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.

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