Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"For The First Time in Forever"

For the first time in (what felt like) forever, I met up with my cohort and my chaperone to discuss plans and get sweatshirts from the bookstore. (Sorry, I'm usually not an advocate for Frozen puns, but I walked right into it after I wrote the first sentence.) Even before coming to New York I had already mentally picked out a sweatshirt design in my head - a simple crewneck with "Columbia" written across the top. What I forgot to consider was my size availability, and this narrowed down my options considerably. Still, I found myself with two choices, inevitably torn, and ultimately ending up with a sweatshirt that looked a lot like what I had imagined I would buy (in a good way). Moral of the story?

Stick with the classics. Huzzah!
The gang.
Sample of my notes from the day
I made the wise decision to get a coffee before heading off to my morning session and found myself surprisingly alert the entire class. Good thing too because we covered a crazy amount of content in the seemingly short two hour lecture. Dr. Mesznik started off the day with an introduction on bonds, stocks, vulture funds, and risk diversification. Previously unbeknownst to me, I found myself able to grasp all the concepts and definitions that were explained. During the class I realized that one of Dr. Mesznik's main and most effective techniques to help this comprehension process accelerate was cold-calling to encourage involvement in the discussion. It wasn't just cold-calling either necessarily, but the fact that he made it feel like a discussion that involved more than one person and proposed possible real-life situations for us to think about and answer, as opposed to a typical lecture. Of course there were times where he had to explain certain topics to us in more straightforward terms, and thus didn't use discussion. What I respected the most was his flexibility in keeping the interaction between him and his students a two-way street, regardless of the actual material. For example, I figured that it would be easier for him to discuss a particular country's economic problem with the whole class since many kept up with the news, or at least could pretend like they did. Whereas, with today's material where new ideas like unlimited liability and limited liability, it would have been a lot more difficult to keep the dialogue interesting had it not been for Dr. Mesznik's frequent use of application and analogies. 

Hey, I found a Tiara!
I pulled the "loner wolf" move at lunch and garnered all my food together before sitting at an empty table, content with silence and reflection and also partially curious as to whether my subliminal self would eventually win out and convince my physical self to talk to someone or whether someone else would initiate. Interestingly enough, it was the latter that won out and I met Jacky, an up and coming senior taking a class on iPhone/iPad Programming. (It amazes me how many classes there are that I still haven't heard of yet.)  He expressed interest in going into the math/science/engineering in the future and explained that he was taking his class for more experience in programming and to gauge how much he enjoyed it, very similar to my situation with business.

The afternoon session went by way faster than it should have. We spent the first hour in a circle taking turns discussing articles we had picked beforehand and their importance/relation to economics. The second hour was more content-based and we broached the subject of supply and demand and how those had to work together to help a market thrive. In order to help us be more engaged, Ms. Santos had us simulate a market where one side of the classroom represented consumers and the other represented producers. She assigned each consumer a different set amount of income they could spend and each producer a different set amount of cost that it took to make their product. We were then given the task of "negotiating deals" with one another until nobody could or wanted to strike a deal. Through this exercise we simulated a supply and demand function using people to roughly determine the market equilibrium. 

Between the two - to my surprise - I found that I enjoyed the morning session more than the afternoon session only because I felt like the simulation that took up the latter half of class was a bit chaotic and unorganized. Alhough I did like getting up, walking around, and talking to others very much. 

Tonkotsu Ramen 
In the evening, I went to go grab dinner with Tiara, Demi, and Erin. We picked out a nearby and well-reviewed ramen place (on Yelp) called Jin Ramen. I'm not very good at discerning between amazing-tasting ramen and mediocre-tasting ramen so I'm not sure how trustworthy my opinion is, but I thought that it was very tasty ramen and I would definitely eat there again. After talking to Tiara more, I found out that she hadn't eaten dinner at the dining hall yet and simply went out for dinner primarily because of preference.

In fact, many people I've talked to find the cafeteria food to be - and I quote - "lame' and "disgusting". 

First off, I have no idea what they're talking about; the cafeteria food is just fine to me. Secondly, I take that back - even better than fine! They offer such a wide variety of food that I can't even start to complain. 

Where am I going with this? 

I feel as though being at this camp with eleven hundred other people is a little daunting to begin with. But after realizing how different my experiences are with many of theirs, I can't help but feel even more out of place. Even the minuscule differences such as the overall feeling towards cafeteria food translate to bigger differences like a response in a discussion on the current situation in Greece or trying to explain what an IPO is. I'm determined, however, to not let this be the limiting factor in my experience here at Columbia and instead try to take it as a learning experience in which, yes, people are different from me and wired more sharply in certain respects. But that doesn't mean that I can't work even harder and try to improve myself in those respects. So after a little self pep talk (or two) and encouragement from Ms. Thrift, my family, and my friends, I'm starting to pull myself together and feel much better about  being here than I did when I first arrived. 

It's a good feeling. 


Joyce joined us for breakfast this morning so we could go to the Columbia book store to buy a hoodie. It felt like it was so long since I had seen Joyce, it was nice caching up with her and talking about how are classes where going so far. The hoodie shopping was easy for me since I knew exactly what I wanted. I can't wait to go back to school and show off my Columbia pride. Thank you ILC for the sweater. 
The second day of class seemed to be a lot more interesting than the first day in the morning we start going over cases like Marbury V. Madison we started an open class discussion on how factions can negatively affect are government. It was challenging to keep up with the morning session class; turns out that I didn’t fully understand what I was reading. I was intimidated by my class mates since they began to back up their arguments with court cases that I didn’t even knew existed. I tried to stay positive and participate in the class discussion as much as I could. For the second part of the class we watched a film called Our Constitution. The film discussed the role that the Supreme Court plays in protecting the people’s rights. Today I feel like I learned about the importance on check and balance in our government, we focuses on the Congress and Supreme Court and their role in the check and balance system. 
After dinner I went with Alyanna on a group trip to the ballet at the Lincoln Center. I made a new friend from Texas named Alex who I found out just came from doing Brown’s summer program she told me about how much she enjoyed the program and how she made good friends, and that I could understand. The Ballet was on Cinderella. It was my first time experiencing a show like that. It was beautiful seeing what ballerinas can do with their bodies. During the end of the show I began to think about the beauty of the performance and for a second I could feel the emotions they protruded through the story they told using there bodies.  
I was glad I was trying something thing new by going to the ballet and challenging myself in my Con Law class. Much like the ballet show I feel like Cinderella and all I need is a fairy godmother (study group) to trance from me into a prince (knowledgeable).

A Wake Up Call

My ConLaw class today didn't just serve its purpose as being educational and informative, but also worked as a wake up call.

Class started off normal as usual. We went over our homework from last night and went over an essay written by James Madison entitled "Federalist No. 10". Madison debates the negativity of the formation of factions in the United States and lists reasons why factions are troublesome for our Union. 

Numerous class discussions arose once Michelle went over Madison's views on what causes factions. The most controversial of which was Madison's argument that the roots of factions can be found in the selfishness of human nature. Michelle brought up the topic of whether we agreed with Madison's view of human nature, and the class ended up spending almost an hour in debate. This is where I felt my wake up call.

Many of my classmates spoke with eloquence and substance in their opinions on human nature. Their answers were so impressive, that I honestly felt as if I did not belong in a class filled with such intellectuals. Until one student, Carson, gave one of the most powerful arguments on the side stating that human beings are indeed selfish in nature. The class fell into complete silence until Michelle asked if there was any student willing to challenge Carson's argument. Me, being the overly confident person that I am, rose my hand and challenged his argument. I based my argument on the fact that when a natural disaster occurs, human beings are willing to invest billions of dollars in humanitarian efforts just to help out a country in distress, showing that humans still contain that sense of selflessness when other humans are in danger. Carson quickly struck back stating that my statement can still be related to selfish human nature since most of these countries (the US specifically) participate in humanitarian efforts to show off its ability of global reach and military strength.
Notes from today's lecture. Yep, I'm kind of organized.
I was completely shocked by Carson's deliberation, and I was unable to respond, ending the discussion. Now this event right here is what made me think, "Why is it that these people are more informed than me?" "Why is it that many students in our district can't be as informed as these guys?" "What makes them "better" and how can I get to their level?". All of these questions zipped through my mind as I became more humbled in a way. I left class with a somewhat negative outlook on the coming weeks. As I walked to the dining hall I said to myself, "Just because you're here on a scholarship doesn't mean you deserve to be here, you need to work to deserve to be here.”

Case Brief
With some newly founded motivation, I got to the afternoon session of class earlier and found a seat next to Carson (Hey, if ya can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?) It turns out Carson is a Californian like myself, and is currently living in the San Ramon area. Surprisingly, we both got along pretty quickly.

We spent the next hour going over the case, McCulloch V. Maryland. I find this case very interesting as it goes back into the roots that our nation was established. The case touches on the relationship between both Congress and the Constitution and the states. Personally, I really enjoyed going over this case as I learned the fundamentals of looking through the Constitution to find the constitutionality of a law and how to properly brief cases like this (thanks to my buddy Carson!). In this case, one question that arose were whether Congress opening a bank was constitutional. Together with Carson, I was able to find the answer in Article 1, Section 8. After the first hour of class, we watched a thirty minute video that showed Philadelphia high school students asking Justices Sandra Day O' Connor and Justice William Rehnquist questions about our constitution.

Well, that pretty much wraps up today's events. For me, today wasn't just a day to learn, but it was a day to mature. These are the kinds of people that I'll be competing with in college applications, and today I realized that it's time to step up my game. My cohort and I came here to represent the kids who are  among the less fortunate. We're here not just to show that just because we're from "the hood" doesn't mean we can't compete at the collegiate level. We're also here to experience the competition, the sleepless nights, and the independence from our normal lives so we can give back to the folks back home in Richmond. And that is what I'm here to do.
This is what ConLaw does to you.

The "Actual" Beginning

It was only one day in and I had already locked myself out of my room.  All I wanted to do was brush my teeth before I went off into the world. Was that so wrong? I distinctly remember the way my heart dropped as I heard the door click closed and my insides screamed "NOOO!" the second I realized that I had forgotten my ID card. 

What a great way to start off the day!

Fortunately, I somehow managed to get locked out at the best possible time when I didn't need my ID card to get into breakfast and didn't have anywhere to go before someone was available to open my room for me. I hadn't originally anticipated forgetting my ID card in my room to be such a big deal or responsibility and yet, here I was, inconvenienced because I had neglected to keep track of something so small. Although I'd like to believe that this isn't a completely accurate representation of myself, I also can't help but wonder how much of a part small things and decisions like that will actually play in college. 

For the last 16 years, I've become so comfortable with doing things and knowing that my parents had my back or could remind me about all of the things I could have possibly forgotten, which is a lot of things because I have a terrible memory. In general, I just really missed my parents, their home-cooked meals, their hugs, and their care. I missed not having to watch out for myself.
I woke up a little too early than I should have and ended up sleeping an extra thirty minutes on my bed directly after I took a shower before attempting to brush my teeth in peace (which clearly turned out disastrous).

Breakfast was really good, especially when stacked up against the expectations of the movie-version college cafeteria food aesthetic. I talked with Mariana, an amazingly sweet girl originally from Mexico attending boarding school in Switzerland, and with Jung-Hee, a South Korean New Yorker who was just as sweet and went to a boarding school in New York. Although both decided to take their classes on a whim, they were incredibly down to Earth and we seemed to get along really well together. 

 As a typical family dinner (and breakfast) eater, it felt so odd to be eating with new people and seeing so many new faces that early in the morning but it also ended terribly quickly so that we could be seated for orientation. Orientation was as painless as I had hoped it would be and I received my class schedule for the day from my R.A. in a fancy-looking folder before rushing off to my first building of the day. This was how I expected college to be: crazy but predictable.

Mr. Roger Mesznik was my lovely professor for the morning session and started us off with a discussion on word origins and how James Cook and his fellow sailors got vitamin C. The point of it all, I believe, was meant to stress the importance of asking clarifying questions frequently in order to grow our knowledge. I found it to be an unusual start to a three-week program but appreciated Mr. (or Dr?) Mesznik's lightheartedness and willingness to stimulate curiosity through his own means. And despite not having discussed anything pertaining directly to business or economics within the first 15 minutes of class, I still felt that it was productive. 

Something to chew on.
The remains of the two hours after the word origin and vitamin talk was left to chew on the current economic situation in Greece and the various factors that contributed to its never-ending list of problems or the possible solutions that could be proposed. I felt a little disengaged during this part, in spite of being able to fully understand everything that was being said when it was being said, chiefly because I was not very clued into the details of Greece's situation and didn't have any immediate personal investment in it either. That being said, I respected the way Dr. Mesznik was able to control the conversation so expertly and looked forward to having more classes with him. (He also had an awesome accent). 

My class (Intro to Business, Economics, and Finance), in specific, was exceptionally large, consisting of around 140 people. By the afternoon session we had all been split up into smaller groups of around 15-20 people for 7 or so different teachers. I strongly preferred the afternoon session setting just because I liked the more direct interaction with other students as opposed to the bigger setting like the one in the morning. Before coming to Columbia, I figured that my class would be around 40 people, not realizing that it could be on both ends of the spectrum in one day. 

During lunch, I met Kevin, currently taking Introduction to Creative Writing, and realized that his class was much smaller than mine but still just as interesting. We chatted in the line on the way to grabbing food but didn't chat very much more afterwards once he went to go find a seat. We were going to sit together but I couldn't find him once I had gotten my food (and I felt incredibly bad about it too). And in a summer program of around 1,100, I suddenly became aware of how difficult it was to find people without any extra help. (Thank you technology!) Instead, I sat with two commuters and incoming freshman taking Physics. It was refreshing to hear even younger people discussing the buzz of excitement for the beginning of high-school again and it brought back nostalgic memories and a sad recognition of how fast the past three years had gone by. I told them to cherish their high-school years as I had tried my hardest to do mine but that, as someone once told me, everything would go by so fast that if they blinked they would miss it. 

I'm not even a senior yet and I know I blinked. 
Time waits for no one.
The afternoon session was led by Ms. Melissa Santos, an engineering-based graduate student. After getting lost in the building trying to find the room, I sat next to Brian and Jason from New York and North Carolina, respectively. Class was spent considering the basics of economics in terms of what it actually was and what it involved. We touched on supply and demand, opportunity costs, and the production possibility frontier (PFF). And although there was quite a bit more information that required more attention, I found myself more engaged, and happy that I was taking structured notes off of a Prezi presentation. 

In terms of academic rigor, it's difficult to gauge how challenging the course is based solely on data from the first day but it seemed like a manageable workload. The most difficult thing I encountered was a diagnostics quiz in the afternoon session of my class at the very end where it tested my math skills from around two or three years ago. It didn't pan out very well but I didn't think it would anyways. 

I have a strange affinity for blurry photos.
In the same way, I also feel like its difficult to analyze how I feel about Columbia at this point. The college experience is so new and so wild and weird. And at the same time, I'm not exactly sure how Columbia in specific plays a role into all this and how my experience would change if it was another school. The campus was actually much smaller than I had anticipated, beautiful, but much smaller. Because of this, I felt myself hanging out in the same areas and visiting the same places because of convenience or habit. 

After class, I decided to research some R.A. trips before going down to eat a quick dinner and then hang out in Times Square with Izabel, Alyanna, and Mark. Leaving the campus was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time because the day had felt so full already and I found myself falling asleep on the ride back. 

Upon my return, I was determined to blog early and go to sleep early but all my plans went down the drain because of an extremely interesting conversation with my Taiwanese next-door neighbor from Long Island, Tiara. (And I wouldn't have it any other way.) After a long debate on the potential homework for our class we moved onto other more personal topics and engaged in a snowball conversation that just kept picking up more and more speed and momentum until one of us checked the clock and realized how late it was. I'm sure I'll regret that decision in the morning when I have to wake up early to take a shower but for now I'll just be happy that I made another friend. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

First Impressions

The first day of class was just what I expected. The day began with a group orientation that took about an hour to start. During the wait I had time to talk with some of the girls of my floor which was nice because I started to find similarities with some people. Juliette is from France but is currently living in China attending and international school. Right after the orientation we headed to our class. I love that my class room is located right next door to my residence hall. The class introduction went well and my professor Ms. Michelle Chun seemed nice. The class went over the syllabus and the assignments that we had during the course. The first session ended at noon what followed was social gathering to let us students meet new people. Aylanna and I made a new friend during lunch that just had the most adorable British accent. It was interesting knowing that Grabriel listened to American music like Taylor Swifts songs.
The second half of the class was review on the U.S Constitution and Bill of Rights. I really enjoyed talking with the students in my class since most participate in similar extra curricula activity’s like Mock Trial. The students in the class seemed to be well informed about the constitution which made it seem like I will be learning from the group discussion.  When the class was over I headed to my dorm for a well need nap. It was just what I need to have the energy to go to time square with my cohort.
When I arrived to my suit the RA had us students talk about are days and share some highlights of the day. It was fun just listening to other peoples day since no one on my floor is in my class I was hearing something new. I hope that tomorrow I have more energy to be able to stay up and do my readying. Since the readying is different then the ones from last year I will still have to spend a good amount of my time reading. I am glad that I am challenging myself because this type of academic work is preparing me for college. 

There's a First for Everything

I woke up to my roommate saying that I had 5 minutes to get ready. I could've sworn that she was kidding, but the numbers don't lie: it was 6:40 and meeting time with the RA's was 6:45. I ran out of bed as quickly and efficiently as possible and prepared for the new day. What a great way to start out the first day of school!

I went with my floor to the dining hall for breakfast and had a delicious meal. I believe this is probably the best college food I have ever tasted. Columbia has a vast variety of choices ranging from scrambled eggs to hash-browns and even morning salad! After this great breakfast, we headed to orientation and went to class.
My official Columbia folder pretty snazzy if I do say so myself)
My class was in the Hamilton building, and since I really didn't know where that was, I walked with two international friends that I had recently made. Strength in numbers, right? We were quickly able to navigate through the beautiful campus and find our designated building.
Today's first class was mainly introductions. Our teacher informed us of her professional background--with an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a Doctorate from Columbia University, I knew we were in good hands. The classroom itself was rather small, and the desks had limited writing space. To be completely honest with you, I preferred the classrooms from Georgetown much more compared to the ones here at Columbia.
Many students in the building
After roughly two hours of class, it was lunch time. Columbia was hosting this "extravaganza" party during lunch, and my cohort member Izabel and I ventured out to see what was there. It was mainly promotional club events and outreaches, but they also had a booth for free ice cream and cotton candy! We also headed to the dining hall to get our lunch food, which also happened to be rather delicious. They offered pizza, bread, salad, corn, and many other options. Izabel headed outside to eat, and along the way we caught a friend! His name is Gabriel, and he's a fellow member of our Con-Law class. Turns out he's actually a native from the UK! Gabriel was extremely easy to talk to, and had one of the most intriguing accents ever (in my opinion at least). We contrasted school in America versus UK, and discussed odd differences such as our measurement system. This was probably a conversation I would have never had without this program; thank you Ivy League Connection for allowing me to meet people from different countries in the world.
Our new friend from the UK, Gabriel!
Immediately following lunch, we returned to class for the afternoon session. Our professor Dr. Chen gave us a quick overview on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We did a class reading, and after two hours were dismissed form class. I headed to my dorm room afterwards and took a quick nap, and got a head-start on my homework.

I met up with Izabel at around 5:30 to eat dinner. The cuisine was pretty much the same as lunch time, but they refilled the salad bar. Later on in the night, our whole cohort met up and we took a quick adventure to Times Square.
Heading back to Columbia on the subway!
We all returned to our dorms before curfew, and wrapped up our first day of class.

Lessons Learned

Today is probably one of my most exhausting days so far. Aside from the huge amount of fatigue, it's also been a day of learned lessons learned the hard way.

I decided the night before that if I woke up by 6 AM I'd be able to shower early enough to relax a bit more and prepare for the first day of class. I did exactly that but learned a huge lesson this morning because of it. I learned the utmost importance of not forgetting your keys before you leave your dorm. Before I continue, my door self locks, meaning that once it closes, it locks automatically. The moment I stepped out of my dorm, I inspected myself to make sure that I had all my belongings before my shower and found nothing was missing, or so I thought. As I indulged in the warmth of my shower, that's when it hit me- I left my key on the desk. I ended my shower quicker than usual and knocked on the dorm of my RA, Spencer, to tell him about the situation. Spencer called his senior RA and informed that assistance would arrive in around 30 minutes. So there I stood in the freezing hallways with nothing but shorts, flipflops, and a towel. Luckily someone came to unlock my dorm sooner than I thought, so I was back in my dorm by around 7 AM.

Summer Orientation
I met up with my friends Max, Kevin, June, and Nathan in the lounge and we went down to the dining hall to eat breakfast. After our breakfast, we headed down to Columbia's summer program orientation. During our orientation we all received baby blue folders containing our schedule, a campus map, RA trips, and other events. After a long time waiting for the other students to show up, the head of Columbia's outreach programs for secondary schools and gave some "motivation". He encouraged us to go out and explore the city of New York instead of staying in a dorm all day and to try new things while we here. The best motivational segment of his speech I found was his encouragement to push through the homesickness that we might feel on campus. Although his delivery was honestly dry, his word choice really motivated me to push on no matter what.

Fast forward about an hour later and we started to head out to our classes. I took my first steps into Hamilton room 516, and sat in the very first seat in the very front row next to Izabel and Alyanna. Our ConLaw teacher, Michelle Chun, is a JD/PhD candidate in Columbia's Law School and Political Science Department. Michelle has much experience in her field whether it being work in many law firms or a field journalist in Pakistan. I really am impressed with Michelle Chun, as her experience as an Ivy League Scholar (Harvard) and her knowledge of Law makes me feel proud to be a student of hers. 

Today's first morning class was really routine. Student introductions filled most of the hour and after that we were given a ten minute break. We spent the next hour learning the steps necessary in briefing a case and the structure of the US Constitution. As I took notes, I realized that this class is pretty fast paced. It's not like high school anymore where the teacher goes monotonously slow and constantly waits for the rest of the class to catch up- no. The environment is a legitimate college level class with filled with speech and debate champions and high school athletes.

Once morning classes were over, I decided not to head directly to the dining hall but to my dorm. Upon arriving to my dorm, I threw off my backpack and shoes and jumped back in bed. Now this is where I learned lesson number two, I went to bed by 12 noon and awoke at 1:30 PM, meaning that I only had 30 minutes to eat and get to class. I slipped on my shoes, and ran outside. I got lunch with my friends Kevin and Max at the local deli store since the dining hall was overcrowded. Kevin and I ate together in the lounge quickly and stormed out. After getting my backpack and books, I literally ran in an almost full sprint to class. I barely made it, 2:07 PM, only three minutes before class starts. Almost every seat was taken so I made my way to the back of the class. Lesson number two: if you're going to sleep during lunch, keep an alarm on and give yourself enough time to get to class early.

In class, we went more into detail into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Michelle lectured on each article and section and informed us about their importance and how some come into play during Supreme Court cases. Towards the end of class she assigned us to read four cases regarding the early Supreme Court cases and a list of legal vocabulary. Yep, I'm gonna be up late tonight..

Few hours passed and my friend Kevin and I decided to go for a run to Central Park. Quick intro to Kevin: Kevin is a native of New Jersey and is a cross country and track runner. Anyway, We ran probably a mile to the park and another 2 miles in the park. By 5 PM we decided to run back to get some dinner. This is where I learned lesson number three! After a few minutes we knew we were lost. It was obvious we were somewhere Uptown in the depths of Harlem. For those reading abroad, Harlem is not the best place to be lost in, ever. There was a point during our jog that we had the feeling someone was following us. So we gave a dead sprint back to Central Park and started in a new direction given to us by a friendly New Yorker. We arrived back on campus safely, but we missed dinner, sadly. Lesson number three learned, if you decide to go off campus, know where you're going.

All these lessons learned are just apart of preparation for the real thing. I'm not gonna be staying in the streets of El Sobrante for very long, so all these harsh lessons learned are going to pay off...hopefully. 

So far so good, I like the immense feeling of independence. I don't need to ask for permission to leave or wait to be served. I can finally do whatever I need to do whenever with smaller restrictions and limitations. I need to love it while it lasts, before the homesickness sets in..

Sunday, June 28, 2015

First Impressions 2.0

Although the only planned item on our itinerary was checking in to Columbia in the afternoon, the cohort woke up early and swooped up some bagels from a little shop across the street before going to watch the Pride parade. (As New York is quite known for their bagels, my standards were fairly high, and unfortunately not completely met.) We arrived early, per our usual (meaning the cohort as a whole and not me as an individual), to make sure that we could actually see the parade before it became too crowded and busy. 

The streets lining the parade were a flurry of color, people, flags, and excitement. Amid the very loud music - the bass from the speakers pounding in my chest - and the cheering, many supporters of the new ruling strode across 5th Avenue in groups separated by their different organizations and companies. My personal highlight was probably seeing Sir Ian McKellen, better known as Gandalf and Magneto, sitting atop a car only around 15 ft. away from where I was standing. 

We watched the parade for a good hour before returning to the hotel to pick up our bags and hit the Metro to go to Columbia University! No one was feeling very hungry so we opted out of lunch and decided to wait for the barbecue at the school which turned out to be more of an indoor build-your-own-burger type deal. (It was still delicious though.)

A window of opportunity. 
Struggling up and down the stairs to and from the Metro with my large luggage was strenuous but well worth the struggle and I felt victorious upon reaching the ground-level of Columbia. Once we had actually reached the school, however, everything happened really quickly. We checked in and received our über-important IDs and dorm assignments. And then it was time to say goodbye to each other (temporarily, of course). Originally, I had thought nothing of our Columbia check-in and figured it would only be an introduction to something new and not the end of something else, but soon realized that this meant the end of our cohort's late night blog parties, and the goodbye felt a lot more serious.The other thing I hadn't given much thought until I was actually there was the sheer magnitude of people that were staying at Columbia and was later informed that it numbered around 1,100 people. *whistles* In addition, quite a few flew internationally and across the world just to come study at Columbia for the summer.

As we all went our separate ways into our different dorm buildings (even though Mark and I had the same one), I felt truly independent. And being perfectly honest, it was scary. I felt like I was grasping in the dark for signs of familiarity as I met new people and unpacked my things in my new room. 

Thankfully, my room turned out to be a single. It was comforting to know that I wouldn't be bothering anybody with my poor organization skills, late-night bed times, and tendency to break out into occasional song and dance. I was most immediately impressed by the hotel key style lock on the dorm room itself, until it registered that the key was my ID and that I would have to keep track of it for the next three weeks.

Since my Resident Advisor (RA) had given us more than enough time to unpack, I decided to do a little exploring by myself and wandered aimlessly around the campus, gazing at all the edifices. Before long, it was time to check back in with my floor mates and we had a very - how should I say this - interesting icebreaker session involving spirit animals and zodiac signs.

As I mentioned previously, we had burgers for dinner. I sat with a few girls from my floor,  still unwilling to tiptoe too far into the adventurous end of interaction. I wasn't exactly nervous talking to other high-school kids from all over the world but I felt out of place at times and unmotivated to socialize, especially since I didn't feel like I was good at making first impressions myself. But by the end of the day, I had chatted with a few more people, made a couple of friends, and felt a little bit better. Like most things, I suppose, relationships take time. 

The dinner was followed by an orientation laying down the cold hard law (of behavior and conduct) and a brief tour of the college. From then on we had free reign, relatively limited free reign albeit but free reign nonetheless. And after giving the "Summer Jam" dance party a quick look, I chose to reunite with my cohort and discuss important matters in life chiefly pertaining to our fresh experiences and impressions of Columbia University instead. We discussed these matters on a snack trip to the grocery store just outside of campus and spent the subsequent hour and a half lying down on a wide ledge and discussing our own first impressions of each other, complete with loud laughter. We also poked quite a bit of fun at Mark for buying a gallon of water solely for the plastic container, reminding him of the abundance of water fountains and refill stations available at his beck and call. Basically, we hung out all together again after a long three hours of individual adjustments to our new surroundings; and it was a blast. 
Columbia University's large library.
Determined not to live a dangerous life dancing on the mere outskirts of curfew, I went back to my dorm room early and with a smile. 

Things could only go up from here, starting with the elevator at the very least. 

New Enviornment, New Encounters

Gay Pride parade!
Today was the day that we finally experienced Columbia. At around 9 AM we all woke up to head to the historic gay pride parade. We left our hotel, picked up a quick bagel sandwich, and rode the subway to Times Square. 

When we arrived, we had an extra hour before the commencement of the parade. Given this extra time, we walked a few blocks east to visit Madison Square Park, and I observed that there were many squirrels and birds scampering within the vicinity. We returned to Times Square and in less that thirty minutes the parade had begun. 

The parade was rather exhilarating, as the multitude of people who were running through it were full of enthusiasm, galvanizing the crowd to become more hyped. I saw many different groups and colors represented at the parade, such as the Boy Scouts of America, Stone Wall, and Cuomo. I felt honored to be present at such a historical celebration, and I will cherish these memories and pictures forever, and share my stories for generations to come. 

Unfortunately however, we had to leave the parade early to finally head to Columbia University. We picked up our belongings from the hotel and commuted using the subway. I realized that you never truly understand how many stairs there are around New York until you have to lug 50 lbs worth of luggage up and down them. It was a true struggle, but after a few beads of sweat and some heavy grunts, we had finally made it to Columbia. 

When I caught my breath, I was astounded by the beauty of the campus. It was simple and organized, with one main path connecting all of the buildings. The building that seemed to astonish me the most was the former Columbia library. It was humongous and full of grandeur, and reminded me immensely of the Lincoln Memorial. I found it amazing that a huge building such as that only contained books. 

With the help of Ms. Thrift, we were able to locate the check-in desks and receive our school ID's. We all gathered together for one last time (well, until we see each other again on Tuesday), took a quick selfie, and said our forlorn "see you later"'s. 
The Former Columbia Library
Now, I might seem to be over-exaggerating about this sadness, but it's actually true. The last 5 days I've been pretty much with my cohort 24/7, and we did everything together: talked about everything together, laughed together, even did our brows and nail polish together (yes, even with Mark). I was truly disconsolate about this separation, especially considering the fact that we were also all in different dorm buildings across campus. This just goes to show how close-knit we've become as a cohort, and how much we truly value each other's presence.
My New ID!

I followed the signs that pointed to the direction of my dorm building Carmen. Since there was construction going on, I had to enter from the garage in the back of the building rather than the main lobby entrance. To be completely honest with you, it seemed a tad sketchy to me since the entrance was made of complete concrete, but I took my chances and stepped inside. 

The lobby itself is rather nice. There was a multitude of couches and tables for hanging out and socializing, and the laundry room and elevators are just a few steps away. I headed up to my designated room and floor, full of excitement and anxiety. I really had no idea what to expect when it came to dorm rooms, or what type of character my roommate would be. When I arrived at my floor, I was greeted by the sweet smile of my RA, who kindly introduced herself as Sam. She escorted me to my room and informed me that I would need my ID to scan for pretty much every place in Columbia. I opened the door and found the dorm to be better than expected. 
View from my dorm

My dorm room
My dorm is a suite, with two double rooms sharing one communal bathroom. The rooms themselves are rather spacious and offer much space for movement. There is a twin XL bed directly facing the door, with the other bed along the opposite wall. There are also two desks in the room, and an immense amount of closet space for two persons. There is built-in AC,  and it cools the room to a comfortable temperature within two minutes. For each person, there are two outlet sockets on the wall, and a separate Ethernet port in a rather inconvenient spot in the corner, right in front of the door. There is one giant window that can be opened with has a great view, but this is expected considering that I am on the 12th floor. A towel, two bed spreads, pillow, pillow-cover, and a blanket were provided on the bed (for future reference however, I suggest bringing an extra blanket since the ones provided were rather thin).

The bathrooms are about standard size, with two sinks, two mirrors, four towel racks, a toilet, as well as a small shower with decent temperature-control and water pressure. This is not bad since it is being shared with four people. The floors don't seem to be the cleanest in the world, so I would definitely suggest wearing some sort of slipper while using the bathroom (especially while showering!). 

My roommate had not arrived for another two hours, so I was rather lonely, and started to miss my cohort immensely. I was able to meet my next-door-neighbors Kat and Lee however; and they took me around to see local food places near Columbia. 

The Spacious Closet
When I had returned, my roommate had also arrived. Her name is Alexandra, originally from Poland, but attends boarding school in England. She is truly one of the sweetest people ever, and it's so exciting since I've never actually known anyone from Poland before. She told me about how different it is in the UK compared to here, and how she just returned from a week-long summer program from Georgetown.

At 7, there was a scheduled welcome BBQ for all the summer program students, and I tried to take this opportunity to meet as many people as I could. I was able to befriend Hee-Sin and Macy, two Korean girls who are exploring college options in the US. The food wasn't bad, they had some pasta, hot dogs, and burgers as meal options. Following dinner, my RA gave our group a short campus tour, and we returned to our rooms. 

At this point in time, I was incredibly "cohort-sick", so my cohort and I had arranged to meet in front of the old library just to talk about how everything was going. We took a short trip to a local grocery store to pick up some snacks, and had some delightful conversation over almonds, egg rolls, emergency chocolate, and a huge jug of water. It was just great to reconnect to each other and see what their first experience at Columbia was like. 

At around 10:15, we all parted ways once again and headed to our separate dorm rooms. I took a quick shower, and prepared all of my belongings for the long day coming up for tomorrow. I am extremely ecstatic to get to experience my first Constitutional Law class! 

Finally Here!

Here it is- check in day. 

The day started by around 10 AM. We grabbed a quick bite and took the subway downtown to catch New York City's Gay Pride Parade. For those reading abroad, the US Supreme Court just ruled gay marriage constitutional (in a tight 5-4 vote), legalizing gay marriage in all fifty states and making the US the 21st country to legalize gay marriage. As a result, the people of New York decided to celebrate this historic ruling by having a huge parade to express their joy.
People get ready for the parade as police vehicles lead the way.
And so it begins..
Around 1:50 PM, we arrived at Columbia. Columbia's campus is really appealing to the eyes but for some reason is actually smaller than I originally expected it to be. We all managed to check in and receive our ID cards and dorm keys. Upon regrouping, we all looked up to Ms. Thrift with our "what do we do now?" faces. She looked at us and said "Well, I guess this is the part when we say goodbye." We shared our goodbyes, took a quick selfie and headed for our dorms.

You do not know how elated I was upon discovering that my dorm was a single. Instead of having to worry about the needs of a total stranger, I would only have to worry about me- and that my friends, is the dream.

My dorm is rather small but manageable. There appeared to be only one electrical outlet so bringing a surge protector came in handy. There is an AC unit in front of the window that overlooks the crowded New York streets along with a small cabinet and a few shelves. I have an awesome desk that sits next to the AC and faces my bed. My bed is surprisingly comfortable, for a dorm bed at least.

My home for the next 3 weeks.
After getting settled, I decided to actually talk to the guys who shared the same floor with me. What astounded me about meeting these people was the fact that almost everyone of my floor mates were international students. Some of theme were from far away places like: Korea, Japan, India, France, Italy and a few from Spain. We all got along quickly and started to chat it up in the halls. We were soon separated by our different RA's (Resident Advisors) and brought into separate rooms where we got to know each other through different games. Once we were all acquainted, our RA, Spencer, took us to the dining hall where we were able to eat burgers, potatoes, hot dogs, and many other foods.

Spencer gave us a short tour of the campus and brought us back up to our floor where he talked about the what to do's and not to do's while at Columbia. Basically, they have high expectations for us to not do anything stupid and use common sense. 

Later that evening, I met up with my cohort and we talked about what we loved about Columbia so far and how our dorms were. We all relaxed on the stair steps of the Low Library with some of the food we got from the grocery store. An hour before our 11 PM curfew, we headed back to our dorms to blog and get ready for tomorrow, it's the first day of school.
Oh boy...

Let’s Have Pride

The morning was full of pride. Today was the gay pride parade in New York City and my cohort got to see it. We went down to 28th street to catch the beginning of the parade. The parade was full of the energy of the crowd which was still living in the excitement of the Supreme Court ruling that made same sex marriage legal in all 50 states. This was a moment in my life that I will always remember.

We left the parade early to make it on time to check in to our dorms.  We arrived to Columbia around 2 in the afternoon. My room was located I the center of the campus in Hartley Hall. I unpacked and met my roommate Diana, who is originally from Sweden. I have a suite style dorm with ten girls in my apartment style suite. We all went down for dinner together where I tried to remember everyone’s name.

My RA is Liza who is just so welcoming, went over the rules--which were reasonable (like no drinking). She also stressed not being late to check in. I met up with my cohort and we decided to go across the street to get something to eat.

It was nice catching up with everyone and hearing about their roommates and there stories. I can’t wait to start class tomorrow and begin something new with the new people I will meet along the way.  I am going to call this an early night and go to sleep early for the the first day of class tomorrow. 

First Impressions

I am proud to say that, today, my breakfast could have been considered a legitimate breakfast. We left Philly for New York by way of train at two o'clock, too early, to be exact. *cue rim shot* In reality, it wasn't that early but that didn't mean I didn't sleep like a log the entire train ride.
Water you trying to say?

It took about thirty seconds to get up to the main level once we arrived and thirty seconds to be overwhelmed by the massive crowd that gathered in all the nooks and crannies of the fittingly utilitarian concrete and metal station. It was such a stark contrast to the small pockets of people sprinkled through the elegant marble and tile Philly and Washington stations. Nonetheless, I loved it just the same.

Before sightseeing, we decided to stop in a quaint French-Mediterranean restaurant named Nice Matin. It was there that I had the pleasure of eating the - Holy smokes, Batman! - most amazing smoked salmon I've ever eaten. The others felt similarly about their food and I couldn't stop shaking my head at how good the food was even after we left. I couldn't get over the idea that every place in New York could have food just as good.
They grow up too fast, don't they. 

Instead of being hot and humid as we had all prepared for, we were in the relentless rain  the whole day, as it drifted seamlessly between a drizzle and a pour. (As luck would have it, I happen to love the rain and the cold unlike some). And we walked from Nice Matin to Central Park, spotting runners, readers, eaters, tourists, and street performers everywhere. From there we floated into Times Square territory and shopped around for a short while before using the metro to get back to the hotel. I've got to say it seems a lot more logical and user-friendly than Bart.

There was something about the city-life oozing out of people everywhere I went that I immediately loved. So much so, in fact, that I even found the blunt and brusque attitude of New Yorkers I came into contact with amusing. Perhaps it was because city-life was something that I didn't have very much experience with before or because it felt that much more authentic now that I was living and breathing it. Even as we walked for hours, looking at and for nothing in particular, I reveled in the grandiosity of it all. (I also love the rain.) And even with no prior experience in the city, I felt like a natural. I couldn't walk the walk or talk the talk. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to either, but I liked being there. And that's something right? I liked being able to blend in a crowd and get lost in a sea of faces. Either way, I liked today. My first impression of New York was all that I had expected. I can't say that it was any more than I had expected since I don't know if it would have been physically possible to surpass my original expectations to begin with. I mean, who knows? Maybe I'm still in the honeymoon stage and that by the end of next week I'll turn cynical.

I highly doubt it though.
It was a walk in the park.
The colors of the city.