Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Cycle of Learning and Life Never Ends


I will never forget you Dean Almandrez
I'll Miss You Mandy! 
Sadly, I will no longer wake up next to my roommate, Mandy, talking about how she wants to go back to sleep. I will no longer wake up to the sound of my friend’s running back in forth in the hallway rushing to get dressed, so that they won’t be late for class. I will no longer wake up to the sight of beautiful pine trees swaying in the breeze outside my window.  I feel very sullen about leaving Brown University, because this summer program was like an escape from reality. I enjoyed waking up every morning going to a class filled with people who have beautiful souls and truly want to learn. Everyone in that classroom wanted to be a part of the Women and Leadership program and I am overjoyed that I had the pleasure of being in the presence of such inspirational women. I am grateful that Dean Almandrez was my teacher and I can still feel the power of each word that she spoke to me in that classroom every single day. I was a part of a family that made offered me comfort when I didn’t feel like I could achieve my goals in the future. I am passionate and headstrong, but I didn’t know that until I came to the Women and Leadership class. I gained so much confidence during my time at Brown University that I wish all young women would have the opportunity to attend the Women and Leadership program.

Yes, I'm crying 
I can remember how proud of myself I was back when I was chosen to be a part of the Ivy League Connection. I was proud, but scared of what the future might entail. I can still recall the moment that I saw my name on the dinner invitation that made me the for the student speaker for the night. I was so afraid that I would humiliate myself and I had to muster all the strength I had in my body to get up in front of all those intimidating individuals and speak from my heart. I’ve learned so many lessons from working with people with a wide array of personalities and I received everything that I sought to find out about myself while I was in the Women and Leadership program. One of the reasons why I wanted to participate in the Women and Leadership program was, because not only would I better myself as a student, but I would also become a better person in the process. I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could handle the pressure of being in a new environment, with people who I’d never met before and learning terms that I had never heard of. I am used to being in a classroom where I am the only one interested in exploring different theories and coming up with solutions for the problems that I see in society. Nonetheless, I was able to be around some many bright young men and women who shared the same passion as me. I will truly miss all of my classmates who praised me for just being myself.  I wish that I could go back in the past and tell myself not to be afraid of success, because I can finally fulfill my dreams of being an advocate for young women in society. I can now pass on the knowledge that I’ve gained in order to help other women out there and so on and so forth. The cycle of learning never ends, but there is always an opportunity for it to begin.
Heidi Meuth and her beautiful smile that lights up every room that she enters 
I can’t remember the last time that I cried about leaving school until the day that I had to pack my bags and say good-bye to Brown University. I know that my living quarters weren't perfect, but the people that I shared that building with made it all worth it. People in my life don’t get opportunity like this presented in front of them every day and I feel like I am so blessed to say that I have. There are so many people in this world that would kill for an opportunity to go back in time and change the direction that their life is heading in, but I know that I wouldn’t change anything that has happened thus far for anything in the world.
Here are the faces of the people who I hope that I get a chance to see again. I miss you guys!

The hardships that I’ve faced in my life started to hardened my heart and soul which is something that I sought to retrieve on this trip. I feel like I accomplished my goal and I am a softer person. I will never be a person who allows people to mistreat me, but now I have the skills to have controversy with civility. I know believe again there are nice people in this world whose only intentions in this world are to promote positivity and female empowerment.  If in the future I meet people who have half as much character as the people that I’ve met here, then I know that my future will be filled with happiness and joy.
Good bye Brown University and Summer@Brown students

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Some Memories Never Fade

“Memories warm you up from the inside, but they also tear you apart.” Thinking about everything I experienced at Brown and all of the incredible people I met warms my heart, but at the same time, brings an ache, as I deeply miss the class and all of the people in it.


I knew from my sophomore year that this was the program for me. When my friend had come back from Brown gushing over everything she had experienced there, I knew I had to try it for myself.



On the day of my interview, I was too nervous to think about anything else the entire day. When the time came to randomly pick the order of interviewees, I picked the card that said first. At the time, I couldn't think of anything worse: I was the very first one. I was setting the bar. Looking back on it, I think going first was probably the best option, because instead of letting my nerves build up inside me, I got to channel all of my energy into a passionate interview.



After everyone had interviewed, I came to realize that my interview had definitely been the shortest out of all six. I started to panic--had I spoken enough about each topic? Was I too brief? Did I talk too quickly?



When they called us into the room to announce who had been chosen, I was bracing myself for the worst. Then, as one of the panelists held up the cards with the names of the girls who had been selected, I could slightly make out my name through the white paper. I wasn't sure, and I held my breath as she called out the names.



My name was the first to be called. I let out a huge sigh of relief, and felt myself smiling. I tried to stay composed, but I could not conceal my excitement! I knew from then on that everything was about to change. Not only was this extremely exhilarating, but also extremely scary. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.


The day we left for the airport at 4:00 AM, I wondered to myself if I was in way over my head, or if I had made a mistake in even applying. When we went on our first college tour, I realized that even if I was in way over my head, that this opportunity was once in a lifetime, and I had earned the spot in the program. That got me thinking: the panelists voted for me to come all the way across the country and take a class, which means they actually believe that I can accomplish something. Doubtfully, I thought, "maybe it's time I start believing it too."

After touring Brandeis, I realized that if it weren't for the ILC giving me the opportunity to go see the campus, I would never have even considered applying to Brandeis. It is now on the list of my top ten schools.

On the first day of class, I was so nervous. I remember thinking that everyone would be smarter and more capable than I was. After just one day in the class, I had already learned so much, that it didn't matter if the other girls were smarter than I was. It was a class, not a competition; but even so, I came out as the winner because I learned so much about society and myself.

The Women and Leadership class.
I was pleasantly surprised by the class in that it wasn't completely focused on women. I had not really considered the leadership aspect of the class, but was glad to find that I got to learn more about my own leadership style, as well as how to work with other leadership styles.

I think the main reason I loved the class so much is because of our teacher, Dean Almandrez. She was so invested in each of us, and was so interested in seeing us succeed. It felt really great to have a teacher who cared so much about what we were doing and how we felt.

Dean Almandrez!
Another reason I loved the class is because of all of the amazing people I met. I made friends with literally every single girl in a class of 26. Even though we were all so different, it was amazing that we were able to become friends. I will forever cherish the friendships I have developed with these girls, even if I may never see them again.

I think anyone who gets to take the Women and Leadership class next year is extremely lucky, and I hope that the ILC never stops offering it. The class was eye-opening, interesting, amazing and innovative all at the same time. I am so grateful that I was able to participate in such an amazing program, and I hope that next year, other girls can say the same. 

Thinking back to the first day of our journey when we left for the airport and I was second guessing myself, I now believe that because of everything I learned in the Women and Leadership class, that I am a leader, and if I can believe in myself, I can accomplish anything.

If it weren't for Dean Almandrez, I would not be able to say this right now. More importantly, if it weren't for the ILC, I wouldn't have even had the chance to second guess myself in the first place. I feel so incredibly thankful to have experienced this amazing opportunity.

Thank you, ILC!

Process Of Discovering Myself

On my sophomore year, some of my classmates and I were called to library for the presentation about Ivy League Connection. I was completely unaware about this program until then. Women and Leadership had already grabbed my attention when I first heard about it but I did not have confidence to apply and I thought I could not make it through the selection process. 

Junior year came around and I attended another presentation about Ivy League Connection. All of my friends decided that they would apply for it so I planned to give it a try as well. One day my friend called me and asked, "Did you check you email yet?" I replied, "No. Why?" She told me that I had been selected for interview. I was surprised upon finding out that I was selected. 

The first event after the interview was fancy Dinner at Town Hall. I remember I was tensed in the beginning but as I got to talk to other adults in my table I realized they were very welcoming. I was given opportunity to ask question regarding colleges. We attended many other events with ILC and they all had been a new experience for me. Every time, I could see confidence grow within me. 

It was already July; time to explore colleges at East Coast and take class at Brown University. Everyone often talked about UCs or private university at Northern California but I wanted to explore my options outside of California. There was no way I could take trip to any colleges outside of California and only resource I could rely on was internet. 

If it had not been for Ivy League Connection, I would never get to visit colleges at East Coast, learn about courses they offered, admissions processes and scholarships. Since I am a rising senior, getting a taste of colleges at East Coast was very helpful. 

The best part was to take class at Brown University and learn more about myself. Two weeks was short time but I was able to experience college life and how it was like to be a college student. I had to be responsible for myself and I learnt ways to manage my time. After taking Women and Leadership class, I was able to look at things in a different way. I had told Dean Almandrez that I wanted to come outside of my comfort zone but she replied me that the point is to expand the comfort zone and I think I did. Yes, I had been the girl who never had confidence in herself, was afraid to speak up and identify herself as a leader. Because of this program, I discovered myself and learnt that it is important to believe in yourself.

Taking summer class at Brown University or traveling to East Coast as a high school students is something I had never imagined. This journey has been life changing experience for me. The tours helped me understand more about liberal arts colleges and I might apply to those colleges this year. I do not wish to keep all the information learnt at Brown University within myself rather share it with my community. In future, I wish to pass on my learning from Women and Leadership class to students at my school as well as people at Nepal.

None of this would have been possible without Don, Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, sponsors and chaperones. Thank you all for your hard work and support to make this program possible. With all the knowledge I have gained from this trip, I have decided to open Ivy League Connection Club by collaborating with other cohorts and share all the experiences with students at De Anza high school and encourage them to apply for ILC. 

Goodbye, Hello

I had known before what you would consider to be “Day 1” for me that I wanted to be a part of this program. I had already seen the transformational effect of taking classes at Ivy League schools with the ILC in my brother. When Nick returned from a college-level course with a newfound ability to behave like an adult, yet still be himself (if you don’t believe me, compare his first interview tape with his second), I knew that I wanted that ability. I wanted that superpower.

I wrote my essay for Women and Leadership (and Presidential Powers, before I got in to this course I planned on applying to Presidential Powers as well, thank goodness Women and Leadership came first), and submitted it thinking “at least I tried,” because to me the best I could do would never seem like enough to balance what the ILC would be giving me—well, I still don’t think that.

Being accepted into this program was a shock to me, and everything after that was one long blur until I was suddenly on my own on the East Coast. Touring colleges taught me what the college experience would be like, but taking a course at Brown let me live it.

I don’t think there are words to express what Women and Leadership has done for me. If you’ve read some of my earlier blogs, then you know what we did in the class, but I can’t quite describe what it was like or how exactly it changed me. A few days ago, my mom was talking about the Supporters of the Theater Arts committee at my school, and, without thinking, I asked if I could join. I never would have done that before, but now, well, I just went to a meeting tonight. I don't feel different, but I know something must have changed. I thought of the idea for my Action Plan after I was accepted into the Ivy League Connection, but I doubt I would have even come close to succeeding without this course, and I wouldn't have started it without the ILC.

I know I’m lucky. I think that if I had been handed a list of every class at Brown and told to choose the one I liked best, Women and Leadership wouldn’t be the top of my list. Now that I’m home, however, I’m thoroughly convinced that Women and Leadership is the best course that the ILC offers—and it’s absolutely the best class I’ve ever taken.

It's odd. Thinking back on my time at Brown, a lot of my memories from there seem to have a surreal quality to them, like I'm not remembering things quite right now that I'm home. For example, I started to question whether the food at Brown was as good as I had thought it was when my mom fed me a regular old sandwich and I asked her, “What is in this?!”

One of the questions on Don's Post Mortem Questionnaire was, "Was this class interesting to you?  Did it live up to your expectations?" “Interesting” is an understatement. I’d probably go with something more like “captivating” or “fascinating” or “oh-my-god-this-is-the-greatest-thing-ever-ing.” If my expectations were for this class to bring me up to the top of a hill, it brought me to the surface of the moon. This course greatly surpassed anything I could ever have imagined it to be.

When I got in to this program, I thought I would come home having improved some basic leadership skills. In reality, this class is much bigger than that. On top of those skills, you can’t forget to add the lessons I’ve learned, and the confidence and maturity I have gained, as well as one more very important thing: I now identify as a leader. Two weeks, and I’m suddenly a leader? How does that happen?

I had no idea what I would write in my final blog. To be honest, when I started blogging, I wasn't very enthusiastic. I didn't really want to write one at all, and I only did because I knew if I didn't I could expect a lengthy email from Evil Don. But I'm so glad that I did. I reread my pre-departure blog, and I remembered the nervous, excited anticipation I felt before I left. It feels like I wrote it so long ago. I'm surprised to think how much less I expected from this course, and I smile to think how much more it turned out to be. This whole experience is all thanks to the ILC, and I'd like to thank Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, and Don Gosney for everything they do for this program. To everyone who helped me here, I owe you a hug. This course truly is life-changing, and my experiences at Brown will forever be a part of me.

Mere Memories

Although I’ve only been home for a couple of days, my time on the East Coast already seems like a distant memory. It’s almost as if it happened in a dream. Did I really tour four colleges? Did I really take the Women and Leadership course? Did I really make an Action Plan? It’s so strange that in a mere three weeks, I have made memories and bonds that will stay with me for a lifetime. What’s more, I have grown so much more as a person. I am much more self-aware. This sort of growth usually takes months, years even, and yet, in a matter of three weeks, I feel as though I have completely transformed. Is that even possible in such a short period of time?

I’ve found it surprisingly easy to adjust back to my life at home and yet it was surprisingly easy to adjust to life in a dorm two weeks ago. Isn’t it odd how fast something new can become normal? But even though I feel fully adjusted to life back at home, there’s still this moment when I wake up in the morning when I think that I can look across the room and see my roommate getting out of bed or that I can walk down the hall and meet some friends for breakfast. 4 days ago, as I was walking out of the Brown gates for the final time, I felt as though I were leaving a piece of myself behind but I also knew that I was taking a piece of Brown with me.

Brown Bear statue 
I can even remember all the way back to my first alumni dinner at Town Hall. I was so nervous on the BART ride over because I had no idea how I was going to make conversation with adults. But, when I got to Town Hall, I was happily surprised to find that it was so easy to talk to the people at my table. They were all genuinely interested in hearing my opinion and Lauren, the alumni next to me, was happy to answer all my college-related questions. I feel like this was the first time that I realized how many people are willing to help me on my path to college. And, yes, there were times when I was stressed out: filling out all the paperwork to apply to the ILC, applying for my course, and having to blog when all I wanted to do was sleep. But, while these seemed like negative aspects of the ILC at first, I now realize that, because of all these, I have gained responsibility and independence. Those are two qualities that many people only gain when they get to college and now I have a head start.

And then there’s all the way back to when it started. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that I applied for the Ivy League Connection eight months ago! Even though time has flown since then (there’s no way it’s been eight months!) I can’t seem to recall filling out paperwork or preparing for my interview. Eight months ago, I had no clue how much this experience would change me. When I first heard about the program, I was talking to my principal about a scheduling error and, out of the blue, he recommended I check out the Ivy League Connection because it might interest me. A few months later, I was in an auditorium filled with students from my school listening to Don Gosney talk about the ILC. As I was looking around at all these intelligent students, I thought: There’s no way I’ll get into this program. I can’t compete with them. Yet here I am. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I’d like to say that the ILC has taught me that if I put everything I’ve got into something, I will be rewarded in the end. Although this is by no means the end, I already feel rewarded.

At the beginning of all this, I was insecure and nervous about my future. Where was I going to college? How was I going to pay for it? Which extracurriculars will look better on my college applications? During my time with the ILC, I have learned what sort of things I like in a college and what sort of things I don’t. I have learned what kind of questions to ask colleges in order to make sure they have what I need. These first-hand experiences of getting to visit colleges have lengthened my list of possible colleges to apply to. Not only that, but by talking to incredibly bright individuals in college I now have reassurance that it’s fine to not know what I want to major in yet. Without the ILC, these opportunities would not have been available to me otherwise. There aren’t enough synonyms for “thank you” to describe how grateful I am towards the Ivy League Connection for giving me the chance to see and experience a world beyond the one I am comfortable with. 

Hope and Power

My dormitory, Perkins Hall, is located near the intersection of the streets, Hope and Power. If there are two things that I have received or felt as a result of this trip, it is the feeling of hope and empowerment.

Like I have stated in my previous blogs, each Ivy League Connection event, that I attended prior to my departure to Brown, has contributed to my personal growth. My participation in the Women and Leadership course was the final and most impactful factor to my growth as an individual. As a result of my participation in the Ivy League Connection, I have more faith in my abilities and I am confident about being in an environment that asks for my maturity and intelligence.

When I attended the informational session about the Ivy League Connection, I was entranced by the descriptions of the experiences of the Ivy League Connection participants. I was astounded by the idea that I could be a participant in the Ivy League Connection. However, at that time, I was extremely doubtful that I would be accepted. The presentation for the Ivy League Connection primarily discussed the application process and we were able to hear short testimonials from the previous year’s students who completed the Women and Leadership course. My mind mainly harped on the idea that we would be able to stay at an Ivy League.

Before I heard about the Ivy League Connection, I honestly knew a minimal amount of information in regards to the Ivy Leagues.  I never considered applying to any of the schools. Throughout my entire life I always pictured myself attending UC Berkeley or Stanford. I am familiar with their campuses and I know about some of the programs offered there since they are discussed at college fairs. The campus atmosphere is another aspect I consider when thinking of prospective colleges. Although a majority of individuals will not have the opportunity to visit the Ivy Leagues due to their location, it is essential that other young students are aware of these schools. There is so much more than what is in your own state. I am fortunate that I will be able to share my experience at Brown with my community. Whenever I step out of my comfort zone, I am weary at first, but I soon discover that I am thankful I did. It appears that most students in low-income areas are unaware of the Ivy Leagues, and I am thankful that the Ivy League Connection exposes us to these schools. Without the Ivy League Connection, I would not have the opportunity to participate in a program like the one I attended at Brown.

My grandparents are encouraging me to stay in California because in their culture the child is expected to support his/her parents. Luckily my parents are comfortable with any choice I make in regards to the colleges I apply to.

The interview for the Ivy League Connection was my first conventional interview. I was surprised when I heard my name called among the other selected students. The best advice I can give is to put your best foot forward. Try your best and relax! Don has always stressed that the panelists, for the Ivy League Connection, are on our side. They want us to succeed. 

Each event that the Ivy League Connection holds benefits the students in a variety of ways. I developed both personally and intellectually from participating in these events.

I had a preconceived notion that these events would not be positive for me. Contrary to my beliefs, the interview, the alumni dinner, and the School Board meeting were successful events for me. Each event was a major stepping stone and I felt prepared for the next event I would attend. 

The blogs have encouraged me to analyze my surroundings and to think critically about what I have learned.

If you read Don’s instructions, your experience will be wonderful. The packet was a major help that I used as a reference throughout the entire process. The packet should be renamed to How to Succeed in The Ivy League Connection.

I have grown so much as an individual through my Women and Leadership course. I was encouraged by the emotional support of my fellow classmates to aspire to do my best. I have become comfortable with the uncomfortable and I am excited to display my new sense of self. In class when I gave my opinion, I saw nothing but nonjudgmental expressions, and their sincerity is a major contributor to my growth as an individual. Additionally I have developed more confidence in myself through my interactions in class.

Through the Women and Leadership course, I was able to learn how to become a better leader. I also learned about negative messages that surround us in our society. The first workshop forced me to acknowledge my leadership style and weaknesses. I know that I must channel my weaker leadership styles to be the best leader I can be. Additionally, I discovered how I could improve as a leader. In one of the workshops, an advisor encouraged the South leaders, which I am, to take charge and I became extremely apprehensive about doing so. My classmates were encouraging when the South leaders had to step forward. From that experience, I learned that I can improve my leadership abilities by being confident and adopting different leadership styles if necessary. 

I have also grown as a result of the social aspect of my experience. The freedom I experienced at Brown permitted me to develop my time management skills. At times I would have to decline an invitation in order to finish my Action Plan. Although I was initially hesitant about doing so, I knew I had to complete my priorities.

From my experience, my time at Brown has been life altering! I have a better idea of what I will experience at college. Additionally, I will definitely apply to a few universities on the East Coast when I am a senior.

For me this program has changed my perspective of life, and I would love for other students to have the same experience.

I am so grateful for what the Ivy League Connection has given me! The Ivy League Connection has given me hope that I can positively impact my community.

I will forever be grateful for all the people associated with the Ivy League Connection. They have given me this extraordinary opportunity to attend a class at an Ivy League and to open my mind to new possibilities.

It Does Not End Here

My Brown experience is over. I have completed my program, and returned home. The beautiful time on the Brown campus is over for me this summer.

The program may be over, but my memories will always remain. I have gained more in the past 2 weeks than I have in my lifetime.  I may be done with my course at Brown, but I am not done with my learning. This experienced has made me more open and aware of the world around me. I know I will never forget all the lessons I have learned at Brown. I will never forget all the wisdom I gained from the Women and Leadership course. I will never forget to question the things around me, rather than simply live blindly. Along with all the things I have learned from the course, I will never forget all the lessons I have learned from the people I have met. As Dean Almandrez told us, "You will learn more from each other than you could ever learn from me.".
This has proven true for me. I have learned so much more about myself as a leader and as a person from the people I have met on this trip, than I have ever learned before. I made connections with people that I will never forget and made friends with people that I would have otherwise never considered talking to. I know I have made lasting connections with others which will long outlive this Brown experience. I learned how to interact with others from different backgrounds and opinions than me and how to embrace that difference. This experience has made molded me into a better person and I will always be grateful to everyone for that.

The objectification of women shown through superheros posed as Wonder Woman
This learning has benefited me in so many ways, that I cannot help but share what I have learned. The learning cannot stop with me. I will not allow myself to be the last link in this learning experience. I will share all of my experiences with those around me. I will tell others to question what they are told, and to live with the passionate curiosity that Brown so greatly endorses.  I will also encourage others after me to take the initiative to apply to the Ivy League Connection, because it is an amazing experience that no one should neglect. This opportunity was life altering and I would encourage anyone who wants to be more open eyed to apply. I hope to encourage more people to not only apply to this program, but in general, to push their comfort zone and reach for the higher education they deserve.

I also will not let my own passions die. I will execute my action plan and share my passions with those around me. I hope to inspire another person to live their passion and push their limits. I will not let the passion of life stay within me.

My Empty Room
I think back to the last day at Brown. So many memories. I remember how sad I was as I packed up my dorm room that morning, seeing it plain again. I had erased myself from the room. I knew I had not erased myself from Brown however. I remember the last day in class with all of the wonderful people I had met and crying as we all shared our favorite memories and the reasons why this was one of the best experience of our lives. I remember hugging all 24 girls of my class as we split ways. It was sad to be leaving Brown behind, but I knew that our experiences would not end there. 

I think back to the action plan presentations. I remember the emotion I felt as I stood in front of strangers and shared my personal passions. I remember how frightened I had been of rejection. I also remember how free I felt when I realized no one was going to judge me. As I walked away from the crowd of people at Brown, as we rushed off to the airport, I remember feeling peaceful with the situation. I knew I would hear again of the people I had met. I was also excited for the adventures to come with the new knowledge I had gained. When we met with some girls from the Leadership Institute, I knew that I was not severing my Brown ties, only elongating them. 

My Women and Leadership experiences did not end when I left Brown. I will always remember what I have learned; and I will continue to learn throughout my life. My learning does not end here.

The Women and Leadership Family

Monday, August 5, 2013

I Can Cast a Stone Across the Waters to Create Many Ripples

I was saddened as I walked through the John Nicholas Brown gates and looked back at the congregation of students who were saying goodbye. I only glanced back momentarily and soon looked forward, so that I could catch up with the others. I knew I had to look forward because I must use my wonderful memories as a boost for future experiences.  

Leaving Brown 
Looking back at the congregation of students
In the morning session we had a discussion about our opinions and comments about the class. It was so emotional that Dean Almandrez became teary eyed as well.  Each and every individual was affected by the class in their own unique way. Some students were primarily impacted by the diversity workshop or the low ropes course. The commonality between the low ropes course and the diversity workshop were that they both resulted with a stronger bond amongst the class.
Some students discussed that they were upset about returning home because they would have to face “reality.” We would have to face the endless amount of assigned homework and the monotonous school schedule. Although I am hesitant about having to deal with classwork/homework and extracurricular activities, I am looking forward to testing what I have learned in my Women and Leadership class.  

I mentioned to the class that I hoped that we would be able to see one another again. The people I met here have taught me that despite the differences in our socioeconomic backgrounds, we have some commonalities. The caliber of students who attended the Summer@Brown program displayed
My Women and Leadership Classmates 
nothing but kindness and sincerity. My goal is to stay in touch with my friends from Brown. One of my friends opted to become pen pals instead of occasional chats through Facebook. I thought it was a great idea since letters tend to be longer than the messages on Facebook. I will cherish my memories I have made with my friends at Brown.

In the afternoon we would finally present our Action Plan. My friends were practically hyperventilating at the closing session and continued to study their note cards for their Action Plan presentations. Surprisingly I remained calm, but I felt obligated to study my note cards since my friends were doing so beside me.   

When the closing session was over, I walked to the building where I would give my presentation. I walked with my friend Vera and her mother. When we separated to go to our assigned classrooms, we said our goodbyes to one another since she would have to leave immediately after her presentation to catch her flight.

I discovered that my audience consisted of only six other people, one of whom was Heidi, the TA for my class. My presentation went by like a breeze! At the end of my presentation I compared my Action Plan to a quote said by Mother Teresa, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” I received nothing but compliments for my performance. The compliments I received left me on cloud nine for the duration of the day.

I walked back to the main green with two other students who were in my classroom. I was amazed by the fact that I was continuing to meet other students during my last hour at Brown. The students who participated in the Leadership Institute congregated in front of Solomon Hall to say their goodbyes. I was able to say goodbye to a majority of my friends, but I was upset to discover that Emily, my roommate, was nowhere in sight. Fortunately I said a quick goodbye to her prior to the congregation in front of the Solomon Hall.

My dorm door. Emily and I would write where we were so that we were aware of each other's whereabouts. 
I received multiple invitations from my friends that encouraged me to inform them if I am ever in their area. Fortunately, with the aid of social networking, I will be updated on the lives of my friends. I plan to send them photos of my school and my classmates.

At the airport and on the plane, I saw two other girls who were a part of the Brown Leadership Institute. It was nice to see other Leadership Institute students again.

I still felt as if I would continue my schedule I had at Brown. During my first night back, I was extremely happy to be back in my own bed, but I slightly yearned to be back at Brown. I had an amazing time there, and I did not want it to end. 

New Knowledge, Beautiful Memories and 7 Leaders

After staying at dorm for 2 weeks, I had started to see it as a home. It was hard to think that I was leaving today. Truth can be bitter. The class was ending, I would have to say goodbye to all the friends, leader fellows, Dean Almandrez and Brown University. 


Our class was starting one hour late so I thought to wake up late as well. After waking up at 8:00 AM, I got ready and packed few of the things. Ms. Neal was picking up our things at 8:30 AM so I started to carry my luggage downstairs. All of us were ready with our luggage and we carefully placed them inside the van. We were leaving for breakfast but I wanted to go back to dorm for last time. I had forgotten to pack the fan my roommate had lent me on the first day. Since, she had already left for the class I left a note for her near the fan. I looked around my dorm and saw it looked exactly like how it had been the first day, everything was empty.
It was sad to leave this room
After the breakfast with few of the classmates, we headed to class. Dean Almandrez asked us to write the new vocabulary and the skills we had learnt from the class. There was already plenty of vocabulary and skills on the board written by my classmates so I added tally mark next to them.

Now was the time for our last activity. We all made a circle. When Dean Almandrez asked us to close our eyes, I understood it was the same game we had played with my RA. Only 4 of the people tapped by Dean Almandrez got to open their eyes and stand in the middle in the beginning. Dean would say, “touch someone if” and we had to tap those whom the statement applied to. Everyone would eventually get chance to tap someone. When I was sitting, I got taps on some of the unexpected statements and I felt good. During the middle of the game, I started getting emotional and there were some reasons behind that; I was content that my classmates thought of me in that way and I was sad that I was leaving this wonderful class. 

After the activity, we started giving feedback. After listening to all these amazing people, all I could do was let tears roll down my cheeks. I tried my best to control but looking at all the faces and thinking that I would probably never see them, made me sad. We all told each other that we would keep in touch via Facebook. After our group hug, we wished each other luck and said goodbyes. I went up to Dean Almandrez, thanked her for everything and hugged her. In these 2 weeks, she had encouraged me and helped me gain self-confidence. I remember telling her that I was bad at public speaking and I am scared but she told me she had confidence on me and she can already picture me a leader.

With Dean Almandrez

Saying goodbyes had been the hardest part for me that day and I thought public speaking was no longer difficult. We were separated in groups and I went to my assigned room for my speech. There we seven of us who were presenting, 4 parents and 1 leader fellows. I was nervous but I tried my best to hide that. After seeing couple of speech from other students, I raised my hand to go up there. Even though, I had written my speech in paper, I thought it would be best not to look at it. Reading off the paper would not sound like a speech and I would not be able to make eye contact either. I had made sure my speech would not be too much informative and there were room for questions too. I did get some questions from parents and some were similar to one from the practice speech we had done on Thursday. I was proud of myself after the speech. We went to Main Green and waved goodbyes again. Once again, I hugged Dean Almandrez, Sarah Day and Heidi.

Ruchi, Alicia, Heidi, Crystal and I (Left to right)
As we pass that gate, looking back at Leadership Institute 

I and some other cohorts turned in the keys. Then, we headed for airport with new knowledge, beautiful memories and 7 leaders. I was back at California after the long plane ride. All my family were there and it was good to see all of them after 2 weeks. After I got home, I was not very sleepy so I logged into my Facebook account, made a group called “Women and Leadership Family 2013” and added some of those who were in my friends list and invited others through email.
Women & Leadership Family (2013)

Home Again, Home Again

Friday felt very surreal. As I woke up, I realized it would be the last time I stepped out of my dorm room bed. I looked over at Ariana, my roommate, and realized I wouldn't be rooming with her anymore.

After getting over this initial sadness, Ariana went off to her class and I stayed behind to finish packing. Luckily, my class started an hour later on Friday so I had plenty of time to pack up my belongings. At 8:30, Ms. Neal texted to say she was downstairs and ready to take our bags. I did one final sweep of my side of the dorm room to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything and then closed the door for the last time.

Getting down the dorm stairs with my luggage was quite an adventure. Right away I decided that, rather than take two trips up and down the stairs, I would attempt to carry everything down at once. So there I was, at the top of the stairs, with my giant backpack, my computer bag, and my 45 pound suitcase, ready to go. About halfway down, after running over my feet with the suitcase several times, I began to regret this decision to carry everything down at once. Luckily, I made it down the stairs without any fatal injuries and met Ms. Neal and my other cohorts outside of Perkins Hall. With our luggage in Ms. Neal's van, we didn't have to worry about trying to move out later or carrying around a bunch of stuff. 

Elia and I had a nice breakfast at a cafe then walked over to our class. This final day of class was spent reflecting. Dean Almandrez had us write terms and skills that we had learned and I was surprised at the length of the list. Although I knew I had learned all those, I was still baffled that all this could be learned and digested in two weeks. 

Then, we did an activity where we sat in a circle and closed our eyes. Dean Almandrez would silently tap a few people to open their eyes and go to the middle of the circle. Next, Dean Almandrez read out statements such as: "Touch someone who has made you feel good about yourself." or "Touch someone who inspires you." and the people in the middle of the circle would go around and tap the people they thought rang true to the statement. Everyone had their turn to go up and tap people. I believe the point of this game was so you could anonymously recognize someone for something they did that impacted you. It's not always easy to go up to someone and say, "Hey, you made me feel good about myself" and this game allowed me to do that.

We spent our last portion of class sharing good memories from these past two weeks. It got really emotional and the things people were saying were really touching. We'd grown so close in the past two weeks, basically like sisters, and I could tell we were all sad to face the reality that we would no longer wake up and see each other every day. 

Women & Leadership class!
During lunch, my nerves about my Action Plan presentation skyrocketed. Luckily, Julia was there to assure me that everything would be fine and she even let me practice my presentation to her a few times. After lunch, all the students of the Leadership Institute gathered in an auditorium. The staff and teachers were able to say a few words and then we watched a slideshow of pictures from the week. And then, it was time to present.

The presentations were much less scary than I'd imagined. We all broke up into separate groups and went into separate classrooms. There were six students in my classroom (one of them from my Women and Leadership class) and four family members. With this group size, I felt like I could just talk directly do them, so I was able to loosen up while presenting. 

With a successful presentation behind me, I was able to relax and say my goodbyes. 

Dean Almandrez!

Heidi, one of my TAs!

Goodbye, Brown.
The first flight to Chicago was quick and easy. I sat next to Julia who made fun of my music the whole time but she was also listening to my music the whole time, so I suspect she was secretly enjoying the music. On the second flight I sat next to Crystal. We talked a lot for the first couple of hours then attempted to nap. Planes are probably the most uncomfortable places to sleep so I only fell asleep for ten minutes here and there.

Finally, our plane landed and we made our way to baggage claim where our families were waiting for us. Seeing my mom after three weeks away was so great and I'd missed her so much. We collected my bags, said goodbye to my cohorts, and made our way home.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Saving the Best for Last

I still had 45 minutes, all packed, showered, and ready to go, before I'd have to drop off my bags with Ms. Neal. I decided to spend my time wisely rehearsing my presentation. We shoved our bags in the van, and most of us left to eat breakfast, but Michelle had been having trouble with her backpack, so I ran up to her room to see what was going on. Her zipper was pretty messed up, and I didn't really do all that much to help, but I stayed to lend her some space in my bag and walked with her to turn in our keys (I felt like a cop turning in her badge and gun), get breakfast, and go to class once it was fixed so she wouldn't be alone. We ate at Starbucks, then went to class. 

Dean Almandrez had us write up a list of skills and vocabulary we learned in the course. I had already forgotten that so many of those words and concepts were new. 

Sania adding a tally mark to a skill (it means she didn't have it before the course)

The vocabulary that came to mind right away as something we learned here.
I wrote "hegemony" and "xenophobia."

Then we did an activity where we sat in a circle and everyone closed their eyes except four people in the middle. Throughout the activity, everyone would get a chance to stand in the middle. The four in the middle were instructed to "touch someone who..." and the statements were things like, "...you think is wise," "...you would trust with a secret," "...you expect to become a great leader," or "...made you laugh." The people in the middle could tap anyone they felt the statement applied to on the shoulder or on the knee. I was pleasantly surprised by how many times I was tapped by my classmates. I never thought that I had such a significant effect on the people in my class, but it was really nice to learn that. I wish that more groups did that activity, because it really boosts your confidence and makes you feel good about yourself. Then we raised hands to give feedback about how the class went, and after a few answers, most of the class was in tears (I admit it, I was one of them). The one time I spoke I could barely make it through a sentence. I was amazed at how much of a profound impact this one course could make. Pretty soon, it was almost time for lunch, so we started saying our goodbyes and taking pictures. I gave hugs to people who were strangers two weeks ago, and found myself shaking to think I wouldn't see them again. 

Then we had our last meeting for the Leadership Institute and the parents, but it was mostly a "look what your kids have been doing" meeting that I didn't learn very much from. We then checked a list of names divided up by room for the place we would be giving our presentation and the group we would be giving it to. This was nothing new to me; in debate tournaments, the competitors wait eagerly for "postings," a sheet of paper with a room number and your competition for the round listed in the order you'll perform. The only difference was that for this, we didn't have to go in the written order. I made my way to my room on the third floor of Sayles Hall, and found more of the same waiting for me. We would be giving our speeches to about fourteen people (as much as a later round in a debate tournament) in a classroom (in debate, we compete in classrooms). There was no need to worry. Anything that was different from my Speech and Debate tournaments was different in a good way. Normally, I'd be nervous about memorization, but in this case, I had my whole speech written out in front of me. I would worry that my competition was too good, but we weren't trying to win anything. My nerves were virtually gone. 

As a result, my speech went wonderfully. I looked up from my note cards as much as possible to make eye contact, and memorized the lines I had written that played more on the audience's emotions. I watched my peers' eyes widen when I gave some startling statistics about depression in older adults, and I noticed that for the rest of my speech, I had the attention of the room—in a good way. 

When the time for questions came around, I only had to answer one, but it wasn't really asking anything and was more of a suggestion. I probably wouldn't be able to pull it off unless my project was a huge success, but I had to respond appropriately, and I think I did well. I was very relaxed when I watched the rest of the people in my group give their presentations, and I was so glad to be in a group of such bright people with such big plans. After presentations were more goodbyes. I gave Dean Almandrez a hug before I left, and told her that she had taught me so much, and she responded meaningfully, "you too." We spent a few minutes giving phone numbers and Facebook names to everyone (I had two friend requests from people in my class before I even got on the plane). We had to hurry to turn in the keys of the members of my cohort who hadn't done it before, then headed off to the airport. 

Could you guess that I took
this picture in Chicago?

We saw Sania, one of my classmates in Women and Leadership, at the airport. We talked for a bit, but she had to leave to catch her flight. The first flight to Chicago didn't seem so long because I got to make fun of Sonya's taste in music (in her defense, it was on shuffle), but for the second flight, I'd either fall into a quick nap or stare at the seat in front of me thinking about seeing my family again. After an exhausted eternity on the plane, we landed, and soon enough, we were moving down an escalator towards our families. I ran to give my brother a hug, tears in my eyes, then embraced my mother and my father. I'd missed them all so much. We drove home, and I couldn't wait to sleep in my own bed. Finally...I was home.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

It's Not Good-bye It's See You Later

This morning I woke up and I looked around the room which I had begun to call 'home' for the last two weeks. There was a battle raging on inside of my head accompanied by  mixed emotions swirling around throughout my heart. I am excited to return home and get back to my normal life, but on the other hand this has become my normal life. In a strange way I feel like I’m leaving a new house just when I started to get settled in. I finally know where I’m going in the mornings and I almost wish that I would have had a few more days here. I feel optimistic about my future and I plan on working harder than I ever  have  in my life.
Waiting with my friends until the last community meeting begins
This was the least challenging and most terrifying day of class that I've experienced thus far. Today we practiced presenting our Action Plans in front of the class and received feedback on what we could improve on. I think that my practice presentation went fairly well, but I hope that I look more prepared when I actually present tomorrow afternoon. 

After class, one of the last things that we were required to do was attend our last community meeting.
Listening to our Leader Fellows give their final speeches
The women who live on my floor, my RA, and I broke out into a separate group from the rest of the students in the Leadership Institute.
Good-bye Leader Fellows
We went around the table and shared some of the memories that we will take back home with us. I talked about the first time I met my roommate, Mandy, who is from China which made me question if our cultural differences would affect the way we interacted with one another. I honestly can say that she is one of the funniest people that I have ever met in my life and she is also sweet, energetic, and an all-around pleasure to be in the presence of.  I will miss Mandy especially since we lived together for such a large amount of time.

Life as I have come to know it will never be the same again. As I type the blog I can even feel a small lump in my throat, because this is a bittersweet ending to a long therapeutic journey. When I first arrived at Brown University I was excited, but really nervous to meet my classmates, because I thought that they would be judgmental rich kids who never had to work hard for anything. I was completely wrong and I got to see life from their prospective of always feeling guilty for having as much money as they do while their friends don’t. They were really nice and appreciated that they were fortunate enough to have a lot of money. I learned that I should open up to people more and give them the benefit of the doubt. I assume that people will treat me a certain way and I put up barriers to protect myself. However, the women that I have met here have been like sisters to me and we always tried to motivate one another when we were struggling. I know that I have learned more ways of effectively communicating with people when I feel a certain way and when I return to California I will be a better person.

One things that I wish that I would have done was explore the campus a bit more, because I feel like I could have made more friends and had more fun. I think that I was so consumed with trying to do my work that I cheated myself out of completely experiencing what it is like to be a college student. I wish that I would have done things differently, but I do not regret the reasons why sometimes I stayed in my dorm instead of going out. I will never stop being a hard worker, because it provides me with wonderful opportunities such as being a part of the Ivy League Connection. It is important to remember that if I did go out and party all the time that I would not be inside studying which means that I would not be able to maintain my high GPA.  I feel confident in stating that I found myself while I attended the Women and Leadership program. Before I attended the Women and Leadership program I noticed certain situations occurring in my community that I did not approve of, but I did not have the vocabulary that I’ve obtained while studying at Brown University to articulate my concerns effectively.

I am proud of myself for making it this far, because a few years ago I would have never imagined myself studying at Brown University. The fact that I was strong enough to get on a plane for the first time in my entire life and fly across the country is a testimony of my strength and ability to endure anything. The longest amount of time that I have ever been away from my family has been two days and I was only a couple of hours away. I really took a chance when I applied for the ILC and I am happy that I found people who believe that I am capable of achieving all of my life goals. I am thankful to Don, Mr. Ramsey, and Mrs. Kronenberg for giving me this opportunity.  I once read  “When opportunity knocks, some people answer the door ~ others just complain about the noise.”  I know that I can finally say that I am ready to rip the door off the hinges, because I am a fearless young woman with a lot of ambition who is willing to work hard in order to change my community and myself for the better.