Through WCCUSD’s Ivy League Connection program, Hercules High School Students Justine Betschart, Stacy Chan, Ramiah Davis-Shephard, Louisa Man, Julia Maniquiz, and Yueming Wang will be attending Cornell University to either study Freedom and Justice or Hotel Operations Management during the summer of 2009.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Hello my darling, darling readers. Today was my last time in McGraw Hall. Today was my last time in Trillium Dining Hall. Today is my last full day in Ithaca, NY. I am feeling extremely sentimental, so brace yourself for my following blog. I feel as though I have so much to share! Please bare with me in regards to its length. I have a feeling it's going to be a long one. Here goes everything...

Typing my blog title alone musters feelings of deep, deep sadness. I sit here in Olin Library, having officially completed Government 1615 - Freedom & Justice: An Introduction to Political Thought. It is over. I cannot believe it is over.

For the past three weeks, Ithaca has been my home-away-from-home, and in less than one day, I will be gone. Every day since June 19 has required me to live independently and on my own. In that sense, Cornell has given me more than three credits from an Ivy League institution. This entire trip has provided me with crucial insight into the life I will soon lead in just one year. As a rising senior, I have one last year in the comfort of my hometown of Hercules, in the security of my parents' home, with the life I have led for the past seventeen years. After that, I enter the real world. AND EVERYTHING CHANGES.

Ending junior year, I was filled with so many doubts, so much anxiety. I was terrified of graduating, of leaving my parents, my friends... of leaving the environment I had grown so accustomed to for something entirely new and foreign. Back then, I knew of nothing else other than my life in Hercules. And, honestly? I didn't want anything to change. But that was all pre-Cornell. These past three weeks have altered my mindset in the most drastic manner possible. I no longer fear leaving behind what I know for what I do not, for I have realized I am more than capable of adapting to a new environment and finding happiness in something different. I do not look with terror to the future, but instead I am ready and willing to welcome it with open arms. High school will mark the termination of my old life, and my entrance into college will signal the commencement of a brand new one - full of all these chances, new experiences, and opportunities.

I have my experience at Cornell to thank for my change of opinion. I feel a huge weight lifted from my shoulders knowing I can survive on my own. This will make my final year of high school much more enjoyable, since I will not have to worry about crying every single day about leaving... because leaving opens a new set of doors I now know I can easily open.

I have loved my Cornellian experience in its absolute entirety, with no reservations or exceptions. Even the bathing and sleeping arrangements, I was okay with. Every bit of this journey has been worthwhile, challenging, inspiring, and, most importantly, beautiful. Speaking of challenging...

Today, Justine, Ramiah, and I took the infamous FINAL EXAM. Thankfully, our TA Des went over the material and the outline of the test very thoroughly, and so there were no surprise components when we received the questionaire. Justine, Ramiah, and I joined for the final time in our study group to go over the philosophers and discuss their concepts. As always, I found our meeting very beneficial. The power of communication is very powerful, indeed. On a side note: discussion is a tactic which has, for me, personally, proven to be extremely helpful. It is one thing to sit quietly in a room and memorize the material, but it demonstrates an entirely new level of knowledge and comfort to be able to discuss the philosophical ideals with outside individuals. It is, furthermore, a tactic which I have utilized during this trip, and one I recommend to all incoming Ivy Leaguers. An important lesson I learned while at Cornell: The competition from high school does not exist in a collegian atmosphere. You are, instead, to join forces with your colleagues, bounce ideas off one another, and share your knowledge.

The knowledge Justine, Ramiah, and I have shared throughout these past weeks, in addition to the hard, hard work we have put into this course, have payed off. The final was not bad at all. I will not know my final grade until I receive it in the mail upon returning home, but I do feel rather confident about what I turned in. All three of us also did very well on our Plato essays, so we are all crossing our fingers for a positive turn out with our final grades.

I do hope to receive a high mark on the exam and in the course overall, but regardless of what I get, I am walking away with so much more than I could have ever imagined or anticipated. I feel such pride in the fact that I was able to survive a college-level course, while at the same time being expected to fend for myself. It is rather intimidating in the beginning trying to keep up with the course work, while trying not to get too homesick and also attempting not to get lost in the entirely new environment. But I did it. WE ALL DID IT. And I believe in every single person who will enter this program in the future. The Ivy League Connection does an amazing job in scouting out the creme de la creme of each high school, and I know the program will continue to flourish just because of what it does for so many talented, deserving students. Once again, I would like to take the time to thank all those who have contributed to the enrichment of my education. I would like to thank the people who have made my stay here possible, because I am returning home a completely different person, altered in only the best way possible.

When I first arrived in Ithaca, I was unsure as to how I would take to this extremely rural location. I knew I'd enjoy my experience and I knew I'd be able to take so much out of it, but I wasn't sure I could see myself attending this university. But, oh how much can change in just three weeks! As I have mentioned in previous posts, every passing day at Cornell, I find myself more and more in love with this school. The girls and I actually took a campus tour this afternoon. (Finally, right? Haha.) Justine, Ramiah, and I have done much exploring, however, and we have heard many stories from currently enrolled students, so we did not see or hear much of anything that was too new for us. It was still an enjoyable experience. It was very long and the sun was beating down on us, but I think it was worth it. It provided me with an even more in-depth view of Cornell, and I loved everything I was told about the school during the tour.

As you all know, I am very much a city girl and I need my urban setting... or at least I used to. As my stay in Ithaca progressed, more and more I could see myself attending this school, but its rurality has always been a concern of mine. With the trip at its end, however, I have realized my love of this university far outweighs any issue I may have with its lacking hustle and bustle. If anything, New York City is a reasonable four hours away if I'm in a desperate need of a city-fix. With that said, I will most definitely apply to Cornell University. I have not found one thing about the institution I found disagreeable. The hills and the stairs are a bit much, but the gorgeous setting totally makes up for that extra effort in walking to class. Stanford has been my number one choice since I was a little girl, and it still remains at the top of my list. Cornell follows a close second. Not even second! More like a close 1 1/2, if that makes sense. A few days after my return home, I have a scheduled campus tour of Stanford. I took a two week summer program there last summer, so I am familiar with the campus, but I want an in-depth review from a trained tour guide. After that campus tour, I will be able to better weight Stanford and Cornell side by side and determine which is a better fit for me. More research is also in order about the strength of the programs I am interested in. As two of the top universities, however, I am sure that will not be an issue.

Tomorrow, Freedom and Justice will reconvene for the last time during our graduation ceremony. I am hoping I do not cry! This experience has been so wonderful, I hate to see it ending. I am also very sad about my roommate. She has quickly become one of my best friends, and going from seeing her every day and staying up late each night updating her to simply communicating via phone and computer will be a difficult transition. She does, actually, give Cornell another point in my Stanford v. Cornell mental list. Her first choice is Columbia University, and if I attended Cornell, we'd be in the same state! We've actually toyed around with the idea of what it'd be like if she went to Columbia and I went to Cornell. We agreed that if we got into our respective schools and decided to go, we'd take turns visiting each other. Natasha and I plan to communicate at least once a day, be it through texting or what have you. I feel like I am taking a part of her with me when I get back home. I have spent so much time with her, I feel like we have rubbed off on each other a little bit. Do you remember that culture shock Louisa talked about? We Californians say "hella," while east coast people say "mad." I have been saying "mad" so often, and just yesterday Natasha said "hella." I am going to miss her so much! But the possibility of our Columbia/ Cornell arrangement is so great. It sounds so perfect, doesn't it?

THIS ENTIRE TRIP HAS BEEN PERFECT. I loved my class, my professor, my TA, my classmates, my roommate, my RCAs, my dorm room, my new amazing friends... everything. Coming home will be such a crazy experience, because I feel so different from the person I was when I first left Hercules. The routine I developed while here has pretty much become my life, and resuming my Herculean lifestyle will take some getting used to. Especially the time difference! My sleeping and eating patterns will be so off. It will be interesting getting back in the California time zone. Though I am so very sad I will soon be leaving Cornell University, it will be nice to return home and actually see the family and friends I miss very much. Many updates are called for!

I hate to see my three week stay at its end, but who knows? Maybe I will return to Ithaca, NY in the fall of 2010 - except for a four year stay, as opposed to this way too brief three weeks. It's a great thought, isn't it? Gives me butterflies just thinking about it!

I hope you, my lovely readers, have enjoyed reading along about my daily experiences and the constant happenings while I've been here at Cornell University. It was such a beautiful journey, and I am so glad to have shared it with you all. I hope you have enjoyed the glimpses I have provided you with about my stay here. I know it is nowhere near as great as actually experiencing it all first-hand, but I hope it will suffice. With that said, I will end my blog. Thank you all for sticking it through with me these past three weeks. It's been one hell of a journey. And I will never, never forget it.

- xoxo, Julia.

P.S. Just a fun fact to end my blog. WORD COUNT: 2,069. This is officially the longest blog I have EVER written.


  1. Julia,

    As always, what a great pleasure to read your blog.

    From what I hear, the three of you did okay on your Plato papers and your Final Exams. Congrats all around.

    I’m a little confused in the blogs from all three of you, though, about the timing of this campus tour. You wait until your nags are packed and you’re waiting for the shuttle to the airport before you decide to check out the campus? What’s that all about?

    I really hope someone is able to snap a couple of photos of the graduation ceremony to share with us all.

    As to your P.S.: Long postings are never a problem with me. I like to write personal letters (of great length) and when the blogs are well written (as yours always have been) then reading them only takes a second or two.

    I did want to point out an advantage you had as the postEE rather than the respondEE. When we respond we’re limited to about 4,000 characters. I’ve had a couple of sets of comments where the system wouldn’t let me send it as one response and I had to break it up into two chapters.

  2. Julia,

    Your post says it all. You are at peace with yourself and you are having one GREAT TIME AND LOVING IT. I cannot tell you how pleased I am in following your journey. Dah, Cornell is a great school and getting accepted would be great. Just as the same with Stanford, Columbia and other highly selective colleges. Please understand that these schools are competitive and you just got a does of round one.

    Having Des in your corner is a plus. I hope that you will stay in touch with him during this upcoming year. Your senior year will be an a meandering journey filled with a lot of ups and downs, but I am sure that you will navigate through the terrain.

    Now is your time to come back home and sit down with your family and go through the vetting process. You have earned that right and you can say with confidence that you will make an informed decision. I want to thank you for the great post and a validation for our work.

    Mr. Gosney was kind enough to forward the Freedom and Justice replies to your interview panelist. He wanted to share with them how grateful we were that they selected three outstanding students who earned their place at Cornell based on MERIT. Our bragging on all of you made us feel that we wanted to see out of the ILC had come true and that we could go back to our sponsors and show them that supporting this effort has CHANGED LIVES. I want to say that reading your post made me see that we really had changed a life.

    Have a safe flight home and when you are passing over Cayuga Lake remember how it all started. It has been a glorious ride.

    Once again congratulations. We are feeling real good tonight. This coming from one of your dear readers!!!

    Charles T. Ramsey, Esq.
    School Board Member
    West Contra Costa
    Unified School District

  3. Julia,

    Your lovely readers were treated during these past three weeks to an exceptional journey. Thank you for taking us with you -- and thank you especially for sharing it so clearly and honestly.

    Perfection is tough to come by -- and I'm glad you can look back and say your found it in this experience. As you analyze it, think about how your own attitude dictated how you personally came to have a "perfect" experience. I think you brought the seeds of that perfection with you -- and I applaud you for it.

    Your shared glimpses showed us not only what the program offers, but the kind of student who can best benefit from it. It turns out you were the PERFECT FIT for the Ivy League Connection.

    Bravo on your achievements -- and continued success (just keep doing what you've been doing and you'll be fine).

    Welcome home.