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.
|The Hotel cohort and our friends on the eve of departure from Cornell University.|
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.
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.
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 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.|
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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|The Vassar University main building.|
|The central field of Wesleyan University.|
|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.|
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 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.
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 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.
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.
|The good ol' gang. From left to right: Will, Andrew, Silver, and myself.|
|My Marshall Brief group, with our instructors Bryce and Yohanna.|
From left to right: Taiwon, myself, Eunice, Bryce, Yohanna, Ariana, and David.
|Our suite trying to raise the bar. From left to right: myself, Roger|
Taiwon, Andrew, and Will.
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.|