Thursday, May 28, 2015

"I'd like some clear, fresh, well seasoned perspective."

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
I have a confession to make. Contrary to the rest of my more mature peers, I was originally excited about the prestigious Ivy League Connections dinner for the food. Nothing more, nothing less. My list of expectations were as follows: stiff alumni and sponsors, uninteresting small talk, and the overpowering air of professionalism. And while I do value professionalism as much as the next girl, it hasn't always made for the most engaging conversations. But hey, at least the food would be amazing, right?
I am most grateful in having the opportunity to testify to just how wrong and shallow I was. It's actually quite funny because there were some moments during the dinner where I just zoned out, busy looking around, trying to take in my surroundings and bring myself back to Earth while an Electric Light Orchestra song played in my heart.

The restaurant was beautiful. The ambiance was perfect. The food was exquisite.

But the people were even better.

The first person I saw the second I walked into Prospect was wearing a stylish black fedora and my immediate thought was "I like this guy". Interestingly enough, this man just so happened to be Mr. Fred Powell, president of Powell & Partners and gracious sponsor of the Ivy League Connection. We met formally just before the dinner began when people were mingling and Mr. Powell coolly waltzed over to my circle and introduced himself. He discussed his company and the amazing things he had been working on, but I, unfortunately, wasn't able to talk further with him as our circle was disbanded shortly afterwards. After looking around the room a bit, Alyanna and I introduced ourselves to Mr. Mitchell Flax and Ms. Ilana Somasunderam, Columbia alum of '09, or they introduced themselves to us after we made longer than normal eye contact. I can't quite remember. Both of them were incredibly down-to-earth and subtly humorous, almost as if a wink was appropriate at any given moment, in the best possible sense. I found out that Mr. Flax was an Economics major and Ms. Somasunderam an Environmental Science major. To my surprise, they both worked as high-school freshmen biology teachers, although Ms. Somasunderam, from my understanding, became more of a specialist than a teacher over time. Throughout our short ten-minute conversation I think the most important takeaway was their mutual reassurance in my uncertainties about the future. They explained that not knowing what to do with my life at this point was perfectly fine. In fact, they stood as real examples that life could take you in unplanned directions with everything still working out in the end. To them Columbia University was just an avenue in which they had taken to get to their destination - a mighty fine avenue, might I say.

A literal avenue.

The dinner hadn't even started and yet I already felt so enlightened and impressed by the character and intelligence of everyone I had met.

On a completely unrelated side note, I just figured that I'd mention that all of the alumni and sponsors have amazing names (in case one stumbles upon my blog) and I didn't get to tell any of them how great I thought their names were. I have this strange affinity for names and in my notebook of random things is an ever-growing list of names I like. Let me just say that quite a few went on that list after the dinner, "Mitchell Flax" being my personal favorite. He honestly doesn't know how mentally stoked I was when I found out his last name was Flax.

Blaine Harper, Carissa Vasquez, and Julio Vasquez being
incredibly gracious with me as the flash kept going off haphazardly.
The dinner began with speeches made by Ms. Kronenberg, Mark, Mr. Flax, Don, and an impromptu one by Mr. Ramsey. All of them varied in tone and speech but were unified by eagerness and dedication. Don actually sat at my table, along with my mom, Ms. Blaine Harper, Mr. Julio Vasquez, and Mrs. Carissa Vasquez. Mr. and Mrs. Vasquez were also another one of our generous sponsors and their sincerity just emanated. Mrs. Vasquez was a bubbly individual working in HR, with an impossibly warm smile, and Mr. Vasquez, an architect and U.C. Davis alumni, with his smiles in his eyes. And although you could tell Mrs. Vasquez did a bit more of the talking, his presence alone held weight at our table. A huge majority of my conversation, however, was with Ms. Harper who was a recent graduate from Columbia and was planning on pursuing a PhD at the University of Arizona. She recommended some places to visit in New York (as well as some books to read) and explained what it was like at Columbia. Her own interests dealing with the potential psychological benefits of certain drugs as well as the activist side of drug testing on animals were extremely fascinating. Even the tangential sidetracks we took in the conversation were evidence of her passion and hunger for learning and change. Needless to say, it was fantastic talking with her.

After the dinner, we took a group photo. By now, we're all experts. *coughs* Sort of.

On the BART ride back home to little old El Cerrito, I was able to chat with Ms. Sophie Evans-Boroditsky, a sharp, sparkling, cutting-edge Columbia alumna currently working at Wells Fargo as a development team manager. After telling her about my interest in the mathematics and science field, as well as why I had chosen the Business and Economics class at Columbia, she recommended looking into the Applied Mathematics field in the future. This led to further discussion about math and her own experiences with math in the past, with a bit on the slide rule thrown into the mix. She also recommended me a book to read, after checking out my Blogspot profile and discovering a shared interest in Ender's Game. By then, we had reached our BART station stop and it was time to say goodbye to everyone. I was utterly exhausted but happy nonetheless.


I shall now take the time to dedicate a small portion of this blog to how I felt about the food. If you had a nickle for every time I gushed to my mom about how spectacular the food was, interrupting her
enjoyment of the meal to express  my own, you'd have a little over a dollar.

That being said, on a scale of how I felt about the dinner from a frowning Kristen Stewart to Buddy in Elf, I would fall under the crying Tobey Maguire category. (We'll pretend that they're tears of joy.) Okay. That may be a slight exaggeration; I just really wanted to put a picture of Tobey Maguire crying in this post. Perhaps this entire post is slightly exaggerated, or perhaps I just wanted to make things a little more lively.
Regardless, the dinner made even me more excited about going to Columbia, which is quite an impressive feat considering I was already beyond excited. For the past few months I had been wowed by the glittering (and mostly theoretical) imagery of academia that Columbia offered but now I had actually seen a tangible manifestation in the people I met, touching those from all different walks of life. 

(Tobey Maguire picture is from I don't want to get into copyright trouble now do I.)

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, you gotta be careful about the copyright laws...I hear Toby Magurie hunts down everyone that uses his image without his permission and the next day they find them wrapped in spider web hanging up-side-down from a ledge. But if you cite your source, everything is OK.