This trip has taught me a lot, not just about myself but other people as well. For a long time I thought it is our experiences that make us as people. I believed that they decide what’s in store for us, and even if they end up being negative for whatever reason, it’s just something we have to live with. I now know that this isn’t completely true, there are many other things that factor into who we are as people. Not only our experiences, but our outlooks, ambitions, and expectations. In some of my first blogs, I wrote about how I went into this trip not expecting anything. I didn’t expect to come out changed, or as a different person because I know that people change gradually over the course of time. However, there are certain experiences like this one, which can be a catalyst for the change that I will most likely face for the rest of this year. And depending on my outlook, ambitions, and expectations, I can either rise to the occasion and achieve even more, or fail and accept to do less. Either way I will have changed, and I think that is noteworthy.
When I look back at the person I was a year ago, I do think that I was lost and incredibly indecisive. I didn’t know what I wanted for myself or what I wanted to be involved in to help other people. My underclassmen years of high school didn’t necessarily leave me unprepared, they honestly just left me questioning. Although I had taken some of the most challenging curriculum at my school and done exceedingly well, I didn’t value these as actual achievements. This is because during those two years, I didn’t feel as if I had met many intrinsic goals or managed to surround myself around people that treasured their education. A year ago, I decided that I didn’t want to just learn about typical subjects. I wanted to find something that I was passionate about. Along with my high school ceramics, physics, and calculus class my first semester, I also took Introduction to Humanities, Personal Development in Life and Work, and International Cuisine at a local community college. I remember these days so well because they were long, I’d leave for high school at 8 AM and come home from community college at 6-7 PM depending on the class. I learned the most from my classmates during all of these classes. What they taught me which I still believe to be truthful and insightful is that everyone is destined to take separate paths in life. And when you meet that fork in the road where you will have to decide, it is better to make the wrong decision and eventually learn from it, then not making any decision at all. Whether you will find yourself on a happy path or a sad path is your choice because the only person in control of your actions and who you become is yourself.
Being a part of the ILC was not my original intention at the start of my junior year. I had no idea what I wanted to partake in during the summer of 2014. The application process wasn’t hard for me, because writing and communication is something that has always come naturally to me. What was hard for me though was doing things in an orderly fashion. Disorganization and negligence is something that I now want to take control of in my life. I also want to be able to receive constructive criticism without becoming enraged and to not be as critical of others. How will I do this? Some of you may be asking, and I’m not 100% sure because often times plans don’t always go smoothly without complications along the way. But what I can say is that when those complications do arise, I will think twice about the consequences of my actions. On a more positive note, the things that I realized I am talented at and have improved on from before my trip is my personal confidence and my ability to engage people with direct and intelligible expressions. I don’t allow myself to fade into the background, and if I have an opinion I am willing to express it, which is something that I cherish. I cherish this because no matter what happens, as long as I am confident with myself as a person, even in disappointing moments, there is nothing that can derail me from what I need to focus on. I have also proved to myself that I am a talented writer and a creative person at heart.
The class that I took at Columbia was just as insightful for me. By hearing everyone’s views from all different parts of the country, I learned that sometimes the best view to take is the moderate one. The Bay Area is a liberal place, which has influenced the majority of my beliefs, however, this doesn’t disregard the beliefs of others. A lot of times, there was some truth to the views of other people, even if they were conservative. This is why I think the American Constitution and the checks and balances system are so important. They allow open interpretation of documents and texts, which insure that even the minority in a group of people, will have their views considered. My professor did a great job of having the class be a respectful and open environment. I was definitely impressed by this class and am looking forward to the classes that I take in college.
The friends that I made while I stayed at Columbia were some of the most supportive friends I’ve had in a long time. When I had a problem, I could come to them and we could talk. What we could also do was have loads of fun with each other. Even if we were taking the subway to a new destination or just chilling in the lounge, we were always enjoying each other’s company. The dance that we went to on the final day was nothing short of spectacular and I’m glad we all got to show off our moves. I am going to miss them so much, and I plan to meet up with a few of them sometime this summer. I couldn’t have asked for a better time with them. I enjoyed the discussions that we had about our lives and what we wanted for ourselves as we navigate through our final years of high school.
There is one friend in particular that I want to write about who changed the course of my trip, Dara. I met her my first week at Columbia, and I was having a bad afternoon. I remember the creeping feeling of homesickness actually catching up with me, but I chose to pray and not let it get to me. As I was walking to go on an RA trip, I saw her sitting on a bench writing in her journal. The first thing that I noticed was that she was black, and I hadn’t seen a lot of diversity at the camp we were attending, so this gave me even more courage to talk to her. After spending the day with her and being introduced to her friends, I realized that we had a lot in common. Many of the issues that I felt like I was facing, she was facing too. Her maturity and her strength in character is something that I will remember and aspire towards even when we are not together. I will always remember the afternoon we spent at Central Park together, when she and I blew glitter on the place that we felt the happiest on our entire trip. In the moment of blowing the glitter, it came to me that I could be anywhere with a friend like her and be completely happy and comfortable. Lying on the grass and watching the clouds with her was one of those precious moments that I can always reflect back on. As I now know from my life and from this trip, it is better to go through good and bad experiences, than to not experience anything at all.
I hope that through reading my blogs, you have learned something about yourself and what you want for your life. I hope that you already have or are willing to pursue something that you are passionate about, no matter the risks. Most importantly, I hope that you understand what this experience has meant to me and that the hard work that Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg, and Don Gosney do is incredibly valuable to the students who take advantage of it. If you are a student who wants to apply for the ILC and believe that you have the maturity to be independent and learn something about yourself, then I urge you to apply to this program. If you are humble and honest enough with yourself, you will take away something great from it, just as I have.