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.

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