Saturday, July 12, 2014

Moving in to UChicago

As usual, today was another event-filled day. This morning waking up at the Omni hotel, encased in a cocoon of soft down pillows and the warmest blankets I’ve ever slept in (at least, it felt like that at the time), and hearing rain pattering on the window felt like ages ago.

After getting a delicious breakfast (where I had sunny-side up eggs, potatoes, turkey sausage, and toast), we gathered up all our things and headed for the University of Chicago.

Finally! The highly anticipated day!! I’ve been equal parts excited and anxious to get to UChicago, and now here I am, in my dorm room, writing this.

Once we arrived, we went to the bookstore and picked out our UChicago gear! There are so many things to choose from! Hoodies, crewnecks, shorts, hats, crop tops (yes, cute ones), cardigans (yes, cute ones!), bags (insanely cute, though at a high price), and tank tops (I’ll have to buy one before I leave) are all offered at the bookstore. For a reasonable price, too—most of them were around the $30-$40 price range and were good quality.

Then we took our orientation and campus tour. We met our RA (Resident Advisor), Jill. Jimmy and I both have her, since we’re both on the 1st floor (which I’m glad for, so I won’t have to take the elevator to get out of the building). The rest of our cohort has different RAs.

Jill seems so great! She used to be part of this program when she was a rising senior in high school, so to see a Summer Session alum end up at UChicago as a now rising sophomore in college shows me she loved it a lot here, like I hope I soon will. She took everyone from our floor around campus and showed us the libraries, bookstores, classrooms, stores, emergency blue light poles (congratulations, UChicago—you’re the only school out of five that hasn’t said the overused “I’ve never once felt unsafe on campus” phrase yet still got the point across). I actually learned something new about the emergency blue light poles today, though I don’t know if this only applies to UChicago or if it applies to other schools. Jill told us that if we push the button while running away, the pole will track down where you’re going so the police can still find you and help you. That’s really useful.
The campus tour wasn’t exactly like other campus tours. While at other colleges it felt like they were trying to convince us to apply to their school, this tour felt like Jill was just talking to us as an RA, showing us places we could hang out, buy food, or study (I liked it, it felt way more natural).
Jill in the right corner

Afterwards, our cohort got our UCIDs and went to our rooms to unpack and meet our roommates. I really like my roommate, Kaitlyn. She’s a rising senior who comes from a charter school in Arizona (so she’s used to a small school and very dry weather like me), and is also in the Biotech class with me, so we can study and walk to class together. She’s so artistic! Her side of the room is cute and colorful, while mine is drab and colorless. She even let me decorate a part of a wall with colorful tape she brought.
The dorm rooms are nice, and have air conditioning and WiFi. There are two desks, two beds, two rocking chairs, four sliding shelves on two walls (so eight shelves in total), two closets with dressers inside of them (the dressers have three shelves), six electrical outlets, and one big window. For each floor there’s one big bathroom with two toilets, two showers, and two sinks. There’s also a unisex bathroom with one toilet, one shower, and one sink. I’ll have to share that with 14 other students.
The closets. The one on the left is mine.
We had dinner at the Cathey Dining Commons, this gorgeous building right outside the dorms with glass walls. I thought the food was pretty good, but Jill said she gets tired of it. I like their burgers, at least.

I ate with Oyin, Alexa, Megan, Kaitlyn, and another girl (I forgot, I’m bad at names!). We talked about our classes, why we chose them, where we’re from, which floors we’re in, the campus, and shows we like (Grey’s Anatomy being one of them).

Afterwards, we had our mandatory RA residential meetings. Apparently each floor meets at a certain lounge (ours is the Halperin Lounge) for “Study Breaks” at around 9 PM to basically bond and eat food.
Jill made this for tonight's study break--"Slutty Cookies." AKA an Oreo inside a chocolate-chip cookie
We played a couple ice breakers and went over some rules. I don’t think anyone is really all that close yet (I mean, that would be miraculous if we all became best friends after the first day), but I think we’ll all become close eventually.

Even though most everything about today was pretty good, I think I’m starting to know how it feels like when you want to hang out or socialize with other people but can’t because of work (which Alie warned us would happen). It makes me sad, but I guess that’s the real world for you. I also really hope the cold that I’ve been trying to convince myself is just an allergy will be over soon. I’m tired of feeling bad when I try to cough quietly (and it ends up sounding like a laugh) and it seems like I’m laughing at something someone said.

I’m excited and anxious. I have a good feeling about UChicago and my class. The people here seem great, too! 

UChicago Firsts

Today was the day that we were finally going to move into our dorms at the University of Chicago (UChicago).  This also happened to be the night that I got a full 8 hours and 30 minutes of sleep. I feel like that alone was a sign that my day was going to be a good day, and it was. After sleeping in, we walked down to a restaurant by the Omni hotel to have brunch before we were to drive to UChicago. It was pouring rain when we were walking to the restaurant but at the same time it was about 70 or 80 degrees Fahrenheit and it took me a while to orient myself because I didn't know how to deal with the weather. We ate our brunch, went back to our hotel, got our stuff, and made our way to UChicago.

University of Chicago
The car ride here lasted about 20 minutes and we arrived at the school quickly. Our rooms weren't ready at first when we came there so we checked in, got an information folder and dropped our stuff into another room while we waited. We had some time before our orientation so we made our way to the campus bookstore to get ourselves some UChicago gear. It only seemed right since we will be living here for the next three weeks. I got both a sweatshirt and a t-shirt but I feel like before this three weeks are up, I’ll end up with at least 3 more UChcago shirts and sweatpants. Once we were done at the bookstore, we went to the orientation. The orientation was basically an introduction of our RA’s and a quick overview of the rules. We then split up and went with our RA’s for a tour of the campus while parents stayed back to get their questions answered. Since my parents aren't here, my chaperon Alie acted as my parent.

My RA’s name is Helen and she is a rising senior. She is going to help plan some activities for us to do while we are here in UChicago and I pretty much have to check in with her when I plan on doing anything. I like her because she is really energetic and to make things better, she loves to bake so every night for our study break, she says she’ll have some sugary sweets for us. She’s the RA for about 20-25 kids and all of us are living on the fourth floor together except for poor Jake who gets a room on the fifth floor away from us. It also seems like we are roommates with each other too. My roommate’s name is Lulu and she was born in Singapore but then she moved to Beijing. She came here by herself all the way from Beijing and I find that really impressive. I can barely cross the street by myself, I couldn't imagine going to a whole new country by myself.

My Dorm Room
One of my favorite things about my being here is most likely the dorm room. For some strange reason, dorm life really interests me and I was really excited to move in. I share my room with Lulu and we both have our own beds, desk, chairs, closet, and drawers. The only thing that I don’t like about it is that the bathroom isn't that close to my room. When I first got here I had to go on a hunt to find the bathrooms and it took me a while but I finally found them. I was shocked at first because that bathroom had only one shower and I was wondering how that could work out because there were about 10-15 girls on my floor. Doing some more investigating, I found out that there are more showers just down the hall from the elevator.

My other favorite thing about this trip is most definitely the people here that I’m meeting. I've met people from New Jersey, Florida, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and many more places. It’s really fun and interesting to just talk to them and get to know them all better. Personally, I like to see if there are any differences in the way that we live or talk. I haven’t noticed that big of a difference but some of the other kids talk in a different style that I’m not used to and I’m trying my best to really learn it. I made some new friends today which I am really excited about. It was a lot easier than I made it out to be because we all have the same RA and we basically got to know each other better when we grabbed our snacks for the study break. We sat down at a table and we just started talking. We talked for almost two hours about all sorts of things like Harry Potter, our hometowns, Forest Gump, our families, and lots more.
UChicago Gear

My first day here at UChicago went a lot better than I thought it was going to be like. I thought I wouldn't like my roommate but that isn't the case because Lulu is awesome. I thought that I wouldn't make any new friends and that I would just be standing there all awkward and alone but I made at least 6 new friends today and I feel like giving myself a pat on the back. I thought that I would hate the food and that it would be horrible but in my opinion, it isn't that bad. I also thought that I would be like a lost puppy. This sort of happened because I got lost at least twice today but I worked out a system so that that would never happen again and I’m glad that it is sorted out. Tomorrow we are going to be going over a bunch of stuff together about where we are allowed to go around here and where we are and aren't allowed to go. Class doesn't start until Monday for us which isn't too far away. I’m really excited to see how everything plays out and how I will be different by the end of all of this. As of now, I’m just going to be taking everything one day at a time and I will do everything that I can to make sure I make the most of my time here in UChicago.

First Day at University of Chicago

Today was the beginning of a new portion of our trip. We were allowed to sleep in for the first time today, until 9:30 AM. We left the Omni Hotel and walked a few blocks in the rain to get brunch at a nice breakfast and lunch restaurant. I ordered Greek yoghurt with granola and berries. After brunch we all went back to the hotel to gather our luggage for our half hour trip to the University of Chicago. We left at about 12 PM for UChicago, and arrived there a short cab ride later.

We went to the sign-in session first, where we received our schedules for the weekend and other helpful information. We also got our Chicago ID cards, which we will end up using for everything necessary; getting into buildings, getting into our rooms, receiving meals, etc. We had some time before our information meeting, so we went to the university’s book store, where we each got one or two pieces of clothing sporting University of Chicago logos. I purchased a red pair of running shorts as well as a pretty gray shirt. I also bought a Camelbak water bottle for myself at the bookstore.

We walked back to campus to attend the information session where the presenter, Stephanie, talked for about half an hour going over simple rules and then introducing the RA’s of the program. Each of us had received a name tag with a different colored star sticker on it at the orientation. All of the different RA’s had name tags with stickers on them as well, so RA’s and students with matching stickers would group up and head out and a brief tour of the campus.

University of Chicago Campus Building
The RA I was paired with is named Christian who is a rising senior at UChicago. He is interested in biology, and pre-med, but he still has not declared his major. That is something that is unique to UChicago that was not the case at the other universities we visited. UChicago students have longer than until the end of their sophomore year to declare their major. This tour we took today felt different from other tours because Christian seemed to point out the good and the bad about the school, not just the good. He explained that because the school has such a focus on the liberal arts and a well-rounded education, students who feel they really just want to focus on one specific subject and are very decided on what they want to do in the future will probably no be the best fit for the University of Chicago. This agrees with what a UChicago alum told me at the first dinner we had, in San Francisco. He told me that there is a lot of focus on the common curriculum and that all students learn a lot about philosophy and read and analyze a great deal of literature. Hearing Christian be more honest about what makes the school good for some, and not so good for others was refreshing because many college tours seemed to be very similar to each other, and maybe even a little bit sugar-coated.

The tour was over relatively quickly because the campus is very consolidated and condensed. After the tour, we got our room keys and were able to move into our rooms. I am on the second floor of the building and my roommate, Quincy, arrived about twenty minutes after I did. The dorms are very clean and spacious. There is temperature control, a relatively large closet, and desks. Quincy is home schooled and from St. Louis, where we were just a few days ago. I hope I can get to know her better as time goes on.

My Dorm Room Desk with a View
We went to dinner after unpacking, and I created my own salad from the salad bar. I did not see all of the other options, but I am sure I will become very familiarized with the dining hall as time goes on. I ate with Oyin and Dani, but I also met some other students, one who is taking psychology and will be in the same class as me. When I was putting away my dishes, I ran into Victoria’s roommate, who I had met briefly earlier. She introduced herself to me, and told me that Victoria had let her know that I was taking psychology. She was also taking psychology, and was one of the few people I met who was, although it was one of the most popular classes. I hope to get to know her better as well while we take the class.

After dinner we had another meeting with our tour group and RA going over more rules and just a general orientation. We played an icebreaker game where students would stand in a circle one at a time and say something about themselves. If this applied to other students, they would leave their part of the circle and try to find another spot to stand in the circle. The last person without a place in the circle would have to stand in the center and say something about themselves and so on.

Tomorrow we have more mandatory meetings and orientations. I cannot wait to start my class and get to know my peers better.

Chicago Trip

This Morning we met in the lobby of the hotel at 7:05 AM. As soon as everyone got down to the lobby, we caught a ride on the SuperShuttle to the airport. When we got to the airport we got our tickets, waited for a while and ate some cupcakes from Alie’s birthday because we still had time to relax since our plane to Chicago didn’t come until 10:05 AM.

The Airport
After a while of relaxing, we went through security and lucky for me, Dani, and Alexa had boarding passes that allowed us to go through pre-check and didn’t have to wait in line to get checked. Then we went to our gate to sit down and wait for the plane to arrive.

We started boarding on the plane at 9:35 AM and it took a while because we were called by group number. Our group number was 2. When we finally actually got on the plane, we had to wait to be seated because everyone was getting situated and putting their bags in the overhead bins before sitting down. That took a while, too, because our seats were in the back of the plane. After we sat down we waited to leave and be on our way to Chicago. I actually slept the whole time like the rest of the cohort, which was good because we had another long day ahead of us in Chicago. I don’t even remember taking off, that’s how good the sleep was.

The Omin Hotel
When we arrived at the Chicago airport we went to get our bags and caught a shuttle like usual. The shuttle took us to the Omni Hotel and we checked in, went to our rooms to put our bags away, and then caught a cab to Northwestern University.

After we arrived at the school we went to the Admissions Office to check-in for the info session and tour after. The speaker’s name for the info session is Toni Garcia and she’s an admissions officer. She told us that she never felt unsafe on campus. I learned about the five schools they have there. Those five schools are Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, School of Communication, Medill School of Journalism, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Beinen School of Music. She also let us know that this school is one of the best schools in the country and more about the school. She ended the session and turned it over to all of the tour guides there and they introduced themselves to everyone.

Marie Donaldson~Our Tour Guide
So we split off in groups and we chose to go with a tour guide named Marie Donaldson. She was on the pre-med track and she was majoring in Spanish. On the tour we walked around most of the campus while she talked about the different schools they had like in the info session and showed us one of the libraries they have. We didn’t know at first what the building looked like but she told us that it’s supposed to look like books. She also took us through the Dining Hall and she told us that the meals were paid for by points on the student IDs. The Dining Hall is only for the students and no professors could go in there or have any classes or meeting in the rooms they had for studying. The students use the meeting rooms to study and the students could actually meet to have study sessions together. I liked how there were three athletic gyms. The biggest gym had Ping-Pong, basketball courts, racquetball, tennis, and more. All of the Varsity sports were supported by the students and everyone would go to all the games. Students got in for free with their student IDs. Gladly we ended the tour before it really started raining outside. When we got back to the Admissions Office we met Jaime, who was going to be meeting us at the dinner at 6 PM. The restaurant is called Café Spiaggia.

My Pasta Dinner
At the dinner we met Jaime, Andrew, Vernon, Viral, Monte, and Chris. I didn’t get to talk to most of them but had the pleasure of talking to Vernon and also a short conversation with Monte and Andrew at the end. Vernon and I sat at the end of the table with our chaperone Alie. The appetizers we had were meatballs and different types of cheeses. For dinner I had some type of pasta which I don’t remember the name of but it was Italian. For desert I had Panna Cotta which is gelato topped with blueberries and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

My Panna Cotta Desert
The conversation with Alie and Vernon was very informational. First we talked about the Ivy League Connection and what we were doing in the program. Later on in the conversation Vernon told me that he was a counselor recently for a freshman orientation in the summer and if he had done the whole college experience over again that it would be the reason to come. He also told me that I should be organized so that I won’t have problems with doing my work on time and to have a calendar of the assignments that needed to be turned in. That was really helpful because now I won’t have issues with turning things in late and I will be able to have a clear mind set in my pre-college experience.

Before we left, we were talking about taking selfies in the bathroom for some reason and I got to tell Monte, Andrew, Alie, and Vernon a story about my sisters and I taking selfies in the bathroom and a video of our jingle we made about In-N-Out Burger. That made people want In-N- Out after talking about it. 
The Gang Outside of Café Spiaggia's
To end the night we took a group picture outside the restaurant and then walked back to our hotel since it was like four blocks away. We said our goodbyes and parted to our separate ways. I really liked to tell my story of my sisters and I taking selfies. The jingle goes like this, “In-N-Out... (Snap) In-N-Out... (Snap)In-N-Out... (Snap) In-N-Out... (Snap) I like the cheeseburgers, the fries, milkshakes, ROOTBEER!!!” I sang it on the way back to the hotel to my cohort and they thought it was funny. That jingle was from when I was about nine or ten years old. Lastly, we all went to our rooms to get some sleep for tomorrow’s adventure to UChicago.

Northwestern University, the Omni, and Spiaggia

We’re officially in Chicago!!! We woke up at around 6:30 AM and left Holiday Inn at 7:05 AM to go to the Reagan International airport. At around 11, we finally, finally arrived in Chicago! I felt the same rush of excitement I felt when I first boarded the shuttle to SFO.

We went straight for our hotel, the Omni. It’s insanely nice. It’s definitely one of the best hotels I’ve been to.

Two TVs in one hotel room!
A flat-screen TV is right across the couch
After getting a quick lunch, we went to Northwestern University for our info session and campus tour. Tory, the speaker, told us about the six undergrad schools you can apply to: the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (which Tory basically said is which school you apply to if you’re undecided), the School of Communication (which includes majors and programs like speech, audiology, dance [auditions not needed to get into school], and theater [auditions not needed]), School of Education and Social Policy, School of Engineering and Applied Science (where seniors are required to invent something people can actually use in real life), School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications (which includes internships as part of its program), and the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music (which you do have to audition for).

Tory also explained that Northwestern works on a quarter system, is need-blind and need-based, and how pre-med, pre-law, and business are tracks only. She told us about the free intercampus shuttle, the Happiness club that gives people hugs, how sophomores can have a half work, half study program, and how easy it is for people to get around campus (which is a mile long and half a mile wide).

Touch-screen TVs 
She told us about the application process (which is common app with a supplement). They accept either SAT/ACT scores, have Early Decision (which is binding) or Regular Decision options, and have a writing supplement in which you explain why you chose Northwestern.

Much like the other top universities, they have many, many courses (4,000, with Russian Literature being their top class due to the amazing professor) and majors/minors/concentrations (180+) to choose from, a great student to teacher ratio (7:1), and tons of study abroad programs (130+) and student organizations (480+). Now that I see the same pattern top schools have, I’ll know what to look for in the future.

What I loved the most is how they hold more than 80 student performances each year, and how most everyone in each school gets involved.

Afterwards, we took our campus tour with Marie. Again, we saw really beautiful buildings, both traditional and modern. We saw the Rock, which students can paint on whatever slogan or announcement as long as they guard it for 24 hours prior to painting it. We passed a library shaped like books being pulled out of shelves, passed the beautiful lake, passed multiple emergency blue light poles (though Marie has never once felt unsafe on campus), and entered the large Norris Student Center. I did hear something interesting about those emergency blue light poles, however—if you push the button without an actual reason, you’ll get a $200 fine (with good reason, you don’t play around with that). I like how she explained that graduate programs have said they like more well-rounded students, which is what caused pre-med, pre-law, and business to be tracks.
The Rock
Marie said she picked Northwestern because she fell in love with it and its accessibility, there’s great school spirit, and there’s a great sense of community.
Norris Student Center
After rushing to the hotel, getting dressed, and heading to Spiaggia (which is considered the best Italian place in Chicago that President Obama has been to), we met the alums. Andrew Choi, Viral Patel, Vernon Smith, Monte Nelson, and Chris Keeve were there, as well as Jamie, the admissions officer. I sat between Viral and Jamie, with Chris and Jimmy across from me.

Viral told me how she started college as a Bio major, but switched to Environmental engineering. She told me how easy it is to change majors—it takes as little as three signatures. Chris and Jamie told me stories of friends who had changed majors multiple times (as frequently as twice in a day), which showed me how open and encouraging Northwestern is about letting students explore different subjects.
The cheese platter with honey we all tried. We'll definitely be doing this at home.
When I asked Viral, Chris, and Jamie why they chose Northwestern, they all said how they all felt it was the right fit for them. Also, they explained that the size of the school was perfect—it’s big enough that you can meet new people, yet the classes are small and professors are dedicated and more than willing to help.

Delicious steak
I asked Viral what she learned in the four years she’s gone to Northwestern, and she said she realized that success (academically and socially) aren’t going to come to you if you don’t search for it. This is great advice, one I’ll keep in mind as I go through school.

When I asked Jamie what they love most about Northwestern, she responded by saying how she loves how she could just go to the Student Center and approach a stranger and end up discussing an obscure topic until 2 in the morning. I love that sense of community, one we don’t really have in CA, and will add that to the qualities I’m looking for when applying to schools. Viral said that one thing I should know about Northwestern is that it will open up a lot of doors of opportunity. There are opportunities presented both on campus and in Chicago.

Earl Grey tea and Italian doughnuts
What I loved most about the night was our conversation. For example, we could be talking about studying abroad (which you don’t have to spend more than the regular tuition for), dorm life (which is fun, though you can move out after freshman year), traditions (music festivals all day [2 Chainz was there, apparently], painting the Rock), secret tunnels (they keep you warm during winter!), clubs (there are so many, people usually head two or three of them), how people are at Northwestern (there are both friendly and snooty people), professors (who keep in contact with students for a long time), or weather in Chicago (can get really heavy snow [but I like that, since I’ve never lived in snow before]), and end up talking about fraternities, breakup fights, headlamps, unlikely best friends, or strange school fly-ins. I think it just proves what Jamie said—you could literally talk to people about anything. And I like that.
Jamie on far left
Alie, Andrew, Oyin, Chris, Monte, Vernon, Alexa, Jimmy, Viral, me, and Vicky
Northwestern wasn’t super duper amazing like I thought it would be, but it wasn’t disappointing, either. I’ll definitely make sure to apply when the time comes.