Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reflections on Ivy League Connection

I am still astounded at the generosity of the Ivy League Connection. They have placed an enormous responsibility upon us students who accept their donation. As I wrote in my very first post, I would be remissed if I took this gift, used it as a springboard, and went of to be enormously successful for myself alone. Yet while the money plays a roll, it is the responsibility I feel to the people I go to school with, and the community I am from itself, that urges me to do something positive for them. Because I went to a "future leaders" program with a bunch of other people who had no idea what it was like to go to an intercity school, who had never even interacted with someone who was totally out of their social or economic class. I am an unabashed liberal, and I met many people who had similar views as I did, but had no empathy for the people they wanted to help. Even in them I saw a disconnect, and while it was better than the "let them eat cake" attitude I saw in many students, that worries me about their capability to represent people like those from WCCUSD.
I do not know what the ultimate goal of Ivy League Connection is; what the purpose of encouraging a select few from our district to go on and be successful. But I know how I feel about it. I will take all the help I can get, to become equipped to promote positive change, and act on the understanding I gained from El Cerrito High. I hope my program mates feel the same way because now I know how few of us there really are who feel as I do, and know what I know. Most of all I hope that the ILC's investment in us is worth it in that regard.

Reflections on Grand Strategy

The more I learn the more I am astounded at how not simple the world is. All the reflection on myself and the world through this program has culminated in the great realization of how little I know, how little most people really know. It's less like a machine as I wrote in an earlier post, and more like an infinite labyrinth that is always shifting. I think that this is the ultimate example of Clausewitz' idea of friction-the problems that arise when theory is put into practice. How society is built today is humans trying to live together, while balancing all the different desires of nations down to individual people, and as I have learned, it is neither perfect nor clear why it is imperfect.
This kind of thinking always leads me to questions that are perhaps too big to answer, and the important question arises of whether it is worth thinking about at all, as opposed to just molding what we already have into something better. In the Grand Strategy program, I would say the latter. What the program came down to was how to view the world as a whole, through many different lenses, come up with plans that could make an effective difference based on that more holistic understanding, and above all, how to succeed. The world's imperfection leaves gaps, holes that must be filled by powerful people to function successfully. At Yale, I met 50, give or take, of those people in 20 years. The hope is that through education, and a moral compass provided by God, society, or whomever, these people will move the world in a positive direction. Unfortunately there is no test that power will not be abused, leaders will always act justly, or that they will make the "right call." But there are ways to approximate who is on a track for success, and again, Grand Strategy found them, and I met them. My hope, and something that I think is very wrong with the world that I can pinpoint, is that future leaders become less focused on victory and success. The paradox of politics and leadership is that you want power to implement policy based on your ideology, but you must continuously sacrifice that ideology to stay in power, and achieve your more important goals. My question is when does one stop? At what point is it better to lose power for the sake of your principles?
My criticism for the world is that winning almost always is a greater incentive than upholding one's principles. Moreover, I felt that the need to win was conditioned into many of my fellow Grand Strategists.
So what does this mean for me? Well if the majority of "future leaders" are not thinking about the intrinsic imperfections in our society, and I my have the potential to be a leader, maybe it is my responsibility to think be an advocate of that mode of thinking. I think that what I will have to answer for myself, is how to reconcile that with being a societal leader, and whether it is even possible to function as both a gear and a critic of the same machine.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Whole New Me

These past 3 weeks have been a blur, but this was one of the most memorable blurs I've ever had. I've experienced so many things these past couple of weeks, and learned about so many different things.

Before I start I'd like to say that I'm sorry but this one blog cannot accurately describe everything I'm feeling inside. I'll do my best to convey what I can.

I guess the best way to start off my reflection would be to say this, the world is not as small as one might think.

The most important thing, in my opinion, that I've gotten out of this whole experience is not the academics, or the colleges (don't get me wrong I learned a lot in these categories), but it was the people I met and the bonds I made with them that made these 3 weeks exceptionally great. In my 3 weeks away from home my network expanded from the Bay Area, to the entire world. I met kids from Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, etc. All of these people were so great to meet. Through them I was able to get a glimpse at what their lives were like at their home, I was able to hear their stories about their own experiences. Before this program I had no idea that boarding school was such a popular option. In my blog before this one, I talked about the great relationships I've made and how I never want to see them falter. I feel like these relationships are special, in light that they are with a network of people that are destined to do something. Dr.Luong never failed to mention that we were the leaders of our generation, and that everyone around us would be there to help in maintaining our world. These connections will not die. I've never had the pleasure of working with such an amazing group of students before.

Everyone here wanted to be in class, they wanted to learn, and they were all smarter, if not as smart as myself. This was an amazing atmosphere to be in. Usually I am the smartest in my class, I have to do all of the group work, and I do most of the participating. But the situation here was completely dedicated to the task on hand and they all invested 100% of their efforts in it. From the marshal briefs to the daily seminars, everyone put their all in it. We all had to wake up to morning lectures, and sleep during the late hours of the night. I don't think I'll ever be in a class room setting such as this ever again.

Aside from just the relationships I forged, seeing the other college campuses really opened my eyes and my mind. I've always said that the UC system was all there was for me, I never once considered applying for any school out of California. Well I am happy to say that this program did a complete 180 for me. Now I yearn to go back to the east. I want to go to schools like UPENN or Columbia or better yet, Yale. I've fallen in love with the schools back east and I plan on applying to the three that I mentioned above.

A question was posed to myself and my other ILC Yalies regarding the continuation of this program. Well in my humble opinion, I think that this program is the best program that the ILC has right now. Although the world cannot hear our thoughts while we experience everything, that is more than enough of a price to pay for this awesome experience. Before I left I thought about my program compared to everything else. It seemed like everything else was specialized in one way or another. From physics to biotechnology, to religions, etc. My program was totally different. My program focussed on Grand Strategy. Grand Strategy deals with everything, one must account for all things before one makes a decision. Our lectures and seminars dealt with a wide breadth of knowledge. We learned about philosophy, current events, economics, politics, and law. Our knowledge didn't stop at just academic subjects, but life long lessons as well. We got seminars about how relationships work and about the manners of fine dining and networking. We emerged from this program not just smarter in school, but smarter in life as a whole.

This program was probably the hardest thing I've done up to now, yet at the same time it was one of the most enjoyable. Being surrounded by this group of scholars, in a great environment such as Yale produced so many benefits and eye openers for me. I came in as someone who didn't know what they wanted in life, who lacked strong work ethic and was scared of leaving home. I came out as someone who knew where he wanted to and the drive to get there. Most importantly I came to realize that leaving home isn't all that bad and that some day I'm going to have to do it for real. When that day comes, I hope that it is to depart, yet again, to the wonderful campus that is Yale University.

Thank you Mr.Ramsey, Ms.Kronenberg, Don Gosney, Lori Nardon, and all of the ILC sponsors for everything you've given me. You helped me realize what opportunities are really out there for us. You all have a great thing going, don't stop it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"We Few, We Happy Few, We Band of Brothers"

Like all the other days I had at Yale, my final day began with a quick shower, leading directly to a morning lecture.

Our lecture's guest speaker was the same as the day before, Mr.Paul Solman. Mr.Solman is the lead man on economics for the T.V station, PBS. I was able to pay full attention for my final morning lecture. I even got called upon to participate in a little "game" that we did in class. I don't remember the intent of the game, but I do remember what actually happened. Basically my suite mate and I were called upon to offer up some money, and then to accept some money. Keep in mind this money was REAL cash. So I got picked to be the offerer, and my friend Jay got picked to be the accepter/denier. I made a fair offer, $30 for me and $30 for Jay. However Jay was a bit greedier than I had anticipated, he declared that he would go for only $40 and no lower. Therefore we had "lost" the game and we both walked away empty handed.

The day went on according to schedule. Morning lecture ended at 11:30 AM and lunch went from 11:30 AM- 1 PM. I ate lunch with my fellow suite mates for the last time in Siliman's dining hall. We shared many laughs in that place, and I will never forget it. Our food was always good, ever-changing meals combined with a complete salad & sandwich bar. Fountain drink machine, and always a variety of deserts to choose from. Yale food lived up to its expectations.

Our lunch was followed by yet another "lecture." I put lecture in parenthesis for a reason. Our truly final "lecture" was given by none other than our very own, Dr. Minh A. Luong, and it wasn't really a lecture at all. Dr.Luong talked to us about what challenges a leader like us may face, he described to us that we went through many difficulties these past weeks and that there may still be questions lingering around, this led into the bulk of the talk. We had a massive Q & A session for everybody who wanted to know about anything at all. It was a great way to cap off our lectures.

After our lecture we all got ready for our big graduation dinner. They boys were getting their nice threads on, and the girls were getting dolled up. At around 4:55 PM we all met in the courtyard. All of the suits and ladies in beautiful dresses, combined with the flashes of a camera combined to give me the impression that I was getting ready to go yet another prom. It was a great feeling though don't get me wrong. I took many pictures with my group mates, with my suite mates, and with friends in general. Everyone looked spectacular.

We filed into a line, and proceeded to the Presidential Hall, where all other Grand Strategists before us have dined their final meal together. We waited in the waiting room for a good while, socializing and whatnot, before we were let into the main room to sit at a table with some friends and chit chat some more. We ate and talked together, and soon it was time for the award ceremony. We all got quiet and listened to Dean Nick Coburn-Palo announce the finalists and winners for each of the categories. My friend Jay ended up being a finalist for the speaking competition, and I even won an award as well. My group won the award for the best written marshal brief, we were a bit surprised when we won but happy nonetheless. We wrapped up our dinner with desert, and proceeded to our final activity of the night.

Our final event was a big end to the whole experience. 5 whole hours, from 10:30 PM-2:30 AM, with our fellow Grand Strategists. We had a plethora of activities to choose from. Board games such as Risk! and Monopoly, movies in the lecture halls, and even just a social room if you wanted to talk. I ended up floating around all the rooms, except the movies, playing a game of Risk with some friends, then going back to the social room to chat it out with my peers. The night was great. I ended up getting back to my dorm around 3 and fell asleep around 3:30 AM.

The next morning I woke up to say farewell to my suite mates, and my peers. I was amazed just how attached I had become to all of my friends. After spending only 15 days with these people, they went from being complete strangers, to some of the nicest, smartest, and funniest friends I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. I'll never forget them, and thanks to Facebook, it looks like I'll always have a way to talk to them all. The YISP Grand Strategies was a great program, and I got to meet so many new people. As I drove away I thought of something to describe what I was feeling inside. This is what I came up with:

Suite mates headin' out one by one,
Every time it feels like I'm gettin shot by a gun.
I ask myself why I feel this way,
I think it's because I live in the bay.
The seas divide us, the USA too,
But we know we'll always be that same old crew!

To all my fellow Grand Strategists out there reading this, you were the best. Thanks for making those 3 weeks some of the best 3 weeks of my life. This isn't good bye, we'll cross paths one day.

Tide Embraced: Reflection of the YISP Experience

Remember the tide?

Prior to boarding the plane and prior to everything I was to experience in the East Coast, I envisioned an incoming tide and myself an amateur surfer. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into entirely. I kept an optimistic and brave front most of the time, even though the fear of not meeting expectations or making a fool of myself were common nightmares I’d let surface now and again. This was how I’ve always carried myself despite the ultimate coward I was capable of being internally. I envisioned myself coming out successfully in the end as much as I imagined myself undergoing all possible routes of failure. In the end, was I going to become plankton in the big ocean, or an obnoxiously large whale in an elementary school drinking fountain?

I was a participant of Yale Ivy Scholars for the summer of 2011. I was among 72 students this year, all studying under the “Grand Strategy” course. Before I started this program, I admit that I had a hard time explaining what this program was really about. Now, I can say with more confidence, just what “Grand Strategy” really is. Being a “Grand Strategist” is a never-ending climb, not to perfection, but a climb for the sake of climbing. You’re constantly learning and curious. You’re always trying to solve the problems before you by using the best method you think is possible. You never stop asking yourself: “If I was in his/her shoes, how would I have handled it?” You are a leader striving for effectiveness and understanding; you shun power and personal rewards.

Simply saying that I learned a lot from these past fifteen days would be an understatement. Rather than bore all of you with lengthy recollections of what I learned during lecture, however, I will share with you some of the most important things I’ve come to realize and now, fully abide by.

Spending Time with People Smarter Than You

You feel a mixture of inspiration, jealousy, and intimidation whenever you hear any one of them admit to their past achievements and accomplishments. I may not know every detail about my fellow peers, but never once have I heard them admit to any of these without being humble or somewhat shy about their successes. One of them was nationally ranked 19th as a policy debater, while another can claim they’ve sat on the British parliament for simulation. Some of them never bothered to share their achievements, but their reservoir of knowledge – displayed throughout lectures or casual conversations – was obvious. Everyone around me was exceptional, one way or the other. I didn’t get the feeling that they paid their way through alone; they all deserved to be there. Many fearlessly participated and spoke their mind during lectures and seminars – you’d rarely see this in my high school. And if they were not as outspoken as the aforementioned group before, they were surely talented in other ways – especially in writing.

The talents among them were endless; in addition to their intellect, there was a handful that could also sing, dance, draw, and/or play sports, just as skillfully. There is really no way to rank these people. You easily feel subordinated. Yet, despite constant exposure to these brilliant beings, I still, remarkably, had room for personal pride. Many of my fellow peers were a lot stronger than I was, in a variety of areas, and I was not the least bit surprised. However, the yearning to be like them subsides when you realize that you’re imperfect and cannot expect yourself to be like everyone who inspires you. Instead, you accept that you’re not nationally ranked 19th for policy debate; you indulge in the exceptional company before you and be thankful for all the unique qualities that make you, you.

The Meaning of Great Education

Everyone that’s been there tells me that college education is wonderful. If in high school you didn’t feel particularly satisfied, than college education would fulfill that void, or so I’ve been told. At YISP, the education that was promised was delivered. All the guest lecturers that graced their presence before us inspired and amazed me to no end. There are some undergraduate students, even graduate students, who’d want to sit in one of our seats for during some of these lectures. Four to five students alone, as Dr. Luong told us, wanted each of our spots based on the total number of applicants this year.

In addition to the extensive topics covered during seminars and lectures, I especially liked that this program avoided a grading system. And yet, even without grades to act as incentives among us, no one took advantage of them to avoid class. It was learning for learning’s sake – not even the best private secondary schools in the country could boast these high percentages of mutual attitude within a classroom. Granted, levels of attention varied from lecture to lecture, but generally, everyone tenaciously stuck with the heavy workload expected from our everyday schedules. In addition to the breadth of renowned teachers we had giving us lectures, it was also an honor to sit with such driven and intelligent group of students. Every day, they’d bring to lectures their own knowledge and ask questions I haven’t even thought about. They fearlessly stand by their opinions, unafraid to meet those who challenge them in the eye. Some may stutter to attempt a rebuttal, but they’d never sit down in hopeless defeat. They’re not always right and their questions may not always be the smartest, but all of them share ruthless courage.

Back at Pinole Valley, I sometimes feel ashamed to hog class time with my questions, especially when none of my fellow classmates seem to show any interest in asking questions of their own. Many students within our lectures never ask questions too, but that doesn’t stop the rest of them from asking questions when they really had one. These lectures always devote an hour in the end for questions and answers; I’m going to miss seeing a forest of raised arms when I start senior year at Pinole Valley.

No Longer The Top (Accepting The Inevitable and Moving On)

When I was much younger – when I boldly thought the world was a lot smaller than everyone thought it wasn’t – I used to believe I could, or would, eventually become the best at [fill in the blank here]. I was so competitive; I hated admitting to defeat. This attitude served me well during my early youth, when my fellow peers were more interested in playtime or naps then fretting over being number one all the time. Only I was crazily obsessed with ambition (to this day, I am baffled by where it all came from).

As I grew older, however – moving from fish bowl to aquarium – I ran into defeat and rejection more frequently alongside occasional moments of triumph. The first time – okay, the first several times – they hit me really hard. Physically, I never harmed myself, but emotionally, I felt sharp stings. I was so uncomfortable with defeat. I scolded myself for not living up to expectations. At every downfall, I felt like “the magic” was rubbing off. What was wrong with me? What was I doing wrong? Eventually, and thankfully before this program, I realized that there really wasn’t anything wrong with me and that I didn’t do anything wrong. It was life.

I cannot expect to be the best at everything; there will always be someone better in some degree. Being at YISP this year, strengthened that lesson. Most of the 71 students around me were just as, if not equally as, ambitious as I was. I could’ve strained myself to an extent to beat all of them (though I highly doubt it), but that would be such a waste of my experience. You risk your potential to get the best from an experience like the YISP by being close-minded and treating all those around you as threats to your spot at the top. Sure, proving yourself to be one of the best among this pool of students would have surely been something to boast about in the end, but weren’t all 72 of us chosen for a reason? There will never be an adequate apparatus to measure success and capability; they will always be weighed and scaled through personal opinions. In my opinion, everyone YISP Grand Strategy was already at “the top”. I did not receive any special awards in the end, just the same certificate of completion that everybody else received. Yet, I’m not bothered at all. Indefinitely it would thrill me to return home to Pinole, CA to wave two certificates in my hand, but I’m perfectly content with the one I got already.

The expectations I try to fulfill are solely my own now. I take those of others into serious consideration, but in the end, I make sure I satisfy my own desires first. “Are you happy?” I’d ask myself. Even if I honestly replied that I was somewhat disappointed, I remind myself that there was always a brighter side to things and that tomorrow was a clean slate. It’s not because I’ve lowered my own expectations of myself or that I was pulling myself away from competition. I continue to set extremely high goals and refuse to give up without a good fight. For me, lingering in the past and beating myself over errors was counterproductive and a distraction from moving forward.

To pick up from your mistakes and move forward, ask yourself what it is that you can do to avoid the same error in the future, not screaming impossible questions to yourself, like "Why can't you do anything right, for once?!" I certainly didn’t leave YISP as one of the “top” students (if we’re really considering any form of rank here) and I do not consider myself less of a person. I gave my best effort – arguably, I should’ve been a bit more confident in putting myself out there – and I can’t expect something that I couldn’t deliver. Being able to consider myself an Ivy Scholar is a big deal to me. It makes me proud.

The Importance of Knowing the World Around You

If you do not already read newspapers and/or watch the news as close as you can get to daily routine now, I highly suggest you start. The modern world we live in offers no excuse for anyone to continue going about life without taking the time to check up with current events. The entire faculty at YISP either stresses this and/or engages in this routine as if the day would be incomplete without it.

I used to make up some excuse – like how busy I always was – to make me think this jagged faith to the world around me was okay. It is not. Now, I see this as a poor excuse. If you can’t find time, you make time. Different news articles have different effects on the individual but you’re not being asked to become an expert on the world. You just have to be aware.

I am reminded of Mr. Paul Solmon as I write this. He covers the economics portion of PBS NewsHour and I look up to him highly. For Mr. Solmon, he is concerned that by the increasing number of Americans – especially young adults – who know so little about the economy. It’s extra knowledge that could only help and better your future in the long run. Don’t let the need to catch up with old news stop you from reading current news. Go forth and be knowledgeable. Having an interest in the present means you show an earnest care for the future.


My Marshall Brief group was told that we had the hardest topic among the rest. Later, the whole groups expressed that they heard similar comments. Whether Mr. James “Jeb” Benkowski – our Marshall Brief advisor – was trying to inflate our discouraged and frustrated heads or not, our group were guinea pigs to an “experiment” Marshall Brief topic. Our topic – “International Action for the Korean Peninsula (PRC)” – was the first Marshall Brief the YISP attempted to do under the perspective of another country. In addition to learning as much we could about the DPRK, our group also had to adjust our thinking so that every policy we wanted to implement was something the PRC, not the US, would do.

My Marshall Brief consisted of four girls in total, including myself. Not only were we one of the smaller groups (the average was five or six); we were also the only all-girl group. Among each other, we constantly joke just how horrible this combination was. A grouping of equally driven girls working together – are you looking for trouble? Perhaps. But the four of us worked – pardon my French here – our asses off to be prepared for our presentation in the end. Yes, it took us much longer to choose what it was exactly that we wanted to do with our topic. Yes, we missed some deadlines by minutes. Yes, we’ve pulled all-nighters to stay on top of things. And yes, we sometimes skipped delicious meals at the Silliman Dining Hall.

Some groups had one or two individual that rose to take charge while others had too many taking charge, thereby jeopardizing progress. In our group, any one of us could’ve taken charge, but instead, we all took equal, dual roles as leader and follower. There was no finely drawn line in terms of our individual responsibilities. No one really assigned things; we all determined whether the duty at hand measured equally with the weight the others were pulling. Looking back at it all now, I can see how this method was both a good and a bad thing.

I honestly have yet to figure out what the ideal method of teamwork is among a group of leaders. I can tell you what a leader should do in a team, but when it comes to leaders leading amongst each other, I am still a bit lost. However, I do know that it is possible. I also know that when leaders do work well with one another, some of the best work imaginable results. The astounding Marshall Briefs each group produced only after a couple of days work is proof.

My Marshall Brief group’s teamwork was not perfect but how well we performed during our presentation capped any remaining frustrations we had in a bottle and was tossed out to sea. Our Marshall Brief did not win any awards, but none of us complained. The hard work we all put in, obvious by our tremendous reaction once it was all over, was incredible. Even though we didn’t end up as “the best Marshall Brief”, I’d trade good teamwork and harmony over winning such a title under an imbalanced and constantly bickering regime.

Life-long Friends

There was so much work to do during these fifteen days that simply attempting to squeeze an adequate social life would loosen the fragile, delicate fabric of progress. Yet, despite all the opportunities that this schedule gave for all 72 of us to become lone wolves, nearly everyone rejected that wonderful option.

It seemed as if the more lectures and challenges we were constantly being thrown at by the faculty, the more prone we all were to support and confide with one another. With similar work ethics and sense of independence, many of us, remarkably, found it all the more easily to establish close bonds. These friendships are some of the strongest and most unique bonds I’ve made for such a short period of time. There was a mutual understanding of the struggles and frustrations we felt from the work put before us – like a language we developed among one another.

The girls I shared a suite with always brought a smile to my face, even though I often returned to our dorms with Marshall Brief work that extended across the night and into early morning. Everyone understood the need for quiet time to concentrate; they respected everyone’s need to work instead of joining the circle of latest gossip. By the time this program came to an end, I surprised myself with misty eyes. I feel very blessed that I had the chance to call these incredible people my friends.

- - - - -

To revisit the concept of the aforementioned tide, I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t an amateur surfer at all. If I had to provide a more accurate analogy, it be much more appropriate to say that I am like a baby turtle, freshly hatched from my egg. Unlike the surfer and more like the turtle, I am not alone on the sand. There are a bunch of other baby turtles, just like myself, struggling to reach the tide.

Through the eyes of man, the distance is only several paces – such an effortless task. For these baby turtles it’s a journey of life and death. Looking back at the entirety of summer vacation, YISP looks like several paces but it really was a long, challenging journey. Just like these baby turtles, making their way across the sand, the Yale Ivy Scholars of Grand Strategy braved through these fifteen days. Some moved faster than others; some dodged several seagull attacks. In the end, though, we all made it safely into the tide.

The tide was good all along. When you see yourself as a surfer – so caught up in yourself and what it is that you want to accomplish – you’re so anxious to worry about the outcome and not the actual process to reach that outcome. As an amateur surfer, I worried about whether the tide would bring success or failure; I didn’t even consider whether I’d even reach the tide or not. I was so caught up with the conclusion, I forgot about the climb I had yet to even start.

The tide was good all along. As one of the 72 baby turtles slowly sifting through the sand, it was completing the journey on time and as safely as possible that ranked as our number one priority. Baby turtles do not spend their first moments out of their shells, casually daydreaming what the ocean was like. For them, it was work first, reward later. Just like these hardworking baby turtles, that was how everyone at Ivy Scholars viewed these fifteen days. We couldn’t wait to experience that happiness that all our accumulated hard work would eventually come to highlight, but before we could have happiness over our accomplishments, we needed the hard work.

All of us made it to the tide in the end. The strength of the current could no longer keep us together, as it yanked each of us to individually different directions. Although the final destination of these hardworking baby turtles remains a mystery, all of them are bound for something big within that endless ocean. Their struggle across the sand does not guarantee their success, but their incredible ability to defy their slim chances for survival have turned all of them into toughened turtles, ready to face whatever obstacles comes their way. With hope, some of these turtles may cross currents one day, but then again, they may not. These turtles will never forget their journey across the sand, greeting a tide that was good, exceptionally good, all along.

Part II of a Series of Reflections on the YISP
by Dyana W. T. So


Immediate Emotions and Reliving a Bittersweet Day
This post-YISP feeling is hard to describe. It's almost as if someone suddenly stripped me of all my emotions – those I've strove so hard to keep aligned and separate – and placed them in a merciless blender. This feeling looks like a heavily mixed, but equally distributed, pulp of happiness and sadness. It smells like a delivered pizza at 11PM, when all you've eaten before then were words of encouragement used by your fellow peers - working through dinner on your Marshall Briefs. This feeling feels like the piercing Bay Area chill that surprises non-California natives, who are more used to warm and humid summer nights. The taste of this feeling is unfathomable – a bittersweet delicacy overall. The fine lines between bliss and melancholy are blurred. I cannot tell one from the other anymore, and it’s only been a couple of days since I've left Yale Ivy Scholars.

Eventually, it hits you.

Some felt it the minute they stepped foot into the airport, while others felt it after their parents peeled away from a welcome-home embrace. I know this because, when all of us turn on our Facebook accounts back home, we immediately head straight to the group we made to stay in touch. By now, most of us have settled back to our daily lives, be it Singapore, Texas, or Canada. The Facebook group makes the distance between all of us less immense than it really is, and the thought of never seeing each other again, unthinkable.

This paradoxical feeling came to me even before I struggled down two flights of stairs with my luggage to sign out under the Silliman College main archway. It first visited the moment I woke up from my minima, but fulfilling sleep, on our suite's common room couch. I can still remember that moment very clearly.

It was about 9AM when I woke up - the latest time since my fifteen days at Yale. Our second-floor suite – the I building at Silliman – already felt different since Claudia Shin left the night before, just after graduation dinner. I was the first to wake up again, but I was less enthusiastic about greeting this new day. I knew the inevitable departure lay ahead, and for once, I took my sweet time to get ready, letting the natural flow of life take me to where I needed to be. One by one, the remaining five residents of this suite would eventually grab all they've brought with them, check out, and head home. I started to miss them even as two familiar, sleepy faces – those of Jean Wang and Isabel Scher – groggily walked past me to brush their teeth. Through an outsider’s eyes, nothing was too out of the ordinary, but we all knew that, internally, things would never be the same again. For old times’ sake, the three of us decided to head off to Blue State Coffee together for breakfast. The two Katherines – one from England and the other from California – were still deep in sleep.

At Blue State Coffee, the three of us ran into more familiar faces. Despite the duration of time all of us knew one another individually, we sat together as if we've been friends since way back when. This was the usual feeling one immediately felt with their closest mates at Ivy Scholars, but after fifteen days of mutual hard work, nobody had much reason to be shy anymore. Still, I exchanged small talk among them. I was a bit lost for words, hungry, and desiring more to absorb the moment before me than interrupt it with my own words, in fear of spoiling it all. This scene – a select few of Ivy Scholars huddled over coffee, tea, and pancakes at Blue State Coffee – was too fragile of a picture.
Isabel Scher [left] and Mr. Drew Ruben [right] - the YISP Dean of Students and Founder of Blue State Coffee - wait for their breakfast orders. 
The table next to us - more YISP students, moments from returning home. 
Jean Wang. 
Sunny Huang [left] and Jeffrey Hu [right] enjoying Blue State coffee and pastries.

The look on everyone's face, I realized, seemed unnatural. I was more used to seeing fast-moving jaws and alert eyes, with the typical topics among them ranging from their Marshall Briefs to already-established inside jokes. At Blue State Coffee that morning though, the amount of hard work and the lack of sleep from several nights before, finally caught up with all of them. Yet, despite this being our final morning together as Ivy Scholars, everyone had some form of a slight smile on their lips. If not as a visible curve from cheek to cheek, it was through their solemn words, deeply coated by a tone of bliss.

There were 72 of us in total. I did not get to meet everyone at the same level of familiarity in the end. A more accomplished, dare I say, "Grand Strategist", would have certainly been able to do this alongside all the work that was expected of us, but I clearly still have more to learn. The fifteen days I spent at Yale felt like a dream. It was such a small fraction of our individual summers, and yet, it took center stage for most of us. I can’t speak for my 71 other brilliant and unbelievably inspiring peers, but these past fifteen days have been the greatest summer experience to boot.

After about an hour’s worth of sipping mochas and munching banana pancakes, the good-byes began – first, only one said it, then, it seemed like everyone was leaving all at once. Isabel Scher was the first from our suite. Her older brother came by to pick her up. After several hugs, a photo, and more good-byes, we all exchanged one final smile with one another as we watched Isabel get into her brother’s car. Our suite family now dwindled from six to four.

Once Isabel left, the rest of us – minus British Katherine – were almost set to leave. By then, no one wanted to return to our depressing dorms. We grabbed all our belongings and placed them along the walls of the archway. In addition to waiting for our departure times and rides, we waited for those fellow scholars that were due to leave before us. Those who were scheduled to leave the Yale campus much later – some due tomorrow – also gathered at the archway with us. Nobody will admit it, but internally, we knew we’d never see some of these people every again. It’s a sad but honest reality. One that I couldn’t really keep inside completely as my eyes became misty.
- - - - -
Currently, I am sitting in the Peet’s Coffee in Pinole. (This coffee addiction has unfortunately taken over – thank you, Blue State Coffee!) Returning to the Bay Area, I feel so alive (and that’s not only the caffeine talking). I can’t really put it into words that would adequately satisfy how I’m feeling at the present moment. I feel like I’m still hovering above ground. I’m excited to face challenges; I’m looking forward to the pile of AP assignments ahead (they’re due in a little less than two weeks). I know this sounds crazy and I doubt I can keep this momentum, at this high level of drive for long, up but honestly, life has never felt this good.

I’m looking forward to my senior year – looking forward to making change now and not only after I graduate from high school. These past fifteen days as a Yale Ivy Scholar was like an internal surgical procedure. On the outside, I look the same, but on the inside, I feel like a completely different person – a better person. I’m still an imperfect, stubborn, and overly ambitious student, but I’m looking at life now, less like a rat race, and more like a brilliant chase with welcoming detours. I do fear that this high will eventually fade, but something inside me tells me it will only erode from me slightly.

If one more week of YISP was offered to us but also required another Marshall Brief to be completed in the end, I’d accept it in a heartbeat. A very good friend – Yvonne Hsiao – and I share this special inside joke we call, “Operation: Employment”. We remind each other of this throughout our stressed Marshall Brief meetings and sometimes to have a good laugh. Pretty much, we jokingly set the possibility of returning to YISP to be instructors as our ultimate reason to always work hard and never give up. Granted, this was not our main reason to do our very best, but sharing this silly goal of all goals between the two of us just elevated the love we had towards, and I quote Yvonne for this: “the best academic decision I’ve made in my life”.
[From left to right] Dyana So, Isabel Scher, Katherine Yu, Jean Wang. These girls were like sisters; we shared the same suite together. [Missing from this photograph] Claudia Shin and Katherine Spooner. 
[From left to right] Jean Wang, Dyana So, Dean Coburn-Palo, Jeffrey Hu. 
[From left to right] Matt Lee, Dyana So, Jeffrey Hu, Ahmed Hameed, Sunny Huang, and D.K. Guo. 

Yohanna Pepa: you are such an inspiration. You have no idea how much prouder I feel being a Spartan knowing all that you've already achieved. It was great seeing you as one of the YISP student instructor. 
Appropriately, the last photo I took at Yale. This here is Matt Lee.

Part I of a Series of Reflections on the YISP
by Dyana W. T. So

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Yale School of Medicine

So you maybe wondering why I visited the Yale School of Medicine, but to me this is in the hope that for some this might be the next step for you after your graduate from College.  I was honored to meet with the Director of Admissions Mr. Silverman.  He as well was wondering why a High School Counselor would be interested in this program.  I explained that all of our students in WCCUSD have the opportunity to participate in an academy, and at De Anza we have a Health Academy.  While many of these students will go on to college, not all will go on to medical school, nor is this the intent of this system.  I personally wanted to have a better understand of some the opportunities outside California for our students. This allows a student the opportunity to bloom, and spread their wings.

 I was very excited to hear that Yale Medicine has a large contingent of students that had come from California and even have a support system that they created, to help adjust to the east coast. While most of us change our career paths many times, the idea of having options and ideas beyond the small area that we live in is vital to making the best choices for ourselves.  While much of the application appears to mirror that of many other medical programs, Yale Medicine has a wonderful book called "100 Reasons"  that give some amazing insight into why Yale?  One of my favorite is number 10.  Haven Free clinic that was created by medicial students, nursing and public health in 2005 to help the area here around Yale University.

The program sounds amazing, but they key appears not to have the right combinations of classes, internships etc. but rather a grasp on who and what you are and be commitment to that goal, as well as the confidence and belief that this is what you are meant to do.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Yale Here We Come

Tom Miller, Dyana So, Matt Lee   6:15 AM departure to SFO then off to Philadelphia

I think we were all a little scared and apprehensive about our 20 days away from home.  I have never been away from my family that long either.  I worried about if I packed the right things, if I brought to much or too little.  But first and foremost I felt greatly honored that my three student’s family would trust me with their students.  While I realize that these three young people will soon be going off to college, as they are high school seniors, this is just the their first taste.
I think we are all excited about what we will learn and bring back to our schools and our communities.  I wish there had been a program like this when I was a student as I truly never thought outside California. I thought why should I?  This question will be a reoccurring theme throughout my stay on the east coast. I will also try and look at this trip not only as a parent and counselor, but also question why Ivy League Universities and Colleges might make sense for your student.  Picking the right school and the right fit is a very important decision that many of us leave up to fate and where a student submits their applications.  Some of you maybe unaware of the Common Application used by Ivy League Universities;  I will also be passing along any tips that I learn along the way. 
Each student must ask their counselor for a letter of recommendation as well as two teachers.  These recommendations will be sent though email.  Your student asked their recommenders for their email address and then places them in their Common Application and then the recommender is sent a online recommendation to fill out.  Please be aware that when your student starts their application each college is aware, as well as when they submit and send the recommendations to the counselors/ teachers.  Waiting to the last minute is not a good idea.  You make think this is a simple form to fill out.  It is not.  Last year I filled out 14, common application recommendations, while there is a part to check, it requires a full letter of rec. to be uploaded, and if I do not have good information about your student then this becomes very difficult.  I also must upload a PDF copy of the transcript.  This is done more than once, at each quarter and at year end for your student. 

While this may appear to be a negative it really is no harder than a UC application.  If just requires your student to do a little more leg work. I also reccomend that your student give a resume or information to each so that they can write a really good letter.  If they are apply for scholarships they will need letters for this as well.  

I have had the pleasure to talk to a number of students that I done these trips in the past and all say that a college education at an Ivy League school is well worth it.

University of Pennsylvania-The Love

Campus tour of the Univeristy of Pennsylvania and Informational Session, 7/22/2011
My wrist and the ground of the UPenn football stadium. 

I found every informational session that I have attended useful on a number of levels.  From being a parents, chaperon, to a high school counselor.  As a parent my concerns are will my child be safe and welcome on the campus that they choose?  I was very impressed with the security measures on the every campus that we have visited.  You can not just walk up to any of the buildings and enter you must have a student ID to enter.  I also am pleased that the Ivy league school's have an amazing way of looking at financial aid.  They help families by significantly reducing what a parent must contribute towards their students education financially. As a parent I worry about how am I going to pay for my childs education.  One of the truly amazing parts is that the people who have the lowest income benifit from the Ivy league school's financial aid  the most.  

We have also spent some time with students from WCCUSD who are attending the University of Penn summer program.  As a parent it has been wonderful to see that they feel comfortable here and that they are enjoying their course work.  I can't believe that these young people have been given this amazing opportunity to blossom and grow at no expense to them or their family.  Pretty amazing that a public school can make this type of program happen.  It shows me people we need more people like Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg and Mr. Gosney, who really believe in the young people of West Contra Costa Unified School district.  They want our students to grow and expand their horzon's beyond the small boundries of West Contra Costa.          
Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Adieu For Now

Below is a supplement blog for 07-23-2011

Before it was days; now it is only minutes – 47 minutes to be exact. By 47 minutes, I am referring to the “official” arrival of tomorrow – where future transforms into present, where these back-to-back college visits and dinners end and the objective of our trip will finally begin. Unfortunately for you – the readers – the policies of the Yale Ivy Scholars Program does not permit its students to write blogs during the entire duration of the program. It will be about two weeks before activities by either Matt, Tom, or myself will resume here. Therefore, I'd like to share my final thoughts with you before I return after two weeks as, undeniably, a changed individual.


Teleport yourself back to a high school classroom. You're a good student – doing the best you can and trying to stay out of trouble. There's this one student in your class that just returned from a summer studying at an Ivy League university and you discover later in the year that she was taking another summer class, but at a different Ivy League school, this upcoming summer. She's on scholarship again. She could have left the spot open for someone else. She could have. Do you think she should have?

Now I am the student in that theoretical classroom and, if I was asked to respond to this scenario – to this student spending another summer on scholarship at Ivy League schools – I may just roll my eyes and say she really should have left that spot for someone new. The Ivy League Connection is all about giving bright and talented students in our depreciated school district – the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) – the opportunity of a lifetime to be exposed to, not just random colleges on the East Coast, but prestigious ivy league institutions that most have probably never even thought about. Therefore, why is this student going again? Why is she taking up the slot for another bright and talented student?

Well, this student has a name and you're reading my words. This thought has been the uncomfortable thorn I let live under the soles of my feet for the longest time. I do not make references to my summer spent at Cornell University to study “Freedom and Justice” very often, even though I can easily share to you my various moments of deja vu and similarities just in these past few days alone. I do not mention them much because I am reminded of that guilty feeling. You could be reading the reflection of another student instead of mines. That student would probably tell you of all the new things he's come to understand now because of these dinners with alumni, or maybe, she would tell you all the interesting details about the new environment she's witnessing on the East Coast. Instead you got someone who's been there before, so her words are old news; she's no longer inspired. She's spoiled.

My name is Dyana So and I know I deserve to do this program and participate in the ILC again. I mau have been there but I'm not old news. I am more inspired than ever and I am most certainly not spoiled. The ILC does not discriminate if a student such as myself – or Andrew Gonzales, Alex Elms, and Beilul Naizghi – wishes to try and apply again. Our slates our cleared; our summer in the past lingers but it does not affect our readmission. We've joined the rat race again and yes, we do have prior knowledge based on experience, but we have also – and always have – had the same equal chance of getting in and not getting in as everyone else. And by knowing all of this, why do I not be more considerate of trying to let someone else potentially take my spot?

First of all, I never knew that that was ever destined to be my spot. The fear of rejection during both the essay and interview process were real. Being able to board another flight to spend a summer again at the East Coast and study at Yale the second time around is still an unbelievable miracle to me. The ILC was open to everyone; it was th worm dangling on a hook, waiting for the student fishes to take a bite at it. I did not step aside for YISP, nor make my attempt at getting in any less weaker, because, truthfully I'm tired of not fending for myself. I'm tired of thinking for those who do not think for themselves. You’re probably wondering who I'm really addressing this spiteful message to and, if there really was someone that would have been that student that rolled their eyes or not, I am ultimately speaking to this demon within me.

I truly felt at the end of Cornell Summer College last year, even more so than I already had, just how much this program meant for me and had done to change my life in no other direction than the better. I still feel this way even though it is my second year; I am grateful that another hefty scholarship was put into me when it honestly could have gone to someone new. Yet, as guilty as I may let myself feel for that unknown student that could-have-been, I've come to tell myself to stop prying those heavy doors of opportunity to these invisible beings. They certainly exist – these bright students from our school district who could also do just as well in this program – but why let the breeze in for someone who refuse to be visible and open the doors themselves? They are heavy but it's not like I didn't strain to get it to open either.

My position as a two-year participant of ILC is reminded when I see one of my current cohort, Matt Lee. Before we boarded the plane, I asked if he was going to apply to any schools on the East Coast. He quickly responded that he was probably only applying to the UC schools and other colleges strictly in California. He admitted that these college tours may just change his mind a bit but he wasn't sure if that would likely happen. But now, four days in and many college visits and dinners later, Matt's attitude has changed. He tells me what it is that he liked and didn't like about certain campuses; he actively asks questions regarding the schools at the dinners. I recently asked him again that same question and now he tells me that he will highly consider applying to East Coast schools or definitely will apply to some. That's the intended effect the ILC is supposed to give the first-year students – that realization that they are just as capable as another student somewhere in the United States attending the best private schools around. They start to consider an option they never really thought about – especially for those who always saw the UCs as their dream schools. They start to fall in love with these “new” schools and desire to, more than ever, work harder to ensure admittance. Knowing Matt since middle school, I was very pleased that the ILC has truly reaped the biggest of epiphanies for not only my friend Matt, but also for its many cohorts including myself.

As a second-year ILC cohort, I look at everything differently and there's no changing that. The first time was the life-changing moment – that one-time chance to be the lucky recipient of such a phenomenal scholarship – and the second time around has been more of a cycle of wisdom and realization. The exciting opportunities to visit colleges – even back in California I never visited a single college campus except Contra Costa College for summer classes – sometimes overshadowed the conference I'd hold within my head to debate whether this college was an actual fit for me or not. Now, as a second-year, the excitement is still there – but controlled. I'm less interested in the idea of being somewhere new and more interested in asking all the questions I can and visioning myself at this particular school only a short, one year later. I value admissions officers who take their time out to meet us more than the first-year. I start to pick up ideas and advice I hear that does not necessarily do me any good but does do a good deal for others. I am thinking about how I can be a better ambassador and bring these experiences to life for people back home. I start to feel this awful strain my stomach whenever I sit before fancy meals and purchase items under the ILC because I no longer believe that such elaborate expenses, as good as they were to experience obviously, could really buy me a good time. The chance to be here, even if it meant eating cup noodles every single day until I came home, would still mean the world to me.

The YISP program means more to me than nearly everyone would assume from how little I let myself talk about it in fear of sounding like a boastful brat. In the end, I am very proud of my achievements and I'm proud that, despite taking up a spot that could have potentially gone to someone else, this spot was rightfully earned by me, just as anyone else could have taken it as well. My stomach felt funny today when I went to the nearby Rite-Aid to purchase some items for the YISP that I didn't pack in my suitcase. They were items I needed but the prices of some of them were much higher than I would dare spend back home. I knew I was on scholarship and that the policy of the ILC was to help me pay for anything I needed as long as it was not anything of personal benefit of leisure, but I cannot escape the sensitivity I have to expensive things. My own upbringing made them foreign to me.

Tomorrow I will be staying at a more longer-lasting residence. I have jitters about this program and the thought of failure continues to be an overly redundant naive reflex of yours truly. I am confident in the confidence others have put into me though I am not so generous to myself. My method has always been to work hard, harder, and harder some more. Maybe that method would do little but it might just do a lot. Either way, I can only storm into Yale tomorrow and give it the best I got because if there w

My Kind of People

If the question, "What do you want to major in/what do you want to do?" behaved like water vapor above my head, I would be experiencing serious precipitation for a several weeks. Listen reader, if you knew what you wanted to do at 17, write a book, because that's a real poser for the rest of us. Now I may not know exactly yet, but at a dinner tonight with Alex Richardson, the Northern California Admissions Rep. for Yale, I surprised myself by coming up with at least passable answer.

First let me say that, so far, I love Yale people. I don't know what their reputation is, but to be as smart as they are, and as open and friendly is astounding to me. I honestly feel that Alex's attitude and demeanor as a conversationalist allowed me to talk about that which I am most passionate about, giving me true insight into how to answer that age old question. As I spoke about my time at El Cerrito and the transformation that occurred in me there, culminating in my time at Mosaic, a non-profit youth education project in Oakland, I was able to come up with an answer. While I have so many interests that I love to explore at my leisure, what I love most is looking at traditional fields from a human perspective. Studying political theory, economic policy, etc. through the eyes of an anthropologist, socialogist, cognitive scientist, or psychologist. This is something that has fascinated me before I even heard the term "cognitive science." In fact as I mentioned the field, a current Yale student also attending the dinner, Maria, lit up in response. It turns out she was very interested in the subject as well, sparking a wonderful and passionate discussion of what we loved about it.

I've talked to many people about their reasons for choosing a college, what I have heard time and again, is that someone connected to the college somehow made them want to go. The way that Alex quickly got me to talk about what was most important to me, and to then engage me in a meaningful way about that topic was remarkable to say the least. If I had to choose a college based on the character of the people then Yale makes a compelling case.

Yalies on Yalies

At the final dinner I had the pleasure of sitting next to both of Yohanna Pepa's dorm mates - Mariya and Samantha. After knowing Yohanna for a few years, I can quickly see why both these rising-sophomores are so great. Mr. Alex Richardson, the California representative for Yale admissions was also present, but because I was seated the most distant from him than Matt and Tom, I spoke mostly with Mariya and Samantha.

When it comes to learning about a potential college that I want to apply to, my approach is not traditional. I do not shower these students with questions about the school unless it was something I personally wanted to know or something that I think others may find interest in. With time, the accounts of current college students share nearly the same outline. They all enjoyed their experience; they wouldn't be so great at answering our questions and telling us about their school otherwise. Therefore, I like to get to know the students more through casual conversation, interjecting any curiosities I did have when I had them. I've always found that once I made my guests more comfortable to speak before pure strangers, they naturally start to expel, with more enthusiasm, their input and much more.

With Mariya, we shared immigrant origins. She was from Bulgaria, whereas I was from Hong Kong. The struggles our parents share to come to America for no greater prize than to secure the academic opportunities for their daughters reminded Mariya how much Yale meant for her and how happy I was to hear that.

I connected especially well with Samantha, whom I shared so many personality traits with. I know this not because I showered her with questions regarding only Yale, but because I also ask about her life and time as a high school student. That information is important to me because it gives me a better idea of what Yale is looking for in a student should I choose to apply. Some of the students tell me they had lower test scores but cannot help gushing how proud they are about their personal statements while others commend their collection of extracurricular. Samantha was the first and only present student that gave me the college student perspective from a female standpoint and I am glad to report to report that due to little dissimilarities between male and female students, college is honestly the place to start over. No college student goes out of their way to talk about high school. Everyone is the top of their class but many people bother to compete to extensively or compare one another anymore.

Towards the end, I spoke briefly with Mr. Richardson. He is a very friendly person who is very easy to talk to. I greatly admire his interest in the ILC, in addition to explaining to us more about the admissions process. I hope to keep in touch with him in the future - and everyone else I've met for that matter - with more questions I may come up with.

The Yale dinner was a great one to end our five nights of fancy dining. Swarthmore was a good that the admissions officer lead most of the conversation and spent much time to answer all of our questions in detail. The Princeton dinner was a chance to establish a new connection with a complete stranger - hearing of his successes as both a Princeton alum and progressing lawyer. The U. Penn dinner was the ultimate melting pot of all sorts of representation that it gave more insight from a variety of sources that we had yet to achieve. The dinner with Columbia was great that the alumni were great in convincing myself to be just like them and apply for Columbia. The Yale dinner was unique in its own that it was a surreal preview of what these next fifteen days will be somewhat like.

I thank the ILC for making these dinners happen; they convinced me more about U. Penn and Columbia, and gave me the opportunity to make a good impression on admissions officers. As Peter Chau commented: "This opportunity is such a luxury; legacy kids couldn't even get to meet admissions officers so intimately like this and they get everything!"

An End To The Feasting

As I got up this morning, my heart sank a little bit. New York City was like an untapped reservoir of excitement and entertainment, and I had barely explored its wonders. To get my self out of this pool of depression I think about what lies ahead of me. I say to myself, "I am leaving this concrete jungle to go to an even better place. Instead of looking for flashy lights and name brand shops, I'm going in pursuit of something much less flashy but infinitely more valuable, something no one can take from me, simply an education.

Train seems to be the way to go over here in the east coast, and the ILC goes with whats popular. We hop aboard our amtrak train for the final time to go to New Haven and more importantly, our home for the remainder of our stay here. Luckily I was able to catch a few Z's on the way here. Dr.Luong told us that we should be well rested before we begin the program, and after these 6 hour sleeps a nap was well needed. When my dreams lifted and my eyelids opened, we had arrived at New Haven. Luckily the weather was cooler today than others and we got to our Hotel comfortably (the AC in the taxi helped too.) As we rode through town towards the Omni hotel, Mr.Ramsey pointed out all of the characters in this town that made us all think twice about safety here. I thought of my dad as we passed a park that reminded me of People's Park in Berkeley. His direct, but wise, words echoed throughout my mind, "don't ever hang out there."

We checked into the Omni, went upstairs to settle down and immediately went back out to do a bit of shopping. We all had a bit of a shopping list handy, so the shopping went smoothly. We got the essentials such as food, personal hygiene items, however one of the necessities that we needed for our stay at Yale wasn't there. Fans. Although Yale does provide us with 1 fan, it was highly recommended by several individuals that we purchase another. Hopefully Lori can purchase one tomorrow. On the way there and back we saw some of New Haven up close and personal. It was definitely much different from New York, smaller and not as busy.

After our little shopping excursion, we went back up to our respective rooms, and just prepared ourselves for tonights dinner with current Yalies, and a Yale admissions officer for NorCal at the lovely Union League Cafe. I got suited up for the last dinner I was going to have with the whole gang, Lori, Mr.Ramsey, Ms.Kronenberg. We walked together down Chapel Street, towars the restaurant. We were greeted by the workers on our way up, and then by the guests of the hour. Two current Yale students, Mariya, and Samantha, and our NorCal admissions officer Alex Richardson.

At the beginning of our meal I was seated next to Alex, and Ms.Kronenberg. I was able to get in an engaging conversation with Alex, we talked about things such as the way things worked on Yale, such as living style, a little bit of an overview of the programs, his experiences as an alum and as a student. However not too long into the dinner Tom started talking to him and I did have a bit of an awkward moment. Fortunately for me I still had Ms.Kronenberg to my left and started to talk with her. However the ever-watchful Mr.Ramsey, saw my predicament and made a switch so that I'd be sitting next to Mariya.

*Just a side note, I have nothing against Ms.Kronenberg or Alex Richardson. Ms.Kronenberg and I were getting on a nice topic (that we were never able to truly finish), byt the point of the dinner was to talk to our guests, and I couldn't effectively do that sitting where I was sitting (Tom was getting into a very long and exciting conversation with Alex that I didn't want to interuppt) which was why I was thankful that I got moved.*

Mariya and I immediately got to talking. I spat out the same spiel I've given all of the other current students I've met. How's campus life? Is it fun going there? Can you tell me how the curriculum works? What are the students like? Etc. Like all of the other current students, her answers did not disappoint. I've said this time and time and time again, for every dinner I've attended with the ILC, these conversations we hold with the students are invaluable resources. It's like we get to put on a special pair of glasses, that give the vision of the students we're talking to. It's as if we get to step into their shoes for a little bit and live their lives as students. Yale sounds like a really good place to go to learn, it's curriculum is different than the other schools we've attended in the aspect of its Distribution System. In order to graduate you have to take classes in 6 different categories, but 2 classes in each one. I really liked this combination of a liberal arts, and structured core curriculum. It definitely made Yale appealing.

Like all dinners before, this one too came to a close. We followed the ILC tradition of ordering deserts, followed by closing comments, and then followed by the group photo session. We left with new connections to the Yale community, and our brains bursting with new insight. As we walked out of the restaurant, a wave of emotion washed over me. I remembered what Mr.Ramsey said earlier that day, as we were walking towards the restaurant. He said "well guys, this is the last dinner. I hope you've enjoyed everything, it was a pleasure doing business with you." However as sad as I got from his words that these dinners were over, I couldn't help but disagree with him. It wasn't the end of business between myself and Mr.Ramsey. It was only the beginning. I am going to be a member of the Ivy League Connection for the rest of my life, although there isn't a formal alumni group of this organization I still think of one existing, and that even when I graduate I'll just join the ranks of people like Matt Arciniega, Yohanna Pepa, Peter Chau, Cristina Pelayo, and many, many more.

I end my night with one closing remark. If there's one thing I've learned from this whole experience talking with all of these people from the top universities, is that they ALL share a strong sense of unity and pride of their school. This unity and pride carries on for the rest of their lives as they join the alumni groups of their respective schools. I always hear about how these alumni groups are fantastic pools for resources and is also a great connection device for everyone in the organization to benefit from. I believe that the ILC is very much like these schools in that aspect. All of the ILC alumni are a resource for the current ILC students. Whether it be to ask past participants how their programs were, to actually giving them tours of the schools they go to, they are always there to benefit myself, and the future ILC cohorts to come. Huge thanks go out to Mr.Ramsey, Ms.Kronenberg, and to our sponsors. Without any of these people, this program wouldn't be possible and we would't have this amazing network of connections to work with. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.