Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Reflecting Back and Looking Forward ~ Jae-An Wang

Remember this?
The Ivy League Connection is one of the most unique programs I've encountered. It provides opportunities for a glimpse at college life for students who might not necessarily be able to. Simply put, it expands horizons; at least, that's what it did for me.

Starting early this year, I became a two-time participant in the ILC, the first time at the University of Chicago, and this year at Vanderbilt University. Despite Don's assurances that we were worthy candidates for the program, I wasn't quite sure. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect: would it be exactly the same as last year? Would I get anything more? Of course, the structure of VSA completely threw out any expectations for me of repetition from last year; more on that later.

I loved this campus. Pity I'm not applying :(
The first few days of the trip were almost dreamlike, and I bonded almost instantly with the other cohort members as we spent time together touring colleges. We visited both Emory University and Vanderbilt, two schools that I can now safely cross off of my list of colleges to apply to; while both are fantastic schools, I'm looking for more of a specialized engineering program (not Emory, which puts an emphasis on liberal arts) that has a strong mechanical engineering department (not Vanderbilt, which focuses on the biomedical aspect). Plus, I'd like to stay away from the South and country music for a while...I've gotten quite a lot of that recently...But it was really important to me to get a refresher on the high quality of schools that are out there as well as the difficulty of being accepted. T_T

That fateful day where I chomped someone's ice cream...
Then came the actual program. As I said one paragraph previously, the structure of VSA was quite unlike what I was expecting; there were much more activities. And while activities = fun, it left me with severe time restrictions on what else I could do; basically the whole thing turned into a giant test of time management, one of my weaker points. Although I did eventually work out a schedule that balanced recreational activities, planned activities, blogging, and sleep, let's just say that I've come home more motivated than ever to work on an important life skill.

Perhaps some of the most important lessons I learned came from class. Not just the course material, mind you; for the first time, I worked on an engineering project in a team and successfully completed it. I gained lots of insight on group dynamics, communication, and planning during this time. And even though the end result wasn't quite finished, I learned how to accept and cope with it. Learning from mistakes and failures is important if you want to become an engineer. 
Best way to vent steam? Lie on the ground whilst balancing PVC pipes. 10/10 would recommend.

These past two summers have been some of the most important times of my life, and I'd like to give special thanks to Don Gosney, Madeline Kronenberg, all the sponsors, the School Board, and anyone else who made this opportunity possible. I hope that future students can continue to participate in this once (or twice)-in-a-lifetime experience, because the memories and qualities and skills I've gained from this will surely be used far into my future.
Thank you.

To be continued.

My Time at Vanderbilt ~ Jae-An Wang

Having writer's block is pretty terrible. You just can't quite put the words out there that make sense in the way that you want them to, in the way that'll show exactly what you mean. This is exactly what I'm suffering from right now. Nothing I type will be able to show all you readers precisely what transpired this summer at Vanderbilt. But I can still try.

Ah, there we go.

I came to call this "home."
The first day, moving into our dorms: I'm scared. Scared of my roommate. Scared I won't make any friends. Scared I'll be hopelessly unprepared for class. But I put a smile on my face, brush the doubts out of my head, and step into Hank Ingram to meet everyone. No use in worrying, anyway.

Looking back on my time with VSA, I realize now that I barely even had to worry over the course of those three weeks. I met some of the funniest, friendliest, relatable people I know. Jiayu, my roommate: talking at midnight with you was always really funny! You hold lots of interesting views on China, people, anime, and much more. Keep the savagery down a notch, alright? There were others: Nakhul, Greg/John Green, Savanna...I can't list them all here, but their presence was half of why Vanderbilt was fun and meaningful to me.

VSA Engineering 2016.
If the people were one portion of the Vanderbilt experience, then another equally or even more important part of it was class. I was taught so much: how to work on a team to solve an ultimate problem, how our society is still far from being accessible to all kinds of people, how to use power tools without accidentally decapitating myself...thanks to Edward for that last one ;)

All in all, while I'm happy to be back, if I could go through that experience again, I totally would. I've emerged a more confident, outspoken young adult, and look forward to my own future.

Reflecting Back~ Jacqueline Rojas Cortez

I am currently suffering from the same thing that Jae-An is suffering from... Ah yes... "writer's block"... I just finished writing my most recent blog where I spoke of my times while at Vanderbilt and now I must speak of my time with the Ivy League Connection...

How I felt When I got Accepted..
My time in ILC began when I was accepted the day of the interview. I was so exited to hear the news. Especially since my mentor was there to see it. I went home feeling very emotional and with raging confidence. I just got a scholarship to spend my summer visiting universities and learning about something that interests me. I felt unstoppable.... I still do... I got home and everything quickly escalated. I walke
d in through the door and yelled "I'm going to Nashville!!!" They had no idea what was going on... Neither did I.. but the emotions were out there. I quickly explained to them that I had gotten into the ILC and was going to Nashville over the summer. My oldest sister began to cry and she hugged me really hard. I began crying too. It was a big moment for my family and I because I will be the first person to go to college. My Mom barely finished middle school and the rest of my siblings didn't know about college benefits so didn't even go to college. They wanted me to do what they didn't do at such a young age. They wanted me to care about my education and plan for my future. To this moment I have, and that is why my family is so proud of me and everything I do. 

I'm Going to Miss the Nashville Sky..
I spent the rest of the school year waiting for the moment of departure to come. I went to the dinner, the training, the orientation and meetings that all led up to the moment I had to say goodbye to my family for a month.

The moment I said goodbye to my family was quick but warm. I told them that I was going to soon be back, that I was going to call them everyday(which did not happen,) and that I was going to miss them dearly. I got onto the shuttle with the rest of my cohort and went off to the SFO Airport. The rest is history...

Miss You All...
I shared an entire month with such wonderful people and would love to relive it again. I cannot explain how thankful I am for being given the opportunity to go beyond the bubble I have grown up in and see what the world has for me. Without the Ivy League Connection I wouldn't be the person I am today. I have advanced academically and socially. I feel much more confident in myself and I know that I have great things ahead of me. Thank you Don Gosney, Madeline Kronenberg and to all of our sponsors for teaching me that in order to gain new opportunities I must open the door as soon as somebody knocks. I will take that and share it with the rest of the world..

Reflecting Back ~ Jahnvi Doshi

ILC started in December, and that sounds so long ago. Those early days were some stressful days.
The beginning: Packing
From fretting about whether my essays were good enough, to regret after I came out of the interview room after taking such a long time, I was doubting myself of whether I was going to get in. When I did get accepted, I was so excited. The people in my cohort seemed so nice and I knew from that moment that I would have a lot of fun with them.

I can gladly admit that ILC has made me a more confident and responsible person. The dinner where we met Vanderbilt alumns opened me up. I was able to talk freely to adults I had just met, and it was so fun. They all looked so official and were all very successful people. Giving a speech in front of them was very intimidating, but they were very supportive and that built up so much confidence in me.

Jackie taking a picture
Then came the tutorial and orientation, where I was able to meet everyone else in ILC, and got to fool around with my best friends. It made me excited that the time to leave was getting nearer and nearer.

Finally, it was time to leave. I couldn't have been more excited. Packing had gotten stressful in my house, and I couldn't wait for more freedom. However, I still had butterflies from leaving my parents. This would be the longest I've stayed away from my parents. Once we got on the shuttle, it was, as we all say, LIT!

My cohort group and our chaperone bonded greatly during the one week at Atlanta. We had so much
fun, and didn't want to part once VSA started. I don't know how anyone can have so much fun while constantly moving to different states and in such less time, but we did. We bonded over different things, and met new people, like Simon, our fabulous tour guide.
Simon with us

At VSA, I met so many different people. As you've read from my previous blog, the different people there forced me to step outside of my comfort zone greatly. I made so many great friends there: Taylor (there were two of them), Nakhul, who I was just on the phone with, Sarah, Emma, Olivia my lovely roommate who I could pour my heart out to, Alex who was so fierce and smart, Lainey who could make weird noises, Greg who looked like John Green, and so many other people. (By the way, I was able to successfully get other people on board with calling him John too, so I'm not the only crazy one.) All this has made me much more confident and social. 

When people say that ILC has changed their life, they're not lying. It's the complete truth. There is so much packed in four weeks that it's almost impossible to come back unchanged. It's harder to notice the changes in me since it's only been a few days, but I know that I feel a difference. And it's the best difference I have ever felt.
When we went to an art station once

My Time at Vanderbilt~ Jacqueline Rojas Cortez

I walked into my dorm with a smile on my face. My complexion may have appeared confident at the moment, but deep inside I was nervous. After some time, I soon realized that I had no reason to be nervous. My roommate walked into the dorm and greeted me with a hug and a huge smile on her face. 

My roommate's name was Kate Cavanaugh. She's from North Carolina, not far from Nashville. She had initially described her excitement on being able participate in VSA for the summer because she had never been on her own without the presence of her family for an extended period of time. I felt the same exact way. This was the first time I was going to leave home to be in a state unknown to me and reside in a university for nearly three weeks. 

Kate and I heading off to the OR.
As the minutes quickly passed, Kate and I became lost in conversation and laughter. We each talked about what its like to live on opposite ends of the country and what its like going to different schools. Kate went to a boarding school near her hometown, whereas I went to a public school a few blocks from home. We both came from different places and had exposure to different things but were still able to understand and relate to each other.

We soon found out that we were both in MED101. It is really rare for students in the same course to be placed in the same room. It was so exiting to be able to share our excitement for the course. It was exiting being able to talk about medical stuff to my roommate and have her understand and be just as exited as I was about the course. We got along very well from the start of VSA. I knew from that point that all of my worries were for nothing. I was given the best roommate I could have possibly asked for.

Aside from having such an awesome roommate, I was also assigned to the best proctor group ever. My proctor leader was Sasha Whitley, a second year at Vanderbilt. She is so amazing. I cannot express all the joy she brought to the group. Shasa brought the light out in each of us and made her room a safe space for all of us. Sasha was our mother, aside from the two other moms I have. My proctor group consisted of nine wonderful teenage girls. They were all so sweet, ambitious and intelligent. It was wonderful being able to form a bond with all of them. My proctor group went from being incredibly shy in the beginning of the program to a family at the end. We left the program heartbroken. We were a family and did not want to see each other go off to continue living our lives. We have all stayed in contact since the program ended. I cannot imagine going to VSA and being assigned to another proctor group. This, besides the course, was one of my most dearest experiences at VSA.

My Wonderful Proctor Group
Nakhul and I
NI went to VSA not thinking that I was going to associate myself with people other than my cohort. Yet again, I was wrong. I met one of my now closest friends, Nakhul. He is so funny and smart. It was such a blast having him around. He always lightened up my days and always looked for small things to make things much more exiting and fun. Besides being the party, he became one of my closest friends. We bonded over course of the three weeks and have continued to stay in touch. I remember the day that Nakhul came to sit next to me at the table when I was lonely. Since that day, we have depended on each other as friends and even as classmates. It was wonderful being able to share such an experience with such a great human being. Until you get accepted to UC Berkeley Nakhul.... that is when we shall see each other again and laugh until we cry.

This is why VSA is so great. VSA is not just known for how prestigious it is. VSA is a place of meeting new people and creating new relationships. VSA was an amazing opportunity and cannot thank the Ivy League Connection enough for letting me be a part of such an amazing program. I learned many things from this experience. It is okay to be outside of my comfort zone. That is what leads to new opportunity. Opportunities like learning how to roller skate, making connection with people I initially thought I was not going to make connection with, and showing all the potential I have to succeed in college.

Here I have linked a video showing all the fun we had in Session III of VSA:


~Just so you guys know, I was the first to think of attaching this link :)... *cough*Jahnvi*cough

My Time at Vanderbilt ~ Jahnvi Doshi

I would be straight up lying if I said I wasn't intimidated at all when I first came to VSA. I had
Proctor group at the mall
butterflies in my stomach and I hoped that I would find good friends when I came in. When I met my roommate, she seemed to be such a nice person that my heart filled with warmth. I knew for a fact that I wouldn't be seeing any bullies or mean people. Then, I met the people in my proctor group. I felt slightly intimidated again. As we did ice breaker games, I felt better and the intimidation eased away.

Then, it was time to meet the people in my class. I knew that Edward and Jae-An were in my class and I forced myself to try not to talk to them, but to others I had never met before. Afterwards, I realized that I was pushing myself a bit too much. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone when it came to socializing, but I should do it step by step. I did just that, and things felt much better.

Now, this was the most freedom I had ever experienced: from doing laundry to choosing a healthy diet on my own. And yes, doing laundry on my own was a huge deal. All of my favorite clothes could have shrunk and been ruined for good, but I survived that test of life. I feel so accomplished. In all seriousness though, I feel as if I have grown a lot from being forced to do most things alone. It makes me feel much more responsible and confident. 

As I look back to the time I had in the past three weeks, what I mostly see is the fun times I had with my friends: laughing super loud until our stomachs hurt, going out to eat and doing small dares, dancing and singing together, and more. The people there were all very kind, passionate, and confident. They all had so much talent in them, yet were all so humble. It was such a great experience to meet such people. 

Now, it's time for me to be completely honest. Most of the people
At Mellow Mushrooms
there had one similar lifestyle, and it was a lifestyle that was not similar to me. It seemed a bit hard to relate to them, and I found it a bit hard to fit in. However, it only felt that way for the first few days. After that, I got used to it and I started having even more fun. In fact, I can say that the best part of the camp was how I didn't fit in at first. I know, that sounds really weird...but that's exactly what forced me to take a huge leap out of my comfort zone. And I'm glad I did, because now I feel as if I can fit in anywhere else too. And, would I ever want to go back there? Of course I would!!

Oh, here's a link to the VSA video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHv55S6xi4Y
Candid picture with Langston at Nashville Prosthetics

Photo idea to my friend who I met
on the bus while talking about pick-up lines

Reflecting Back ~ Edward Hernandez

Being a part of the ILC allowed me to experience things I would have never done otherwise. It has shown me the world that is out there and the diversity of people there are.  From the start, it was difficult because of the support I was afraid I wasn’t going to get from my dad. But it was the complete opposite, he was the most supportive of my decision. ILC taught me that to get something you want, you might have to sacrifice other simple pleasures. You have to be able to balance work and fun. ILC made me aware of that fact, and that is how the real world works. There isn’t time to play any games. What has to get done, has to get done. 

The biggest thing the ILC has taught me has been communication. Whatever the reason may be, you have to constantly be aware of the fact that whatever responsibility has been given to you, there should be an answer before that due time. The earlier the better. Whatever you agreed to doing, has to be done. With your word of yes or no, comes the actions you must accomplish. 

ILC has been a door opener for me. Being able to take an engineering course has let me broaden my skill set for the future. It is what will allow for me to give back to the community. ILC isn’t going to give me a spot somewhere, but they gave me the opportunity to work for that spot, be at a school or job. That is what the ILC is, it is an opportunity for people like me to see thing that are out of reach and given the opportunity to get where I want to be. I would like to thank the ILC for everything that they have done.

Monday, August 1, 2016

My Time at Vanderbilt ~ Edward Hernandez

Being able to go to Vanderbilt really opened my eyes. From the moment you start to see everyone round you, you are special but no longer different. You are with people you can relate to and you don’t feel like there is a barrier between anybody because everyone has a similar goal. The absolutely best part is the people that I meet over there. Even if some people are rough around the edges, everyone there was supportive of me. People that I never talked to would encourage me to do things that I wouldn’t normally do on my own. Everyone becomes nice, social, and generous toward each other. 

In class, no ideas were wrong and everyone’s participation is included. If someone stays quiet, another person calls them out for their opinion. This, to me, is very valuable to see and experience because I have never been in this type of environment, so was nice and pleasurable to be able to be in it.

I was able to know people from Saudi Arabia who are phenomenal people. They are nice, and they try their best. Just being around them is something I value a lot. I had a roommate, and having to live with someone out of the blue was uncomfortable at first, but I enjoyed it. It was a relationship you had to have and I enjoyed it. Throughout it all, being at Vanderbilt is something I will not be able to forget. It was 3 weeks, but it felt like a year. It was over in a flash and I had an awesome time.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Dr. Cortez is Temporarily off Duty...

I woke up to an empty room. Wonderful way to wake up.... HAHA.. Especially on the last day of the program...... If you didn't know, I was being sarcastic. 

I slowly forced myself out of bed and finished last minute packing before cleaning my room and heading off to breakfast. I sat with my usual group.. Jahnvi, Jae-An, Taylor, and Nahkul. We shared the table and laughed until we felt the six-packs coming. It all felt a bit too odd. It didn't feel like we were hours away from going our separate ways. Breakfast went by really fast and we were soon ushered off onto the patio.  We were given five minutes to say our heartfelt goodbyes and leave VSA for good. I couldn't help but feel saddened at the fact that I was going to leave one of my newest and now closest friends, Nahkul. I gave him the biggest hug anybody could imagine and told each other that we would see each other very soon. 

I went back to my room and looked at it once more before taking my stuff out and finally heading down to sign out of Hank Ingram. It still didn't feel like I was leaving... I left Hank Ingram feeling numb. I really didn't want to leave. The time came and Mom arrived to pick us up. We went to Nashville Airport and headed off to Atlanta. I slept the whole time because I didn't want to lose myself in my own thoughts. I was still sad. We got to Atlanta and were now headed off to San Francisco. This airplane trip was really fun. I got to sit with Jahnvi and Jae-An. We laughed and spoke of our experience at VSA until we landed five hours later at the SFO Airport. 

Landing in San Francisco was a bit strange. I felt like a foreigner. I felt out of place. I really wanted to go back to Nashville. We grabbed our luggage and made our way back to El Cerrito High School where Don was waiting for us. We said our goodbyes and eventually had to leave...


Wake up. Shower. Brush. Change. Go down to breakfast.

Our last day began just as any other day would, only infused with an underlying sense of angst and sadness, to put it melodramatically.

Saying our final parting wishes
Breakfast was cut down to less than a half hour, so as to provide five minutes of time on the commons patio for us to say our goodbyes to friends. Strange, how that was arranged. Anyhow, from there on was just a nonstop feels train. People were hugging, laughing over memories of these past three weeks, signing each other's term books...it was like an exaggerated version of the last day of school.

After saying our tearful goodbyes, we were sent to wait on our floors. I still had to finish packing, so I kind of just haphazardly tossed what was left in random suitcases while intermittently going to our floor's common area to see who was leaving. One by one, the proctor group fellas were checked out, and eventually Mom came to pick us up. #chillinwiththefellas#thefellashipwillneverdie

The time spent in the airport/airplane/shuttle seemed to zoom by. I saw roommate Jiayu at the airport one last time, which was extremely odd, as if an actor had taken the wrong cue and showed up in the wrong scene. The plane rides (from Nashville to Atlanta and from Atlanta to SFO) were mostly spent sleeping, with sporadic conversations when we were all awake.

Getting off the plane was, well, weird. The air of SF was colder than the air-conditioned classrooms at Vandy. The clouds were all wrong. I was starving from barely having eaten anything. All in all, it was more like I was visiting another place rather than returning home, strangely enough. We found our luggage and headed back to El Cerrito High School, said our goodbyes, and parted ways.

To be continued

Tears and Goodbyes

I'm leaving. It had just struck me. I got up from my bed and sat up and just thought. I thought of all
Our last breakfast :'(
the people I might not ever see again but had so many memories with. But then I fixed myself and optimistically thought about the few more hours we still had together. I finished packing, and went out for the last breakfast. I brought my termbook with me, and asked anyone left to sign it. After that, we had a few minutes outside the Commons to give everyone hugs for the last time and sign more termbooks. With the few minutes left, it got very stressful and sad.

We all climbed up to our rooms and were forced to stay on our floors. We spent a few more hours together and then one by one we all began to leave. There were many tears and hugs. Suddenly, Caroline, our RA said that Mom was downstairs and I had to leave. I gave hugs to everyone, and was about to cry. I collected myself and carried all my bags to the elevator. Downstairs, I met with the rest of my cohort and a few more of my friends, to who I gave more hugs. 

We rushed to the airport and ate a Starbucks sandwich there. Soon, it was time to get on the one hour flight to Atlanta. I was between Edward and Mom, so I couldn't find any strangers to talk to.

Group hug full of love
Our flight had been greatly delayed so we had to run to the next flight so that we weren't late. There, Jackie, Jae-An, and I sat in one row. Since it was the last few hours, we decided to not fall asleep and talk the entire time. And that's exactly why we didn't start any of our work on the plane. 

After we landed, there was some confusion on baggage claims. In this confusion, we met an elderly couple, and the husband was actually a Vanderbilt alumni! Sadly, I couldn't take a picture with him because of the rush, but it was really cool meeting him. 

After reaching ECHS, the four of us tried to make a plan to go to the movies together, but it was unsuccessful. After giving emotional goodbye hugs, we left to go home. Everything felt so different, and I can't explain why. All I know is that it is a good different. 

Coming to an End

We had a wonderful time at VSA. The final ceremony right before the dance hit a lot of us right in the heart. With the 3 main representatives speeches came crashing a waterfall of tears from all the students. We watched a small video, a compilation of photos at VSA. Everyone had forced laughter, with something in their throats, trying not to show the pain they felt. I wonder if I’m the only one who noticed. As we were dismissed, some laughing and some crying, everything felt flat. There was a halt in the emotions that usually surrounded everyone's face because we knew it was our last day we would each other...at least for a while.

We all went to the dance, and some people showed off moves they never knew they had (me). Party Rock got the dance started and virtually everyone danced their feet away. I know I did.

After the dance we went to our dorms for our final rest before leaving home.

The morning came and I woke up early to send people off that had an early flight. After that, those who stayed went to eat breakfast and then went to pack. Before I noticed, it was time to go. I said my goodbyes and left.......with valuable memories.

We went to the airport and ended up at our gate about an hour before boarding, so we walked around a bit. When we got back to our gate, I talked with a wonderful woman named Daisy from Puerto Rico. She and her husband, a veteran, were going back home to Atlanta after her nephew's wedding. After people started boarding it turns out that our luggage had to be checked to our destination because they ran out of overhead compartment space. After we landed we made our connecting flight to San Francisco, we couldn't find our luggage. As luck has it, we were in the wrong building. We found our way to our luggage and to the shuttle. The trip from the airport to school was fun, we were able to express ourselves to each other in both good and bad ways. We finally arrived at El Cerrito High school and we met our parents and Don. We wanted to go to the movies but couldn't and then we all went home.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Final Page?

Our team, the car, and Will
I don't know where to start. There was so much going on today since it was the last day. Now, I'm really bad at expressing emotions through words, and today has just been a rollercoaster of emotions. So, bear with me as I try to explain my day. 

First wave of emotions: We gave our car to Will! There was a lot to take in for the poor child as soon as he sat into the car and moved. He started crying at first while, and calmed down as soon as he got into the car. We had to add a seat belt made of Velcro so that he doesn't slip out of his seat. However, the minute Will learned to push the handle bar and get the car moving on his own, was the most wonderful feeling. It made my heart feel so warm.

After this was closing ceremony where they played a slideshow of pictures from the past weeks, and it brought back so many memories. Also, V-House won the House Cup!! (I'm in V-House in case you didn't remember). We won!! 

We got time to hang out together, pack, and write letter to each other and sign each other's termbooks after. (Termbooks are small VSA yearbooks.) We got more free time between dinner and the dance. At the dance, we all took so many pictures. And the last song they played was "See you Again." It was very emotional. We stayed up until one talking, hugging, and saying good-byes. 

Since it's easier to show in pictures, here are a few of the pictures that I have taken today. 

Jackie, me, and Taylor
Me and Greg

Our gorgeous proctor group

Thursday, July 28, 2016

In the End...

Elijah and Dad.
Sadly enough, today was the last full day of VSA. It definitely felt like a last day - people were hugging each other everywhere, signing each other's books...there was just a sense of finality to the day. Being the last day of class, we had to present our modified cars to our assigned children today, over at Belmont University. Our group was fairly certain we had fixed most of the problems that had come up. Boy, were we wrong.

For some reason, things that were fine when we tested them in the morning started going wrong. The battery suddenly became too week, the back support had to be readjusted, the steering wheel was too loose...the list goes on and on. We did all we could, but ended up having to postpone the car delivery date to Elijah's family; Amanda announced that she would work out the kinks in the car and deliver it personally. 

It was incredibly disappointing not being able to directly see the results of our efforts, but I'm able to accept this failure. Our team put in as much effort as we could have, and I learned so much over the course of just a few weeks. If only we had a little more time, we could have successfully completed our task. But hey, in real life you don't always get the things you need.

All the VSA students gathered here today...
Immediately after class we were whisked to the closing ceremony. To me, it felt like the VSA leaders tried really hard to hit us right in the feels, and it kind of worked. If anything, the ceremony was more like a joyful event rather than a tearful one, even if there were sentimental moments. They showed a slide shows of assorted pictures from our time here, brought up memories of proctor groups...at one point someone quoted Perks of Being a Wallflower (one of my favorite books ever) in a speech. The ceremony was kind of like a shock to me, like "Oh my god. This is actually happening, we're leaving tomorrow." I know it'll be more painful tomorrow morning.

Following some free time, which I used to pack and clean the room (which was actually pretty difficult, by the way. Stuff migrates across a room in a couple of weeks.), we had our last dance! I was in a good mood, but just didn't feel like dancing, so I found a quiet room and chatted with some people. I met Katrina, from Vancouver, Washington, who did a tarot card reading for me, interestingly enough. I'll spare the boring details about my romantic future, shall I? Anyhow, Jackie, Katrina, and I had a very deep conversation about a jumble of topics: the universe, autism, birth control...it was quite enjoyable, and a welcome alternative to whipping ten thousand times for lack of a better dance move.

To conclude the day, we had our final proctor group meeting, and had a hilarious time playing "Hot Seat." I could probably live with the boys for another ten years without getting tired of them, because they are funny. Oh, and I was also noted for being the student with the "most improved sleep schedule." I will neither confirm whether deny the truthfulness of this statement. :P

Last time seeing this gorgeous view...#7thfloor#realgood

It'll be time for departure soon. See you in a little bit.

Last Day

Today was the last full day of VSA. The first thing we did was to go the new problems in law class and we were their guinea pigs to test how memorization is affected with regular actions of everyday. After that we went to the Toy Lab to give out teacher, TA, and people who helped out with our class.

We finished up the car and then we all sent it to Belmont where the kids were going to be. We left for lunch and some people started crying because they realized it was the last day to see each other.

After lunch we went to Belmont to get the final touches on the car fixed, for example, the seat angle was wrong and there thongs of the sort. It was all things that could not be done right without the child there. The most terrible thing happened, our car failed. Out of nowhere the battery wasn't charging, the button was causing a short-circuit, and there was no way to open the back of the vibrator to change batteries. Our team was devastated. We couldn’t get the car to work right. Apparently there was some problem with the battery that we didn’t know about.

After dinner everyone freshened up to go to the dance. At the end, for the last song, some people started crying.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Doctor is In...

Today was quite average. Well, atleast for the most part..

In MED101 we had to show off our amazing physician skills. My class went to CELA, the section of Vanderbilt University that is used by medical students to practice any form of physical exams that may be performed during checkups. We were assigned partners and we're expected to go into the mock clinic room to interview a fake patient to understand how they are feeling and to look for potential reasons why they may feel abnormal. We were also required to perform cardiac and physical exams. My partner, Sophia, and I went into the mock room nervously and did all we were instructed to do. We "foamed in", knocked on the door, introduced ourselves, made ourselves comfortable(although not too comfortable), and asked the patient why they had shown up. After a series of questions to better understand the concerns of our patient and medical history, we began our physical exams. We listened to our patients heart(in search for systolic and diastolic contractions) and felt for the patients carotid pulse. We then transitioned to the last portion of the physical exam which concerned the individuals state of neurology. We made sure that all of the cranial nerves were in correct function and checked for our patients reflexes.

This mock examination of a fake patient was wonderful. It made me happy to be able to interact with a patient even if they were acting the whole time. I just felt exited to be able to directly see a patient and help diagnose and treat the patient. Seems like a great job.. Perhaps I have something else to consider?

Wear Your Lanyards, Kids

Judgement day. Crunch time. The decisive day. Whatever you want to call it, today was the last day to work on our project cars, which we will be presenting to our selected families tomorrow. Augh. Presenting. That word always makes me cringe internally, both from embarrassment and nervousness.

Edward is so done with life.
Oh, and that's our car.
Anyhow, my group was only one of two groups out of five that had not finished their projects yet, so while the others did a lab involving chicken bones on stress and strain, we were busily finishing what we could. Several problems came up just today: there wasn't enough seat space for him, the booster seat wasn't secure and came apart, we didn't have enough supplies, we had to wire in a new component in the electrical circuit...the list of issues went on. Somehow, by some miracle, we were able to work through nearly all of the issues - but it wasn't easy. I must have lost another decade or so while stressing over how to solve all the design problems. Hmm...I already have white hairs... ;_;

Eating ice cream on a hot day really is nice.
Afterwards, Amanda took us all outside to celebrate the completion of our cars through ice cream! She bought quite a few ice cream bars and popsicles, so we each got three. Highlight of my day, right there. By the way, I accidentally ate a bite of Jahnvi's ice cream...I was trying to get her attention, and she pointed her popsicle right at me, which I assumed was a signal of offering. Of course, it was not. Lel.

Unfortunately, tonight's soft night was cut short by an unfortunate incident. Basically, I was caught not wearing my lanyard, which we are supposed to have on at all times. But let me back up. 

At least I saw this cute bunny on the way back...
Jackie, Jahnvi, Nakhul, and I were all planning to go look for super cheap clothes and coffee, and end up strolling in a clothing store. All the clothes are ridiculously overpriced (a pair of shorts for several hundred dollars?! Now, this was before their "markdowns."), so we start to leave. However, Nakhul has to buy a belt, so the other two and I wait outside. I start fiddling with my lanyard, since I hate wearing things on my neck, and a proctor comes by. After ordering us to go in and accompany Nakhul in the store, she sees I'm not wearing my lanyard and says I must go back to the dorms for the night. 

I literally stared at her for a good twenty seconds before realizing that she wasn't joking.

Although my friends ended up coming back with me, this was probably the "down" of my day. Rules are rules, sure, but my lanyard was only around two to three feet away from me...I wasn't mad or anything, just a mix of understanding and for lack of a better term, self-pity. 

The incident aside, I rather enjoyed myself today. I finally learned (courtesy of Edward) that the microwaves in the dining commons can melt cheese on your hamburger and fries, which makes such a huge difference in taste, surprisingly.

I'm hungry now...

Waterfall.....of Blood

Today there was another lab in class about compression and extension on bones. I didn't get to participate because I was finishing up the car for our group. I finished without disruption and the car turned out very well. Ours is the only one with manual parental control (it can be controlled wirelessly).  After lunch we had ice cream together.

I was able to play ping-pong against myself. Now it's not because no one plays with me, it's because there are 2 Edwards here at VSA so we have a joke of being on separate teams so I (technically) always win. YAY!!!   ......there are also 3 Mohammed’s but they kind of don’t like each other.

I headed out with Sam and Mohammed to Pangaea because I wanted to get a little something for someone back home. Unfortunately, it was closed so we went around looking for small gifts around the campus. While we were looking around, we stopped by a Pokémon Gym and I was able to buff up the gym and add another Pokémon so it would be harder for the other 2 teams, Instinct (Yellow) and Valor (Red) to take over my gym. I am of course on team Mystic (Blue), the best team. After that, we went over to the "beach" party where we threw water balloons at each other and played volleyball. I ended today with my nose bleeding while blogging as I type this…….send help…….please………..*dies with blood gushing out of nostrils* ;)

Bones and Jello

Today wasn't very eventful for some odd reason. In class, we continued the Jello experiment, and
Jello tester
our Jello was very weak. It got squished the minute we clamped it to test the tensile strength, or basically how much it can be pulled before breaking. Then, we tested the strength of chicken bones. I felt so bad for the chicken as my group member pulled the muscles off the bone. 

After class, we had free time, and I hung out with friends. Then we had our usual schedule of dinner and soft night. Today, I went out to a clothing store,  that was supposed to be cheap, with friends. That didn't work out as expected and so we returned back to our dorms. 

Tomorrow, however, I know will be a very eventful day. It just has to be.

Compression machine testing chicken bone

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Everything is Intertwined...

In yesterday's blog I mentioned that today I was going to be able to see my favorite structure of the brain. Can you guess what structure that was??... Yes, you guessed right.. it was the Amygdala. I went to MED101 really exited about getting to see a structure that is only 1.24 cm in length.

We walked up three flights of stairs to get to our class and sat waiting for our instructors to begin our daily lesson. Before getting on to actually look at brains, one of our instructors, Alex, gave a lecture on the pathology of the brain and what could go wrong within the brain. 

Today's lecture was particularly interesting in comparison to all the other pathology presentations given on the past two weeks. This presentation was very brief yet was still very interesting.  Since we already knew about the anatomy and physiology of the brain, thanks to Roger, Alex went on to list many of the most common problems that could occur within the brain. Out of sole memory, I recall Alex talking about the two types of headaches. Alex talked about primary and secondary headaches. Primary because these certain headaches do not occur because of another issue in the brain, and secondary because something else is causing the headache. Primary headaches consist of Migraines, Tension headaches, and Cluster headaches. Whereas secondary headaches are usually caused by nasty diseases like Meningitis or by something as minuscule as a sinus infection. 

After this, Alex went on to talk about other terrible things that may occur in the brain as a result of complications that may occur outside of the nervous system. Last week was focused on the heart and complications of the heart. It is very possible for complications in the circulatory system to affect other parts of the body, which in this case is the nervous system. To make better sense of this phenomena, a made-up scenario was presented.

"M is a 52 year old male who has come in to see his primary care physician because he is has lost sensation on the right side of his face and the left side of his upper and lower extremities. M has slurred speech and is feeling lightheaded and complains of a headache that is specific to the upper right portion of his head. All of M's vital signs are normal, minus his blood pressure which is at 200/70. M mentions that he has problems with regurgitation of the mitral valve and also has been hospitalized for a series of strokes." Most of these are all circulatory problems. How are problems within the circulatory system able to affect the nervous system?

This question was the main topic for the majority of our class time. We brainstormed reasons as to why the brain was being affected as a result of something that may have originated in the heart. We paid very close attention to the patient's symptoms and all came to the agreement that these were all symptoms of a stroke. The only question left unanswered was how the heart and brain were connected in this context and the type of stroke that was taking place.

During the unit on the circulatory system, it was presented that things like mitral regurgitation may lead to blood clots, which may travel freely throughout the body, perhaps vessels in the brain. Based on M's medical history, this was the underlying problem. M has released a blot clot that has made its way up to a vessel in the sensory strip of the brain, which explains why he has lost sensation on most of his extremities. The only question left is whether this stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic. In order to determine whether M has an ischemic or hemorrhagic stoke we would have to use a CT scan. After further inspection, it turns out that a blood vessel has blocked the blood's pathway to the remaining portion of the brain. This is an ischemic stroke. In order to treat this type of stoke, the patient must consume blood thinners to allow for blood to flow to the remaining parts of the brain. After this procedure, the patient is then able to partake in regular daily activities, well after his blood pressure is lowered. His blood pressure is pretty high. In order for his brain to receive as much as oxygenated-blood as possible, the blood pressure must be lowered to promote healthy and stable blood flow.

After this case, the group was left with the knowledge that all systems of the body are intertwined. If something goes wrong in one part of the body, it affects the rest of the body.

Although I took a lot of this blog to explain how systems of the body are connected, the Amygdala, with the company of slices of brain tissue, was the sole purpose of this blog. In one short paragraph, I will say that the "Almond" is much better in person and that a neuron, as insignificant as it may seem, is now the reason why I love the brain even more. I looked at the brain tissue through a  microscope, and saw nearly a dozen of neuron cell bodies... It brought tears to my eyes, and for a reason I did not know. I just got very emotional to the sight of a brain cell. Perhaps this is a revelation that neuroscience is the field for me?? Who knows... I still have many other careers to choose from.

Proctor Group Night

So today in class, we were split in half, those that have finished their car, and those who are close to finishing it. Those that haven't finished were working on the car, while those who have, got to go do a gelatin lab testing for stress and strain. I got time to work on the car, but because we have the most difficult one, we only barely started working on structural support, but we got a lot done today. We have almost all the PVC piping cut to length and we will stick it together when we go to Belmont on Thursday.

We went to go to Nissan after lunch and we got to see how they crank a car out every 27 seconds. We compared that to that 10 prosthesis that get made a day for people with physical disabilities. Obviously it's the amount of customization that goes into prosthesis is way more compared to vehicles because they are one size, and one style. Prosthesis all have to be as unique as there are humans.

Tonight was proctor group night so we decided to go to Centennial Park because of one main thing.....Pokémon. The amount of diversity of Pokémon there is enormous compared to anywhere else around here. We all freaked out when we found a Scyther. Most of us caught it, but some of them didn’t. Luckily, I did. After we saw a big lightning bolt and heard thunder rolling in, we scrambled to get back to the dorms. We went to our floor and saw the fundamentals of caring.

The (Nissan) ULTIMAte Day

Well, today's class was pretty unique. We tested out the strength of Jello as more gelatin was added
The magical pipette
into it. Or, well, we tried to. Waiting for the Jello to dry after heating and stirring it was too time consuming, and we all messed up and pulled out the wet Jello too quickly at least once. Amanda said we will continue our experiment tomorrow, which I am looking very forward to. However, there was something important I learned about during this experiment: a precise, easy-to-use pipette. In this pipette, you could choose how many micro-milliliters you want your drop to be. The problem of liquid getting stuck easily inside your bulb was gone in the pipette. It was magical!

Greg stirring Jello and gelatin
After the experiment, we went to tour Nissan. There was a huge train in which we all sat, and the tour guide spoke into headphones that each of us had to wear. There were huge intricate robots everywhere that did more than 95% of the work. Then there were tracks overhead that carried parts to different stations in the factory. It was all VERY hectic and everything was all over the place. Although I did find it amazing, the huge robots and the large number of them seemed a little intimidating. I think so because there was just so much going on each second that it was too crazy. 

When we came back, Amanda had us pair off to think of a way to modify any toy for children less than 2 years old who couldn't move their legs. We decided to modify the scooters we use in PE class that have four wheels and a flat surface. A baby could lie on it and push a button, that would be connected to a stick. This stick would push spokes on a wheel, and that would cause the scooter to move. So the faster the button is pushed, the quicker the scooter moves. I had a lot of fun in these 20 minutes because I love having to come up with spontaneous, creative ideas.

After class was just free time where I hung out with friends. Then, there was proctor group time after dinner. My group decided to make crafts, and we all had a very fun time. Now, as I am typing this blog, the drowsiness from all that fun is getting to me, and I will quickly go to sleep.  
Proctor group night