Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hello! Pictures!

Hello everyone!

I've finally gotten all my pictures online for you viewing pleasure. My photos are separated into different albums by date. Please enjoy!


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Summer at Columbia 2009

Even though a picture means a thousand words, these photos only show a glimpse of everything we have done, seen, and learned in the three weeks at Columbia University.

Thank you to Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenburg, Ms. Lilhanand, Don, and all the Ivy League Connection supporters!

Issues In Biological Conservation 2009 Photos

I had an amazing experience! Thank you!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I'm truly sorry for blogging this late once again. Last night I encountered what would be my last dilemma in the fifth floor of John Jay in Columbia -- getting locked out. It was around two o'clock in the morning when a floormate of mine knocked on my door and asked me a question. I got out without noticing that my key was still in the room. It was only about an hour ago that I was unlocked, and at that time I had yet to prepare my luggage. Luckily I traveled light, making my packing easier.

I believe that this experience in Columbia had an immense change in my life. It was my breathe of the college life, a life where I make the calls, a life where my parents were a thousand miles away from me, unable to tell me what to do. My life was mine for three weeks. I did whatever I pleased. While this was a sigh of relief from all the burdens everyone has placed upon me back home, it was also a slap on the face of reality. Before this trip, I had never done my laundry by myself, for the most part or had someone call to wake me up for class. These were changes I had to adapt to, or else I never consider myself capable of being independent. These changes were difficult, but I knew I could do it.

Aside from this, the Ivy League Connection has done a great of altering my views of college. To tell everyone the truth, the main reason I applied to this program was for the opportunity to live in New York City. Opening myself to different colleges must have been the least on my list of priorities. This whole perception changed once I arrived to Columbia. During my stay here, I have fallen in love with Columbia. This college is, in my opinion, the best location ever -- New York City. Not only that, the college provides an unlikely strong sense of community deep within an urban campus as well as an intense core curriculum that intrigues me. Columbia is one of the other schools I am now considering to apply to, along with NYU and UPenn. If it weren't for this trip, I would have never considered looking at these colleges.

Another topic I have decided to broaden my horizons is my major. Just like the college I have decided to attend for the next four years, I decided that science would be my field of study. Although I do take some interest in some fields of science, this is what my mom wants me to do. I never really took the chance to consider any other field in fear of disappointing my mother, but I've learned over this course of three weeks, from various people who have stated the same thing, that you have to enjoy what you do. You will never be successful if you are not happy. These are phrases that resonated through my head. Will I be happy becoming a scientist? Is this the right thing for me? These re-concurring questions will remain in my head until further notice, but right now, I'm content. I'm giving myself the chance to consider other options than science. Anyways, I do it to myself.

As of now, I feel like I've entered the ILC sure of what my future would appear as, but am leaving confused and flustered. I have no clue what I shall do in the future, but at the same time, I'm happy. I'm glad that the ILC exposed me to things that I would never take view and consider. Once again, I would like to give my upmost gratitude to everyone who made this possible. Mrs. Kronenberg and Mr. Ramsey, I am enamored with your hard work and dedication to have us students expand our views on college, and to the sponsors, your graciousness has given unforgettable memories and help for the future; none of this would happen if it weren't for you guys. 

This confusion is only temporary; I know with the knowledge I have retained in this program, I will be sure to make a decision on the step of my life -- the right decision for me.

The Journey

Well, today, we leave for home. It's been such an amazing three weeks. I can't believe this journey is done already.

I remember when I first heard about the opportunity, I really thought nothing about it. None of the other kids were very interested in a chemistry class, even if it was at Columbia. My principal called all of us and went one by one around the room asking us what we wanted to do with our future. I heard some say "graphic design" or "law," and by the time she came to me I said I was interested. Essentially, I was kind of scared of her, so I told her that I would write that personal statement. It only made sense that, of course, I was interested in health science and after all, "chemistry is the building block of all science." It also didn't hurt that some of my friends decided to write the personal statement, too.

My first rough draft was extremely rough. One of the assistant principals, Ms. Kaplan, said that it lacked depth, and that I only wrote about my accomplishments. My second draft was a lot better, with more included about myself, but it just had some grammatical mistakes that my English teacher, Mr. Wade corrected. My third draft was the best so far, and I turned it in the day it would be taken down to the district's office.

I waited a couple of days and I really thought I didn't receive the offer to go to Columbia. To my surprise after a visit to Ms. Kahn's office, and a congratulatory visit from Mr. Ramsey, Gabe and I were allowed to fill out the actual application for Columbia. After filling out a long application, getting recommendations, and waiting for transcripts to be mailed, Columbia accepted us.

Along with being accepted as an individual, I had to represent my school, my district, and the Ivy League Connection itself. I had no idea what the Ivy League Connection would do for me. I had to introduce myself to the city council and the board members of education. Just being picked out of a pool of four schools made me confident, but I thought it was just the extent of it.

Arriving at Columbia, I was so nervous. Thankfully, there were five other people who I sort of knew along with me. Meeting my suite was very nerve-wracking, about ten other girls. Everyone ended up very nice and friendly. I can now say I don't sweat it when meeting a new group of people. I made some really awesome friends, who I know I'll stay in touch with for years to come.

Class was a different story. The first day of class, I was already lost. It seemed that everyone knew so much more than me. I finally got tired of not knowing what was going on, and I just asked my lab group. I realized that there was no way I was going to succeed in class if I just sat there. They were willing to explain the material, most of time. I became comfortable in asking them questions and using lab equipment I never even heard of.

Going on the college visits really opened my eyes to what other choices I have. I know for sure that I will apply to some colleges on the East Coast, and I know that if I work hard I can definitely get into some.

Living in a dorm has made me more independent. I could go out for food at ten o'clock at night, as long as I made it back by curfew. I saw my friends whenever I wanted. I also tackled the hard task of laundry, by myself.

This trip to Columbia has been successful for me in a lot of ways. I grew more as a person. I am now more confident, more open, and can express myself easier. I hope that when I get back home, my peers can notice this change, and maybe, just maybe, it will rub off on them.

I just want to thank all of the sponsors for providing for this wonderful opportunity. I want to also thank Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, and Mr. Gosney for all the hard work they've put into such an amazing program. Mrs. Lilhanand took such great care of us, thank you! The Ivy League Connection made the wheels in my head start turning about who I am as a person and what I want in life.

From Beginning To End

To be honest, I didn't know what to expect before I came to Columbia. I kind of worried that I was not going to like living at Columbia, I didn't know if I was going to have a roommate or if my possible roommate would become a friend or foe, I worried about my time management, I worried about waking up on time and not being late for class, and I was incredibly worried about being able to keep up in class. No matter how much you hear from a person or learn from a website or etc., you can never be fully prepared. Even though you may get advice from a primary source, it's still difficult to predict anything because you have never actually been there yourself. Or, at least, that is how I feel. So although I was excited for Columbia, and although I had no qualms about generally having to be responsible because I'm living away from my parents, I was still very worried about a lot of things.

When I came to Columbia, I discovered I had a single room, which alleviated some worry. I wouldn't have to be super conscious in my own room, because it wouldn't actually be my own room. Then I got to meet most of my suitemates, and we all got along pretty well. Now, I realize I was incredibly lucky to live with this group of people. There are other suites in which the girls are not as friendly or kind to one another as we are. Class started, and I became intimidated by all the terms and concepts I had never heard. But as time went on, I became more comfortable in class. I spoke out more, and I began to have an easier time grasping the concepts -- to a certain extent (I could never fully grasp it with my basic background in chemistry). I faltered a few times on waking up on time, but I was never late! I admit I also had some time management obstacles. When your two weekends are taken up already, you want to spend time with your friends and do all the stuff after class that you'd normally do on weekends. But I also knew that if I indulged myself, I would get nothing done and I would mess up my time here. So although I was enticed by all the invitations to places or events I wanted to go to, I refrained because I didn't want to burn myself out.

In these three weeks, I picked up a daily routine. But even though I generally did the same things every day, there were also new or random aspects to each day. Some days I spontaneously went places, or I relaxed outside, or I did this or I did that. I'm going to miss seeing my friends every day, and hanging out with them whenever and wherever. I'm going to miss walking into the Havemeyer building and down the stairs, feeling like it was my class building. I'm going to miss conducting lab experiments, getting to know my fellow classmates as well as my wonderful mentors. I'm going to miss pulling my lanyard out of my bag and unlocking my suite door in that special way which makes the small process easier. I'm going to miss greeting people in my suite when I come in, and unlocking my door, and walking into a cooled room from the hot day. Essentially, I'm going to miss feeling so at home and comfortable here. I'm going to miss being able to say "I'm going back home now," referring to Suite 6A in Hartley.

I feel like I'm coming away from this experience as a changed girl. No, a changed young adult. I now generally know what it is like to go to college. After senior year, living in dorms won't be such a shock for me, therefore I will have an easier transition and adjustment, and thus an easier time focusing on my academics. I now generally know what I should do in class as a better method of improving my performance, and when I get to college it won't take me weeks to utilize my drive and get enough courage to do it. But most importantly, I have gained insight into what I want from a college. I think that is the best gift that this program has given me. Before, I was so incredibly lost when it came to choosing colleges. I ran on general information, prestige, and parent's choices, but now I have become more solid and thoughtful in my consideration of colleges. Even though I still have questions and am still indecisive about particular aspects, I have a better handle on what I want when I get out of high school.

Thank you, sponsors. Without you, none of us would have had such a wonderful experience. I promise that when I come back, I will make the most of my experience by trying to carry on the things I have learned to the students in our district. Thank, Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg, for creating this program in the first place. I know of no other program like this, making it unique and a very valuable asset to the students in our district. One summer at a time, you are helping kids and changing lives -- which I think, is a fabulous affair.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Bitter Sweet Farewell

My final day in class consisted of presentations. Working in pairs or individually, everyone taught their project to the class through PowerPoint. During lunch, there was a mandatory college presentation, which was led by the assistant director of undergraduate admissions for Columbia. She stressed, "Do your research" and ways of doing so would be college visits or tours, research through the Web, live on the college campus, and talk to others. She touched on the meaning of Ivy League, Columbia's core curriculum, class sizes, what the admission office is looking for, importance of scores, number of recommendations, decision types, and financial aid. I think that though I knew some facts already, there was a lot of gaps that were filled in for me. It proved to be useful overall.

I cannot believe that it has already been three weeks! My experience at Columbia has been so amazing and indescribable. Though I was kept constantly on my toes, it felt good to be on the fast pace track. I enjoyed being able to do school work, but at the same time know that there was always some other activity I could do. I loved the laid out campus and being able to show others direction on the very first day. I found it interesting that the weather would be 73 degrees with sunny skies one day, but then 73 degrees with thunderstorms and lightning on another. I never got to try out all the food on Broadway, but it was great being able to see the different cultures. I will miss my class and suite mates greatly, for these three weeks with them seems more like 3 months!

From all the little details to broader ones, Columbia's impact gave me both similar and different insights than Brown. I am leaving this campus with a similar sense of independence and stronger leadership. I am walking out with knowledge not only my class, but from the general day to day activities. I have gained a taste of the New York experience. I only met residential students at Brown, but now I know and understand some of the ways of commuter students. I went to colleges, fairs, and presentations, which gives me a step up in figuring out what I want for my future. I am not as afraid and worried about what will happen. I have learned to take deep breaths, pace myself, and take charge of what I want from life.

I left Brown thinking that nothing can beat the experience, but Columbia has blown me away. I normally do not prefer big cities like Manhattan, but by attending Columbia, it has expanded my options. One can never really understand how they actually feel about a certain location unless they stay for a duration of time. Columbia is an amazing college and I am not saying so because it is an Ivy League. Many students tell me that there will be an attachment to a certain college and that is when you know it is a good choice. Three weeks ago I would have said that Columbia is not the college for me, but now I am sure that it will be on my college list.

The quote by Les Brown, "Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you will land among the stars" can be applied to my experience in the East Coast. I took this wonderful opportunity and chance to first go to one of the smallest state and then to one of the largest cities. I went through stress, laughter, pain, and joy, but new doors are opening.

Thank you so much to all the Ivy League sponsors and supporters! Thank you to Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenburg, Ms. O'Brian, Ms. Lihanand, and all who have helped me along my journey through the ILC. Once more you have provided me with an unforgettable experience that will forever impact my future. I am grateful for everything you have done and I hope that the ILC will flourish and pave new and wondrous opportunities for new generations of students.

*I will try to create a slideshow in the next few days, showing the Summer Columbia 2009 students from start to finish



It is about 1:30 AM here at Columbia and I am still packing. It's very hard for me to believe that it's already been 3 weeks. It sounds cliche, but it really does feel like we've arrived just yesterday and now we're leaving! I must say that I've learned a lot from being in the Ivy League Connection and coming to Columbia University.

The ILC has really boosted me on my college search. I came in knowing that I would go to college, but had no idea what I would do. I'm leaving with a new goal of going to an Engineering school. Since I was able to find my focus in life, I'm able to narrow down my college search. I feel that the ILC helped me find my future.

The ILC also taught me to expand my horizons. I'm sure I mentioned it before, but I never thought of looking outside California for college before joining the ILC. When we get back home, I want to be able to show others that there are many more colleges than what it just inside California. We shouldn't limit ourselves so easily based on geography. I hope that I can help spread the message that it's good to think outside our comfort zone and explore other options.

I don't want to sound overly cheesy, but I've also become better as a person. I was put against many new situations that I've never had to face before (a roommate, an uncooperative group member, etc.) and each time I was able to push past it and learn to live with it or deal with it in a productive way.

Our last day was a gallery style presentation of our group projects. Columbia students (mostly from the Chem department) would walk around and look at the boards. We would explain our project and answer any questions that they had. At first, it was a little difficult for me to try to explain what we did because I hadn't put it into words yet. But the more I explained our project, the better more I felt I understood it. Although I was nervous at first, I felt more comfortable as time passed.

My group's project

This is also very similar to when we first started class. At the time, I didn't know the professor or the mentors so I was sometimes too shy to speak. However, as the class progress, I got to know my professor and mentors better and by the end of the class, I felt very comfortable around them. I think this is true for most classes. Since I'm a rising senior, I know most of the teachers in my school. Most of the time, I've already met my teachers before the class starts. It was refreshing to meet a completely new professor without any prior knowledge of what type of person he was other than that he teaches chemistry.

Me with Prof. Avila

Thanks for all the support from everybody! Especially Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Don Gosney, and our chaperon Mrs. Lilhanand who worked hard to plan everything and all the paperwork, etc. to allow us to go all the way to New York. Also, a thanks to all the sponsors who helped pay for everything! I would probably still be lost about colleges without you.


Bye Bye Columbia

Columbia's summer session has come to an end. I am both sad and happy to go back home. I am happy to be able to return to my family after being away from them for three whole weeks. Also, I will get to sleep in my own bed once again and enjoy real home cooked meals. However, I an also sad because after being at Columbia for three week we now have to say our good byes. I have come accustomed to the college life and the people that surround me on a daily bases and its devastating to know that I won't probably see them ever again in my life.

Spending three long weeks away from home has definitely pushed me beyond my comfort zone and because of that I have become a better person. As most people know, when I first arrived at Columbia I wasn't all that great in Chemistry but I stuck through the course and made the best of it. I definitely had it rough but I never gave up and actually learned plenty of chemistry during these three weeks. ("Making mistakes is what makes a person stronger") Also being in a community where people come from all over the world was something I really enjoyed being a part of because you get to learn all the different cultures and languages.

The ILC has helped greatly in making me realize that not to limit myself and look beyond the horizon. Now that I have gone through this whole experience, visiting colleges and actually living in New York City , I now highly consider applying to colleges outside California and the UC system. Before the ILC, I feared the idea of even thinking about college at a much higher level but now I am no longer afraid to think about my future.

I personally want to think Mr. Ramsey, Mr. Godsney, Mrs. Kronenberg, and especially all the sponsors whole made this whole experience possible and who without their generous support we wouldn't be part of this wonderful experience.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

The College Fair


Today was the college fair and it was VERY crowded. I think the college fair was open to everybody, not just the Columbia students. I was able to find two of the six schools I mentioned yesterday, Carnegie Mellon and Tufts. I signed up on their mailing list and some other schools that looked interesting. I can't wait to find out more about them. A lot of the tables only had mailing sign-ups, not brochures and pamphlets so it was hard to tell what was offered at the schools. I'm really happy that I was able to go to a college fair here because I would never have heard of a lot of schools in the East Coast. I wish there could be more college fairs in the Bay Area that had representatives from many different schools on the East Coast and other parts of the U.s. come over and present rather than just the top colleges (Ivy Leagues, etc.) because everyone's already heard of those schools.

In class, we worked more on the final project. As I've mentioned before, I have always been able to choose my project group so I've been able to choose people that I work well with. This time however, I have someone in the group that is very hard for me to work with. It's a new experience for me and I knew it would come eventually. I'm glad it's come while I'm still in high school so I can learn how to deal with it. It's just a small step in my path towards college and beyond. I'm adjusting the way I interact to better smooth out the rough edges and avoid head-on conflicts. I've also learned that I do not have to like the person I'm working with as long as we can finish the work. I've also learned that interacting with people in a relaxed setting is a lot different than working in a group with them. I'm sure that once we aren't working together in a project, it will be much easier to be around the person.

Tomorrow is our last day in class. I can't believe 3 weeks have gone by so quickly! On our last day, we're going to be presenting our final project to the chemistry department. I wonder how it'll go.


It's Great to Be Back

I had a superb time at Black Rock Forest, which is only 50 miles away from the city; however I must say that it is great to be back to Columbia! Here are parts of my reflective essay which gives a very good summary of my experiences:

Black Rock Forest: Reflective Essay

I thought that I had experienced camping before, but this trip to Black Rock Forest has definitely given me a sense of "extreme" camping. I could not believe that there were no showers or toilets (there were porta potties); however it was not that bad in the end. I have gotten closer to my fellow classmates, the RAs, the TA, and the Professor, and I have learned so much in these three days. I had an amazing time from start to finish.

Even though there was a lot of mud involved with the painted turtles I was able to learn about their nature and structure type as well as how to catch them. I can now identify the gender and age of a turtle too, just by looking at the claws, tail, and shell. (I shall go back home and identify my turtle too!) I thought that it was really fun to be able to set the traps and then see very good results, (the net caught 5 turtles and 2 fish). I also hope that our results will be very useful to the research project that we helped.

In terms of working with the brook trout, they were slimy, but still I felt that I was helping to create biodiversity and actually impacting the environment in a better way. I loved being able to release the trout back into their natural habitat and now I hope that they will thrive! I also do not think that I can look at another pond again without considering whether or not it would be suitable for some species to live in it!

One of the prettiest sights that I witnessed on this trip was during the hike to Eagle Rock. I must admit that I was really afraid of venturing out into a dark forest in the middle of the night, but with my peers around I think that it eased my fears. I do not have the greatest sense of direction, nevertheless I found myself actually helping others get through the trail. I was one of the last people to arrive at the top of the rock, and the sight that I saw seemed like a photograph. Millions of stars were scattered throughout the black sky, the mountains formed dark silhouettes, and a glimpse of the city lights could be seen 50 miles away. I had to tell myself over and over again that I was still in New York! It is surprising that there could be such a serene forest right next to one of the largest cities. Another great surprise that I was thrilled to have been able to witness was the lunar eclipse. I actually learned a few facts of how the eclipse happens and the orange glow was simply amazing to see. It really made a great end to the day.

Another site that I cannot forget was at the top of the lightning rod tower. It is so tall, and I really thought that it would break if we all stood on it. Luckily it was sturdy and the sun was bright in the sky, allowing everyone to walk all the way to the top. I was stunned beyond words at the sight; it just looked so peaceful and empowering. I could not imagine that we were walking among all the trees and by the waters. At the distance one could see the city, but I could barely tell. I loved it so much that I even went twice! I normally feel dizzy at high heights, but this time I felt totally relaxed gazing at the forest.
Around the campsite, I enjoyed doing multiple things. I was able to start examining new species that I never saw before, such as birds, bats, plants, and especially bugs. It was also relaxing to be able to take a swim and I am still surprised at how clear and clean the water is. The breakfasts, lunches and dinners were fun to make and the water pump for the well made things more interesting. Of course the classic campfire and s'mores were a highlight of the nights. It was a great success to make the tents and sad to break it down, but it was funny during the stay inside. There was a lot of bonding time, and I feel that everyone has gotten so much closer in these 3 days compared to the 2 weeks before.
Overall I think that this camping trip was very useful in helping me understand everything we have been learning in class. The first hand experiences gives a bigger impact to me and I know that if I can help out at Black Rock Forest, then I should also be able to do similar activities and research back in California. I am so glad that I took this course and I will surely spread my new knowledge back home. I entered this class thinking that I would only learn about the cons of our world, but instead I walked out with many possibilities of how to fix it. I know that I am only one individual, but Black Rock Forest has opened my eyes to chances and change.

During lunch there was a college fair and I attended it expecting small bunches of people. I was really wrong! I had to wait in line for about 10 minutes before they would let me into the hall. Once I was actually in, there were a lot of colleges and their representatives, but it was so hard to actually go and talk to them. Too many people were just pushing and shoving here and there. I must say that this summer group shows a lot of enthusiasm for college!

I was slightly disappointed when I found out a lot of the colleges did not have a program or major for architecture. That however made me realize that if I were to apply to a college, I would like them to have at least most of my key interests listed. I have heard from so many people that they changed their majors at least 3 times in college! I just want to be sure that if a certain field is not right for me, then I will be able to have the option of another of my own interests. I got a lot of information packets, and I hope that after some time looking over them I will be able to narrow down my possibilities.

Projects are Finished!

Today was the last day to work on our final projects. Luckily, the only thing my group had to do was to run about three test on the final product to be able to determine it's purity. Gabe and I were actually in charge of the TLC testing for caffeine. So the purpose of this specific test was to use store bought pure caffeine, our crude solution, and the final caffeine product to compare the their appearances on the TLC paper and if our product appeared similar to the the pure caffeine spot then that would tell us that we did a great job in terText Colorms of the purity of the caffeine.

First thing was first, we had to dissolve a small portion of our crude product, the store bought pure caffeine, and our final product with a mixture of two chemicals into different test tubes. Then what we did was to use a capillary tube to leave a small spot of each dissolved solution onto the TLC paper and labeled each spot. Next, we poured some of the solution of mixed chemicals we used to to dissolve the caffeine into a beaker along with a filter paper. Then we placed the TLC paper with the different solution spots into the beaker and let it rest for ten minutes. Then when we placed the TLC paper into the beaker, the chemicals slowly rose but we had to take the TLC paper out before it reached the top otherwise we would have to restart the whole process. After we removed the paper from the beaker and drew a line where the solution of mixed chemicals had stopped we then used a UV light to determine where the spots managed to move and compared all three spots. It so happened to be that our final product clearly matched the spot of the pure caffeine which meant we did an excellent job of extracting pure caffeine from the Black Tea Leaves.

Once we collected our data and made our observations, we then went to meet the rest of our group members to inform them about our results and also help them work on the poster. It turned out that we didn't manage our time very well and ended up staying one hour and a half in the computer lab to finish organizing our poster for tomorrow's " Science Fair". However, we did do an awesome job and managed to get everything done today. So tomorrow, Professor Avila will have people come over to observe our posters and ask questions about our specific group projects.

College Fair

So, let me first say how many people were at the college fair. Beforehand, I walked across the street with a friend for a quick lunch. Through the window, we could see Columbia and Alfred Learner Hall, where the College Fair was being held. The doors didn't open until a little bit after 12:30, and line stretched almost across the entire block on which Columbia University sat. Inside, it took my friend and I at least three full minutes just to get around a corner of tables. There was a ridiculous amount of people packed into that auditorium. So with this in mind, imagine how difficult it was for me approach the different tables. Usually, the most I could do was squeeze an arm through and grab brochures and such. Every now and then I got lucky and was able to have a fewe words with an admissions officer, but soon after, another flow of students would push through. And keep in mind that I'm five feet tall, while the majority of kids were at least maybe 5'3". Other times if I was lucky enough to squeeze through but the admissions officer(s) was/were already speaking with another student, I would stand there for a few minutes and listen to the conversation.

I think I was lucky to have gone with the friend that I went with. Almost all of the colleges at the fair were on the east coast, so I only knew some of the more prestigious ones. She, on the other hand, knew a lot of them and was able to give me some general information on them. If it wasn't for her, I probably would have bypassed several colleges that I ended up taking information from. I avoided getting information from the more prestigious universities that I have already researched, like Columbia and Harvard. I wanted to expand my spectrum of choices and instead pinpointed colleges I have not heard anything about, like Clark University, Williams, Marist, etc. In skimming through the different brochures I procured, I selected a few which I read in detail first. Williams sounds like a really good college -- apparently it is ranked #1 in the nation as a liberal arts college. I got a brochure for Boston College, which I have yet to look over -- best for last! The University of Massachusetts Amherst is interesting -- it actually reminds me of UPenn, because of the different colleges within the undergrad program. However, its educational structure has a General Education Requirements component, which seems like a core curriculum. But my favorite college out of the pile I just went over might be Haverford. It is a small liberal arts college just outside of Philadelphia. The student-teacher ratio is 8:1, and 100% of the classes are taught by professors. Their classes are small: maybe thirty-five students at the most. But one of the aspects that struck me in particular was the Haverford values. "...the values of individual dignity, intellectual vitality, and tolerance are central to its character. Students are sel-governing and work to upgold the ideals of Haverford's Honor Code, a philosophy of conduct that strengthens the climate of trust, concern, and respect." This is one of the schools that I will definitely do more research on.

In this search for the right college fit for me, I have realized that I might just be too flexible to pinpoint a particular type of college. For example: I like the smaller classes, and especially because the professors are the sole teachers, and the classes are usually in a discussion setting. However, I still like larger classes as well, and through this Columbia program I have had no problem with being taught mostly by mentors/TAs. In another example, let's talk about the campus. Although I may sometimes seem repulsed by a campus that is in "the middle of nowhere," in reality I probably wouldn't mind. So yes, my flexibility is both a blessing and a curse in this type of situation.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Not As Bad As I Thought

When the program started and I looked at my class schedule details for the entire three weeks, I was horrified to learn I had to do an independent project for the final. Of course, now that I think about it, I shouldn't have been shocked at all because I was already expecting something of the sort. But imagining having to create my own experiment when I still was so lost in class? Terrified!

Thankfully, it is not as bad as I believed. We were able to pick from five different experiment choices, which purposely reflected some of our previous labs. This way, we knew enough to do more and do better in conducting the experiment, but we still retained the essence of a scientific experiment, in which one must use the results to determine something else. In this case, we used the results to determine the products, and even the reaction, of a mixture our mentor gave us. The method we have been using is chromatography, in which one can identify and even separate compounds in a mixture by their polarities. I really like what we're doing, because I've been able to participate a lot, and I've actually been learning more about it.

Well, two more days!

The Polar Bears Are Decieving

Today, we worked on our final project in the lab all day. My feet hurt from standing for awhile and I have a mark on my cheeks from the goggles, but we don't have to go into the lab tomorrow to finish up.

My group, which contains four others, has to find the concentration of phosphoric acid in Coca-Cola. Coke is something I drink at least once a week, and I had no idea that is was so acidic. Its pH is around 2.6, and after reading the ingredients label, I found out it was actually listed as an ingredient.

First, we had to flatten out the Cola, so I purchased a bottle and left it open overnight in my room. I brought it to the lab the next morning, and it was pretty flat. Then, we prepared three samples of KHP between .2 and .25 grams to put into distilled water. We added three drops of phenolphthalein to each sample. Then, we prepared a solution of NaOH and distilled water and we titrated the KHP mixture to find out the concentration of the NaOH solution.

The first time we did, two out of three of our samples were over-titrated, and the mixture turned purple instead of a pale, clear pink. We restarted the process again, and our three samples turned out great. We found the concentration of our NaOH and then we calibrated the pH meter of the MicroLab program.

Next, we measured out one hundred milliliters of Coca-Cola, both fizzy and flat, and added the NaOH using a burette and a drop counter, which told us the volume of the NaOH solution used. The fizzy Coca-Cola's titration curve looked a bit off, so from then on we just stuck to flat Coca-Cola because the titration curve looked almost the same as one from a previous experiment. We did the flat Coca-Cola test twice.

Then, our mentor, Mike, decided to give us phosphoric acid so we could compare it to the Coca-Cola results. We didn't have enough NaOH solution, so we had to prepare the three samples of KHP and phenolphthalein with distilled water mixture and titrate it three times. We were much quicker this time, and we did find out that there was a small difference between the concentration of the previous NaOH solution. At first, we diluted .01 molar phosphoric acid, but that took too long, and we were running out of NaOH solution, so we switched to .04 molar phosphoric acid and that worked faster. The titration curve looked great.

We cleaned up for the day, and tomorrow we'll be working on our poster. Our previous day's research told us that phosphoric acid is linked to cancer in rats, erosion of teeth, bone loss, and had an effect on the oral mucosa of rats. Those Coca-Cola polar bears probably don't know the effect of phosphoric acid on them. Smelling that cola the whole day did make me want to drink some at lunch, though.

After class, we had our daily meeting with Mrs. Lilhanand. She just visited Swarthmore, and she said it had really beautiful scenery. From one of the brochures, it says that 88% of all applicants get admitted into medical school. I was excited, and I will see if Swarthmore is going to be at the college fair tomorrow at lunch.

In other news, my time management is pretty horrible. I find myself taking naps, and telling myself to wake up after two hours to get my work done, but I just ignore my alarm, continue to sleep, and rush it in the morning. I've got two more days of classes, so I better get rid of this habit fast, especially since our project is due on Friday morning and we have to present to the chemistry department and graduate students.



Today we continued to work our final projects for our chemistry class. One of the methods we're using to test our water samples is Flame atomic absorption spectroscopy (FAAS). My group takes samples and feed it into a machine that vaporizes and then atomizes it with a flame. As the sample is atomized, a light is shown through the flame and the machine reads the amount of light that passes through. The machine has to be tuned to a certain element that it's looking for and the amount of light that passes through the flame depends on the concentration of that element. From that, we can learn how much of one type of element there is in the sample and then compare the number we get to the "normal" amount that the water should have. It was actually really simple once we got the hang of it. We're also measuring pH, conductivity and dissolved oxygen using MicroLab.

Tomorrow there's a college fair during mid-day. I'm really excited because it'll give me more exposure to different colleges on the East Coast. I actually remember reading on last year's blog about it and I can't wait to go. I've made a small list of schools (M.I.T., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, John Hopkins U, Carnegie Mellon, R.I.T., & Tufts) on the East Coast that I want to look at, I hope that the schools will be at the college fair.


Caffeine Extraction

Although I ended up being in a group full of guys, I do feel we do a great job of communicating and dividing the work evenly between the five of us. Tea time!! So what we basically did today was to make tea using four tea bags of Trader Joe's Irish Breakfast black tea and then extracting the caffeine from the solution using Methylene chloride. Then the caffeine solution was isolated using a rodovap, and pure caffeine was then obtained in a powder form. I would say today was a success and tomorrow we will run different test methods to check the purity of the caffeine we have extracted today.

As for the Ivy League Connection, I feel that it has helped me come to my senses and realize there is more to the whole applying to college process. I mean there is a lot to think about before actually applying to a certain college. I have to think about if the college has what I am looking for in terms of the class I would like to take. Also, I would have to think about what colleges offer programs that will help me on the long run both financially and academically. Another thing the ILC has provided for me is the extra push to think about applying to colleges outside of California and the whole UC system.

It is funny how most of the students enrolled in the summer program have an idea of what college they want to attend and what they're going to major in. When I first arrived at Columbia hearing kids talk about their future with so much confidence had me a little frightened. I came to Columbia having no idea what school to go to or what to major in. In school and during college tours people always say that its okay to not know what you want to pursue because most people end up changing their majors at least once and it is why I never bothered to really think about what I want to study in college.

However, the ILC has made it clear that the purpose of this whole experience is to start thinking about what colleges to apply to and what to pursue once in college. Being in this class surrounded by people who already have an idea what to do after high school helped me come to a decision of pursuing something within the science field. ( Maybe Biology of Biochemistry!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The beginning of the end

Today marked the beginning of our final lab project in class. Our professor, Mr. Avila, assigned each member of the class to a specific group dedicated on working on a specific lab experiment. This will be our final lab project, as we have to design a poster board presenting the results and purpose of the lab to show to not only our Chemistry class, but as well as Mr. Avila, our mentors, and most importantly, some of Columbia's graduate students. Luckily, I was given the experiment I had as my first choice -- the extraction of caffeine from black tea leaves. Although we haven't done any lab work just yet, this seems like it'll be a lot of fun. In order to prepare for our independent lab, our group worked together distributing certain jobs to one another. I believe our group got a lot of done today and is on the right track to conducting a successful experiment.

After class, Mrs. Lilhanand had a brief talk with us to discuss the importance of being a part of the Ivy League Connection. Although I am having so much fun meeting new people from all over the world, adapting to the New York City lifestyle, and engaging myself in intriguing experiments, I've come here for one large reason -- the future. Mostly my future, but I'm here for the future of others as well, including my classmates back home, my parents, the district, the continuation of the ILC. This is a great opportunity for me to expand my horizons regarding my future, pushing my normal train of thought out of the box. With all this new information in my mind, I shall be able to bring it back to the community, where hopefully I will enlighten the minds of the students in Pinole Valley and also withing the district, persuading them to seek opportunities outside of their normal thinking process as well. The Ivy Leage Connection is so much bigger than conducting these lab experiments, no matter how fun they are, but for hope of increasing the knowledge of both myself and the students around me.

Working in a Group


Today we started our final project. I happen to not have anyone that I normally talk to in the group I'm in but it's still going very well. Normally I've been able to choose my group mates for projects in my previous classes so having completely different people is something that I'm not very used to. However, I think that it's beneficial for me to work with people I don't normally talk to because it'll be necessary for the future when I go into college and into the work world.

My group's project is on water analysis and using varying methods of testing water samples for different components. We then compare the water we tested to what "should" be in the water. I'm very excited for this project because it's split into separate parts and combines a lot of what we've learned so far in the class.

As for what the Ivy League Connection has done for me, I want to save that for my very last post. One thing I will mention though is that coming to the East Coast and visiting all these colleges has really helped me focus on what I want to do for my future. It's interesting because about 2.5 weeks ago before coming to Columbia, I still had no plan for what I wanted to study in college. All I really knew was that I would go to college. But now I know that I want to do engineering and possibly do a dual degree program and earn a B.A. degree in something else.

I also want to mention that I do think that the Ivy League Connection is something that I'll bring back to the WCCUSD. Not just about the ILC but also that it is completely possible to expand one's college horizons to outside California borders. Before hearing about the ILC, I felt that I would just apply to schools in California and that would be that. But now I know that there are so many other equally good schools, if not better, in other states too, and I shouldn't limit myself to only California.

Now, if this is how I felt before, it's entirely plausible that many other students feel this way. Even if someone doesn't apply to schools outside California, I want to be sure that they KNOW that many opportunities do exist for him/her. I'd rather someone be informed of everything that's out there and still limit themselves (although I do hope that this won't be the case) rather than someone not knowing at all and limit themselves.


Ivy League Connection

The concept of this program is truly remarkable. It provides such a wonderful opportunity for the students of the West Contra Costa Unified School District. It sends students to prestigious schools across the country -- all expenses paid. It is meant to help those students experience the college life, help them grow up a little faster, and stretch their skills and selves. Furthermore, it is meant to provide a medium for such experiences to the other students in the district. In that way, not only do they learn more about life after high school, but their eyes are also opened to the possibilities. I understand that these college tours we have been doing were meant to open our own eyes to the different types of colleges out there, and we have to integrate the information not only for ourselves but for others in the district. Many students have a limited view on college choices, whether it is because they think themselves less capable than they are, or because they never thought about leaving home, or even because they only paid attention to the prestige, and thought less about their own personal fits.
This experience in Columbia has helped me loads in trying to determine what I want. Major-wise, I'm still struggling. I find myself very much interested whenever we encounter biology concepts in class, but then I have been told that to be a chemist would make life as a biologist much easier. And even then, I'm not even sure I would want to be in science. Maybe math? I enjoy it, and I seem to do well in it, actually past my own expectations. Then for the last year or so, I've been leaning towards business and/or communications and/or writing. But with media's obstacles nowadays, do I want to be in journalism? And then Columbia University doesn't even offer a business major, despite the Columbia School of Business. So if I wanted to pursue business, how would I even go about a major my last two years in Columbia? And I like the core curriculum here, but do I like it enough for my undergrad education? And I love living here, but would I get tired of it? And just how accurate am I in thinking this is the best fit for me? What if it is because it is the only college I have actually been able to experience beforehand? Would Bard's educational system be best for me, and would I sacrifice the city for it? Would UPenn be a better fit for me? And I can't even begin to contemplate about UCB, UCLA, USC, Harvard, Boston College, Occidental, and some other schools I can't think of right now -- mostly because I don't even know enough about them. Oh, and I also have to take into account the music program at these schools, because no matter what I will be at least minoring in music, but possibly even double majoring with music.
And not being picky about some things makes choices even more difficult for me. In some cases I like big classes, but the small discussion type classes appeal to me as well. I love New York City and after Columbia I can't imagine attending a school in the middle of nowhere like Bard, but when I think about it, I have gone my entire life not living in a big city and not needing the 'urbanicity,' so maybe it wouldn't horrible for me if I went to a college like Bard. And so on and so forth.
Sure, I still have numerous questions to be answered. It may even seem like this program didn't even help me at all. But in fact, it did. My questions have become more specific, because the bigger/broader questions have been answered. Most or half of my questions are actually already half-answered. Furthermore, this program helped me on a personal level. I experienced independence, and having to make sure I am on top of things. For example, it has been a struggle with my time management skills, but I am sure that I can take this experience with me and continue to develop such skills even when I return home. Another example is my determination to do well in class, so I have been trying to ask questions whenever I can. This is significant because usually when I don't understand something, I automatically let it go and wait, because I have been under the belief that if I sat quietly and continued to listen patiently, maybe something said later will clear it up. Lately, I have been forcing myself to acknowledge the questions that rise within me, and make myself actually voice them.
In reality, this program has done so much for me, and for my fellow Ivy Leage Connection students as well. I look forward to bringing my experience home and sharing it with others, hoping to maybe make their own pre-college experiences a little more secure.

Final Projects Have Come

Well It's our last week at Columbia. Yes I know it so sad knowing that on Saturday we would have to say our good byes to the beautiful campus of Columbia and all of the great friends we accomplished to make in these past three weeks.

It so happens that for the remaining days we have left, we are bound to do a final project. Today the class was separated into five equal groups and each group was assigned an experiment needed to be done. The experiments were Caffeine Extraction, Water Chemistry, Coca Cola Analysis, Chromatography, and Spectroscopy of an Unknown subject. My group's experiment was on Caffeine Extraction and the purpose of this lab is to extract caffeine from black tea leaves. First of all, I didn't know tea contained caffeine which made this experiment even more interesting.

The first thing we had to do was to research possible procedures, background and history about Caffeine. The reason why we had to get started right away was because we don't have timer to lose knowing that all of these experiments require plenty of time to actually get everything done on time. Fortunately my group was very successful in finding a procedure that contains the materials and chemicals we will be using in this lab. We were able to finish our research and full written procedure in less then three hours! . ( I am so excited!!)

I was actually surprised that we had finished everything that needed to be done because if I were to doing an experiment in a regular high school chemistry class it would probably take a least two days before every one would have finished all their research. This actually allows me to better understand that in college you have to be more productive and have to get things done as soon as possible because nobody is going to be there to tell you when your project is due or how many days you have left to complete the assignment. It's always better to get things done as soon as possible in order to have enough time to take care of the small details at the end.

Tomorrow morning we will actually be starting setting up our experiment and lets hope everything goes according to plan. Wish me luck. Bye

Admission Q & A

Yesterday afternoon we went to the office of undergraduate admissions at Columbia University. There, we met Mr. David Buckwald. Primarily, he takes care of applications coming from the West Coast. He was very energetic and chock full of answers to all the questions hurled at him.

One thing I did learn was that at Columbia is that one can double major. He specifically used the example of someone who wanted to be pre-med, but also had a love for music. He also said that there was a program to become pre-med at Columbia, and that the students that do it have a high acceptance rate.

He told us a little bit of financial aid and early decision. Columbia has a need-blind admissions process. He said to finish part one of the application as soon as possible because alumni would interview people around their area. Interviews can only help, not hurt. Last year, Columbia had about 25,000 applicants, and about 2,500 we admitted -- about 10%.

After the meeting, I realized that I would have to work extremely hard if I wanted to get accepted to Columbia. I better not procrastinate on my applications, and I better get started on them as soon as I get home.

Monday, July 13, 2009

One Post Late

My apologies for missing a blog last night, I was once again extremely exhausted from all the events the group and I attended. I guess I'll just have to make it up with one concise blog.

Yesterday was exhausting. After a long trip to Pennsylvania the other day, we were confronted with our last college tour -- Bard. We hopped on the train at about 8:20AM, and took the same route going towards Vassar, except a bit farther. Once we arrived, a majestic view of a lake graced us, along with vivid green pastures and flora. 

As for the college itself, a wonderful tour guide named Katie was presented the college in its finest way possible. Although the school didn't fit my criteria, it earned my respect. Katie was able to expose Bard for its unique traits. After this, I now see the big importance of having a guide take its prospective students through a tour. Compared to Vassar, I enjoyed Bard more, probably because a tour guide was present, giving us details and facts about the college.

After, Mrs. Lilhanand had the group and I in for a treat; we were to have a fine dinner at one of New York City's finest restaurants -- the Porter House. The restaurant was so elegant; there aren't many times when I get to see such lavish places like this. I've been so accustomed to the high school diet, eating off the value menu in every fast food restaurant. The food, like the restaurant, was exquisite as well. I ordered a delicious filet mignon, and I was astounded at how the chefs got the meat to be so juicy. During dinner, Mrs. Lilhanand and us students had a discussion about ways to help improve the ILC; Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Kronenberg, I hope for us to share our thoughts with you guys when we come back!

Today, after class,  David Buckwald, Senior Officer of Admissions in charge of us students in California and other parts of the west, graced us with our presence. Mr. Buckwald was kind enough to elaborate on Columbia's core curriculum, doing a fine job explain its importance and meaning to the Columbia undergraduates, as well as answering some questions regarding the application process. This was truly helpful for me since Columbia is high on my list of colleges, as of now, standing nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with UCLA. I recently heard from one of my Chemistry mentors that the Universities of California will be facing a huge budget cut, affecting class sizes and such. Hopefully Columbia may give me the opportunity to escape these recession-effected schools.

The 5-year program


Today we met with David Buckwald, one of the admission officers of Columbia University. He was very welcoming and told us about the core curriculum at Columbia U and about student life. I really admire the core curriculum as it allows students to meet and interact with others with different interests whereas they might never do so if the students had only taken classes that matched their goals. It really ties in with connecting with one another and I think that community is really a big part of Columbia U. I love how there's something for everyone to be able to talk about with each other because of the core curriculum.

Mr. Buckwald also answered all of our questions completely and gave us information pamphlets about Columbia U. He even went out of his way to give me an engineering pamphlet as I had displayed interest. I'm very happy that I was able to talk to him and it was a very pleasant meeting. He invited us to e-mail him with any questions that we'd get later and talked with us for about one and a half hours! That's one hour more than we expected! I'd originally felt really nervous about applying to colleges because I had always imagined admission officers to be faceless cold scary people and they'd reject me without a thought but it turns out that they're actually really nice people (based on meeting Mr. Buckwald). I'd like to thank the Ivy League Connection and Mr. Ramsey for setting up the meeting with the admission officer because it really gave me a confidence boost about what I can accomplish.

I was also pleased to learn that Columbia U offers a Combined Plan Program (a dual-degree program). This is basically a 5-year program where a student can earn both a B.A. and a B.S. degree in 5 years. It's structured in two different ways, the 3-2 program where one 3 years at Columbia College (Columbia's undergraduate school) and 2 years at The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science or the 4-1 program where one takes 4 years at The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and 1 year at Columbia College. It means one more year of undergraduate studies than other students but it really is a viable option for someone like me who's considering doing something in both an engineering field and in an arts and sciences field. One down-side is that Columbia U doesn't have a business school so I won't be able to receive a B.A. degree in business which was my original plan. However, Columbia U does offer many other subjects so this is something that I really have to consider.


Bard and Dinner

Our day started out extremely early yesterday (which is why this post is late).
We rode the subway to Penn Station, where we took the train to Rhinecliff. Mrs. Lilhanand was very surprised that there weren't any taxis to take us to to Bard college, so we had to make two trips to get us all. While half four of us were waiting in front of the admissions building of Bard, Katie, a senior at Bard and our wonderful tour guide started telling us all about what Bard has to offer.

Her tour was fabulous, and it made me more excited about the school itself. The scenery at Bard was wonderful and most of the buildings looked relatively new.
Katie told us how you get to know the faculty and the students at Bard because it is small. She told us that before the school year starts, the freshmen all get to know each other through two of the graduation requirement classes. The third requirement is declaring a major, and getting three faculty members to approve, and the fourth requirement is the senior project. She told us that the average class size is about fifteen people, which blew my mind.

Overall, I think I really enjoyed Bard, and I am thinking about if I should apply. I think a tour guide made it really enjoyable because we got to hear the passion behind a student, as opposed to Vassar.

After Katie and her friend dropped us off at the train station, we took the one hour and forty minute train ride back to the city. After a quick nap, we all got ready to head out for our dinner. We went on the subway to 59th street and Columbus Circle. All of us were looking pretty spiffy.

Dinner was REALLY good. The food was great, the conversation was great, and it helps that you like the people you're eating with too. I just want to say thank you to all the sponsors for everything. I'm having a really good time, and I really can't believe that we have a little less than a week left.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

During the 2nd Sunday

[A lot of trees and grass around the campus. The dorms are the white buildings]

Back to back college visits are pretty tiring; first Penn and now Bard College. There was a big difference compared to the city. For one, there were no taxis when we came off Amtrak! It may have just been some weird schedule, but it was really quiet and empty when we went to the small parking lot. One could hear birds chirping clearly, and it reminded me of Vassar. Though Bard is located about 10 minutes away from Vassar, the location felt very isolated. When trying to get to the college, all I could see were green trees, grass, and plants. The sun was out and a nice cool breeze could be felt. The air is hardly humid at all! (This could be due to the fact that there are a lot of plants.)
[A very interesting fountain that we saw during our guided tour]

When everyone was at Bard, we were introduced to Katie, a senior and tour guide at Bard College. For every location we went to, she would evaluate and add general details about the school structure as well as her experiences. I thought she did a great job in showing us around and the information was very useful. One could get the feel of the school life at Bard. She went into housing, classes, extracurricular activities, food, music, programs, financial aid, building types (we got to see the new science building), and many more. Like Vassar, I like the Bard College, but I do not know if I can see myself there for four years.

Nevertheless, I really believe that the college tours are very helpful in understanding at least the basic structure of the colleges. During both Vassar and NYU, we did a self guided tour and I found it hard to actually feel attached to the schools. However, with both Penn and Bard, as well as Brown and Columbia, I think that I am able to get a better sense of what kind of college I prefer as well as what makes me excited about a certain college.
For dinner, we went to Porter's Steakhouse. This fancy restaurant was very delicious and fulfilling. All these tours and visits are such a memorable experience, and it would be impossible without all the supporters of the Ivy League Connection. Thank you all so much for everything!

I also would like to say that my class has a hands-on activity through Black Rock Forest for 3 days. I will unfortunately be unable to blog, but I shall give my updates when I return! Thank you once more!

UPenn vs. Bard

This weekend, our group visited both University of Pennsylvania and Bard College. UPenn is located right in Philadelphia, so students have easy access to urban opportunities. After living in Columbia for two weeks, I think I would enjoy what UPenn's location has to offer. Bard, however, is very much on its own. Neighboring towns have been described as farming towns or summer towns. Neither of these schools are scattered throughout a city, but while I can say that UPenn is an enclosed school, I can't quite say the same for Bard. Bard is like a large park, with its buildings spread out on a large expanse of land. It is surrounded by nature, while UPenn is surrounded by city. I think Bard's campus itself is wonderful -- it provides for a nice break from the big city. The dorm buildings look interesting, and I absolutely love the science building. But I'm not sure if I would be able to handle being far from modernized towns. Oh, and I also love UPenn's buildings -- they are absolutely gorgeous. The theater hall was so large and ornate -- it made Bard's movie theater look scrawny. But the main dorm quads in both UPenn and Bard impressed me. I felt like I would love to live in either one.
UPenn's undergraduate system consists of separate colleges, which is perfect for those who already know what they want to major in. For students like me, who have yet to make such a decision, it may seem unappealing. However, Andrew (one of June Chu's students who came to speak with us) enlightened me and said that it was actually easy to transfer between the schools, since the university knows that students rarely know what they truly want to study right from the beginning of college. Bard makes it simpler and requires students only to declare their majors by junior year. Before then, they have what are called distribution requirements, in which students have to take one class from each of the nine distributions, which are general subjects. But, for example, if a student is focusing on history and dislikes math, he or she can take a History of Math course as an alternative. I find this system to be very appealing, because I feel less restrained in choosing classes, and I think it provides a better tactic for learning about one's self and what I would want to major in.
I didn't learn much about UPenn's faculty, but Bard seems to have an outstanding system. First of all, there are no TAs. All classes are taught by professors. Whereas in some of the more prestigious colleges, professors leave their TAs to teach the class. Actually, my Chemistry class here in Columbia is taught more by the mentors than Professor Avila himself. Moving on, the classes at Bard usually range from about 12 to 28 students. Personally, I don't have a specific affinity for larger or smaller classes, but the concept of a smaller class allows for a more involved experience in class, especially since most of Bard's classes are more discussion than lecture. Furthermore, students and professors get to know each other better. All this appeals to me very much, because I like participating and I like to have friendships with my teachers, rather than distant professor-student relationships. And although my Chemistry class at Columbia is taught more by the mentors, Professor Avila tries to be as involved with us as his available time permits. I also know that not all the Columbia classes are like this - others are taught specifically by the professor.
I think the one aspect that made me more excited about Bard than anything else I heard that day was its Bard Conservatory of Music program. Apparently, when in that program, the student will be earning a double degree - one from the Conservatory, and one in another subject. I have always planned to minor in music, but a double major with music would make me just as happy, I think. But even so, I also considered double majoring in other subjects, and I also considered whether or not I would be able to handle the workload. So...we'll see.
Wow, I found that I have ended up talking about Bard more than UPenn. But both made a really good impression on me, and I am thankful I got to experience both.

Visiting Bard


Today was very informative about Bard College. I think it was really great to have a personal tour of the campus from a student's point of view. I ended up really liking Bard College for it's huge campus (600 acres!) but not liking that it's in the middle of nowhere. There's only about 7 houses in the town of Annandale-on-Hudson according to the tour guide. The surrounding area is completely woodsy and foresty. We have to drive about 15 minutes before we get to the train station. Anywhere before that is mostly flat land and a house every 2 minutes. That's definitely too rustic for me. But the fact that the professors really know the students and that none of the classes are taught by TAs really puts Bard College to the top. But there's no engineering program, so I won't be applying to Bard. As much as I like the school itself, the location and the absence of an engineering program makes it very difficult for me to want to go there for college.

Afterward, we returned to Columbia University until the evening when we went to Columbus Circle for our fancy dinner. It was at a steakhouse and the view was so pretty at the top floor of Columbus Circle. The steak was delicious but it was very out of my element to be eating at such a fancy place. I've never had more than one fork for a meal but for dinner there were two forks. One fork was for the salad and the second was for the steak. Apparently the silverware works in a right to left order that corresponds to each course. This was definitely a very unforgettable experience for me thanks to the sponsors who support the Ivy League connection.


At Bard College!!!!

Although the trip to Bard College was pretty exhausting but it was well worth the time and effort. I personally feel that having a guide to show you around is much better then just going to visit the campus because otherwise we would just be looking at the buildings and not gaining any information in return.

Anyways what I liked about Bard was it's beautiful buildings that at about 100 years old or older! In addition to their original buildings Bard had a new building dedicated mainly to the science department which include Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Studies and much more. Talking about buildings, let me talk about Bard housing. So what Bard offers to all of it's students is four years of housing if the students prefer to live on campus for their whole four years at Bard. Something unique about Bard's housing system is that there is no typical dorm because bard has all types of housing including suite type dorms, doubles, singles, triples, and even the more traditional dorms where rooms are located on either side of a hallway with the bathroom at the end. Also what I like about the housing system is that they do their best job in pairing you with a roommate that they think will be a best fit for you in terms of personality and habits. For example, when applying for housing you have to go through the process of filling out a survey that include questions like- Do you mind if your roommate brings a music listening device? or Are you an early riser or a late riser? I think Bard's housing system is a smart way of finding people that will be able to get along and live together as roommates.

However,although Bard is a pretty neat school I did not like the fact that it's location is in the middle of nowhere and the buildings where very separated from each other. In addition to the location, I would think Bard is not the school for me because I got the impression that Bard is more of an Art school then anything else. Bard provides programs in art, music, and photography more then anything else and I'm just not into the arts. Nonetheless Bard College is a beautiful college and I am glad I had the opportunity to check it out for myself. I had a great time!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

In Historical Philadelphia

Add Another College to My List

I like UPenn, probably being the biggest surprises throughout this whole trip. I always thought that there was only one Ivy League for me, and that was Columbia, but I was wrong.

UPenn really impressed me with its hardcore academics. These people seem to take their higher education to an even high level, if at all possible. After the tour of UPenn, the group and I met up with some UPenn students involved in the college's very own Asian organization. These people were warm, inviting -- but most important, informative. They told me that UPenn's academics seemed to be difficult, extremely difficult at times. This is a challenge that, with the right mindset, can be easily accomplished. They three students also informed of the Filipino presence within the campus and the Asian organization. Joanna, one of the students who spoke to us about UPenn, told us that the Filipino group within the Asian organization was fantastic and was named best group, completely shocking me. I would have never thought of being so many Filipinos in the college. I believe this means so much to me because I feel that the transition from the west coast lifestyle to life in the east coast would be much easier with guidance of people of my own race -- people that make me feel at home because I've grown with the same mannerisms.

Aside from that, UPenn  is the most prestigious school I've heard of in the United States that offers a 4-year degree in nursing. This astounded me. As I've mentioned before, I enjoy health science, and if you may have not known, I love social interaction. I believe that life in the laboratory is unsuited for me because I believe I would lose my mind being within the confines of a laboratory all day. I need to get up, walk around, talk to people in order to keep my sanity. Nursing definitely fulfills my desires of being social while under the field of a health science. Once I heard this in a brief overview one of the students presented to us before the tour, I took this school under consideration.

The only discerning thing about the school is its location -- Philadelphia. New York City is surely incomparable, and to me, puts to shame most of the other big cities in the United States. I've pictured myself living in a big city after college, but Philadelphia was never one of them; it just lacks the vibrance that I've seen in other cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and of course, New York City. Maybe it's just me; we only spent more or less than seven hours in Philadlphia. Hopefully I'll be able to see the city's greatness the next time I return.

Engineering for sure


Today of course we went to the University of Pennsylvania! The campus is really amazing and there are four separate schools inside UPenn that are separate from each other. However, I learned from the information session that we have to choose the school we want to enter in when we apply so we have to make a decision right away. We also went on a tour of the campus after the information session and I learned a lot about undergraduate life. I can definitely see what's so amazing about UPenn. The atmosphere of the school feels very welcoming and friendly. There's a place for everyone to be, except for maybe extreme athletes. What's also nice is that there's so many people compared to other Ivy Leagues and there's a bigger variety of student organizations because of it. UPenn is definitely going to be one of the college I apply to next year.

Benjamin Franklin, founder of UPenn

The lunch with June Chu and the undergraduates was very enlightening. I was able to talk to a engineering major and have a lot of my questions answered. Even though he's majoring in Digital Media Design (DMD) that's more art based than most other engineering majors, I really learned a lot about UPenn's engineering programs and engineering in general. After talking to the undergraduate, I realized that I definitely want to do something in the engineering field but I am unsure of whether I should major in something chemistry related or computer related or both. But going to UPenn, listening to the information session about the engineering school, and talking to UPENN undergraduates really confirmed to me that I want to do something in engineering.

After going to UPenn, we were also able to go to the historical part of Philadelphia. The best part to me was seeing the actors that were set up to portray the life of someone living in Philadelphia around the time period of ~1770-1820. I even got to meet Thomas Paine and I took a picture with him. That was the most exciting part

Me with Thomas Paine!

Also, we passed through Drexel University when we were walking over to UPenn. I can't really say what I feel about it since I don't know anything about Drexel U. But I can say the the campus is very structured and clean and orderly. There was a walkthrough water fountain in the middle of the campus as well and a dragon statue in the front. I can't judge the university by the campus though but I thought I should mention that we saw it.


Visiting Penn and History

Today was a very long day, but it was definitely worth it. Waking up early and sleeping late seems may be a problem, but I guess that is all part of the college experience. Anyways, we headed to Philadelphia and walked towards Penn. Along the way, I got to see Drexel University! The campus seems very nice, but it is very similar to NYU due to the fact that the buildings seem to be all across the city. I do not think that I feel as comfortable in a dispersed campus compared to an enclosed one.

Once reaching Penn, I remembered one critique about the school: there are a lot of bugs. This became apparent throughout our tour, but that did not deter my reaction to the beautiful campus. There was an orientation before the tour that gave a general breakdown of the college's schools. I learned about the School of Engineering and their Robot Contests, about Wharton School of Business, a bit about Penn Nursing and the College of Arts and science. There are about 1500 students per class, but the campus seems like it could hold a lot more! I got to hear more about the dual degree programs at Penn, which I found very interesting. The speaker also gave a very useful breakdown of the application process: Transcripts, Testing, Recommendation, 2 Essays (Why Penn, and a creative one), Activities, and their need blind institution. I believe that this will greatly help me throughout my application process!
The tour of the campus was very efficient as well. The weather was nice, the tour guide was very informative, the campus was very pretty, and the bugs were out to celebrate! I thought the campus was a suitable fit for me, but I think that after meeting with June Chu, Andrew Zheng, Carlin Yuen, and Joanna Wu, I really would like to apply to Penn now. Penn has a program known as Digital Media Design (DMD), which I find very fascinating and I will look more into it. It also has an architecture major, great buildings, many opportunities in research, and a whole bunch of student run activities. Brian Mertens says that Penn favors Early Decision, however I like to be able to see my choices and then make a decision. I am pretty sure that Penn will be on the list.

With a bit of time left, our group visited Independence Hall and Washington Square. I find it amazing to think that our history and independence emerged from this one area. Taking U.S. history recently, it was great to be able to stand on top of everything I basically learned!