Here we are after five weeks of being on the East Coast. What an amazing experience to be a part of. I still remember last year during my Sophomore year when Don Gosney came to Pinole Valley High to tell us about the Ivy League Connection for the first time and how I backed out of the program just before it was time to start sending in applications. When it was time for Don to come back for his ILC presentation back in November, I was still skeptical about joining the ILC. I kept thinking about how much more busy I would be if I got in and how I would have to take such a long time off from work. It wasn't until the last night before applications were due that I finally decided that I would try to get accepted and see what would happen. Looking back, I can’t believe at how stupid I would have been to not apply. I don’t know what I would have done this summer without this program.
Once I passed the preliminary stages of the ILC, it was time for the essay and interview portion. When the interview rolled around I remember being nervous and anxious about what questions would be asked. If I have to give any advice for anyone being nervous for the interview I would say to just act confident and use plenty of diagrams. After I was accepted into experimental physics, all I can remember is how shocked I was at getting in. I felt really relieved about being accepted but at the same time I knew that the class wouldn't be until the summer time still six months away. It never really dawned upon me about the magnitude of this trip until just a few days before departure.
Before summer time I can remember all of the stress involved in the application process for Penn after being accepted into the ILC. There were dozens of forms to fill out and to scan. The most stressful forms to fill out were the doctor forms that needed to be filled out by an actual physician. I was so nervous about those doctor forms because Penn never seemed to send any conformation emails out saying that they received the forms. One thing that the ILC could improve on would be some more guidance when it comes to filling out the mandatory paperwork. Often time I would be confused about the different forms and what they were asking for.
As for the ILC experience, I would say that my favorite part of the trip would have to be the first week before classes started. During this time we had a lot more free time for ourselves while at the same time we had the opportunity to go all over the East Coast on a daily basis. I really enjoyed visiting Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, which got into thinking about applying to smaller private colleges instead of all the big name universities. I find that there is less pressure for students to succeed and to be successful in smaller schools than larger school that are famous for producing the most successful people on the planet.
Once class started, all I wanted to do was to prove myself to my professors. However, it seemed that the entire class had that same thought in mind, which made it difficult to be noticed. Then I realized that the point of the class was not to turn heads but to learn the material at hand. So I then shifted my goal and focused on the learning. One thing that I loved about the Experimental Physics Academy was the fact that it covered such a broad range of different categories in physics while also exposing us to real researchers in the field. Another thing that I loved was the vast number of experiments that we conducted. I know that I can use most of these experiments in my high school science clubs to use in our science outreaches to local elementary schools. I’m sure that these new experiments are just what my club needs. Not only did we conduct experiments that can be duplicated at home but we also did complex experiments that could only be conducted in a lab, which is something unique that most people will never get to do.
As for college life and living at UPenn, there was always lot to do rarely was there a moment of boredom. I took advantage of the many trips and activities offered by the Summer Discovery program by attending almost every event; activities ranging from ice skating, movies, museums, and of course Philly Cheese Steaks. I did my best to try to see and do it all in the short time that I had. When I wasn't at any of these activities, I was playing cards with friends or walking about through the campus after finishing with studying of course. If I could recommend anything for someone going to the ILC it would be to not get locked into your room. You can’t feel the complete experience if you are isolated from everything around you, so get out there and make a new friend.
Now that everything is over I realize how important a program like the ILC is. Almost everyone that I met at Penn had been going to academic summer camps for years and if you want to be able to compete to get into the best universities, it is imperative that you go to a camp like this. The ILC provides the perfect opportunity to attend one of these camps and you would be a fool to pass it up. Looking back I also realize that it is a good idea to have backup majors for college in case you find that your dream career isn’t what you expected it to be. Not that I did enjoy physics or anything but there were a few times were it was easy to feel overwhelmed or lost. But at the end of the day, my passion for physics didn’t crumble, it was only amplified.