"The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself." -C. JoyBell C.
After receiving the Ivy League Connection scholarship, I was very happy. I was excited for this chance to attend a class at a university, an Ivy League university no less. I continued with my classes at school, attended the ILC events, and filled out applications for Summer Discovery. Even though I was doing all of this, and reading the books for the Social Justice class, it still had not hit me that I would be leaving my family for a month and living on the UPenn campus. That was until my family dropped me off at El Cerrito High School with Don, Mr. Hillyer, and my other ILC cohorts. When we were on the plane, I realized that I would not see my family or friends for 5 weeks, and I would be transported to a whole new environment. I have never been away from my family for more than a week, I have never been to the East Coast, but here I was doing both.
The first week was filled with eating a lot and visiting colleges. In the beginning it felt like we -- Jun, Mike, Hannah, Kai, Mr. Hillyer, and me -- were all strangers travelling the East Coast together. But by the end of the week we all came to understand each other better and become friends.
Finally, we moved into our dorms at the University of Pennsylvania and said our goodbyes to Mr. Hillyer. We would end up seeing him occasionally and go out to dinner with him sometimes, but we would not see him everyday like we were used to. My dorm room was large and I had two great roommates who became real friends to me throughout the month. Even though I was in a new environment with people I did not know, I became comfortable quickly. Living in my dorm room, hanging out with friends in the Quad, going to the Van Pelt Library, and eating at campus restaurants like The Greek Lady became my life for four weeks. It felt completely normal and I loved it. Coming back home felt so unusual because I had adapted to the life I had at Penn; but I was happy to see my family and friends again.
As for the class, I walked in the first day completely tense and not sure what to expect. All the students were early to class with numerous notebooks, with their computers and iPads, and writing instruments. But starting that first day in class, we all knew that this was not going to be a "normal" class. Throughout the next four weeks I learned so much, and in such an unorthodox way. I was treated as an equal and people listened when I spoke. I enjoyed being in class from nine to five, and every day I was excited to go to class. Even though I had opportunities to sleep in or to not go to class, I went anyway. It was a joy to go to class and learn everyday. I was learning useful skills, I was observing life, I was becoming a critical thinker. I was understanding myself and my contradictions, along with others'. I benefited so much from my Social Justice class, and I can honestly say that it changed my life.
The last couple of days were very sad, and I hated having to say goodbye to people I had come to love. With some people it felt like I would see them again, but with others it felt like I would never see them again. Whether I am reunited with any of my UPenn friends again, I wish the best for them all. Coming back home was bittersweet; I was glad to be with my family again, but I was sad to be leaving my new friends and family.
This has been such an amazing experience and I am so appreciative for this opportunity that was given to me. I have honestly changed as a person and I am excited to see myself grow more as a person and as an intellectual.
As Heath L. Buckmaster said, "Often, it's not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don't know how to be." My experience has helped me to begin the process of becoming the person I am meant to be.