Friday, April 30, 2010

La Folie Dinner

Thanks to the generous people who sponsored the dinner. It was amazing and delicious! From the various discussions at the dinner I realize that non-ILC members and ILC members really do come from drastically different backgrounds and see a lot of things differently. What's reassuring though is that learning is not dependent on what background you come from. Any person can be successful in academia just as long as they apply themselves. If students apply themselves anything is really possible. With that in mind I respect the ideology of non-ILC members in the Yale Program and will not forget where I come from and how I came to be the person I am today.

-Brandon Amargo

"If money is your hope for independence you will never have it.
The only real security that a man will have in this world
is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability."

-Henry Ford

Dinner at La Folie

My dad and I were so excited for the dinner that we showered and dressed as fast as we could. We arrived at the El Cerrito Plaza half an hour early.

Eventually we saw other Yalies and familiar faces, and soon we were riding BART into the city. After a brief cab ride, we were at the restaurant. We walked in and a man asked us "Yale?" We said yes, and he led us to a hidden back room. It was like something out of a movie, where the super-important guests are brought to a super-important room, away from "civilians" like my father and I. However, now the roles had changed, and we were loving it.

We listened to words from the creators and supporters of the Ivy League Connection. It was inspiring to hear what we could expect this summer. They told us about the other people we'd meet who would have servants helping them unpack their luggage, but in the classroom, we would all be on the same level. We would be reading the same books and doing the same assignments. Though we are from humble backgrounds, we are going to be just as qualified as everyone else in the program.

Then, we had dinner. I remember having a large bowl in front of me with two mushrooms and a small piece of bread resting at the bottom. It looked rather naked, but I thought maybe it was just fancy. I was about to eat when a hand reached over and poured soup into my bowl. It made sense.

We talked and ate the rest of the evening and we left full and happy. My dad and I arrived home at 11:30 p.m. which was two hours before my dad had to wake up for work. He didn't mind, he said, because he had such a good time at the dinner.

At work, he told his co-workers about the experience. One of his friends stopped him when he said "La Folie".

"La Folie?" His co-worker asked, eyes bulging. "What were you doing there?" Apparently La Folie is the #1 French restaurant in San Francisco, and very close to being the best restaurant hands-down in the city. My dad shrugged and said, "Well, my son's going to Yale. Have you heard of it?"

We are very thankful for the dinner, but more importantly the opportunity of going to Yale. Thank you Ivy League Connection!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Looking Forward

Today all of the Ivy league Connection students from Hercules High had to introduce themsevles to the city council. And as expected, all went well. My first interest in Yale was when my family visited one of my cousins who was attending Yale then. From then on I was impressed with the school. I am extremely excited for having this wonderful opporutunity to go the Yale summer program. I am sure I will have a great time. Next blog will probably be on Thursday or Friday after the dinner which I am also looking forward to.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Yale Revisited: Bulldog Days 2010

When Dean of Yale College, Mary Miller, told us Class of 2014 admits to stop pinching ourselves in her welcome address at Bulldog Days, I reluctantly took her advice to alleviate my prolonged shock and to compliment my immense gratefulness of being accepted at Yale. Last summer, the Ivy League Connection sent me off to Yale's Ivy Scholars' Program and I fell in love with the university itself and its campus. I have dreamt of attending Yale ever since. In fall, I worked hard to present myself to the best of my ability in my college application. Eager to become a bulldog, I applied early action to Yale, but to my dismay, I was deferred. I had to wait until April 1st to receive my final status as an applicant. During these past three months, I mentally prepared myself to be okay with being rejected from my top choice college. However, to my surprise and incredible delight, I was accepted. I submitted my intent to register without hesitation. Going to New Haven for Bulldog Days and experiencing life as a Yalie has more than justified my decision to accept Yale's generous offer. Not to mention, those who have raised me for the past seventeen years of my life, my parents, were given the opportunity of experiencing the environment of where their daughter would be spending the next four years of her life. Now, I will do my best to explain the three days I spent sampling the life of a Yalie, otherwise known as Bulldog Days.

Many I know assume that students at Yale are all snobbish people. However, actually being submerged in the student body proved this assumption wrong to me. In fact, it felt like the opposite: I found nearly all the Yalies I met to be amiable, approachable, and helpful. If I was lost or confused about a class I was going to or just had a random question, I felt comfortable to ask help from any student walking past me. Whenever I did this, the student or students I asked did all they could to help me, whether it meant answering my question in great depth, or physically walking with me to my destination. On an even more personal level, my hosts, who were four freshmen whom I shared a suite (a two bedroom complex with a living room, a typical Yale dorm) in Timothy Dwight college, went out of their way to assist the six of us that stayed with them. One of my hosts let me sleep on her futon, and another one of my hosts organized a list of all four of their classes so us six could go sit in their class if we were interested in a particular subject. I accompanied one of my hosts to two of her Directed Studies classes, and afterwards she even treated me to Lithuanian coffee cake off-campus and she refused to accept me paying her back for it.

Directed Studies leads me into the academic aspect of Yale. At Bulldog Days, us pre-frosh were allowed, encouraged rather, to sit in classes we were interested in. The first day I was at Yale, I sat in an intro to macroeconomics lecture. The classes that impacted me most, however, were the Directed Studies classes. Prior to coming to Yale, I had read about their Directed Studies program, a freshman program that focused on Western thought through studying literature, philosophy, and history. It is one of the most intense programs at Yale, sometimes referred to as "directed suicide," so initially I told myself I would never join Directed Studies. However, I talked to many students about it when I was at Yale, and I actually began to believe that I just might be interested in the program. After going with my host to her DS seminars, I was completely sold on DS. Yes, sure it is a lot of work--one must read three books such as The Illiad, The Republic, or The Peloppennesian War every week and write a paper of one of the three subjects weekly as well--but I have been interested in Western thought since I was young, a huge reason why I was attracted to Columbia's core curriculum, but I realized that Yale's rigorous liberal arts program would be the perfect academic immersion for me. The program consists of two seminars and a lecture for each of the three courses every week. I love the seminars; about fifteen students sit around a table and discuss the readings with their fellow peers and a very brilliant professor (many of Yale's most distinguished faculty teach DS). Bulldog Days have already influenced my classes this fall--I plan on applying to their DS program.

Now, another big part of Bulldog Days was extracurricular activities. I was exposed to their music groups, cultural groups, dancing groups, singing groups, and debating societies. Through their meticulously planned out agenda (32 pages long!) I could experience a bit of each club or group that I was interested in. Now, I am looking forward to joining Yale's Concert Band or Jazz Ensemble, and possibly even trying out for the Yale debate team, which is ranked number one in the U.S. and number three in the world.

Bulldog Days not only gave me a taste of Yale, it has given me the best picture of how dynamic the next four years of my life will be before I can actually experience them. I am so grateful to the Ivy League Connection for making this experience possible by making it more affordable for me and my family.

In front of the School of Drama

With Yale Dean of Admissions, Jeffrey Brenzel

With my awesome Northern California Admissions Officer, Alex Richardson

With my mom at BDD farewell pizza party


Old Campus with Harkness Tower in the background

More pizza party madness

In front of Yale Repertory Theatre


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Yalie Wannabe

Hello All,

My name is Brandon Amargo and I'm a junior at Middle College High School. I'm so excited to be a part of the Yale Ivy League Scholars cohort and to have the opportunity to experience a university over the summer that is so rich in tradition and prestige. I'm so impressed to hear that FIVE American presidents graduated from Yale University! Maybe I'll add on to that list some day...I guess it's good to set high goals for myself, but I think I should concentrate on completing this summer program first! I'm sure that this program will certainly benefit and guide me in my future political ambitions and goals. I remind myself daily of how fortunate I am to be going on this enlightening and academic journey. See you Thursday at La Folie, fellow Yalies. More blogging to come...


Brandon Amargo

Spreading The News

Sometimes I still can't believe that I will be going to Yale this summer. I wake up in the morning and it suddenly hits me while I'm brushing my teeth. I'm representing my school and my district at an Ivy League school! Yale!

My family is ecstatic as well. My grandma is 81 years old, five feet tall, and has a heavy accent. We told her that I was going to Yale this summer for a two week program, and now she tells anyone who will listen: neighbors, her gardeners, and even telemarketers. My mom caught her bragging to a cashier at a grocery store.

"You know my grandson is going to Yale?" She said loudly. Everyone within earshot turned to politely congratulate her.

My mom stepped in. "It's just for two weeks, for the summer program." she corrected.

Grandma shot her a look. "So?"

This is exactly how I feel about this opportunity. The chance to go to Yale for any length of time is an achievement in itself. For two weeks, I'll be living on campus and learning with bright young people from all over the world. I'm being sponsored by my district. If I lived in the next county, I wouldn't have had this opportunity. Thanks to the Ivy League Connection, however, I'm going, and my grandma can keep on spreading the news.