Monday, July 26, 2010

Grand Strategy - Canine Edition

On our cab trip from the New Haven train station, we learned of Yale's hero -- Sgt. Stubby -- from our cab driver. His exploits clearly mesh with our grand strategy direction -- here's his story:

Sergeant Stubby (1916 or 1917 – March 16, 1926), was the most decorated war dog of World War I and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant through combat.

Early life
Stubby was found on the Yale campus in 1917 by John Robert Conroy. He was of unknown breed; some sources speculated that he was part Boston Terrier and part Pit Bull, while other sources state that he was in fact a pure bred Olde Boston Bulldog[1], and his obituary described him as a "Bull dog" (which was at the time synonymous with "American Bull Terrier" and "Pit Bull terrier").[2] Stubby marched with Conroy and even learned an approximate salute. When Conroy's unit shipped out to France, Stubby was smuggled aboard the transport SS Minnesota.

Military service
Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division in the trenches in France for 18 months and participated in four offensives and 17 battles. He entered combat on February 5, 1918 at Chemin des Dames, north of Soissons, and was under constant fire, day and night for over a month. In April 1918, during a raid to take Schieprey, Stubby was wounded in the foreleg by the retreating Germans throwing hand grenades. He was sent to the rear for convalescence, and as he had done on the front was able to improve morale. When he recovered from his wounds, Stubby returned to the trenches.

After being gassed himself, Stubby learned to warn his unit of poison gas attacks, located wounded soldiers in no man's land, and — since he could hear the whine of incoming artillery shells before humans could — became very adept at letting his unit know when to duck for cover. He was solely responsible for capturing a German spy in the Argonne. Following the retaking of Ch√Ęteau-Thierry by the US, the thankful women of the town made Stubby a chamois coat on which were pinned his many medals. There is also a legend that while in Paris with corporal Conroy, Stubby saved a young girl from being hit by a car. At the end of the war, Conroy smuggled Stubby home.

After the war
After returning home, Stubby became a celebrity and marched in, and normally led, many parades across the country. He met Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding. Starting in 1921, he attended Georgetown University Law Center with Conroy, and became the Georgetown Hoyas' team mascot. He would be given the football at halftime and would nudge the ball around the field to the amusement of the fans.

In 1926, Stubby died in Conroy's arms. His remains are featured in The Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibit at the Smithsonian. Stubby was honored with a brick in the Walk of Honor at the United States World War I monument, Liberty Memorial, in Kansas City at a ceremony held on Armistice Day, November 11, 2006.

Sunday, July 25, 2010





Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Day in New Hampshire

Today we visited a college that I’ve always been interested in since elementary school: Dartmouth. The campus is spectacular; the people welcoming and the quaint town of Hanover, New Hampshire was adorable. 

We met with Peter Chau who is a graudate of Pinole Valley High School and who also graduated from Dartmouth College. 

We also met with the Northern California Admissions Officer, Ariel Xue. She told us a lot about what good topics were for our personal statements and how to write them best. It is best to write about not only what you are passionate about, but also WHY you are passionate about it and also to inform the college or university how you will contribute to the classroom and campus.

The drive to Dartmouth from Yale was a total of about six hours (to and from). Ms. Kronenberg, Connor, Marisol, Henry and I all drove from The Omni Hotel in Connecticut, through Massachusettes, Vermont and finally got to Hanover, New Hampshire. On the way back from Dartmouth to Yale, Connor and I let Ms. Kronenberg hear the rap we wrote about her the night before. She loved it and it made the drive go a lot faster because we were having fun. We also discussed in the car about what each of our personal statements would most likely be about and by doing so we were able to understand what each other’s values and passions are.

These past few hours I’ve been reading the latest articles on world issues so that I’m up to date on my current events/politics before starting the Yale Ivy Scholars Program.
Dartmouth College

The Dartmouth Magic Fun Bus: Where Dreams and Ideas Come True

Today the four students and Mrs. Kronenberg took a trip to Dartmouth College up in New Hampshire.

Morning: The ride to Dartmouth took about 3 hours so we woke up at 7 AM to prepare to leave. Because we are all Starbucks fans we stopped by one about 30 minutes out of Yale where I had maybe my fifth Starbucks coffee. The Dartmouth ride was 3 hours so we had a lot to talk about.

Dartmouth: We arrived at Dartmouth at about 11 so we had about one hour before the campus tour. We first stopped at the bookstore where Brandon bought several books and then walked to the admissions office. An interesting thing about the admissions office was that it was closed so there was no information session. Dartmouth is in the city of Hanover which is classified as rural. However, the city of Hanover is very good city where it doesn’t have the certain feel of rural which makes the college much more appealing to urban people. The campus tour was about 1.5 hours in an unusually big group. The college of Dartmouth has a very beautiful campus. A unique aspect of this college in respect to the others is that Greek life is an essential part of it which is certainly a good thing. After the tour we had an opportunity to have lunch with a former PVHS student and Dartmouth Alumnus Peter Chau and our current admissions officer Ariel Xue.

Ride Back: After Dartmouth we had another 3 hour ride back. An interesting thing about the ride was that Connor, Marisol, and Brandon fell asleep but not all at the same time more like one at a time. Being the good friends we are all now we took pictures of each other sleeping. I was an exception because I did not fall asleep. During the ride we shared our aspirations and goals for later and life and realized more than we thought we can do.

Dinner: We arrived back at Yale at approximately one hour before dinner. At dinner we had the fortune of meeting to Brown Alumni that are somewhat local to the New Haven area. All of us had a wonderful chat with them about Brown and anything in general.

Tomorrow is the big day and I am totally excited about it. I am looking forward to the program and will end my blogging here.

Visiting the Small Town Feel

After my first night in Connecticut, our final destination, we had a very smooth morning. Due to the fact that we had only one car the group to Dartmouth was smaller then expected. Connor, Henry, Brandon, Ms. Kronenburg, and I left Mr. Ramsey and Mr. Miranda at the hotel while we took a road trip. The drive from New Haven, Connecticut to Hanover, New Hampshire was three hours. 

We took the Magical Fun Bus, a self proclaimed car full of laughter and stories. Our grand combination of personalities made everything a thousand times more fun. At the beginning of the trip we stopped at the beloved location of Starbucks. After the caffeine kick we each took turns sleeping in the car. For some reason we were naturally on a rotation; no two students were ever sleeping at the same time. The only one of us who wasn’t cursed with an embarrassing picture of themselves sleeping was Henry, who only slept for five minutes. Luckily, being the sly girl that I am, I was able to make mine disappear.

Once finally reaching Dartmouth we saw the small town of Hanover. Unlike the two urban colleges we looked at the past two days there was little going on around the college. There was a cute town with a few stores and a very rural feel. Our tour guide was fabulous and the boys really connected with the campus. I am still a little unsure but definitely enjoyed some pieces of the Dartmouth culture. Guess I’m a city girl through and through.

In Hanover we had the amazing opportunity to meet with two Dartmouth alums, Peter Chau, who now does fundraising for the college, and an admissions officer by the name of Ariel Xue. We had a relaxed lunch with them and received tons of advice and insight on the admissions process. The best part was that all the information was applicable to all the college’s processes. They were both very nice and easy to talk to.

On the way back there was more sleeping in the car, mostly from Brandon, and lots of talk about personal statement topics. However, the highlight was Connor’s amazing rap for Ms. Kronenburg. He and Brandon came up with a rap to tell all the highlights of our wonderful trip. It was an amazing display of a talent I completely envied.

Once back at the hotel we got ready for yet another amazing dinner. There we met two Brown alums. Although we did not get the chance to visit the campus of Brown, their stories helped paint a picture of the atmosphere there at Brown. I sat next to Guy, a Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering double major. It was fascinating to here his story. He got into Brown by accident he claims and was the first in his family to attend college.

All of the dinners have prepared us for the elite campus of Yale. I can’t wait to start to feel at home there. Tomorrow we begin the Ivy Scholars program. I am very excited and can’t wait to bring back some amazing tales of challenge and success.

Magic Bus to Dartmouth: Connor's Perspective

Woke up early this morning to begin our three-hour road trip to New Hampshire. After a brief Starbucks stop we were off to Dartmouth.

The road trip was a blast. We called Mrs. Kronenberg's rental car the "Magic Fun Bus" because that's what it was. We listened to all types of music, debated pressing issues, and laughed for long stretches of the road.

Brandon fell asleep first and drooled all over his jacket. I took a picture, but Brandon made me promise not to put it on the blog. Later I snapped a picture of Marisol sleeping with her mouth open, but she snuck into my camera and deleted it. Eventually I fell asleep and they exacted their revenge. I believe the picture is on Henry's blog post.

We arrived in Hanover, the small town where Dartmouth is located. It was a charming little city, clean and safe. I soon realized the extent of the town was about a block long and the rest of it was the college.

We took an informational tour of the campus and I realized that I no longer wanted to go to Columbia. Dartmouth is the college of my dreams. I'll explain why.
  • School Spirit: Dartmouth is famous for its school spirit. They run around bonfires at the beginning of the year, they have too many weird traditions to count, and they have an awesome store of Dartmouth Merchandise.
  • Location: Though Hanover is far from any major city, it is a perfect town. If you ever visit, you will understand why. The day we were there the grass was green, the skies were blue, and the people walked as if they were about to break into song at any moment.
  • THE BLUE LIGHT CHALLENGE! - Every Ivy League campus is equipped with a Blue Light Safety System. These consist of telephones strategically placed across campus so that students can call for help if they are ever in danger. Since Hanover is such a safe town, no one uses the blue light system for safety. What they DO use it for is the blue light challenge.
The Blue Light Challenge is as follows: To touch as many blue light telephones as possible on campus. Naked. Without getting caught.
I told this to my dad over the phone.

"That's right up your alley!!!" He said enthusiastically.

For lunch we talked to the admissions officers over burgers. I tried to use all the skills I learned in "Never Eat Alone" to establish a strong relationship with these people, because I knew their friendship would be key in providing me the opportunity to participate in the blue light challenge.

Afterwards we rode back to New Haven. I performed a rap Brandon and I wrote the night before for Mrs. Kronenberg. Here's an excerpt:

"We got Mario Miranda, we got Ramsey, we got Don / but the sickest of the crew is this coffee loving blond / Kronenberg is quite cool because she never gets mad at me / when she buys an espresso cashiers call her Natalie."

It was filled with inside jokes from the trip, and she appreciated it very much. We brainstormed for a bit afterwards and we realized that we should write a rap and make a music video to promote the Ivy League Connection. Brandon and I will work on it when we get back.
That evening we ate dinner in New Haven with Brown graduates. It was fun talking to them, though we were all a bit sad because this was the last dinner of the ILC. Tomorrow our rigorous two week course begins, and we will be enjoying cafeteria food instead of French restaurants.

Now I'm typing my blog in the lobby of the hotel where there's free Wi-Fi, and a guy with a beer walked up to me.

"Are you playing online chess?" he said drunkenly. I shook my head.

"Isn't that what you Yalies do?" He spilled some of his beer as he pointed at me. "You look like a legit Yalie, man."

I gestured to Henry, Marisol, and Brandon. "They're going to Yale too."

"No." he said. "You're the only one who looks like an Ivy League man." He raised his fist in the air.

"Good job."

He staggered to the elevator and we all laughed. But I felt a little more confident about tomorrow. At least I won't stick out too much if I apparently look like I belong at Yale.

Friday, July 23, 2010

From Urban to Suburban

How cool was it to coincidentally sit next to a senior from Yale on the train from Philadelphia to New York?! Right off the bat we got started talking like we knew each other for the longest time; she was very amiable. She informed me of student life on campus and Yale’s total atmosphere. This was my first time in the Big Apple and I must say it was AMAZING! Ms. Kronenberg, being a New York native, was the best tour guide ever! Besides being able to go on top of the Empire State building late at night and also going to Times Square and buying an “I ♥ New York” t-shirt for just $3; we had a very informative time at Columbia University.
I would like to just make a few notes before blogging about Columbia. New Yorkers aren’t rude. It really is a stereotype. While walking, a guy bumped into me and apologized. People say please, thank you, etc all the time here. Another thing is that New York has hardly any humidity. The weather actually felt pleasant. Before going to Times Square, we had dinner at Charlie Palmer: Aureole New York. It was amazing. I had the New York strip loin and for dessert the New York Cheesecake. They were both very delicious. It was also great staying at the Hotel Wolcott because it was ideally located in between 5th Avenue and Broadway at 4 West 31st Street. Also, it was interesting to see “Sidewalk Catwalk” which were mannequins dressed with designer dresses in the Fashion (Garment) district. Earlier we met with David Buckwald, Senior Assistant Director and Admissions Officer and he was a major contributing factor that reinforced my desire to attend Columbia University.
Today we took the train from Penn Station in New York to New Haven Station in Connecticut. It just so happened that I sat next to a woman that was from San Francisco, graduated from UCLA and was attending a wedding in Connecticut. That was fun. The humidity was back and we checked in at the Omni Hotel in New Haven. The Omni is only about two blocks away from Yale. We visited Yale and attended an information session after unpacking at the hotel. The information session brought up a few good points such as reminding the student that the SAT is just a test score and that Yale weighs in on the transcript much more heavily and also that Yale requests all your SAT and ACT scores; not just your highest scores.
After the Yale information session we had much needed rest time at the hotel and later had dinner with Dr. Luong, Associate Director of the Brady-Johnson Center in Grand Strategy. We had a great time and discussed our pleasant time so far in the East Coast and expressed our excitement for the Ivy Scholars Program, which starts this Sunday!

It's the Big Apple, I wish for everything

First of all I apologize for missing a day of blogging due to the lack of Wi-Fi in the previous hotel in New York. And to make up for it, this blog will be long.

Morning: Morning was usual, woke up at around 7:30, packed and got ready. The group made its way to the station in Philadelphia, ate a quick breakfast and hopped on the train to New York. We got to New York at about 11:30. Because it was Marisol’s and Brandon’s first time in New York City they were completely thrilled to finally be in The Big Apple. New York City is the most populous city in the United States and can often be confusing to navigate through. Fortunately, Mrs. Kronenberg is a native New Yorker, which made walking through NYC much easier. After landing in NYC we quickly checked into our hotel, the Wolcott, and started to head of to Columbia.

Columbia: Although Columbia is in the heart of New York City, the campus has a feel that makes a person think as if he/she is in a completely different city, which gives a good feeling in Columbia. We attended the information session in 1 PM and the campus tour right after. What makes Columbia slightly unique compared to the other private schools is that it has a set of required courses that every student in every major must take. For some people this is a major positive for Columbia. I, however, did not find the courses particularly appealing to me (but I’m sure they are all good classes) and like a very large degree of freedom of class chooses. For our campus tour we had an exceptional tour guide by the name of Dane who presented Columbia well. After the tour we had the great opportunity to meet with the admissions officer for Northern California, David Buckwald who is a great guy and definitely a contributing factor to the appeal of Columbia. Overall I felt like Columbia is a great school, especially for people that like the urban location in NYC.

New York City: After visiting Columbia we headed back to the hotel and subsequently to a semi-formal dinner in the city. Because this was Brandon’s and Marisol’s first time in NYC we all decided to go out to the city after dinner. The first destination was Times Square where the NYC nickname the city that never sleeps became obvious to us. Although it was close to midnight the city center was still thriving with people. 

After Times Square was a trip to the top of the Empire State Building. We were very fortunate in the weather with very clear visibility. We arrived back at the hotel at about 1 AM.

New Haven: Mornings are usually the same. Waking up in the morning and heading off to a train station to move on to the next city which in this case was New Haven. We arrived in New Haven, checked into the hotel and headed off to Yale.

Yale: We arrived at Yale just in time for the information session. Yale, unlike Columbia has a more suburban setting to it which is slightly more appealing to me. The information session gave out most of the general information about the college. After the session we had a badly needed lunch. This day we had the most free time so I had a much needed nap. This night the group had the chance to again have a dinner with Dr. Luong. During the dinner we discussed many current political dilemmas including the prisoner exchange. Since it is late I will end my blog here.

Two Days Wrapped in One

Due to the unfortunate lack of internet in the Wolcott there was no blogging being done yesterday. That means I must combine two days into one blog. Lets go.

Yesterday we went to the Big Apple. It was my first time in the city and I was in awe. There is no place like it. From the tall buildings all around to the rush of people, I have never been in an environment with the same hustle and bustle.

To get to New York we took the train from Philly. We rode on Amtrak, taking the long ride. The length was that of a short plane flight, however, the similarities ended there. Train travel is a different experience. Although BART comes close, it’s not the same. We arrived in Penn station (confusingly not part of UPenn) and we walked through New York. Towing overweight luggage is a hard task in the hectic city of NY. I even have the blisters on my hands to show it.

From the Wolcott we took the subway to Columbia University. The best moment was when a full cohort of five to eight year olds came on with their teacher. They were adept New Yorkers and rushed on, knew the right station to get off at, and rushed out. I was slightly jealous of their ease.

Once we arrived at Columbia I was unsure of my feelings. The campus was beautiful but I didn’t feel like I was in the city. The info session didn’t catch my interest and the tour was focused mostly on humanities. However, as soon as we reached one of the classic libraries at Columbia, my views began to shift. The personal meeting with our admissions officer David only helped elevate Columbia in my mind. He answered all of my very specific Engineering questions and shared in depth about the Columbian philosophy. I went from being unsure of its connection with me to positive that the environment was perfectly in sync with my style. I can’t wait to apply.

After the amazing meeting with David we went to dinner at another fabulous restaurant. The New York cheesecake was to die for; even our native New Yorker, Ms. Kronenburg, agreed.
From there we went on the most amazing experience so far! Our exploration of NYC only lasted one night but hit all the important landmarks in our area. The lights of Times Square left me awestruck and the view off the top of the Empire State Building is something everyone should see in their lifetime. I immediately fell in love with the city and didn’t want to leave! I would love to live there. Columbia could be my way to do that.

Today we took the train from the beloved Big Apple that I will miss dearly. We had a slight separation once on the train because of spacing issues. Henry, Connor, Mr. Miranda, and I ended up being moved to first class because of spacing issues. The chairs were a dream.

Once in New Haven we got ready to immediately head to Yale, no time for lunch. Throughout the info session Brandon and I could smell the sandwiches we ordered. It was slightly torturous. However, that made the sandwiches all the tastier when we finally did eat.

Due to the timing of everything we got a few hours to relax and decompress in our hotel rooms. After a night out on the town in the city that never sleeps it was nice to have the chance to relax.

Tonight we were fortunate enough to dine with Dr. Luong once again. We had a lovely meal followed by one of the most delicious chocolate mousses I have ever tasted!

Columbia and UPenn are at the top of my list so far. We’ll see if that changes after our Dartmouth trip tomorrow.

The News: York and Haven

Like smiles, Wi-Fi should be free, but in New York neither are, so we were unable to blog about all the things that happened yesterday. Here's the recap:

We took a train from Philadelphia to New York Wednesday morning. On the train, I put my wallet in my front pocket instead of my back as a safety measure, and I refrained from carrying a bulky camera around my neck. I didn't want to look like a tourist, since I plan to live in New York City one day.

We disembarked at Penn Station in New York. Though I tried to look unimpressed and nonchalant, inside I was screaming.
We walked down the street to our hotel, which was an adventure in itself. We checked into our rooms then made our way to Columbia.

I had a hot dog from a hot dog stand in New York. I liked it so much I had two.

We walked onto the Columbia campus and the city disappeared. It was strange to look around and not realize you were in the biggest city in America. It was serene and clean, and I loved it.
We sat through the informational session and took a tour of the campus with Dane, a short, muscular young man who I really wanted to be friends with. All of the tour guides, who are current Columbia students, seemed like the kind of people I would want to surround myself with in college and in life.

That night we ate dinner at Aureole, a Charlie Palmer restaurant. I didn't know who Charlie Palmer was, but Mr. Ramsey pointed out that he was the man taking our orders and bringing us bread.

Since I was in New York, I had a NY Strip Loin as my main course and a NY Cheesecake for dessert. They were both fantastic.

Afterwards, Mr. Ramsey went back to the hotel to sleep and the "cool kids" (Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Miranda, Marisol, Henry, Brandon and I went out to explore New York City at night.
We walked up and down Times Square which was lit like it was daytime. Again, I tried to control my composure. I had my hands in my pockets so I could hold my belongings at all times, especially while we were shoving through crowds of people.

Then Mrs. Kronenberg took us to the Empire State building. It was midnight, so the lines were short but they were still lines. Mrs Kronenberg joked that it was "The City That Never Sleeps."
I compared it to home. "Pinole: The City that Sleeps in the Night."

We reached the top of the Empire State. I looked over the edge for the first time in my life.

I don't want to get all gooey and poetic, but the view was beautiful and I fell in love. I had that swelling feeling in my chest and I felt both happy and sad at the same time. I was happy because I was here and sad because I had to leave. I could've stared at the skyline until morning.

I know for sure that I will live in New York City at least once by any means necessary. Whether I live in a penthouse or a poorhouse, it will be in NYC.

We returned to the hotel at 1:30 AM and went to sleep an hour or two later.

We woke up at 8:00 AM and rode to New Haven. After getting sandwiches, we attended an information session about Yale. My favorite part of the session was when they spoke about the Anti-Gravity Club, which is not a group of rebellious nerds but a juggling troupe.

"They juggle balls, clubs, torches... they even breath fire. No experience is necessary to join."

I want to join this club. If the college I end up attending does not have a club like this, I will start it, and it will be amazing.

Lastly, we ate dinner with Dr. Luong. Until this point in the trip, I've been nervous about the course I'll be taking at Yale. I wake up feeling nauseous, butterflies in my stomach. I'm afraid that the course and the elite students from all over the world will eat me alive. Figuratively.

Talking to Dr. Luong eased my fears, and for the first time I'm excited about the course rather than anxious. Dr. Luong is an intelligent, eloquent dinner guest, and he gave us a taste of what we are to expect on Sunday.

Tomorrow Brandon and I are going to buy thick notebooks for the course. I'm pumped.

The past two days with the Ivy League Connection were very enlightening. I discovered where I really want to live and I learned that there isn't too much to be afraid of. I realized at dinner that I am having one of the best times of my life right now, and that this will affect my future forever.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Philly: Day 2

Based on just seeing the two universities we visited today, I whole-heartedly agree to the importance of actually visiting schools that you will invest four years of your life to. I've realized that the University of Pennsylvania is an excellent fit for me. I love how the university is integrated into the city and how the buildings have a variety of designs and color schemes. 

Our tour guide, Teresa, told us how college life truly is. She didn't shy away from telling us of all the parties on campus and how to survive college by taking easy classes. I appreciated her honesty.

After multiple exciting and fun train rides (my first time riding a train) and a taxi ride to Princeton, we attended an information session of the college in the Inner Sanctum. This was a gorgeous building and the inside had a very similar design of where British Parliament is held. It also had huge portraits of some of the greats of Princeton such as Woodrow Wilson. In comparison to UPenn, Princeton was made up of Gothic and Greek architecture and the campus itself was very secluded. Not really where I would want to go to school, but of course it obviously attracts students that don't want to be in an urban academic environment.

After taking more than one train back to our hotel, we were left with 15 minutes to get ready for dinner at Le Bec Fin. It was tres beautiful and very chic. I was thrilled to have dinner with Dr. June Chu (UPenn Pan-Asian American Community House, Director) and Mr. David M. Toomer (Multicultural Recruitment Program at UPenn, Director). They both were very helpful in informing us about UPenn and reinforced the fact that UPenn is a need blind/need based university. This is an important fact since UC's have increased their tuition fees by more than 30% and that UPenn hasn't even increased their tuition by 5% in recent years! It was a long, but very beneficial dinner. We made it to the hotel around midnight and I started to pack right away since we leave for NYC later this morning at 10 AM. Currently about  hours away from that time. zZzZz.

*Photos of our hotel room in Philadelphia at the Sheraton and Princeton:

And The Winner Is...

I woke to the sound of three different alarm clocks. I wanted to be sure that I was on time to breakfast. We ate at the hotel restaurant and coffee was readily available so no complaints from me.

Right after breakfast we, the students, walked with Ms. Kronenburg to the campus of UPenn only a few blocks away. The info session was followed by a tour led by a rising senior who was studying language at UPenn. She was wonderful at explaining the feel of campus life. I loved hearing of the unique traditions. At football games the students throw toast onto the field in order to keep their age-old fight song alive. An engineering student even invented a Toast-Zamboni to clear the thousands of pieces of toast off the field. I was impressed with the architecture and level of academics they claimed to have. I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful tour.

Unfortunately, those who didn’t join us on the tour did not have as wonderful a time. In a sad turn of events Mr. Miranda’s wallet went missing and he and Mr. Ramsey got wrapped up in the process of replacing all the necessities that were in that wallet. Looks like between spillage and potential theft our luck hasn’t been too good.

However, the train rides to Trenton and then Princeton were rather fun. For the first time on the trip we took Amtrak. It was a fun experience and the five of us, the other students, Ms. Kronenburg, and I, had a wonderful, laugh filled ride.

Once arriving at Princeton it was clear that the feel was very different. With gothic architecture and a different type of info session, I did not feel the same connection as I did with UPenn. The tour guide was fabulous but the university didn’t fit my style.

Fitting with our train adventures we took four different trains back to our hotel. Since there were so many different connections to make we really became a team, laughing, taking pictures, and sharing music along the way. Unfortunately we took a little longer to get back to Philly then we had planned…

With only fifteen minutes to get ready for dinner it was a race against the clock. However, it was all worth it once we got to the amazing restaurant Mr. Ramsey had chosen for us. We had two amazing guests from UPenn that were wonderfully open and willing to answer any questions we had. I was blown away by the food, especially the desserts! I thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

Leaving the restaurant we were shocked to find it was raining! Luckily our first encounter with the east coast summer rain was quite short. Hopping into a cab we zoomed back to the hotel.

After a brief meeting Ms. Kroneburg joined Brandon and I on a stroll around Philly at night. It was great to finally see the late city lights. I can’t wait to see the famous New York skyline for the first time tomorrow.

All in all it was a wonderful double hitter of a day where UPenn came out on top in my book. Although both colleges were lovely I was much more impressed with UPenn. I felt the connection to the campus and loved the culture of city life as well as student involvement. I hope to be as impressed with the colleges coming up in the week.

Trains, trains, and even more trains

Today, well yesterday actually, was a really busy and a great adventure through UPenn and Princeton.

Meeting time today was 8:30 at the lobby. I woke up early, got ready and headed down to the lobby, nothing exciting. Breakfast was a small buffet style restaurant at the hotel where we ate and talked about the plans for the day. It was decided that the four students and Mrs. Kronenberg would attend the tour at UPenn while Mr. Ramsey and Mr. Miranda would buy the train tickets for Princeton.

Penn: At Penn the group attended both the information session and the college tour. I have actually been to Penn before but that was six years ago when I was not even thinking about college yet. But six years later I have gained a new perspective and paid much more attention. I felt that the info session was really informative (as it should be) because it covered everything from the history of the school, to the application, to the student life. And what the info session didn't cover the college tour did. My impression of Penn changed slightly since I first visited six years ago. For me the setting in the middle of a large city is not optimal for me. As for the academics, the restrictions because of the four colleges and the many requirements make less than an ideal situation for a student like me that wants to take classes in an extremely broad range of subjects. But other than that, Penn still seems like a great school with many opportunities, especially for studying abroad and I would not mind attending this university.

During this trip tragedy struck Mr. Miranda. While in the train station buying the tickets for Princeton he lost his wallet. As a result Mr. Ramsey and Mr. Miranda had to stay in Phily to resolve the dilemma while the rest of us went to Princeton. Fortunately, everything was straightened out by the end of the day.

Princeton: After Penn was a mad dash to Princeton. After a train ride to Trenton followed by a cab drive to Princeton we arrived at our destination at around 2:40, 20 minutes after the information session started. Right before we joined the info session we visited the admissions office where, according to Brandon, I "stole a book" which was actually a free course booklet. Our group caught the end part of the info session where the person talked about eating clubs which was quite interesting. The eating clubs are not really clubs. They are only open to juniors and seniors as alternate meal plans. They are Princeton's substitutes for fraternities and sororities. After the info session was of course the college tour and the Princeton campus is definitely one of the best I have seen in my many college visits. What I liked about Princeton was the flexibility students had. Unlike Penn where there are many required courses Princeton students have less restrictions and more freedom in the classes they take. And guaranteed housing for all four years in one of the most beautiful campuses in the US doesn't hurt either.

Unlike Connor, Brandon and Marisol who all liked Penn I felt a better feeling for Princeton. What we all think was the main factor for this reason was the difference in the town setting. Penn was right in the middle of Philadelphia while Princeton is based in a small town.

On the way back from Princeton to Philly we had to take a total of four trains. The first train was from Princeton to Princeton Junction which we found out along the way were actually two different stations. Then we went from Princeton Junction to Trenton and Trenton to Philadelphia. The entire trip back took a good two hours because of the unexpected difference in stations and the waiting time. But one good thing about the time we spent from Princeton to Philly is that we got to know more about each other including some funny quirks (which I don't think I'm allowed to say). 

We finally got back to the hotel to get ready for dinner at about 7:15 so we only had about 15 minutes to prepare. I went back to my room and got fully dressed in a suit in about 8 minutes, the fastest I have ever been.

Dinner: Tonight's dinner was at Le Bec Fin which was mentioned during the Penn info session as a popular fancy French Restaurant. Joining us were two people who worked at Penn, June Chu, a professor of East Asian studies and David M. Toomer an undergraduate admissions officer both of whom I had the pleasure to talk to. During the dinner, the other students and I had the opportunity to talk to both of the Penn people about our future plans, who we are, and ask any other questions we had about Penn. Both of them are great people that I will definitely keep in touch with.

Now for the food part. The food was a six course meal consisting of a lot of food. The menu was certainly interesting consisting of regular beef to the more French food of Foie Gras. The best part of the dinner, however, was the all you can eat dessert of which everyone ate a lot of. The dinner began at 8 and we finished at around 11:30 and arrived back at the hotel at about midnight.

Tomorrow (today) we will head of to New York City and visit Columbia. It's been awhile since I've been to New York City so I am really excited to experience The Big Apple again. Well I'm off to bed now.

Two Colleges and a Six Course Meal

Woke up this morning and went down to get a muffin from the continental breakfast buffet on the ground floor of the hotel. In my previous experience with hotels, breakfast is usually free, but a hotel employee informed me otherwise.

"It costs $13 to eat from the breakfast buffet." He told me.
I pointed at my half-eaten muffin. "So it's $13 for this muffin?"
He paused. "No. It's... $2.50"

I'm pretty sure he took advantage of me, but it didn't really matter. The rest of the day was phenomenal.

We visited the university of Pennsylvania campus for an informational session and a tour. They told us all about UPenn and what goes on around campus. A cheery UPenn student led us around campus, telling us about school traditions like throwing toast onto the UPenn field.

It's an inside joke, and now Brandon, Henry, Marisol and I are in on it.

We then took a train to Princeton. We were a bit late so we stopped inside the admissions office to find out where the information session was. A kind woman gave us directions while Henry poured over books on Princeton in the corner.

The Princeton tour was very similar to the UPenn tour. Marisol, Brandon and I concluded that we liked UPenn more. It was in the city, it seemed livlier, and we liked the vibe.

Henry really liked Princeton. So much, in fact, he was willing to steal from it.
(I'm joking, but not about him liking Princeton).

We returned to the hotel late and had 10 minutes to get ready for dinner at the best restaurant in Philadelphia (or so we were told): Le Bec Fin. Both the UPenn informational speaker and Brandon's mom's friend swore that it was the best in Philly, and we were about to find out.

Two UPenn admissions officers joined us at the restaurant. The waiters were so nice and professional that I was intimidated at first, but I eventually warmed to them.

I will not dwell on describing the food too much, because the pictures will speak for themselves. However, I will provide an explanation for my choice of entree.

Asher Roth is one of my favorite rappers, who happens to be from Philly, and he recently came out with an album titled "Seared Foie Gras with Quince and Cranberry".

The album is amazing. However, I never knew what Seared Foie Gras was. Tonight, it was on the menu. I ordered it.

I learned that Foie Gras is just a fancy word for duck liver, and I also learned it was delicious. It's not for everyone though.

The dinner was successful. I befriended the UPenn admissions officers, and I now have a contact within the University. I really like the college, and I plan to keep in touch with them. I would have never considered UPenn or contacting its admissions offices, but thanks to the Ivy League connection, I did both.

And finally, the food photo shoot. I'd put more, but the internet is funky here and photos mess up my blog formatting. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Philly: Day 1

Our first day in Philadelphia is officially over. 

In the morning we all arrived to meet Don Gosney at El Cerrito High School at 4:30 AM to ensure our luggage was under 50 pounds, a weight limit enforced by Southwest Airlines. Don weighed my luggage and assured us that my luggage was four pounds under fifty. It turns out when it was weighed at Oakland Airport it was forty-nine pounds, but still under fifty. I was pleased to see that because I transferred a lot of items from my main luggage to my carry on luggage which really was a hassle, but ended up being worth it. 

On the plane ride over to Midway Airport in Chicago, I was glad to speak and sit next to Board President Madeline Kronenberg. Our conversations spanned from local to state to federal politics! From parcel taxes to President Barack Obama to Jerry Brown to Hillary Clinton to Sarah Palin to Meg Whitman to Alvin Greene and on and on and on! She taught me a few good lessons such as always attending meetings that pertain to you or your cause -- NO EXCEPTIONS! The risk of not attending the meetings is catastrophic. You will not be heard or fully understood and as a result, your ambitions to strive for greatness are diminished and nonexistent. 

Another thing that I learned from Ms. Kronenberg on the plane ride is that your political opponents can only force and help you to be a better person, candidate or elected official. They help you fix and realize aspects that you may need improvement in and they could very well increase your motivation and reinforce your determination to succeed. It was just so enjoyable talking to her about topics such as politics that greatly interest us both. On the next flight to Philadelphia I sat next to Connor and Marisol. It was great being able to sit with them because we sure know how to make each other laugh and have fun!

Once landing and exiting the airplane in Philadelphia; humidity is the first thing I noticed. Then I noticed the beautiful, historic architecture of Philadelphia and it's admiring cultural diversity. I was in awe to see the amount of brick buildings here in Philly. It's just so different from California (due to our earthquakes). 

I really enjoyed riding subway (first time) to the restaurant we ate at for dinner named, "Butcher & Singer." The restaurant was in downtown Philadelphia and had amazingly high ceilings and comfy chairs/couches to sit in. Way better than the seats on the plane! I ate the Delmonico steak and mashed potatoes. Both were extremely delicious. For dessert I had the unforgettable Baked Alaska. I had no clue what this was when I first saw it on the menu. All I knew was that Mr. Ramsey was pushing us to try the Baked Alaska and so I did. It was the most delicious dessert I've eaten in my life! It was ice cream within sponge cake and meringue on top. Just amazing.

After dinner we took a cab back to the Sheraton University Hotel in downtown Philadelphia. Connor (rommate) and I have an amazing view from the hotel room of downtown Philly. He posted a picture on his blog. I'm excited to tour UPenn and meet with our admissions officer tomorrow evening at dinner. It will be quite a night!

Wine Anyone?

Day one began earlier then I would have liked, but turned into a wonderful day. With overweight luggage in tow our first flight was very smooth without any turbulence. The second was bumpier but went off without a hitch, landing us safely in Philadelphia. After waiting for the Lady Liberty to pick us up from the airport, we headed to the hotel where I (being the only girl) got my own room.

With only a short meal between flights we got ready to go to dinner. We took the subway through the city to reach a wonderful restaurant. I was surprised as how much like Muni the subway was. The subway was much dirtier then BART but much quieter, traveling only underground.

Once we reached the restaurant I was in awe of the amazing decor. The room was beautiful, done up the way one would expect the set of a period piece movie would be. Fittingly, we were all dressed nicely and ready for an amazing feast.

First the adults ordered drinks. Mickey, our waiter, brought Mr. Ramsey’s first and then reached over my head to hand Ms. Kronenberg hers. However, the drink never made it there. Instead the contents of the wine glass were spilled on both Mr. Miranda and me. From that moment on my hair and dress smelled of alcohol. Soon after a woman by the name of Molly assured me that she would dry clean my dress and offered to assist me with anything else I wanted. It turns out getting spilled on makes people want to be very helpful.

Wine spillage aside meal was absolutely delicious.

After an epic meal we piled into two cabs. Exhausted from the day of travel the subway seemed like too much work. There is no better way to see the city than from a cab. The muni-like subway was a wonderful experience, but the underground view could not compare with the city lights out the car window. I like Philly already and I haven’t been here more then six hours.

I look foreward to explorations of both UPenn and Princeton tomorrow. I anticipate loving at least one of the two amazing instructions I will have the privilege of seeing.

I can’t wait for the trip to really take off. With trains and tours it’s sure to be an amazing ride.

First Day! (Philly)

Today was the first day of the ILC trip. 

It all started out meeting at El Cerrito High at 4:30 AM in the freezing cold. But the plane rides generally went well -- thankfully no delays like the Cornell group. There was an interesting thing about the plane ride though. On the way to Chicago, we saw a person that looked just like Jason Sudeikis from SNL. We arrived in Philly around 4:30 local time which was about on schedule. 

One thing instantly noticeable different in the East Coast than the West Coast is the weather. Philadelphia seems to actually have seasons in contrast to the Bay Area. Dinner at a steakhouse called Butcher and Singer where the waiter accidentally spilled some wine on Mr. Miranda and Marisol and the waiter looked shaky the rest of the night. Other than that the food was exceptional.

Tomorrow will be tours at UPenn and Princeton. I have attended tours for these two schools before but that was six years ago when college looked way far off so I didn't pay much attention to the tours back then. But six years later new questions have been thought of for the tour guides and the admissions people in general. I am also looking forward to see the campuses. At night there will be a formal dinner the ILC people will have with the Northern California admissions officer of UPenn.

Today Was a Baked Alaska

I couldn't sleep last night because I was so excited and nervous about leaving. Tonight I won't have any trouble sleeping at all.

I woke up at 3 o'clock and met up with with everyone at 4:30 AM at El Cerrito High School. Don Gosney had a small boutique set up for us, so he could give us items that we would need like laundry bags and security cables. I felt like I was in a James Bond movie, the part where he's being equipped for his next mission.

"Would you like the 25 foot cable, or the 14?"

"I'll take the 14."

We boarded our first plane without incident. I looked over across the aisle and my jaw dropped. Jason Sudeikis, or one of his twin brothers, was sitting in coach with us. For those of you who don't know him, Jason Sudeikis is a player in Saturday Night Live and guest star on the TV show 30 Rock, which I watch religiously.

I didn't have the nerve to ask if it was really him or not, but when we disembarked the plane at Chicago (where he happened to study improv at one time in his life) I made eye contact.

I looked at him, he looked at me, and I gave him a knowing nod.

From Chicago to Philadelphia we shared a flight with an anonymous pageant contestant. She was having trouble loading her garment bag into the overhead compartment so a flight attendant came over to help her.

"What's the occasion? Wedding?"

"No, I'm in a pageant. I'm Miss California."

I did a Google search to see if I could find her. I couldn't. Maybe she was lying.

I sat between Brandon and Marisol, which was a great idea. We laughed all the way to Philadelphia which made the time go faster.

I love Philadelphia. I love the way it looks and the way it feels. Everyone likes to complain about the humidity but I don't really mind. My favorite rap artists, Asher Roth, Black Thought, and Brother Question all come from Philadelphia, so I asked Mr. Ramsey if there was much of a rap scene in Philly.

"I don't know."

He does.

We checked into our hotel, rested a bit, then went to have dinner at Butcher & Singer. Since I placed the reservation, it was under my name. Mr. Ramsey joked throughout dinner, "Wow, Connor. You have excellent taste in restaurants."

Yes I did. I had a crab cake as an appetizer and salmon as my entree. They were both delicious, but what topped the whole experience was the Baked Alaska. Mrs. Kronenberg saw it on the menu and said that we had to get it.

They brought it to the table, and I realized it was the most beautiful piece of dessert I had ever seen. I wanted to take a picture, but by the time my camera was out we had already eaten most of it. It was delicious, and I now know that if I ever need anything from anyone, all I have to do is make them a Baked Alaska and they will forever be in my debt.

Today was a Baked Alaska in many ways. It was beautiful, filling, and over too fast. Most importantly, though, it was provided by the Ivy League Connection. They made this first step of my three week journey possible, and already I feel like I'm indebted to them. I plan to work my tail off once we start our class at Yale so I can show them that their work is worthwhile.

That is the magic of a Baked Alaska.

Our Yalies Depart

It was dark outside.  It was also chilly with a wind that helped the chill slice right through us. But then again it was 4:30 in the morning so why should we expect anything different?

Our Yale Ivy Scholars—Marisol Clemens, Brandon Amargo, Henry Hung and Connor Miller—gathered at El Cerrito High School with their chaperone Mario Miranda to board the airport shuttle that will begin their journey to New Haven, Connecticut where they will spend the next several days visiting Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and Dartmouth University.

Accompanying them on this initial phase of the journey were ILC administrators Madeline Kronenberg and Charles Ramsey.

Before boarding the airport shuttle, our scholars went through the Gosney Bazaar where they could pick from baskets of umbrellas, laundry bags, computer cables, laptop security cables, Ethernet cables and even alarm clocks—all just to make sure they had what they needed to survive the next three weeks at Yale.

Fond farewells were said with the obligatory hugs from the parents and then the requisite group photo was taken before they headed east to seek knowledge that will turn them from mere high school students into future pillars of our community.

Studying Grand Strategy under Dr. Dr. Minh Luong, they will cram a full year’s study into just fourteen days.  Attending class from dawn to well past dusk, they will then be allowed to return to their dorm rooms to read a few hundred pages, prepare their Marshall Brief and study some more—and some more—and some more.

Our four Ivy Scholars will depart well prepared for this course having already read the 3,749 pages of material that will be studied and discussed.  Books about the Peloponnesian War, Homeland Security, Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese and Greeks, Genghis Khan as well as the inimitable Cyrus the Great will ready our adventurous students for this course.  (The book on Cyrus the Great has been said to be one of the best books ever written and one of our Yalies has already vowed to read it to his future children as bedtime reading.)

Students from previous years have written about this program. They write that our Yalies will be swamped with their studies and be given instruction from some of the greatest minds in their respective fields. From across the nation, though, previous Ivy Scholars have lamented that they would give anything for just another hour’s sleep.  I’m sure that when our Yalies return they may likely add to that chorus.

We wish our Yalies well.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bulldog Pursuit

This fall, our daughter Yohanna is set to embark on a rigorous collegiate “bulldog” pursuit in gothic spires at Yale.

There’s absolutely no doubt that the ILC paved the way. It came to fruition because she did her part as an enthusiastic WCCUSD student since kindergarten, but her ILC Yale experience in her junior year stoked her will and intellectual curiosity to brave new and challenging frontiers. A good education is the most important gift children can have as they take the steps into adulthood. Needless to say, parents are the natural advocates for children to attain that. Luckily, our district has the ILC that nurtures and supports motivated students’ educational aspirations. The ILC consists of the benevolence of the esteemed sponsors, support of the WCCUSD staff and the unceasing labors of Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg and Don Gosney.
 Stationary Engineers Local 39 Scholarship Awards Dinner

The ILC participants are fortunate students put to the test and awarded full ride summer courses to experience academic rigor, and as a result aspire an Ivy League education to be with the best and the brightest. The required activities (often scrumptious), accouterments, and experiences teach them ethics in the professional world and in being mindful that no one makes it on his/her own. They carry with them the pride and hopes of their family and community.
The ILC opens excellent academic opportunities for eager students, such as to be on equal footing with the more affluent communities in vying for spots at prestigious universities. With the ILC creating a college landscape is such a blessing to our school district. Encouraging students in our high schools to be the best they can be, will send ripples of successes. If allowed to flourish, those ripples become waves which powerfully help to transform and build a brighter future for the community.

We are in awe that from our little known community, our daughter will be a smidgen part of something big and special as Yale. Thank you to everyone involved in her journey and for your confidence in her. We are forever grateful for the amazing opportunity.

Our heartfelt wishes for the continued success of ILC,

Eric and Youra Pepa