the quality of the writing. There was also an optional Public Speaking workshop, in which we wrote a quick two-three minute speech. Instead of watching Dr. Strangelove, I chose to take part in the workshop. I obtained some good tips about my body language and writing style with my first run-through, which I tried to capitalize on during my second run-through. I thought I managed to improve, even if it was just a short amount of time.

Movie discussions was the other major part of the program. We often watched a film that had interesting or controversial material and discussed the implications behind the material. I especially enjoyed the cultural discussion spurned by the screening of District 9, which included human discrimination and general symbolism.

The Marshall Brief

The other well-known major component of Grand Strategy is the Marshall Brief, both the most formidable and most enjoyable assignment given to us at Yale Ivy Scholars. Hours upon hours upon hours are spent slaving over just the first draft, which, usually, turns out not so well at first because the first draft is often misinterpreted to be  rough draft. It consumes, it eats sleep, and it forces the knowledge about the topic into the brain so much that at the end of it, I felt as if I could give my entire group's presentation on my own, and any of my other group members could have done the same.

My group covered Future Relations with Multilateral Alliances, which dealt with international multilateral alliances. While we got off to a quiet start, I believe that in the end, our group worked very well as a team. There was some disconnection of interest and some miscommunication here and there, but looking back at the experience, I believe our differences allowed us to function well because we managed to bring in various ideas.

At the end of the Marshall Brief comes the Murder Board. Here, we had to present our policy, and be crushed presenting it by our "bosses" (instructors who specialize in the material we are presenting). Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis said it best during the commencement speech at the end of the program: "A student told me once 'It's like you're setting us up to fail.' No, we want you to learn how to get up from failure." The feeling of getting through the Murder Board, however, of managing to make it out alive without breaking down to the queries of our judges, is one of the greatest feelings. After our board was finished, I immediately ran out with my friends and got celebratory frozen yogurt. Yes, it was that momentous of an occasion.

The Amenities

We were housed in John Edwards (JE) College, one of the twelve residential colleges on the Yale campus, situated near Old College. The suite I lived in was large -- there were six rooms, four singles and two doubles (Roger and myself taking a double). We had one closet each, three bookshelves, a strong room lamp, and a computer desk each. There were six power outlets in the room and at least one ethernet port. Not that the ethernet port mattered much -- we all had direct access to Yale's secure WiFi network.
Inside JE College, the Harkness Memorial Tower in the background.
The JE College quad, on a warm summer's day.
Our suite's living room.
Our (messy) bedroom.
 The suite had a central living room with three couches, enough room for most of the students in the dorm to sit around and lounge There was another bright lamp here and at least six more power outlets -- more than enough for the living room. Every room had a window either facing the street or the college quad. There was a bathroom that was accessible outside of the suite that was shared between both suites on the floor. The bathroom had two showers, two sinks, and two toilets. If everything is scheduled out appropriately between suitemates, the bathroom is never too crowded. When I was at Yale, we only ever came across this problem once, but the college is designed where each floor has a bathroom, which makes finding one with available space easy.

The college has several amenities, which include vending machines, laundry machines, and a game room (buttery), all of which are located in the basement. On the ground level, there are two libraries that include smaller conference rooms, both of which are accessible through the central college quad. One of the libraries has computers that can be accessed by students. Both places are great places to sit, study, and socialize. The quad is grass, and is bordered by many benches, which also makes a great place to sit at at night. At the end of the quad is the master's home. At Yale, there are masters that live in each college that administrates and organizes college events. The master also has the ability to reprimand people within the college, as well as programs within a college.
One of the arched entrances into JE College.
The JE Dining Room, an example of dining halls throughout campus.  We
did not eat here,  however we did use the space for gatherings and group work.

We usually took our meals at Trumbull College, in the dining hall, which was a block away from Jonathan Edwards. The dining hall is spacious, with usually more than enough room to house both Global Leaders and Grand Strategy students at once. The food choice was adequate, with a different selection each day but a few holdovers (burgers, salad, ice cream), although the vegetarians were usually confined to two - three dishes. Near Trumbull are several restaurants that everyone has access to during lunch, so if Trumbull did not fit someone's tastes, they ate out.

We had access to several halls for our lectures and classes. For lectures, we usually either used Loria Hall, adjacent to the Architecture School, or Linsey-Chittenden (LC) Hall, which is adjacent to Jonathan Edwards. The lecture halls are spacious, with power outlets around in case a laptop needs to be plugged in. We also had access to William L. Harkness Hall, where our classrooms and tertiary lecture hall were located. To access any building on campus, a student has to use their Prox card (which is distributed with their room key), a card that releases the magnetic lock on many of Yale's doors. 
Loria 250, our primary lecture hall.
LC 101, our secondary lecture hall.
One of the classrooms inside LC. We met in classrooms
very similar to this one to work on our Marshall Briefs.
The People

As I bring this blog to a close, I have to say something about the people I met. First off, my wonderful cohort. A great group of kids who came from this obscure school district in the Bay Area, showing that we were right up there with the children of diplomats and humanities prodigies. To Tanya, my fellow Titan and friend, I will never forget your polarized disposition or your entertaining rants. To Julia, from nearby Pinole, I very much enjoyed your enthusiasm for history and wit, always ready to make a comeback to my pointed jokes. And to Roger, my roommate for three weeks, you are one of the nicest, funniest, and greatest guys I have ever met, I wish everyone well in the future and I hope none of us ever lose the memories we made those three weeks.
The four Yalies, looking at the wrong camera. From left to right:
Tanya, Roger, Julia, and myself.
To my group of friends, to Andrew, thank you for always being so wonderfully strange and understanding of my jokes. To Will, who was the very first Grand Strategist I met, thank you for always being willing to be so incredibly peculiar, willing to debate me over the nerdiest topics imaginable, and making sure that I got up in the morning. And to Silver, thank you for accompanying me to some of the random adventures I made and thank you for always waiting after lectures to walk together to the dorm. You are all amazing and I wish you the best with your future. I promise you that we will meet again.

The good ol' gang. From left to right: Will, Andrew, Silver, and myself.
To my Marshall Brief group, Tai, Ariana, David, and Eunice, thank you for putting up with my stubbornness, and thank you for keeping work fun and light. I wish all of you the best with your future, and who knows? Maybe one day, we'll all find ourselves at Insomnia Cookies again.
My Marshall Brief group, with our instructors Bryce and Yohanna.
From left to right: Taiwon, myself, Eunice, Bryce, Yohanna, Ariana, and David.
To my instructors, lecturers, and residential directors, thank you for always being so knowledgeable, willing to teach us, answer questions, provide feedback and suggestions for improvement. To my suitemates, thank you for making living at Yale so much more fun than I would have expected, and thank you for providing a great home to go to at the end of a long day. And to my fellow Grand Strategists, thank you for providing such interesting discussions, being so friendly, and being, all in all, spectacular people. I wish you all the best in the world.


Our suite trying to raise the bar. From left to right: myself, Roger
Taiwon, Andrew, and Will.
...and Finally...The End

I am proud to say that I am a Cornellian and a Yalie, but just as much, I am proud to say that I am a two-year ILCer. This program has changed my aspirations and strengthened my ambitions, giving me hope for my future and the tenacity to apply to colleges such as Yale or Columbia. I often dreamed of going to these colleges, but I never truly believed I could do it. Now, through the ILC, I believe that I can, and I will try my hardest to get there this fall.

As an ambassador, I am more than ready to help bring the college-going culture back home. Whenever people speak to me about college, I am more than happy to tell them about my experiences on the East Coast and what I learned from admissions officers, college students, information sessions and so on. I will continue to do so as people continue to ask.

In terms of the ILC, I believe that Hercules should take advantage of increasing its participation. There are so many great programs out there that Hercules students have taken advantage of in the past, and should take advantage of in the future, and I will be here to help the next generation reach those programs. To help these students understand that the point is to broaden horizons, to have experiences and gain knowledge, that, I believe should be the goal of any ILCer coming back home. But first, thank you to everyone who made this possible -- thank you to Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Don, the sponsors, the Yale interviewees, Mr. Litvin, my family, my friends and cohort, and the Ivy Scholars Program. None of this would be possible without any of you, and I thank you with all my heart.

Senior year is dawning on me and I feel like I never really left. But I did, and in the dreamlike experience this summer has brought me, it has also brought me new ambition, new drive to strive and do more for both myself and for the school. I do not know what will happen next, nor do I want to. Life, I have grown to learn, is one big chain of 'not knowing' -- if it was otherwise, it just would not be a life worth living. But I am ready to take all these surprises and all that comes next and make the most of it. 

The ILC helped me realize that. And I know that for scores of students ahead of me, it will do the same.


YISP Grand Strategy '12, signing out.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

From the Parents of Jobel Vecino


July 2011: As soon as Jobel came back from Cornell’s Hotel Operations Management program, I asked him if he wanted to apply for the Ivy League Connection again. He answered yes and I want to take the Grand Strategy Course. Thinking it is in Yale University which is obviously a hard program, I advised him to think it twice and maybe he can apply for the other programs aside from Yale’s Grand Strategies Course. But he is determined to pursue the Yale program.

March 2012: During the interview night his dad and I were anxiously waiting inside the car. That four hours of wait was such a nerve wracking experience. I remember praying hard and a few times thoughts came in my mind what if he didn’t make it. Maybe enroll him in driving class so he will be busy during summer. A group of students then came out but Jobel didn’t show up. Later on, some adults came out and had informed my husband that Jobel made it. As parents we have experienced the overwhelming happiness that our son’s dream could come true. I could still remember when he hugged his dad in happiness informing him that he got in. How I wish I had taken a picture of that moment!

After reading the materials given to them and packing, the day finally came for him to leave for New Haven. His first week was full of experiences and information since they were able to visit different places and universities. Dinners were very informative with regards to each schools admission requirements and each schools setting. They were able to see how the schools look like. They were given a chance to talk with the current students and admission officers as well as ask questions about the universities. These are the special privileges that the WCCUSD Ivy League Ambassadors can avail from joining the program.

Four days ago, he’s back from Yale equipped with knowledge and more experiences. I can see in him that he was very happy. He said the Grand Strategies Course is the best program for him. Each student in that program worked hard to be in and he was very proud to represent the West Contra Costa Unified School District especially Hercules High School. From the college visits, dinners, meeting people and making friends—these helped him improve his personality.

Together with these experiences and the values and wisdom that he learned from home, I could say we are confident enough that he is ready to embark in his journey for college. It had helped him grow as a person. His desire to continue on what the Ivy League Connection started in him is visible by his willingness to share his experiences to the younger students in his school. He wants to help them to become prepared for what lies ahead for the coming challenges important especially—writing essays and preparing for the upcoming interview.

For the new parents who wants to have their children join this program, we can rest assure that the Ivy League Connection is the best program there is. They are very hands on for the whole duration of the program. It would help your kids experience college life in the east coast without compromising their safety. And you can see once they’re back from their journey positive results will be expected.

In closing, the whole family is very grateful to the WCCUSD’s Ivy League Connection for the experiences that our son went through. These informative and unforgettable experiences will not be possible if Jobel haven’t joined the program. It opened his options to continue his college career in the East Coast.

We would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Don Gosney and to all the wonderful sponsors. To Mr. Litvin and Ms. Neal and to everyone who our son shared his journey with and to all who made this program possible, YOU all deserve a warm applause!

Respectully, Joselito and Belina Vecino

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Two Weeks Too Fast

INTRODUCTION:
The past two weeks at the Yale Ivy Scholars Program has been an eye opening, mind blowing, jaw dropping and amazing experience. Let me say that the architecture at Yale was spectacular, but it wasn’t necessarily the only thing that made it attractive. The lectures, seminars, workshops, and Marshall Brief were the cause of my infatuation. I can go on and on for hours describing every lecture, seminar, workshop, and the Marshall Brief. However, I’ll try to break it down as best as I can without dismissing important information. Let me quickly describe the program so you can get a feel for it. The program holds up to its prestige and title as being extremely intensive. Sleep is basically nonexistent for the average Ivy Scholar. The average Ivy Scholar isn’t used to nonexistent sleep. If you don’t like coffee, it will become your best friend. If you don’t have a best friend, you will make one. If you still don't have a best friend, Yale will be your best friend, or boyfriend, or girlfriend. You will learn how to order pizza. 

LECTURES/SEMINARS/WORKSHOPS
Being taught by world-renowned professors in a world-renowned university is kind of unbelievable. I think I’ll start first by saying that it’s really difficult balancing out all of the work given. Everyone knew this from the beginning of the program and that’s one of the first things they explicitly told us. It was kind of like a life lesson, you have to learn how to be responsible and make the right choices. Which one do you prioritize and how will you manage your time? We were assigned reading for the lectures and seminars. I was able to keep up with all the readings for the first week, but then it became a little too arduous. The Marshal Brief and the lack of sleep were the main factors that deterred me. It came into my mind that something needed to be sacrificed in order to open up more time. This sacrifice came in the form of less reading time for lectures and seminars. I was able to skim through the reading, but was not able to work through it meticulously. The lectures ranged from really interesting and engaging to not so engaging but still interesting. We covered philosophy, politics, diplomacy, ethics, economics, and much more.

My favorite lecture was on making sense of identity politics and cultural studies. We analyzed different music and then related past and future events to the meaning of the song. That was only one of the activities from that lecture but it was certainly one that stuck on my mind. There were plenty of other lectures that would be my favorite. If I could, I would say they all were my favorite. The seminars were basically more focused and smaller lectures. The instructors weren’t really able to get into many details because of the time constraint and generality of the subject. However, we learned enough to make us want to learn more. Get it?

My favorite seminar is called The Ethics of High Technology and the Evolution of Modern Warfare. One of the questions we pondered over was, “What will become of warfare if it was fought completely through robots and technology?” The seven other seminars were interesting of course but this one stood out for me.

We had two workshops. The first was about a judicial issue on an extreme and extraordinary hypothetical murder case. This is known as The Case of the Speluncean Explorer. Here we had a heated discussion on whether the murderers should be sentenced to death or freed. Of course everyone had their own opinions so there was no right or wrong answer.

Next and last was an optional public speaking class. Here I learned about the basics of presenting oneself during a speech. These lectures, seminars, and workshops were so different from anything I have done in high school. I’ll definitely miss that experience for the time being, until I get into college.

MARSHALL BRIEF:
The Marshall Brief deserves it’s own section.

What is the Marshall Brief you ask? It is your life, baby, honor and anything else you can think of. This may sound like an exaggeration but speaking in terms of the Yale Ivy Scholars Program, it isn't. You are required to make a policy to fix or mitigate a present day issue. After you send in your final draft, a 15-page essay, to your instructor, you’ll begin to prepare for your one-hour presentation in front of the “Murder Board.” The Murder Board consists of three instructors playing the role of government officials who specialize in your policy topic. They bombard you with questions at any given moment so you’ll have to make sure you know all your background and foreground information.

My Marshal Brief topic was on Promoting Sustainable Energy. Speaking from the truth, my Marshal Brief experience wasn’t so great. What our instructor told us to do was to break the Marshall Brief into areas and have each person specialize in an area. One of my teammates insistently decided to take on an area that basically became the bulk of our Marshall Brief. You can see where this goes. Aside from all of that, the Marshall Brief was a wonderful experience. You get to strengthen your teamwork skills and also learn how to cope with stress and time management.

The Marshall Brief, as simple as I can put it, is like running a marathon or track meet. Sometimes you run so hard that you feel like giving up and dying, but when you actually finish the run, you feel accomplished, healthy, and happy. That's how I feel about the Marshall Brief. I would easily stay another week or two at Yale to do the Marshall Brief again.

EXPERIENCE AND CONCLUSION:
My experience at Yale University was so spectacular. One thing I heard from many students and alumni of Yale was that Yale had a warm and friendly atmosphere. This was apparent even in the program. I was able to befriend brilliant students from all over the world. It surprising to me that so many people were incredibly modest even though they had pretty impressive backgrounds. Being surrounded by premier students certainly made me feel unprepared in a sense that many things were new to me. I know that I was not the most intelligent student but I don’t doubt myself in anyway because I know I’m equally comparable with everyone else. Nonetheless, I know that I did the best I could and in the end, that’s all that matters. The Yale Ivy Scholars Program teaches responsibility, time management, and helps you gain a better understanding about college life at an Ivy League University. From this experience I learned that there are many career options out there in life and that it's not impossible to achieve our goal. It's up to yourself to take action. I’ll take my experience gained here and apply it to wherever I go. It felt like the memories I made at Yale consisted of a year’s worth. Unfortunately the two weeks there have gone by way too fast.