Monday, August 26, 2013

Yale Reflective Blog

My suite mates: Aaron, Rob, myself, and Jack
As I think back over the three weeks I spent on the East Coast, it is hard to believe that it was so short a time. With all the experiences I had, things I learned, and  friends I made, it felt like much longer. I remember the night before I left clearly. I was so excited that I could barely sleep. I wondered how this year would compare to the last, and exactly just how hard the course at Yale would actually be. I was excited the last night too, but with a twinge of sadness for all the friends I left behind, many of whom I will probably never see again.

The class I took at Yale was obviously the reason for the trip to the East Coast and the highlight of the three weeks, but the college visits are very important and cannot be underplayed. During the two trips I took with the ILC I was exposed to nine East Coast colleges, seven of which were Ivy League. I learned which schools I liked, and equally importantly, which ones I did not. This will make my college application process much easier. Colleges aside, the travelling has made me more cultured. I got to see the places where our country began, which was especially cool after studying U.S. history this past year.

My closest Yale friends

The two main projects we had at Yale were the Marshal Brief and a simulation. For the Marshal Brief we were put in groups of three and assigned a world problem to solve. My group had Global Financial Recovery, which turned out to be a difficult topic (as I am sure they all were), since none of us had much experience with economics. We did a lot of research however, and I think we came up with a pretty good strategy by the end. We chose to represent the World Bank, and go about improving the global economic situation by helping large developing countries further establish themselves. On the second the last day of the program every group presented their Marshal Brief to the "murder board" (a group of our instructors) where they essentially tear apart our plan. They only took major issue with one part of my group's plan, so I feel like we must have done a pretty good job.

Studies in Grand Strategy… what does that mean? That was the question I asked myself up until the orientation at Yale. Grand Strategy was defined by one of our lecturers as a comprehensive plan of action based on the calculated relationship between means and large ends. In other words, exactly what it sounds like, a large-scale strategy. In two weeks we had twenty lectures, six seminars, a three thousand-word Martial Brief, a one-thousand word essay, and a two-day simulation, all designed to help us understand Grand Strategy in both a historical and contemporary sense. There was almost too much information to take in all at once, and I definitely would not have remembered everything if I had not taken notes. Being in class basically from nine to nine every day is unsurprisingly very draining.

The simulation was my favorite part of the academic experience. It was a weekend long event where the entire program was split into groups to serve as advisors for various world powers during a summit on chemical weapons. I was put in the group for Iran, which was a very fun experience. We played our part well I think, and ended the simulation with our economic sanctions lifted and nuclear weapons. The instructors, who played the role of central command which we had to report to before making any decisions, constantly threw difficult situations at us, and derailed our carefully made plans. That weekend was probably the most fun I had in the whole program, but it was also a lot of work. We were constantly running around negotiating with other countries, trying to get in touch with simcommand, and telling the press our "sad stories" to try and make the "Western hypocrites" look bad.

The Game Room in JE
My time at Yale was not all work; there was time for play, and I capitalized on it. The residential college we stayed at, Jonathan Edwards, (and all Yale residential colleges for that matter) had a game room (among other commodities) in the basement. I spent most of my sparse free time in the game room playing pool or ping-pong. I learned a new game, called Around the World, which is a variation of ping-pong which allows a much larger group to play. My roommates and I quickly became close, and started a tradition of having extensive late night talks every night in our common room. By the end of the course we would have around eight to ten people in our room all hanging out and discussing everything from high school drama to politics. This relates to one of my favorite parts of the Yale experience, the people. I met people from all over the country and world, with too many background and opinions to even remember. Fortunately, all the ones I interacted with were open to discussion, and while they had their opinions, they were not above discussing all different sides of the issue. I gained a lot of exposure to other viewpoints and ways of life, that would have been very difficult to get otherwise.

My favorite meal of the trip
I had a fantastic time on the East Coast. I got to eat at fancy restaurants, see top-tier colleges, and take a course at one of the best universities in the world. The opportunity offered to me by the ILC was not one that I took for granted, and I have a huge appreciation and respect for what they are trying to accomplish. I will spread the word about the ILC at my school, and encourage everyoneto try and be a part of this life-changing program. Yale was a beautiful school, full of surprisingly diverse and open-minded people. It has definitely made its way to be one of the top schools on my list. This was a good experience to have in my last summer before going to college for real. It showed me that I am ready, and am on the same tier as many potential Yale applicants. A huge thank you to the Ivy League Connection. Now it is time to start college applications...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Reflection On My Journey

A few days ago, I received an e-mail from the Yale Young Global Scholars program. This e-mail contained the group the photo that was taken. About 155 students and quite a few staff members were in this photo. I decided view this photo on my iPhone. I zoomed in and as I scanned all the faces, I realized that I had talked to and made connections with most of these people. This is when it all sank in. I felt a pang in my heart and I realized that it was all over. It dawned on me that I might never see these wonderful men, women, and scholars ever again. I spent about two weeks with these people. It may not seem like a lot, but being with them for more than 12 hours a day really makes the environment familial. I laughed, learned, ate, walked, and talked with the people in the YYGS program. I lived in the same place as them for nearly two weeks. We were a bunch of strangers that volunteered to go to a place for an amount of time and during this process we made friends, created cliques, and built a family. I may not have met everyone there, but I definitely can tell that if one of them didn't attend, then the atmosphere would have been different. 
The YYGS family!

It was only a few months ago that I interviewed for this program. When I heard my name I was absolutely shocked. I expected the one or both of the other Hercules students to get in. I wasn't particularly overachieving when it came to my grades, my rank wasn't where I wanted it to be, and I stumbled a bit during the interview. The two other Hercules kids who applied probably had far better grades and ranks than I. I don't know what put me through. Maybe it was my ability to speak. But I now know, because of the ILC and from the YYGS program, that grades, school rankings, and standardized test scores don't necessarily define a person. We are all multidimensional and excel at different things. A better scholar doesn't necessarily mean a better person or vice versa. I came to realize that I am just as smart as the highly intelligent students that I have met throughout the year. After this program, I feel like I can get through anything. I faced a 12 hour school day, hours of extra work from essays, reading, and the Marshall Brief, and I survived the murder board.

For those of you who don't know, the Marshall Brief is a policy paper that a group of four work on. We had about a week to do it, though some would argue two weeks. The requirement was that it had to be no more than 4,000 words. We were all given our topics. My topic was human rights and my group chose human trafficking in Russia. My policy leader commemorate her policy group (there were two groups of four) because we could have chosen countries that were more concerned about human rights, but instead my group chose Russia and the other group chose China. After we turned in the Marshall Brief, we had to make a PowerPoint presentation and present our policy to the Murder Board. This is where I felt my group did particularly well. One of our slides ended up disappearing. That particular slide was vital, but we didn't let its disappearance phase us. My group had great teamwork. During our presentation we came up with a secret system where we would decide who answers which policy-ripping question. I also felt that the China group did very well too. 
Team Bembo and Team Helvetica! Our policy leader (far left) named us after fonts. After our presentation we went to Shake Shack. I still like In-N-Out better.
I have to say that the simulation was a highlight of the program. We all were assigned roles. They ranged from leaders of nations to global news reporters. I was assigned the Brazilian delegate of the United Nations. Just as the real United Nations, we didn't get very much done. In the end, the Brazilian government, the people I reported to regularly for two days, were executed for asking if the president if they could assassinate her. Thankfully I was safe, but the UN disbanded. Eric was a bit luckier. He was assigned Iran and they ended up getting nuclear weapons. It seemed that everyone, except Brazil was lying about having chemical and biological weapons, which was what the summit is about. We all had to work as the simulation command was sending orders and news left and right. The simulation has taught me about working in a very high speed and intense environment. 

Our very last day had a lecture or two (YYGS isn't too fond of breaks.) But after the lectures we had our graduation ceremony. This is when everyone took a whole bunch of pictures and ate a nice dinner. We then had Fun Night after passing room inspections. Fun Night was filled with karaoke, dancing, and games. I was running everywhere! I was singing at the karaoke while doing an awkward jumping dance and I went downstairs to play ping pong, which I'm horrible at. The next day, we had to say goodbye. I was leaving knowing a lot more than what I knew when I came in. I learned more about colleges, people, and the world.

I was leaving my family away from home. These people comforted me when I needed it. They laughed with me. They did almost everything with me. And we all had to leave. I felt sad, but I left them with a smile on my face.

Overall, the worrying, the humiliation, the work, the anxiety, the waiting, the work, the new friends, the colleges, the long nights, and the work was well worth it. I send my gratitude to the ILC, the YYGS program, the kids in the YYGS, my family, my friends, my cohort, my chaperone, and to everyone for supporting me and giving me a great experience that I will carry into my future.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Reflective Blog: One Amazing Journey.

When this whole trip began on the thirtieth of July, I knew it was going to be amazing. But I didn’t know how amazing it would be. It was only nineteen days that I was away, and yet I would do and see more in those nineteen days than I’ve ever done seen before. My trip to China in the spring of 2012 is the only thing that comes close to this experience. I learned so much about the world we live in through the classes, seminars, and the people from over forty five different countries that I got to talk to. If I had to do it all again, I would without any hesitation. I wonder how different my time would have been had I not gone. Even if my time could have been spent relaxing or working on my common application for college, I am happy that I spent it at Yale University. I would just like to take a brief moment to thank Don Gosney, Madeline Kronenberg, Charles Ramsey, the sponsors of the Ivy League Connection, my parents, and finally the Yale Young Global Scholars Program itself for having me. It has been, in a word, a blast.

When I reflect on the program as a whole, I cannot find one bad part. The time before the program was good, as was the relaxation afterwards. The program itself was phenomenal. I continue to say that I learned so much to my friends and family, but that is exactly what happened. The classes were on the Trojan War, global warming, constitutional law, and the Civil Rights movement, to name just a few. I will go into more detail later in this blog.

In thirteen days I took forty hours of classes. In the average semester at my high school, in which I also take college classes, the hours in each class are about fifty two. We were only twelve hours away from a full semester, and a full semester is about four months. But it was worth every second. Such great speakers as John Negroponte, Harold Koh, John Gaddis, Ian Shapiro, and Paul Kennedy would serenade our ears with fantastic lectures that must be heard to be believed. Each one was not a lecture so much as we think of it, with a professor droning on and on in one long and hypnotic sentence. It was instead a great presentation on topics and issues that really hit home with their relevance.

Then there were the seminars. Each one seemed to be better than the last and covered topics like nuclear security dilemmas, the ethics and legality of drone strikes, and the nature of revolution. Each seminar instructor asked us questions that really vexed us and made us think of how one thing might affect another. The instructors were well versed in whatever the seminar was about even if it wasn’t their subject. Not to mention that they often found holes in our logic when we were arguing our point and were subsequently shut down. We had to make sure we plugged the holes, but this would prepare us very well for our Marshall Brief presentations, which I will go into detail in just a minute. The reading for the seminars was mostly interesting but could, at times, be extremely dry because it was written in an eighteenth century writing style with a lot of flowery language or because there were just too many figures as statistics. But overall, I loved each one.

Now, let me explain what a Marshall Brief is. The Marshall Brief is basically a four to five thousand word report that addresses a problem and then outlines a plan of action for this problem. For each Marshall Brief, the person writing it must be very precise and use as many facts and statistics to back up their claims as much as they can in the word count allotted. Then, the person or people who wrote this Marshall Brief must present this problem and plan to a board of directors who has some sway and can support the solution. For example, a person who created a Marshall Brief on the human rights abuses in factories in China may attempt to sway the UN board on human rights to follow their plan of action. But the board, often referred to as “the murder board” pokes holes and finds problems with any and all solutions you propose, questions where you got your sources, and asks questions that you may not have thought of when writing your Marshall Brief. They were daunting but we hurdled everything we had at them to make sure our plans were put into action. We were each put into groups with a specific broad title, like “The Rise of Military and Economic Powers,” or “Global Financial Recovery.” Most groups didn’t know where to start, but thankfully our policy group leaders, the same people who taught some of the seminars, were in charge of helping. Our leader, Jordan Cohen, is a very smart and nice man who was more than happy to help and offered great advice. All in all, the Marshall Brief was hard but it brought it the hardest research and leadership skills in all of us and will not only help us in the academic world, but when we are participating in our community.

One final aspect of this world class program was the simulation. The simulation happened over the tenth and the eleventh and was, in my opinion, the most fun and interactive part of the entire program this summer. After a lecture that we had earlier in the day, we were briefed on what the simulation actually is. It is as follows: The scenario is that there is going to be an international summit by the UN, EU, US, Iran, Russia, China, and Brazil. There are also a number of NGO’s, or non-government organizations, like Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders. There are also companies, like Apple and GlaxoSmithKline. Then, everyone was assigned to one of the groups and our goal for the summit was announced: Limit the proliferation of biological and chemical weapons. Each government, NGO, or company then had its own goal that it had to achieve. Apple, for example, had to finalize a deal with Lockheed-Martin and then make millions selling biological and chemical weapons through any means while the US wanted to stop the spread of these weapons and then but make sure that its own goals are met as well, like having more political power in the international arena. But throughout the simulation, wrenches were thrown in to see how people would respond. For example, at one point a Russian nuclear submarine was captured and detained by Iran and both groups had to figure out what to do. Another example is that a plague broke out in Brazil and quickly spread, and then every nation had to determine what to do about it. It was fun and stressful, because I was assigned to Human Rights Watch, which had little to no respect and political clout so achieving our end goal was very difficult.

This covers all of the major subjects that we went over while in the program. The trip itself, visiting the colleges, and seeing everything new and fresh for the first time is priceless. New York University, Brown, and Harvard were all universities that looked amazing and I want to apply to all three.

I would also just like to say thank you for reading my blogs and letting me share my experience with you. I have had the time of my life, and if I had to do it again, I would. The people, the places, the food, the classes, the reading, and the campus are just a small sliver of what my trip was all about. To anyone who wants to join the ILC, I highly suggest that you do. It has changed me in a way that makes me more confident, humble, and smarter. I now know more about politics and how the world works then I did before.

Just as Malvolio in Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night says, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Through the Ivy League Connection, I had the honor to meet people who were born great, who achieved greatness, and who had greatness thrust upon them. I feel like I had greatness thrust upon me and am so thankful that I did because now I know my full potential. Thank you again, and goodbye.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Reflections on Life (and Yale)

I’ve never been one to aim for convention, so I thought I’d start by heading straight to the arigatos (“thank you” in Japanese) to everyone who made my incredible ILC experience possible this summer.
Thank you to Don Gosney, administrator and tireless leader of putting together the Ivy League Connection each and every year.  Your ongoing efforts (and many emails) to make sure we’re prepared shows off your great care and insistence in creating a stronger college-focused atmosphere in the WCCUSD.
Thank you, Ms. Madeline Kronenburg and Mr. Charles Ramsey, for all of your work to put together the budgets to make this trip happen.  This experience could have never happened without you.
Thank you, donors of the Ivy League Connection, for deciding to invest in the leaders of tomorrow in a school district that many have written off.  Your belief in our potential is amazing and powerful.     
Thank you, Eric Wilson (E Weezy), Damian Wong (apparently my "twin" because we were both Asian and had similar Bay accents), and Liam Guevara (emphasis on the Gue-vaaaa-raaaa). You were an incredibly smart, funny, and charming cohort to spend three weeks with. Thanks for being great roommates while touring the East Coast and food mates. I had so much fun eating everywhere with y'all. Damian, thanks for backing me up on our Thinkin' Bout You cover. Liam, thanks for your awesome conversation and humorous insights. Eric, thanks for being the map guy - it's been a great twelve years and counting knowing you. 
Thank you, Ms. Tracey Singh-Poole, for being an incredibly warm, caring, friendly, understanding, and gracious chaperone. It’s been so much fun touring the East Coast with you and our cohort.     
Thank you, Ted Wittenstein, Emily Gustafson, Erin Schutte, Charlotte Pavia, Matthew Lyddon, Amanda Garrett, Aaron Weinstein, Cullinan Williams, Erica De Bruin, and the rest of the talented staff at Yale Young Global Scholars.  Your intellect and knowledge are unmatched, as well as your unique and sometimes unbelievable senses of humor (if only there was another week!).
Thank you, Mr. Chris Silva, for your assistance in helping me to grasp education reform and write one of the best pieces I’ve ever written.  Thank you, Mr. Michael Park and Mr. Patrick Jimenez, for your insight and encouragement toward my trip. Yale has only made me realize even more how lucky I am to have all of you and the rest of the terrific faculty at El Cerrito High School.
Thank you to my friends and family whose names would fill up this entire post. Your kindness and support on all my adventures never cease to amaze me.
Thanks, God.
And now, onto what you've all been waiting for. Let the reflections begin!

Nineteen days of travel. Our cohort received acceptance letters three hours before we were to appear before the school board to acknowledge our ILC candidacy for the first time.  We were not expected to perform well, the Yale staff having “passed over hundreds of more qualified applicants.”  The expectations were high. We were to be at our best and show Yale, heck, the world, what the WCCUSD “could really do.” There was this hectic balance between the stress of trying to live up to those anticipations and the calm peace that radiated from the support of friends and family.

What did we show for it? If it’s accolades that the reader believes shows competency, then the reader could believe that we had failed, with none of us receiving one of fifteen Director’s Awards handed out at graduation.  But how do you define success?  And, since our trip was acknowledged by the West Contra Costa Unified School District, what did we learn?

We were welcomed to Yale and promptly issued our keys and such.  As the lady (we’ll call her Cher) who helped me saw that I was from the Ivy League Connection, she remarked, “It’s important that I write down your personal information.  I’ll need to be able to call you when you’re late for class or lose something.” The sweet smile plastered on her face told me everything I needed to know: “Welcome to Yale.”

I walked inside Jonathan Edwards College for the first time, my eyes taking in my new home for the next two weeks. A lawn made up the middle of the courtyard, with a lazy rope swing tied to branches that swayed slowly in a slight breeze, as if to darkly chuckle on the rainy day it was. I swiped my prox card to find myself inside an incredibly stuffy common room that felt like a wave of humidity.  I groveled through the ten feet of air sweat to unlock my single room and unleash a new wave of warm oxygen tears.  I hate humidity.

The first day felt just as uncomfortable and unwieldy as my room.  The first lectures felt sluggish, and I wondered if I would get anything important out of the program.  The first two days or so were concepts that I had learned already from some of my teachers at El Cerrito High.  The first week was filled with introductions: there was my roommate Isaiah from south Florida, Collins from Kenya, the guy who lived in Dubai but was from India but before that…the lines began to blur. The funniest introduction was on day one, when I met someone named Julia from the South Bay. After I'd told her some things about ILC, she paused for a moment and then said, "I think you guys ate dinner with my dad." That took me a couple extra seconds to respond.  Several students there, once they found out I was from the Richmond area, asked me if I was “from the hood (for the record, no)."  As a member of the middle class who was met with reactions from the class extremes on this trip, from the poor rapper in New York who had told me to go f—k myself because my middle class self wouldn’t buy his mixtape, to the wealthy musician who talked condescendingly to me, how was I supposed to respond? Should we respect those who have not respected us?  This trip helped me see, in better focus, the large POV divide. Class conflict bears no punches. It was interesting to see the contrast between hearing poorer demographics of my school demean “rich kids” and see some stuffiness that those wealthy kids inflict on their idea of “the poor.”  I want to make it very clear that I’ve only met a couple of those people at my school and a handful at Yale, but the contrast was so strong and so intriguing. 

The Golden Rule, people.  And not the one that says, “If you have the gold, you have the rule.”  Google it.

I soon learned that everything there was to learn about grand strategy was taking place at every (very few) free time and meal.  The geopolitics of human relationships was happening, and I was failing.  Miserably.  I had a very difficult time balancing work and play on week one, feeling like I had something to prove to the others.  The director introduced himself to me twice, which definitely helped my self-esteem (it’s difficult to type sarcasm).  Every time someone answered a lecturer’s question with some intelligent answer or asked a really intriguing question, I felt just a little more insecure. 

I got about the same amount of sleep as I would’ve on a typical school night.  However, the course load (about 11 hours of class everyday) was so intense that it wasn’t enough.  Caffeine, as usual, had no effect on me, so it was my red eyes and wavering mind that had to try and smile and be funny when meeting people. 

Of course that didn’t happen.

"Oh, yeah."
Awkward Josh was a common theme throughout week one.  I joke to myself that no one ever met the real Josh – they only talked to half-asleep Josh or three-quarters-awake-me.  Lots of incredibly funny (now) moments happened throughout Awkward Week.  Ongoing hijinks happened with a Korean named Dennis and a Texan named Catherine.  They were both really friendly people who always said “Hey Josh!” when they saw me.  Now, normal me would’ve said “hey” back or something clever and hilarious (most of the time).  Half-awake me managed comments like, “Okay” and “Sure.”  Dennis threw me a “hey” one time as we exchanged glances through the dining room doors.  I responded back with, “Oh, yeah.”

Cricket. Cricket.

I must admit that I was extremely jealous when I met people who were extremely talented in multiple facets – but then they still managed to hang out with their friends all the time or had lots of free time on their hands.  As someone who’s somewhat of a perfectionist, this feat is very difficult, if not occasionally impossible, to pull off.  My mind was in shambles, both from the rigor of the course and the lack of much social stimulation, and I was tired.  I was broken.  After all the positive advice and feedback I’d picked up over the summer, I couldn't even make my way to a second or third conversation with most people.

I met a guy late on the last day before I left who bemoaned the fact that Yale was over.  “I met so many people, but never really got to know anyone.”

From left to right: Chancellor of the Exchequor, Foreign
Minister, Ambassador to the UN, Defense Minister
It wasn’t until the second weekend of the program, day eight, until the simulation began.  As the UK Chancellor of the Exchequor, I found myself working with Global Scholars’ roles, forced to balance business and casual.  Like a polo and slacks, it eventually started to feel more comfortable.  The simulation provided a central topic of discussion for everyone to contribute to, and it was one of the best Yale moments.  Together, we attempted to come up with an agreement at a biological and chemical warfare summit and completely failed, but had an immense amount of fun while we did it.

The night before, I had thought about everyone at Yale and wondered if I would miss them. I realized that at some other camps I had gone to, I hadn't really gotten to know anyone that well, but had managed to still miss them - as if they were like the school that got demolished nearby my house. I didn't like the change in scenery - and my feelings of sadness were almost artificial, as if people were just things. That fear that that could happen at Yale helped drive me forward toward building stronger relationships in week two.

The talent show provided me one of the first opportunities to see everyone having fun.  To be honest, this was one of the first summer experiences where the relationship between the staff and the students was so – serious.  Everyone was so academic and intellectual that things always seemed a bit prickly.  I’d seen little bright spots during meals and such, but that was all.  To see the staff and the students show off their talent and humor made everyone seem so much human and less superhumanly smart, which was a large relief to me.  My roommate and I would practice our imitations of the staff after seeing a skit that had student parodies of the staff and getting inspired.  We got pretty good, if I do so say so myself.  Be sure to ask me to do them for you!

Josh and Matt Lyndon, Leadership Ethics seminar leader.
Wales accent not available in this picture.
Throughout the summer, I’ve come to realize that my fatal flaw is my lack of confidence in myself.  I’ve disguised it with fake charisma and by isolating myself from the world and burying myself in projects and distractions.  I discovered this fact at Camp Royal and had trouble applying it at Boys’ State before coming to grips with it once again at Summit and at Relay for Life.  And there I was, studying Grand Strategy at Yale with some of the “smartest students from all over the world.”  I was cracking like a green pistachio and didn’t know how to come out of the shell.  It was my family and friends who came through.  Their cards, emails, and Facebook messages were encouragements that slowly helped me knock down that shell.  And as the program went on, I grew more confident.  I spoke up more often in seminars as I was more comfortable with the intimate setting, but I soon grew to ask a couple questions in lectures and such.  I presented a 21 page policy proposal with three other amazing people to members of the staff dubbed “the Murder Board” on getting the World Bank involved in SEZs being built in Myanmar.  Was I confident?  I was, until she walked in.

“She” was one of the heads of staff, who we’ll call “Ellie."  She was thought of as “Giggling Ellie” at the beginning of the program due to her voracious laugh and likable personality.  As the program went on, she had to play the role of disciplinarian for most of the Scholars, and the likability took major hits.  She was merciless at the Marshall Brief policy presentations, and it was my turn!  It was a rapid-fire attack toward the end, and we tried our best to combat the knives in our policy.  Thirty minutes later, when the last question had been asked, my heart stopped pounding.  I had tried all of the approaches to find calm that I had learned this summer, but none of them had worked.  I had to just…do.  And I did it.

At the next policy presentation after us, Ellie played the FBI director.  When someone mentioned something about the “U.S. not doing anything to combat domestic terrorism,” she replied, “I’m offended,” and left the room!  As she left, she turned to the back, where I was sitting, and winked at us. Now, I’m not 100% sure about this, but this narrative fits into the story I’m trying to tell perfectly.  Ellie is not a natural disciplinarian. For all of her reprimands, there were jokes in the mix as well.  I had the opportunity to have lunch with her and talk about career paths.  She laughed at one point and said, “I went down the path I went on because it was the hardest thing I had ever done and I had to learn how to do something well.  It was really just a perverse reason.”  That comment made me reflect on myself.  Are we meant to be the people we’re “supposed to be?”  Or are we supposed to fit in the roles that people need us to be? Grasping people’s humanity, all kinds of people, was a thread that played out throughout my summer.

Don stopped by my house the other day to pick up items I had borrowed from him.  He jokingly asked if I could top the testimonial given by a parent whose entire family’s life and lifestyle had changed because of the ILC.  Well, Don, no, I can’t.  I can’t honestly say that the Ivy League Connection was solely responsible for changing my life.  But the story, the narrative of the summer that weaved its way into my life changed it.  Yale took a big role in working to resolve the loose threads that hanged: from the “pause, breathe, smiles” at Camp Royal to the “corruption” I saw at Boys’ State to the social environments and speaking improvements made at Summit to the deep discussions I had at Relay for Life.  I truly believe in the interconnectivity of life, and that was never made clearer than this summer.  Every conversation and action played its part in the narrative of my life. 

I’m not sure if I proved the naysayers wrong. That’s not an issue anymore.  I didn't have confidence in myself and I took that drive and placed it into trying to please others.  I’m proud of myself for the accomplishments I made for myself at Yale as a scholar and as a person.

Who got to still meet people on the last day at 3 AM?
These guys.
I’m back home.  My once-eleven-hour-day has gone to a three-block, on average six hour day filled with electives.  The struggle I have now is to keep up that work ethic and build on the lessons and humor of the summer.  Throughout the second week, I was able to better balance myself and meet people.  Of course, I met a ton of people on the last night, and it was only a couple hours before we would all have to leave and return to our forty-five home countries.  It takes work to build relationships, but when that “work” includes karaoke, pool, and couch chillin’, how bad can it be? 

On returning, there’s so much work I want to do to create change in my community.  The challenge is making sure I don’t kill myself (which I successfully avoided at Yale).  I want to ask the question, “How can we determine what the brightest or the smartest means?” and question the assumption that environment is the only factor that will determine success.  I want to find the means of looking at racial and class conflict and bring them to an end.  I’m back in an environment where many students are dropping classes because they think they’ll be “too hard.”  That mindset of settling for less or the easy route needs to be addressed to turn our district into an even stronger college-going culture.

After returning to my high school, I’ve realized how stark the contrast is in intensity between my education now and last week.  Yale pushed and challenged me, and the intellectual rigor was extremely intense. My current schedule, as a whole, is not challenging me, thanks to scheduling boundaries, and I have to do activities on my own time that force me to push myself.  While public schools in California may be better funded than in the past couple years, the economic disparities in terms of geography are staggering and a factor that isn’t talked about nearly enough. 

These ideals mean nothing without being put into practice.  I’m working on a short film with a powerful message, learning more about video production, taking on Co-Vice President of our Interact club (community service), trying to bring the Acts of Random Kindness club to Northern California, and creating a White Student Union at our school to build controversy and make people forcibly question racial identity.  I’m going to be controversial. I want to be a kind, understanding Global Scholar who can empathize with everyone I see and work with others to build lasting change.  There’s a plethora of other things I’m involved in, and I’m going to have to say “no” to a lot more.  There’s this balance between getting enough done and leaving time for relationships.

I have so many thoughts.  I couldn’t find the right place in the narrative I wanted to tell for administrative politics, fascinating partisan debates, and intellectual discussion.  Is the narrative of your life the one that happens, or the one you decide?

I wonder if I have trouble communicating because there’s so much I have to say that I’m not sure when the time’s right and I falter.  The irony is that I’m planning to major in communication. What can I say - I'm human – or I'm just insane. I think we all yearn for some kind of connection.  We hide behind our screens and our fears and ourselves.  Relationships where people actually care is something to look past our guards and distractions at and move forward towards.

Soon, my senior friends will be leaving for college and going off to build new relationships.  And I’ll find myself in a new place, wondering what comes next.  I learned so much more from the people at Yale than I would’ve ever learned from just taking the lectures and seminars.  I learned that I won’t just wonder – I’ll get up and do.

Thanks so much for following me on my Yale adventures this summer! Send me feedback and get updates on future Josh writings by commenting below and emailing And for a more intimate look at my Yale experience, follow me on Instagram @joshthebosh to see a more visual Ivy League Connection. It's been a lot of fun being a part of the ILC and Yale class of 2013. Thanks for reading my thoughts and insights through it all. To stay in the loop on future Josh updates, pop out an email or check out my LinkedIn profile at And if you're really apt, I'm sure you can find me on one of them social networks. Bye for now, y'all.