Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's UPenn!

Philadelphia's 30th St. Station.
I am very glad that the phrase “it gets better” is not overused. If so, it wouldn’t be true, or at least, not nearly as true. When it comes to this trip, I am glad it is true.

After spending a rather hectic night growing accustomed to the dinner schedule, I took a quick shower and rushed to pack up. We had to get to Union Station quickly if we were to catch the right train from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia. Of course, this resulted in a much welcomed rest on the train as well.

In Philadelphia, we arrived promptly at the Sheraton University City Hotel and dropped off our bags. We then walked to the University of Pennsylvania’s main administration hall, College Hall. There, we signed up for the information session and we were taken to Houston Hall, the university’s main auditorium, for the information session.
Inside the undergraduate admissions office.
After the session, we went on a tour of the campus. Our tour guides covered many of the integral locations in the university, including the university libraries, the Engineering Quad, the Huntsman Center for the Wharton School of Business, and other campus landmarks.
Once the tour finished, we headed back to the hotel to rest and freshen up for dinner. Dinner itself was at Butcher and Singer, a renowned steakhouse across the river from the university. There we met up with several alumni and current admissions staff.
Butcher and Singer, the restaurant where we ate.
The intersection outside the restaurant. (The focus just seemed rather interesting)
I sat near the Director of Campus Tours, Rachel Cohen, as well as admissions counselor Amy Smith, medical school student Andrew Zhang, admissions officer Teran Tedal, and alumna Rebecca Loh. We covered a lot about the university, including double-majoring, the Common App, the personal statement, school traditions (such as throwing toast on the field), and favorite television shows. It was great to have their company and be able to learn so much about the school.
Julia smiles warmly as we dig into dinner.
I was considering applying to the U-Penn before, but now I think I will do so for sure. The mixed urban and school environment is very comfortable, and the loose curriculum allows for so much flexibility. The flexibility appealed to me most of all.
My huge porterhouse steak.
My apple crumble dessert.
One other important point -- Amy informed me that there was a new supplement for the admissions application. The prompt is to choose whether, as Benjamin Franklin (the university’s illustrious founder) said, we are “the immovable, the easily moved, or those who move others.” Having thought about it, I think the choice is that we are all three. We must be immovable, or strong and solid, at times, easily moved and flexible at others, and move others, or direct them. By finding the correct balance of all three, one has a recipe for success.

Well, we have to wake up early for another train ride to New York and Columbia tomorrow. I hope things just keep getting better.

UPenn, I Penn

We disembarked the train from D.C. and walked into a wave of heat in the city of Philadelphia. The atmosphere was much less humid, although the heat was still prominent.

After checking into the Sheraton Philadelphia University City Hotel, my cohort and I headed over to the University of Pennsylvania to partake in an informational session and campus tour. Both episodes were very effective in demonstrating what the school has to offer, from language courses to financial aid.

We took a cab into the city, and congregated at Butcher & Singer for dinner with a number of admissions officers, students, and alumni from University of Pennsylvania.

I sat down next to Amy Smith and Teran Tedal, part of the admissions faculty, and Andrew Zheng, a medical student who graduated from the University two years ago.

I was very fortunate to have been able to speak with them about the University of Pennsylvania. One aspect of the school that piqued my interest most was its emphasis on community service. Academically based community service courses allow students to turn the classroom experience into one where skills can be applied and impact made. An example is when students implemented a city plan to create local vegetable gardens to provide healthy produce to the community. Students have the opportunity to contribute to the greater good of their community, and this mindset is prevalent in the projects and programs the school offers.

The location of the institution is also pleasing; the city of Philadelphia is lovely, and although the University is located within the city, standing on campus, one can hardly notice that within a mile or two is the bustling city. The campus feel and urban environment outside its bubble is comfortable. Additionally, the school is very close-knit despite its size - learning about the various (and hilarious) campus traditions was very entertaining.

I enjoyed speaking to Andrew, who is in medical school now after having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010. There is a handful of hospitals and medical centers located on campus, which provide for chances to intern and volunteer to gain valuable experience.
Our seafood appetizer.
It was such a wonderful opportunity to meet with the admissions officers & students - hopefully this won't be the last time I visit Philadelphia.

Tomorrow, we will board a train to New York!

Skull & Bones 4

Averaging four hours of sleep per last three nights, our intrepid youth rest on the N.E. Local 86 to Philly.

Philadelphia is hot, and UPenn is in full summer glory. We make our way down 36th to 1 College Hall to sign in, pick up the relevant literature, and head to the information session inside this fairy tale of a theater.

The info session is led by the Florida/Puerto Rico admissions rep, so... straight out of the horse's mouth... Then it's back outside for the tour.

Ben Franklin outside of College Hall
From library to engineering
Saw the famous Wharton School of Business, were deeply impressed by UPenn's granting the liberty to and  encouraging its underclassmen to take graduate level courses from their very first year. This makes for some focused, empowered youngsters. We were also inspired and reassured by our student guides that they loved their teachers, because the faculty is interested in them, is ridiculously available to them, and loves to spend time with them. This was later reiterated by our dinner guests, with example after example. 

Looks like Griffindor House, but it's just the dorms.
Think about this: at UPenn, if four students want to study a language that is not one of scores already on offer, the school will fly in a native speaking professor to teach them. Zulu, anyone? Chukchi? I can just see some corn-fed young thing coming home for break and engaging his/her bubele and zeidele in fluent Yiddish.

After almost three hours on campus (12 grad colleges, 4 undergrad colleges, all in one place, five minutes from old Philadelphia), we slug it home. We need sleep, or we'll be useless at dinner.

Butcher & Singer Restaurant, 7:30 PM. In attendance we have Amy Smith, Teran Tedal, Rachel Cohen, Andrew Zheng, Grace Truong, Rebecca Loh, and Dagny Fleischman, all alumni or rising alumni, some--admissions reps. We have the Chef's table, and what a table the Chef sets (thank you, thank you, thank you ILC).
Dagny, Teran, Rebecca, Rachel, Julia, Andrew, Grace, Jobel, Amy, Tanya, Roger
We of the Yale cohort are grateful to our wonderful, generous, brilliant, and captivating guests. They have infected us with their love of and enthusiasm for their alma mater. We are full of awe, but we have also been put at ease and made to feel welcome. We now dream of UPenn.

Great Day!

Today started off as pretty hectic because I slept through the wake-up call and my alarm; I had about 15 minutes to get ready and pack everything to make it  to the train station on time. After the two hour train ride to Philadelphia, we relaxed for about an hour before we went to the University of Pennsylvania information session and tour.

Right as we walked onto the UPenn campus, I knew that I would love it there. The ambiance that Penn gave was so welcoming and warm that I automatically fell in love with it. Usually, such castle-like buildings intimidate me, but Penn's buildings just made me more comfortable with the campus. The information session and the tour further helped to bolster the initial feeling that I had about Penn.
Some of Penn's beautiful buildings.
After the tour, we went back and relaxed for a couple hours today rather than explore Philadelphia because all of us were so tired. We all went back to to the hotel to shower/nap/eat/relax.

At around 7:00, we took the cab to Butcher & Singer Restaurant, where we met up with Penn admissions officers and other representatives. Like my feeling when I first saw Penn, my feeling towards the dinner was that it was going to be great. Indeed, tonight's dinner lived above and beyond its expectations. I felt like the connection between me and the reps was immediately present, which is why I enjoyed it so much. One of the people who was at the dinner was an engineering major, which was perfect because I am really interested in engineering. She and everyone else convinced me that Penn balances academics and social life really well, which really attracted me to Penn.

Our food today was, as always, excellent. I started with the Mozerella and Tomato salad.
My main course with risotto.
Finally, my dessert was Apple Crumble with ice cream. Unfortunately, the restaurant was too dark and the photo does not accurately show the deliciousness of the dessert.

Overall, today was another amazing day that lived up to all of my expectations. From the start of today, I was excited to tour Penn, and I got so much more out of the tour than I expected. I thoroughly enjoyed touring and then dining with the amazing people who ate with us.

All Around George's Town

Second days are always tough. It's not much different from the first -- we are still getting used to getting used to waking up away from home, getting used to the weather, but without the shock, the magic of the first day.

Yes, second days are tough.

But everyone has to shake it off and move on ahead. After all, nothing was going to slow down, and likely, the exact opposite was going to happen. So I dragged myself awake this morning and prepared for what was coming.

Today, we visited Georgetown University for an information session and a tour of the campus. The campus itself was rather pristine and beautiful. The architecture was very reminiscent to the buildings Cornell had -- another point of nostalgia for me.
The statue of Georgetown's founder, John Carroll.
The frontal facade of Georgetown University.
At White Gravenor Hall, we parked ourselves inside the admissions office for the information session. The room was filled to capacity, forcing us to find seats scattered throughout the area. During the presentation, I was rather impressed by the variety and emphasis the school had on international affairs, government, and social justice. Of course, any college near Washington, D.C. should excel in these fields, but I was impressed nonetheless.

A history of music phonographs and music handhelds.
The tour itself was alright. We covered the dormitories, a few of the undergraduate halls, and the student services center. Despite the length of the tour, we seemed to cover only a small amount of area. While Georgetown's campus was still being expanded, space was limited due to the surrounding community. It made for a very compact campus.

In front of the President's backyard.
Wrapping up with the college tour, we took a shuttle back to a hotel and then ran after a bus heading downtown. We visited several places around the mall, including the (outside of the) White House, the National Archives, and the Museum of American History. The museum was filled to the brim with American culture, with exhibits that ranged from Kermit the Frog to the Vietnam War. The knowledge that place contained was immense and far too much to take in one hour. But we managed.
A Navajo chief's Americanized blanket.
Once we returned to the hotel and freshened up, it was off to 1789, a very popular restaurant in Georgetown. The restaurant has hosted a plethora of the influential and the well-to-do, including Joe Lieberman, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, and even President Barack Obama.

There, we met with several current university students, as well as a graduate student (and a Yale graduate) Matt Talvachia, and Georgetown Club of Metropolitan Washington D.C. President Sean Redmond. Seated at the far end of the table, I became acquainted with current Georgetown student association officers Clara Gustafson, Vail Kohnert-Yount, Jake Sticka, and alumnus Alex Bodaken. They discussed several aspects of Georgetown, including student life, available majors, interesting classes, and internships.

After speaking with the group, I came to respect Georgetown much more and am now even considering applying. The proximity to Washington D.C., as well as the emphasis on government and liberal arts piqued my curiosity. I am not entirely sure whether I want to apply here or not just yet, but at least it has given me another option to consider as my senior year looms ahead.
Bidding our farewells, we went home, a bit tired in the taxi cab. On our way to the hotel, he asked about our background and what we were doing this summer. He offered a few words of wisdom, making it clear that we were here to take advantage of a rare opportunity, and despite the expense and work, it was meant to mold us. Here, I learned that the taxi cab drivers are some of the most insightful people in the world, and to always take the advice of a cabbie to heart.

Sitting at the hotel, looking back at today, it was nice to be back in Washington, D.C., even if it was only for a few days. Tomorrow, we are traveling to Philadelphia to see the University of Pennsylvania and the next leg of our trip. I hope it is even better than our experiences here in Washington.

Oh, speaking of dignitaries, it turns out that up the flight of steps, the Prime Minister of Haiti was having dinner too! It's so surreal to think that such powerful people are and have been within a few feet of where we were eating.

Well then, until tomorrow to the University of Pennsylvania!


A tall, elegant building greeted us as we walked through the gates of Georgetown University in Washington D.C.

Today, we were to sit in on an informational session, as well as take a tour of the esteemed institution. We welcomed the blast of cold air once inside, and searched the crowded room for an empty seat.

The session only lasted roughly half an hour, but it was still thorough in its showcasing of Georgetown. The university offered a wide range of excellent programs, with a strong emphasis on a liberal arts education. There are specific schools within the college that students must indicate a preference for when applying; these include the Walsh School of Foreign Service, McDonough School of Business, and more. 

One of the undergraduate programs offered that I am interested in is International Health; being in D.C., a plethora of resources and internship opportunities are at the fingertips of Georgetown's students. Additionally, the small classroom sizes provide an intimate classroom setting where a student-professor relationship exist. 

Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the school is, as mentioned earlier, the location of it. Extraordinary guest speakers, which have in the past included President Obama and other notable figures, visit Georgetown to lecture - the numerous federal buildings located within miles of the school make occasions like these possible.

Standing on the original steps where presidents, such as George Washington & Abraham Lincoln, stood to deliver speeches.

After a quick tour around the campus, we hopped on a bus back to the National Mall to see the majestic structure of the White House sitting neatly before the trimmed lawn. Unfortunately, the President is not in town; we did, however, get to snap a quick picture or two before making our way to the various museums in D.C.

Outside the lovely White House.

The U.S. Treasury.
We visited the National Museum of American History and browsed the abundant exhibits of historic artifacts. 

The Greensboro lunch counters where students held sit-ins.

George Washington's sitting stool and other various items.

Touching a chunk of the Berlin Wall!

Standing in front of Ulyssess Grant's carriage!

We were beginning to run short on time, so we headed over to the National Archives to see the one and only signed copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. To my dismay, the documents have begun to show signs of severe aging - some pages are barely decipherable as the ink fades. This is the cause for rules to be implemented that forbid photography in the building.

I very much appreciate the fact the rich history of our country that we had the opportunity to encounter today.

In front of 1789 for supper.

As evening approached, my cohort and I arrived at 1789 for dinner with seven students/alumni from Georgetown. We had the wonderful opportunity to speak with them regarding their experiences in the university, discussing topics such as campus housing and the vermin in the city. Most had to agree that D.C. was a charming city;  I can't help but acquiesce to that claim. There are many things that set Georgetown apart from other institutions, but I think the most prominent one is the fact that D.C. is bursting with opportunities for students to engage in internships and begin gathering valuable experience in their field of study. 

It was a pleasant way to bring the evening to an end. Tomorrow, we will board a train to Philadelphia and continue on our educational endeavors.