Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Journey of a Lifetime

It all started in my high school’s theater. Don Gosney invited a whole bunch of students from De Anza. I was happy because I heard a little bit about the ILC and wanted to learn more. It was a long event and Don had a lot to say, but I hung on to every word and took copious notes as he describes the program and what one would have to do to get accepted into the program. Many of my classmates left in the middle, but I stayed. 
  • One--I was really interested because I had no plans over summer. 
  • Two--I knew this was an important opportunity because it gave me a chance to visit and study many universities I wanted to apply to back east and hopefully attend one day and I knew I could never do these things without the Ivy League Connection. 
  • Three--I also didn’t want to go to my next class because it was weight training I believe (it was my least favorite class.) I jotted down my contact information and tried my best to polish my sloppy handwriting so Gosney could read it.
What followed was a series of many emails. They described the application in great detail. We had to write two pre-essays that were for the ILC in particular and then one essay for our program. It sounded pretty easy to be honest the essays all together were about 1,200 words. It was pretty easy, but I still stressed about it a lot because I wanted to get into the ILC and get the scholarship. So I wrote them up asked my mom and one of my teachers to read over it and then I sent them in.

What followed was a week or two of me pacing around and constantly checking my emails. I was nervous because I being the genius that I am sent in an essay that was completely blank (a fact that was pointed out by Don Gosney). When I found this out I panicked. I sent in the essay again except I sent in three identical copies so that there were no blank copies. For some reason I thought that fiasco ruined my chances and I wouldn’t get the interview and especially the scholarship. I wallowed for a couple of minutes then I accepted the fact that I wasn’t getting the interview. Then in a couple of days I checked my email and there it was. The list of people who got the interview and I was on it! I was excited. I guess I didn’t ruin my chances. I felt relaxed and happy until another long series of emails described the interview process.

The interview wasn’t as terrible as I made it. I thought it would be a borderline interrogation. Even though I practiced A LOT with my mom I still felt unprepared as I approached El Cerrito High School and made it to the classroom where all of the 7 interviewees were to wait. Everyone had to wait in that room for their interview and after their interview they had to wait to see who got picked. I sat there in that room twitching, pacing and fidgeting for hours. When it was my turn for the interview (I believe I was the fourth interview of the day) I was a nervous wreck, but I did my best to contain myself and to look professional and calm.

When I got into the room I felt dumb. There was nothing to worry about. It wasn’t an interrogation; there were no questions that I didn’t know how to answer. About half way through I was actually having fun. I relaxed answered the questions as honestly as I could. I liked being interviewed it gave me a chance to tell everyone about who I was and why they should give me thousands of dollars to go study at one of the most prestigious schools on the country. I left that room still a little nervous because I really wanted to know if I got the scholarship or not and it would be another couple of hours until I found out. I spent the rest of my time sitting and waiting.

Then the three panelists who interviewed me came in and immediately everyone in the room stared at them with nervous anticipation. At this point I accepted my defeat and the fact that I didn’t get the scholarship. Then they actually called the names of the people who got the scholarships and I was one of the names! I got the scholarship! I was overjoyed. After my name was announced I went into a little room with what were now my fellow cohort members to sign papers, but all of that was a blur all I remembered was the excitement I felt.

We had many events leading up to the trip and to me they all blurred together. I remember that with every event I got more and more excited because the trip seemed more and more real. We had many tutorials where we went over what we had to do before we go on our trip and what we had to do on our trip and that was all well and good. Over that time I got to know my fellow cohort members Noor and Javaria more and I got to know my chaperone Deven as well. We went to tutorials and a school board meeting where the ILC as a whole made a presentation to the board about the ILC, what we do and why we do it. I had to speak and it was pretty easy because all I had to do is describe the journey me and my fellow ILCers were on so far. 

Then my cohort, with the Brown cohort, had a dinner in San Francisco where we had the opportunity to talk with alums from the universities that we were going to for the summer. I thought it was helpful because I got a feel for what kind of university Cornell was and what to expect when I got there. I was nearly jumping with excitement as I heard all these wonderful things about Cornell and the wonderful things I would experience.

After the dinner we had an orientation which was just a bunch of last minute preparations and it also prepared the parents for what was going to happen. Shortly after the orientation in what felt like two seconds it was departure day. In reality it was a couple of weeks, but to me I was so excited that all that time flew by. I packed and was ready to go.

Departure day was tiring and I barely remember it because I was practically in a coma. I had to get up around 1 in the morning so I could be there around 2 in the morning. I only remember going to the airport and having a pretty nice nap on the plane to Chicago.

Chicago was absolutely amazing. We were there to visit two universities, The University of Chicago and Northwestern University, but while we were in Chicago we went to Willis Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago and Navy Pier. The Art institute was my favorite attraction because I got to see gorgeous and emotional works of art that actually made me look at the world differently. It taught me to look more closely at everything I saw. 

When we weren’t looking at the wonderful city of Chicago and its many wonders we visited universities. The universities were great and these visits helped me look at the things I liked and don’t like about them and helped me make the decision on whether or not I will apply to them. Spoiler alert: I am strongly considering applying to both. I loved Northwestern’s campus and its sense of community and fun. Everyone there looked like they were having a blast and the university seemed to encourage students to study in as many fields as possible. I liked the fun and laid back feeling that the university gave. The campus was also easy to get around and right on Lake Michigan which gave the campus some beautiful sweeping views. The University of Chicago on the other hand was less laid back. It had a similar sense of community though. You can tell that they focused on rigorous academics and challenging one’s ideas. I really liked this because when I go to university I want to be challenge and I want to bury myself in academics. I am not saying that I don’t want to have fun, but it wouldn’t be a focus of mine. Out of the two I preferred UChicago for its focus on rigorous academics and the challenging on ideas.

After Chicago it was finally time to go to Cornell. My time in Cornell was everything that I hoped for and much, much more. Cornell was amazing on every level and I loved everything there, the people, class, campus and the surrounding area.
The campus was amazing. I loved walking by a waterfall on my way to class and passed large old vine covered buildings. But what I loved more than the buildings and campus was the class I took. I took International Human Rights in Theory and Practice. This class was amazing because of the interesting debates we would have every day and what we learned because I had no previous knowledge of international human rights, before this class I had no clue that international human rights was a thing. I liked having my ideas challenged every day. I loved learning new and extremely useful things. Not only did we learn about law and human rights in the law, but we also learned how we can expand and fight  for human rights at home. This part of the class was my favorite because I always wanted to fight for my community and for the rights of the people in my community. Fighting for people’s rights is basically what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I had no clue where to start. But then when I took this class it taught me where to start and how to create my own human rights project. I was overjoyed and was itching to get home so I can use the amazing things I learned. This class was not only interesting, but applicable to my life and the things I learned here are things I wouldn’t be able to learn anywhere else. 

My favorite part of my experience was the people I met. I met some incredible people that I know will be life-long friends. My friends made everything I did there special. They exposed me to different ways of thinking and different ways of living. I learned so many things from my friends. Things I can’t learn in a classroom. My friends also encouraged me every step of my journey. They empowered me to speak up in class, go to office hour and most importantly they encouraged me to make change. This encouragement to make change came in the form of a human rights organization called We Fight 4 the Right. With my friends Javaria, Pooja and Sultana we founded an organization that is dedicated to empowering teenagers to fight for human rights in their local communities. We have chapters nationwide in New Jersey, New York and California and are expanding. I am so proud of us for doing something so ambitious and important. I am hopeful and excited for the future and I can’t wait for the amazing impact our organization will have when we get it off the ground. I would have never done something like this if I wasn’t empowered by the information I learned and my friends and I would never have those things if I didn’t take this opportunity to go to Cornell for Summer college.
My experience in the ILC and in Cornell was absolutely wonderful and an experience that I will look back on with happiness and joy. I am so happy I tool this opportunity because it changed me for the good and gave me so much. It changed the way I look at the world and how I perceive it. It changed my way of thinking and my perspective and how I look at others’ perspectives. The ILC taught me that I need to take every opportunity given to me. The knowledge I gained in my class and through my friends in my time at Cornell was by far the most valuable thing about my experience. I learned things that I will use in my community to improve it and the lives of the people who live in it. I also did things that I never would have like starting my own organization with my friends.  
Organizations like the ILC gives people the opportunity to change their lives and the world for the better. It gives people who don’t have the massive amounts of resources available to afford things like Summer College to be able to have the opportunity to go and gain valuable and important knowledge. I would like to thank the ILC and the person who runs it Don Gosney for giving me this opportunity to change my life and the world for the better.

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