Monday, July 29, 2013

What A Way To Start Senior Year

As I forced the zipper closed on my ridiculously over-packed suitcase, it finally dawned on me that this is my last night of summer vacation. Tomorrow, well in five hours, my journey to the East Coast begins.

I remember feeling almost exactly the same way last year when I participated in the ILC program at Cornell University, but this year is even better. I know (somewhat) what to expect, and how fun and life-changing it will be. Years ago when I first heard Don talk about this program he described it essentially as two weeks in a teenager's hell: school all day, hot weather and no AC, thousands of pages of reading, zero to two hours of sleep per night, and you get to do it all in suits! (Great sales pitch by the way, Don) Yet, for some reason I decided that was the program I wanted to do, so last year I did Cornell, my practice run. I had a fantastic time, and learned to live and work alone, but a class called "Freedom and Justice" can only be so rigorous. Now the real work begins.

The Studies in Grand Strategies Program had a change of management, so we are not sure exactly what to expect, but so far it seems that the clothing policy is more lax and the preclass required reading is less than previous years. We do not yet know if the actual course will be less rigorous however. Personally I do not mind either way. If the class is easier then I have more time to explore college life, and if it is just as difficult or more so then I will be challenged and forced to grow academically which will prepare me for my senior year and college. I am very excited to find out what the class is like, and look forward to blogging about it. However due to Yale's policies and the rigor of the course students are not allowed to blog, so you will have to wait to hear about our experiences until we leave.

Although this will be the most significant part of my summer, it has not been uneventful so far. I began my break with a camp hosted by Cal Berkeley designed to help rising seniors with the college admissions process, which was a huge help and a lot of fun. After that I filled my time with all the things I love: my family, my girlfriend, my friends, kung fu, and lots of reading. It was a blast! Yale, however, was always in the back of my mind.

Now it is here, the moment I have been waiting for for two years. If someone had told me years ago that my senior year of high school would begin with a class at Yale, I would never have believed them, but due to the ILC and my own determination, that unimaginable future became a reality, and I am ready to make it in to an experience that I will never forget.

First Time Away

Words cannot describe how I feel. I haven't had anything hit me until today. A whole tsunami of emotion has crashed over me today. I am scared, happy, excited, and anxious. I have never been away from my parents for such a long period of time and I haven't even been on the East Coast! While I'm typing this, my mom and dad are lecturing me on safety, what to pack, and where to put my things. A few days ago -- no -- a few hours ago, their nagging seemed repetitive and annoying. Now, I have a feeling I'm going to miss it.

This summer I've been a bit busy. I've finished the reading that was required. I also starred in a small theater production in Walnut Creek, which occupied the first month of my summer. I now feel even more comfortable speaking in front of people and enjoy it, which I know will help me during the program. What will also help is the few Speech and Debate practice sessions I had with the team that I will be co-president of. The fact that the current president of the club went to the Yale Young Global Scholars program under the ILC and the vice president was part of the ILC didn't hurt either. They provided me with valuable tips, tidbits, and encouragement for my study trip. The president told me that I will be "enlightened" by this experience and I can't wait.

I can't wait to go to the East Coast and learn about other cultures. I have never really gotten a chance to talk to people on an intellectual level from across the world, let alone across the country. I also haven't had much of a chance to visit colleges on the West Coast. I'm looking forward to touring colleges on the East Coast and see how they are compared to the few colleges I've visited on the West. I'm really excited. These past few days I've pretty much been relaxing. Enjoying the little time I have on the West Coast is important to me. I know I'll be coming back soon, but I don't want to miss home too much while I'm gone. 

From what I've heard, Yale looks a lot like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Though I doubt there will be any evil wizards and soul sucking demons trying to kill me. I have a really strong feeling that I will be too busy to cast spells while running down the hallways. Instead, I will be too occupied with learning how to rule the world, as Don had put it in an e-mail sent months ago. 

Now I just rest, wait, and pack any last minute things that I have forgotten.

Joshua A. Ko: An American Life

"To make one's self as pure of heart as one is capable of becoming, to put fear and cynicism and craftiness behind one, and to abandon one's self to the reflection that if the simple truth will not do, then nothing will."

- The Prince, Dostoyevsky's The Idiot

And here we are, 228 days since the great academic adventure that is the Ivy League Connection Yalie journey began. Eight hours before I rudely awaken myself (by choice, mind you) and head to El Cerrito High School to board a shuttle to an airport to take me to another airport and take the Yalies and our wonderful chaperone, Ms. Tracey Singh-Poole, to one final airport where we'll begin a college tour before starting an intensive 16 day Grand Strategies course at Yale as Global Scholars. Just typing that sentence felt draining. We are going to exert all the effort and tenacity and work ethic and determination and perserverance in the world, because we plan to prove that the West Contra Costa Unified School District BELONGS at institutions like Yale. And to think I once thought one sentence ago that writing this post felt difficult.

You could say we're under a lot of pressure. You would be half right. Am I nervous, eight hours before our nineteen day excursion? Of course I am, but there's also this inner peace and calm that I have inside. And trust me, it wasn't because that's who I normally am. You see, this summer, I went through numerous life-changing experiences that shaped the person I want to be going into this trip. And the miracle of the narrative of this summer is that the lessons I learned prepared me for Yale as well as the required readings did.

"Often there is a gap between principles and actual events that cannot always be bridged by a succession of logical deductions. Then a measure of self-confidence is needed, and a degree of skepticism is also salutary."

- Clausewitz, On War
Camp Royal was advertised as a life-changing experience. The skeptic in me went in a skeptic. He came out a believer. The leadership camp, held somewhere in the California Nowherelands, taught me an incredible number of ideals about how to be a great, mindful, thoughtful leader and person. The experience forced me to open myself up and be willing to admit my faults, and I truly saw the good in humanity. There's a wealth of knowledge to share and not enough time, but I will be posting more about how my summer affected my ILC experience when I get back. I will share with you the phrase Tashi deley: a Tibetan expression that means "I honor the greatness in you. I honor the place in you that holds your dreams, your courage, your hope, and your love." A good leader knows his people.

Loni Hancock's Chief of Staff office
After a restful family vacation to Vancouver (A good leader takes time to rest), I headed up sixty minutes to Cal State Sacramento for the 76th Session of the American Legion California Boys' State. I was to be a delegate of a political experience that would challenge everything I had just learned. Delegates (all rising senior boys from all over the state) ran for different political offices and worked as journalists, musicians, lawyers, and such. In this incredibly realistic simulation, I saw firsthand the corruption that permeates every level of politics. After recently completing Machiavelli's The Prince and remembering The Art of War, I saw the top two gubernatorial candidates get "sued" for money laundering and slander, respectively, and overlooked the hostility and competition that loomed over the week. I saw imaginary wars break out and boys fooling the legal system and getting away with the hundreds of simulation dollars they had stolen. Boys' State was the antithesis of Camp Royal. It showed me the evil in humanity and the corruption of power. It made the readings I had just done feel more tangible and applicable to me. A good leader gets things done that will serve his people.

"The result is that there is no place in public life for an honest and moderate man."

- George F. Kennan

Ignore the fact that I attempted dressy
on top and casual on bottom
Not counting one day of rest (and I wouldn't call running around to errands and activities rest), I traveled immediately from Sacramento to Manitou Springs, Colorado, where I underwent a two-week apologetics and worldview conference at the Summit Hotel. The conference bridged the two previous experiences I had had. It acknowledged the real world while giving me the tools to survive out there. I learned how to defend my beliefs and ideals. Logic and critical thinking were extremely important and well taught. I read John Lewis Gaddis's George F. Kennan: An American Life and appreciated reading a biography of a man who worked hard to understand the Russians in order to fulfill the most of his duties with Russian-American relations. A good leader defends his positions, and even Clausewitz points out that defense is the most essential part of war. 

"...experience counts more than any amount of abstract truths."

- Clausewitz, On War

After getting back, it was time to rest up...not for Yale, of course, but for my third annual Relay for Life, a 24-hour cancer walk. As co-captain of my team, we raised $1800 for the American Cancer Society. Walking through the dead of night was tiring and difficult, but it was an incredible experience, which is why I do it year after year. Seeing people like cancer survivors and caregivers walk the track reminds me of the struggles that cancer patients go through year after year. As I walked, I realized how lucky I was to have a great team dedicated to helping each other relay for each other's lives. Great leaders have great advisors. 

Heading into Yale, I've learned how to see people differently. I've learned the ideals of being a good leader and have seen the corruption that I will have to face later in life. I've read thousands of required reading pages and learned how to defend my positions. I've learned how to relate to people as a person and as a leader, and how to get things done. I hope to bring back a great wealth of knowledge and give back to the wonderful community I'm proud to be a part of, and I sincerely thank you for following me on my journey. 

Follow us on our college tour throughout this week! Send me feedback 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. Please note that you won't be able to hear about any of the seminars, discussions, etc. at Yale due to their privacy policy.

"He had a historian's consciousness of the past, which gave him a visionary's perspective on the future."

- John Lewis Gaddis, George F. Kennan: An American Life

We're off in nine hours. Will you join us?

Before I Leave...

Everything that we have been doing for the past seven months with the Ivy League Connection will come together at 6:30 AM when we board our plane for the East Coast. The awards ceremonies and the dinner have made us proud to be part of the ILC and the blog orientation and the trip orientation have prepared us for this trip of a lifetime. The dozens of hours that we’ve spent on the books assigned to us by Yale and the ILC suggested reading list have finally come to fruition.  We’ll fly some three thousand miles there and in preparation for this trip I have taken this day off, so to speak. I have prepared all that I will need to bring with me on my trip and have rested. But while resting, I know that soon I will be far away from the place I call home and be plunged into a totally different culture and way of living. I will be a stranger in a strange land, yet ready to face anything that may come at me. I will keep an open mind while on the other side of our great nation, take pictures, and share my experiences with you all. 

The colleges that I will visit will be nothing like the ones here on the West Coast. They will be hundreds of years old and will have seen the events like the birth of our nation and the Civil War. If only they could talk, I wonder what stories they would tell. The food will be different and I cannot wait to try it. The furthest East I have gone in the U.S. was Florida, and its food was so different than ours. A little bit more salt here or a chili pepper there just changes the entire food’s taste. I had fried chicken and shrimp and it was like nothing I’ve ever had on the West Coast. I know that Connecticut will have a different flavor, especially in its foods, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy every bite.

During this summer, I did not just read the material provided to us by Yale. I took a community college level statistics class in conjunction with the reading. It was rather difficult having to read quite a bit and still have time to do statistics homework and study. But I pulled through and managed to get an “A” in the statistics class. It was interesting going from reading about how to wage war as taught by Carl von Clausewitz to figuring out averages and means as taught by Dr. John Hsu, my statistics teacher.

This trip will also take me the furthest away from my parents that I’ve ever been. It will be both a blessing and a curse, I suppose. I love my parents so much and I know that they want to protect their little boy, and they can’t do that if I’m three thousand miles away. I know that they’ll be scared for me, and it is a curse knowing that they’ll worry.

But the Ivy League Connection is a blessing, showing me things and taking me places that someone as poor as myself could never go even with his parents' help. I’ll have the chance to see what colleges are like and tour some of the finest, experience a new and exciting people.

All in all, I’m excited to get up at 2:30 AM and be at El Cerrito High School no later than 3:40 AM to see what the world has to offer. I think I know what’s in store for me, but life just has this way of throwing random events at you to see how you do. Hopefully my comrades and I will fare well. Next time I do blog I will be three thousand miles away and experiencing a new slice of life. Good night.