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...

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