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.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Only in Ithaca

Happy weekend, all!

You may or may not know, but Friday is an official school holiday, meaning no classes for Freedom & Justice! This three day weekend will be a nice break from the hectic schedule we have, and it will give us extra time to work on our homework (essay/ reading). I look forward to sleeping in tomorrow. (:

On another note. Today was Ithaca's celebration of July 4. There was a firework ceremony that began at around 10:00, which explains the lateness in my post. Justine, Ramiah, and I stood on McGraw Hill watching the fireworks. To be completely honest, it was not as epic as I expected, but it is nonetheless an experience I will never forget. I had the opportunity to celebrate the epitome of American holidays in New York at an Ivy League University. Not everyone is so lucky. Though the fireworks were not as great as the ones in Hercules, I realized something tonight. Brace yourselves...

For the past two weeks, I have been living the university life in almost all its glory. I am enrolled in a fresh/ soph course. I receive college-level assignments and get graded harshly on the work I do. I have midterms, finals, and discussion sections with TAs and peers who expect me to contribute to the discussion daily. I have to be responsible for waking up, for keeping my room tidy, for getting to my classes, and for taking care of my food. I am independent, on my own, and getting a sneak peak into college life. Only one thing had been missing. That is, until today. Today was the first time I actually experienced any Cornellian traditions. Standing on McGraw Hill gave me that sense of belonging I had been longing for. From the very first moment I stepped on campus, I knew Cornell was a special school. I just wasn't sure that it was for me. It seems, however, that with every passing day, I feel more and more at home in Ithaca. Just today, the cutest little bird flew in through a window into our lecture hall. How often do you see that in Hercules? It is those precious, priceless things you miss out on when you're in a city kind of environment (i.e. Berkeley, LA). Cornell surely is growing on me. I make no guarantees or promises, but who knows? Maybe Cornell will become a dream school for me like Stanford is by the end of this trip. If I have learned anything from the ILC, it is to never settle, to constantly be aware of the possibilities, and to always explore my options. Which is precisely what I am doing. I guess we'll just have to wait and see!

I know UC Berkeley and UCLA are fine institutions, even comparable to the Ivies. Of course, I plan to apply to both. I think there is a great distinction between a UC environment and an Ivy League one. Class size is a huge factor for me, due to that fact that I can only give my best when I am not in a huge lecture hall with 400 other students. I like getting to know my classmates, speaking directly to the professor, and having one-on-one time with the TAs. That is just not a guarantee in UCs, simply because the student body is so large. For this reason, I have set my sights on private universities. I have a successful future waiting on me. I have no time to waste away in a class where I won't get anything out of it. Do not get me wrong. I have such a deep respect for the UC system, and for some people, UCs are a perfect fit. For me, however, they will always just be a backup.

I've taken UC campus tours, and I have scheduled one for UCLA as soon as I get back home. I am keeping my options open and making sure I explore all the possibilities. But these three weeks in Cornell have given me insight into the life I'd lead if I attended a private university, even an Ivy League school. And I absolutely love it. The quality of the teaching, the level of the administration, the conversation present in discussion, the kind of people I get to network with, and the beautiful campus. This is what I want. I am still unsure about the area. That will always be a question for me. But I do know I want to go in the direction of a private university for college. Nonetheless, Cornell is amazing. I'll just have to weigh my options and see how I feel towards the termination of this trip. But I am enjoying my time here, and this is most definitely an experience I will never forget.

On another note, I know you are all curious about my roommate. Unfortunately, she is uncomfortable being videotaped, but she was very happy to answer some questions for me.

How are you enjoying your Psychology class so far?
"I really like my class, expect there is a lot of reading. It's a lot more work than I expected, but I feel like I'm getting a lot out of it. And it's really a crash course. It's really letting me know what actual university life is going to be like and it's kind of warning me that I'm going to have to stay on top of my work when I go to college. This is just one course, and I'll probably have around four when I go to a university."

What are your impressions of Cornell so far?
"I am really enjoying my time. I try to spend most of my time reading, but there's so many people here who can help me. I also really like the people in my class. It was hard to get to know everyone at first, since it was in a lecture setting. Actually, in the beginning all my friends were people outside of Psych and in other courses. But once we got into smaller sections, I got to know people better and I found out their reasons for coming and all that stuff. I feel like I'll leave with a lot more interesting people in my life."

How are you liking Mary Donlon?
"I actually really like our hall, because I love how there's a lounge on every floor. It gives me lots of options for places to study. I feel like the only problem is that there's so many girls on our floor, I feel like I don't get to know the majority of them. But I guess that's how it is in college. Other than that, I really like it here."

Her first choice is Columbia, but she is truly enjoying her time here, as am I. I hope you enjoyed picking my roommate's brain a bit. I am off to bed now. I am exhausted! I hope you all have a wonderful night. 

- xoxo, Julia.


  1. Julia,

    Let me make it crystal clear right up front: I’m a Golden Bear and that will never change.

    That being said, so much of what you wrote about private versus public schools is right on the money. I don’t want to bash Cal here—in print—but I will say that my lecture for Math 1A had 1,000 students in it. Meet the professor—NEVER! End up with a TA that speaks English as his native language or understands what class it is that he’s assisting in—maybe. Develop bonds with fellow classmates that will carry through for the rest of your life—maybe, could happen, it’s not impossible, stranger things have happened. [A year after I left Cal my pal who lived across the hall from me just happened to drive through the Jack-in-the-Box I worked at 75 miles away from where he lived. Ten minutes later a lady walked in and stuck a .45 in my face holding the place up. Coincidental? Yeah, those collegiate contacts you make can be a blessing for you later in life.]

    Hey, but we had wild animals that entered our classrooms from time to time just like your birdie pal did today. They were often two-legged and could sometimes speak but they were wild nonetheless.

    As for your roomie: photos and video clips are optional. For all we know she’s in the Witness Protection Program and just wants to keep her privacy so who are we to spoil things for her?

    She didn’t say but where is she from?

    I only went to one major university (plus a bunch of smaller ones) so my comparisons are limited. In my brief stay in a dorm while at Cal I stayed in Davidson Hall which was one of four buildings in the unit. Each building housed 800 students (3200 per unit) and there were three units of this type. There were also smaller units scattered around but that’s another story.

    Even with so many people in each unit, you learned quickly who had what and who could be counted on. For instance, everyone knew that we had the best view for watching the sun set over the Golden Gate Bridge so everyone would gather in our room right before supper each night. The guys across the hall threw the best parties, the guy next door supplied all of the weed, the guy down the hall knew all of the good places where underaged minors could score cheap beer and the guys on the floor beneath us knew the trick to slipping coins into the soda machine so you could get a soda and more change back than you put in. Yeah, we had that place pretty well pegged.

    If you get a chance, maybe you can read what I wrote in Ramiah’s blog about firework displays.

    Enjoy your 4th—and your 3rd for that matter.

  2. Julia,

    Your analysis is well reasoned and provides the reader your rationale for wanting a highly selective private schools. Highly selective schools demand a lot and now you have a first hand experience at Cornell.

    I also appreciate your interview with your roommate. Her comments about living in Mary Donlon, her class and her desires for next year were nice to read. I also appreciate your comments and I am glad that you will be armed with more information when you attend college informational sessions.

    Continue to work hard during the final week. I am sure that you will do well and cross the finish line still full of energy and enthusiasm. I do hope that you will get the chance to participate in one of the Cornell Campus Tours and Informational Sessions. It will give you insight into how a current Cornell student feels about their time on campus.

    Hope all else is well.

    Charles T. Ramsey