Sunday, July 6, 2014

A New Beginning!

Well today was it. After months of preparation, a full week of college tours, and all the experience the ILC could bestow upon us, the time had finally come to begin our adventures at UPenn. As the walk from our hotel to the "Quadrangle", as our dormitory area is refereed to as, was relatively short, we decided to walk the ways. On our way I looked back at how excited on check in day for Columbia last year. I shared many of those same emotion as we got ever closer to our dormitories. I was nervous, but at the same time anxious. I could hardly contain my desire to meet new people, learn new things, and have an experience of a lifetime.

When we arrived at the entrance of the "Quadrangle", we hastily checked in and were shown which dormitories we would be staying in. The area looked amazing and was absolutely breathtaking. It took me a while to realize that for the next three weeks, this would be my home. From here, I would make memories that would not only shape who I was, but also provide me with the necessary experience to make any dream I would ever go after a reality. After receiving all the necessary information from the check-in tent, we dispersed to head up to our dormitories. One downfall that I will say the dorms lacked, because they were renovated from a very old building, is an elevator. Being that I was placed on the fourth floor of my building, getting my luggage up to my room proved to be a bit of struggle, but nothing I could not over come. As I walked through my hall, I noticed that almost no other students had arrived and when I entered my room, my roommate had not either. After taking a bit of time to make myself conscience of where everything was, I took time to claim my bed and unpack a bit, as soon we had to meet down in the center of the Quad.

Being our last day where we would be able to be with Mr. Hillyer, we all decided to go out and have lunch together. In some regards it was meant to be our going away meal and to congratulate us for all the work and time we had put in to get this far in the program. We ended up eating at the Baby Blues BBQ. While not the most formal locations to host our last lunch, it definitely shined through in terms of the quality of the food. I will say that I will miss these everyday outings with my cohort. As we progress into our dorms, we will meet other new friends who will undoubtedly become our centers of attention. However, regardless of how spread out we may seem on the surface, deep down, we are all still the UPenn cohort. Regardless of how separate we may be from seeing each other every day, we will always have each others backs in anything. After lunch we made our way back to the dormitories where Mr. Hillyer finally hit us with the emotional portion of the day. After so long, it was really sad to say our goodbyes. He had been our guide through one of the greatest weeks I have ever had and letting go really hurt.
Just one final group photo!
As I headed back to my dorm, I thought to myself, "this is it." Through every trial I had conquered and my reward was the incredible opportunity to take a class at one of the most prestigious schools in the nation. Very few kids, especially from my school district seldom are presented with such an opportunity. As I made my way back to my room, I was finally able to meet my roommate. His name was Ryan LaRouche and incredibly enough, he shared numerous similarities with me. He loved soccer and was really into music, characteristics I also possessed. As we began talking I learned a bit more about his background. He was from Boston, Massachusetts and has an identical twin, which was a huge first for me as I had never met someone who had one. In addition, we were both taking the Social Justice class so we also shared a lot in the way we thought and viewed the world we lived in. As we talked, time escaped us, and before we knew it, it was time to head over for dinner with our RCs (Residential Coordinator). We headed over to were one of our dining commons would be for a large buffet of a variety of different food types. I was amazed at the number of people who were actually part of the three-week program as the entire common was packed with students. Being that I really had not gotten the chance to meet that many people, I ate dinner with my roommate. We exchanged stories as to how our school years had been and I was actually surprised at the abundance of classes his school offered. To me it seemed as though the curriculum was a lot different in Boston, as students were required to take a greater array of courses. What also surprised me was the size of his school. According to him his school was composed of roughly one thousand students, which by most standards could be considered small, or at least in my opinion. When I asked him what the relative class size was, he replied that it ranged from around twenty-five students to around thirty-six. It was amazing to hear how his school operated and how differently it operated compared to mine.
Images from around the Quad!
After we had finished eating and had walked back to the dorms, we were notified that soon "ice breaker games" would begin in the Quad. The idea behind these were to initially make all students under specific RCs more acquainted with each other. My RC's name was Jordan Gaither. I had met him briefly to introduce myself, but during the ice breaker session, I got to know him on a much deeper level. He had published a book of poetry and had even started his own recording company. I was blown away by the passion he displayed to be a part of this program. For our ice breaker games, he stated that he "wanted to do something different from what everyone else was doing because innovators go against the mainstream trends." Automatically I knew that I would greatly enjoy my time with my RC. I was fueled largely by his immense eloquence with words and his ability to inspire everyone. Prior to the ice breaker session, I really did not know anyone else on my floor, but after various team challenges and group activities, we had all become friends almost instantaneously. It stunned me how we all at one point were complete strangers and then we had become so close that hardly anyone could think that we had not known each other prior. This is something that I greatly enjoyed from my experiences last year at Columbia. The ability for a complete stranger to almost instantaneously become one of your closest friends. When we all were done, we all headed back to our floor were we spent the remainder of our time getting to know each other a lot better. One thing that surprised me was that, compared to my experience last year at Columbia, many of these students were domestic students. Most of them were from the East Coast and very few were international students.

After a very long, inspirational and exhausting day, I was happy with how it had turned out. Leaving Mr. Hillyer was very saddening, but upon meeting all the members on my floor, I knew that I would enjoy my time with all of them. Based off of just one day, I can already see that I am going to love my time here and can absolutely not wait to see what tomorrow has in store for me.

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