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