Monday, July 20, 2015

Long Story Short

Throwback to Ivan!
Prior to my trip to Columbia, I had no idea what getting the "college experience" meant. For some strange reason, I had automatically assumed that it was generally the same for everyone - a beautiful, perfect coming of age story where people discovered their friends and their identity.

Was I wrong? Not necessarily, no, although I wasn't completely right either. Unbeknownst to me, this "experience" came with its pitfalls and mistakes. It wasn't always pretty and it wasn't always easy. 

From the very beginning I had tricked myself into believing that I knew what to expect from "it's not going to be easy" and had pushed it aside. PSH. I could handle difficult. I could handle blogging. I could handle homework. Little did I know, I wasn't nearly as durable as I thought I was. Many a night I spent in my dorm room, trying to snatch at any last morsels of creativity in my brain to use for my blog posts or for my short papers, occasionally, to no avail. I struggled to understand and apply mathematical concepts my teacher taught us in class, something that I wasn't used to. 

But it was those kinds of challenges that helped me appreciate the program and the people around me even more, and it was an experience like no other, one that I wouldn't trade for the world. 

The first day of the program felt like the first day at school. I was nervous and awkward (not to say that I'm not now) but I was determined to meet new people. Sticking my hand out and introducing myself was one thing, but sticking with the conversation when it dialed back down into uncomfortable silence was another. There were so many people there, so many cultures, so many different worlds. I was merely blessed with the opportunity to be exposed to a few. At first, it felt strange and unpleasant. I wasn't able to integrate into the world of high school kids the way I had done so seamlessly beforehand. I remember calling my family and being asked by my older brother, an ILC alumni, "So did you find your group of friends yet?" I could only reply "You mean my cohort?" Gradually, though, I was able to find them - maybe a little later than I wanted - and I learned how to put myself out there in the process. 

A real gem.
It is imperative to mention though, besides my friends, my main community was my cohort. Whenever I wasn't hanging out with someone new or by myself, I hung out with my cohort. It got to the point where we poked fun at each other and banter was a must. I kind of liked how we all came from different schools. No one came with pre-formed relationships or baggage of some sort within the cohort and the friendships that were formed were all-new. I think we all still remember the first day in D.C. where we got back to the hotel to write our first official blog on the fly with our Safeway haul like it was just yesterday. 
Brian, Jason, Me, and Tiara (from left to right)
The class I took was not only about the logistics of business but also the beauty. I realized that Professor Mesznik's methods of teaching, although seemingly random, were purposeful; economics and finance can be found in so many forms in the world. There is no limit to its applications. And so, while, I'm not completely positive business is what I want to go into in the future, I'm so glad I took the class. It was an eye-opening experience and I felt that there was so much variety in the teaching. I learned important terms and formulas, but I also learned about real-life situations through history, about extreme cases and their cause and effects.

Responsibility and initiative really were some of the biggest things that the program taught me to prioritize for myself on a personal level. While I'm still working on it, I am so glad that I was able to hit with the beautiful whiff of reality that Columbia was. And overall, my trip at Columbia taught me that the taste of independence is not sweet, nor is it bittersweet. You just can't quite put your finger on it.

It is simply acquired.

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