Thursday, August 1, 2013

New To New Haven

Today was quite interesting. Eric and I woke up at 7:40 AM. Don sent us an email saying that our "security camera" was neither a light nor a camera, but a heat sensor. We headed down to the lobby at 8:30 AM. We then met with Ms. Tiffani Neal, the chaperone for Brown. 

The plan for the day was to visit the Brown campus and tour it. She drove us to Brown University, where we had our breakfast. We then had the tour. This tour was student run like the "Hahvahd" tour, but was a lot more information and college based. Our tour guide was an energetic woman named Jordan who is majoring in sociology and pre-med, which struck me as a bit odd. She took us around the campus and talked about the academia, courses, teachers, and history of Brown University. The campus is absolutely beautiful. The buildings looked very nice, there was a lot of grass, some trees, and a lot of space. This time, we actually got to go inside two lecture halls, not one, but two! 

After our tour we had an information session with a student and an admissions officer. The admissions officer spoke of Brown and its academia and what sets it apart from other schools. One thing that really stood out to me was their "Open Curriculum." What that means is that they allow students build their own skeleton and give their students freedom of choice in what classes they want to take. To ensure that students don't stray from a major, which they declare at the end of sophomore year, they have counselors guide the students. But at Brown, you often see students try out very many different classes and oftentimes they will major in two completely different things, like Jordan does, and this is all because of their "Open Curriculum," which encourages students to try new things; this has peaked my interest. Students can even create their own major! Other things that interested me were their clubs, especially their acapella clubs and their study abroad program, which includes 160 different programs.
A statue made of metal, but made to look like it's made of tin foil, in one of Brown University's many green areas.
After our tour, we met up with the Brown group who are taking the Women and Leadership course. Two of the girls came and took us to their cafeteria, where we met the rest of the group. The food was okay, I thought their hamburger patties were really dry, but their chicken was juicy and seasoned very well. Eric and I sat with two of the girls and talked about the horrible heat wave last week, what their course was about, and how people in their area had no idea what a male feminist is or what a misogynist is. I was really shocked. The girls also said that there was a protest against the LGBT community in Providence also. Up to today I have now had several instances of culture shock. In the Bay Area, as most can imagine, there are many who support the feminist movement and the LGBT community, though there will always be those who are against one or the other or both.
The Kim Koo library at Brown University and its collection of political books.
The Kim Koo himself, as a bust.
After our little meet and greet we took a group photo outside the Brown cafeteria. After the photo, Ms. Tiffani drove the five us back to our hotel and then showed us a shorter way to the mall. We passed through the Providence Omni Hotel on our way. The mall was really big and there were more people than I expected. I thought that an empty city would have an empty mall, but it was quite the contrary. When we got to the top of the mall, the four of us, Eric, Liam, Ms. Tracey, and myself, had some ice cream. I guess Josh didn't want any. I got a vanilla cone and it was delicious. The vanilla was sweet and the cream was rich. 

After some walking the group returned to our hotel where we gathered our bags and took a taxi to the train station. We were about an hour and a half early for our train so we sat down and waited. At around the 4:00 PM, we went to board the train. The train stopped twice, the first time I thought we were at New Haven. I looked out the window and thought, "My God! New Haven is hideous!" What I saw was a city with a few large building with broken windows in front of a marsh. I thought we were about to get off, but the doors never opened. Apparently the train was only waiting for another train to pass us. The train ride was about 2 hours and we got to the Omni in New Haven at about 6:00 PM. After seeing part of the city I said to myself, "Well, this is better than the first New Haven that I saw." This time, Josh and I decided to room together.
The Brown II group with the Yale group
The room that Josh and I are staying in.
The beautiful lobby of the Omni Hotel in New Haven.
After we unloaded our luggage the five of us went down to the lobby to decide what we would have for dinner. Tonight we decided on French cuisine. We went to a restaurant called the Union League Cafe. Inside looked really expensive and the people inside made me feel under-dressed  On the front it said the dress code was casual, but everyone who ate inside was dressed in suits and dresses, while I was in a hooded T-shirt and shorts. 

We walked in and Eric and I decided to practice our French a bit. He and I ordered our meals in French. I ordered the appetizers, we decided on the octopus and froie gras. Eric ordered the mushrooms and gnocchi, I had the lamb with croquettes, Liam had the lamb, Tracey had the striped bass, and Josh had the steak. The meal was delicious. Everyone loved the octopus, it was very soft and had a nice sauce with it. I liked the froie gras a lot too, it wasn't as pretty as the octopus, but it tasted very nice. The lamb was very well seasoned and it was tender. The presentation was gorgeous as well. I have never had a lamb that was this good. For dessert, I had a white cheese mousse with a berry filling. Josh and Eric had the hot and cold espresso mousse and Liam had the Decadence. I tasted my dessert and couldn't believe it! I have never had a dessert like this at all! It was a bit salty and and very sweet, the berry filling was the right amount of sweet and sour, and the dessert itself was very fluffy and light. After dinner we walked back to our hotel. I don't know if people have noticed, but we tend to get lost very often. Today was no different. On our way back to the hotel we walked a bit too far and passed our turn. Thankfully, right before we got to the bad side of town, Tracey said that she was unfamiliar with this place and said that our turn should have been two blocks ago. We turned around and headed back to our hotel.
The froie gras.
The octopus
The lamb called, Carre D'Agneau Roti, along with the corn croquettes.
My dessert,the Schuss Cerise-Pistache.
Tomorrow we will visit NYU and tour New York City. I have always wanted to see New York City. I can't wait!

What Can Brown Do For You?

After yesterday’s fun-filled, but not admissions-based, Harvard tour; I had no real expectations for Brown. However, I did expect the Brown community to be less snobby than the good folks over at Hahvahd Yahd. The Brown II chaperone, Ms. Tiffany Neal, met up with us at the hotel to kindly drive us to the campus. We grabbed breakfast at The Blue Room, a small Brown dining establishment in the same building as the information center, and headed to the tour, Odwalla smoothie and flaky chocolate croissant in hand.
Jordan kickoffs our tour!
Our particular tour was led by a peppy, enthusiastic rising junior at Brown University named Jordan; a sociology major with a pre-med track, involved in activities such as theater and soccer. We set out to walk through Brown and learn about the school. The Brown campus is a gorgeous one in the summer. The grass is green and the greenery is amazingly lush.  I felt like the Ivy League Connection had dropped me in a vat of college viewbooks and brochures.  The architecture and sculptures were picturesque, and the brick buildings look like they had been made with more care and design in mind than at the illustrious Harvard.  There’s a variety of fun activities and clubs to join, and the dormitories bond together.  As Jordan put it, there’s “a great familial feeling.”  One of the most interesting buildings was the new Creative Arts Center.  Made completely out of glass, the varying departments of art can look up and down through the transparent walls for inspiration.

The main Brown green.
After our hour-long tour had concluded, we went inside for our information session.  The admissions officer began describing the defining feature of Brown: the open curriculum.  Unlike the majority of colleges who have specific classes defined for specific majors, Brown offers the chance to decide what classes you take and fit them in into the “concentration” you choose.  I found it interesting that Brown uses the same fancy-shmancy lingo as Harvard, yet because of their officers’ warm, inviting personalities, I didn’t care. Take note, people in power who need to use their large vocabularies and PR skills to succeed.  Over 80% of seniors have studied abroad by the time they graduate, and Brown has 160 different programs to choose from.  With the open curriculum, the student can also create his or her own major based on the classes he chooses and what he/she wants to focus on.  This was definitely appealing to me.

We got out about a hour later and headed back to the car to try and find the Brown II crew for a cohort collision (a term I just coined).  After an exhaustive search (that lasted twenty minutes), we found Julia and Michelle, who helped us find our way to the dining hall. It was sadly funny to pay in cash for lunch and watch an annoyed crowd stand in line behind us, most likely because a bunch of people were holding up the line with their money, when they could’ve just swiped.  I walked into a busy, crowded space, with multiple lines and people holding trays of food jaunting in multiple directions.  I ended up getting grilled chicken breast, with chicken Caesar salad, rice, and a banana (why not) to supplement.  I sat at the ILC table and got to catch up with the Brownies (not quite sure if that term exists yet, but it does now), who had gone to Yale on their college tour and were about to finish up Women and Leadership by the end of the week.  It was great to see some more familiar faces (go Gauchos) and say “hey” to new ones as well. 

Eric snapping shots for zee blog.
Overall, I thought Brown was a beautiful campus with an exuberant spirit. It feels like a small school (a very homey feel) but remains a large university to root for in terms of athletics and such. The school is diverse with a vast array of opinions, and seems like a very open marketplace of ideas.  The dorm food wasn’t too bad, except for the dry rice, and I feel like I could both be academically challenged and supported, while still managing to be able to participate in extracurriculars and still have a social life.  I will definitely be considering Brown this fall! It’s safe to say that I definitely love Brown people and their welcoming community.

After a group photo (see below) and goodbyes, the Yalies and I headed to the mall -   The three-story mall definitely would’ve kept us occupied for a while – but we had just enough time for Damian, Eric, and Liam to pick up some Dairy Queen. After a short search for Ben & Jerry’s that ended in vain, it was time to leave Providence for the time being and Amtrak our way into New Haven.

The walk into Union Station and to our shuttle to the hotel was a study of interesting contrasts. The station was bright and modern while maintaining that classic train station feel.  However, when we walked outside, we were thrust back into an environment with people everywhere, jostling my arm, accidently hitting my suitcase. We climbed aboard a free shuttle.  A series of homeless people boarded the bus and started asking the other members of my cohort for money.  The homeless man’s fiancé was pregnant and they needed to look for a house.  Another man climbed aboard and asked for a quarter, only a quarter.  Eric mentioned he didn’t have one and the man repeated over and over, “Don’t worry, it’s okay. Don’t worry…”

The mist dripped through a cloudy, sunless afternoon, with water droplets falling down the opaque windows.  We climbed off the bus and headed toward the hotel.  I turned around to see the bus: windows clouded, the people staring down, straight ahead, up; anything but out the window.

We checked into our hotel rooms (I decided to room with Damian this time) and set up our things. Damian opened up the window to check out our view.  At first, we only saw the dirty rooftops and another ugly building built in the ‘70s.  But as we looked off in the distance, we saw the beautiful spires of churches and of Yale.  It was a moment stinged with contrast – the beautiful and ugly stuck in our view.

Grilled Spanish octopus
duck leg confit & crispy potato galette
I Yelped out New Haven on the train ride there, so after being presented with options ranging from Ethiopian to Mexican, our cohort decided on Union League Café, a French restaurant.  The food wasn’t the only thing that was high quality. Our waiter actually hailed from France, so Eric, Damian, and Liam attempted their French throughout the evening. My French vocabulary consists of “Ouí,” “Mercí beaucoup,” “Bonjour, mon amie,” and the names of cities and food. It was interesting that we were treated slightly differently because of our more casual attire and the fact that we were a) “kids” and b) people that looked more “lower-class” than the others dining in the restaurant.  It wasn’t anything by our waiter, but more the general attitude of the place in general.  Don’t worry, I really enjoyed my experience there, but that fact will come up again shortly.

Josh's main course.
We started off with poulpe grillé (Grilled Spanish octopus, chickpeas, baby arugula, & Romesco sauce) and confit de canard (Boneless duck leg confit, crispy potato galette, Granny Smith apple and walnuts, watercress salad), with onion puffs and baguettes provided.  The octopus reminded me of scallops in terms of texture, and the flavor was definitely embedded well.  I wasn’t a fan of the confit as I didn’t feel the duck and galette went well together. For my main course, I had the filet de bouef cressoniè (Pan seared 8 oz tenderloin of beef, watercress soubise, fork mashed potato macaire, whole grain mustard sauce). The beef was incredibly tender and almost melted in this eater’s mouth. The watercress soaked in the beef juices and were extremely soft, as were the macaire.  We closed out with chocolate espresso mousse for dessert.  Truly a satisfactory meal, although I’m not sure if it beat yesterday’s lobstah!

The Yalies and I walked out, satisfied with our meal, only to return to the underbelly of the New Haven “ghetto.”  A homeless man, standing in the dark, cried out “Help, help!”  We kept on, not stopping until we had made it back to our safe, comfortable hotel rooms. I don’t know how to solve the enormous poverty problem that millions of Americans face everyday.  I don’t know how to solve homelessness and suffering. I do know that simply ignoring the problem won’t go away. Yesterday, I dove a little bit into the world of race relations, and today saw me experiencing the world of class relations.  These are complicated issues that we face.  It’s important to remember when we think about these things to treat people as people and not demographics.  The poor aren’t necessarily poor because they earned it, and neither are the rich.  The way classes treat each other sometimes ravages what it means to be a human.  Good leaders stand strong and fix the problems of our society by standing class-blind. As the acceptance officers at Brown said, everything in a student’s application is taken with a grain of salt so they can try to understand the student in a more contextual and conceptual manner. They want to see, as they put it, “who you are and who you could be.” If we only took that much time to understand others.

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.

The Final Leg

Well that was it. Our last day in Providence just finished. Now we are at the Omni in New Haven enjoying the luxury while we can. After tomorrow we check in to our dorms at Yale and the work begins.

An Interesting Sculpture At Brown
Last night the jet lag hit me and I did not fall asleep until pretty late. Luckily we got to sleep in until eight. That is pretty late considering how things have been the last couple of mornings. We then met up with the chaperone from Brown, Ms. Neal, who had been staying at the same hotel as us this whole time (we just had no clue until this morning). She is renting a car, so she gave us a ride to Brown. I am glad she did that because the walk was a lot longer than we thought it was earlier. At Brown we grabbed breakfast at a campus café and got to the tour just in time. The campus tour at Brown was excellent. Our tour guide, Jordan, had all the enthusiasm and humor that the Yale guide had, but she also have us all the information that a potential applicant would want. She was a sociology concentration (Brown’s fancy word for major) on the premed track. I wanted to talk to her more about what that meant and what it was like, but after the tour ended we had to go immediately to the information session. Luckily, a lot of my questions were answered there.

Brown was the first, and is now one of the only top tier colleges to have an open curriculum. This means that there are no required general education courses; the only required classes are those that are necessary to your concentration. Students chose their concentration at the end of sophomore year and can have a dual concentration if they fulfill the course requirements. I do not really think that the open curriculum would be that big of a deal to me, since I mostly like general education and my impression is that there are opportunities at most colleges to take classes that do not fit in to your major but that interest you anyway. What was significant to me was Brown’s way of handling pregraduate programs, like prelaw and premed. They do not offer concentrations in those areas, but instead have special advisors to help students who want to follow that path to make sure that they take the correct courses. I like that because it would mean that I could major in something unrelated to medicine (for example) but still keep my options open if I did decide to follow that path. The other program that Brown offered which really intrigued me was their eight year medical program. When applying to Brown you check a box and fill out an additional supplement which is evaluated by doctors at Brown’s medical school. If accepted than over the course of the next eight years you spend four at Brown taking normal classes along with some at the medical school. Then, for the next four years, you study at Brown’s medical school. The advantage is that you are exempt from MCATs and are automatically accepted. If I decide for sure that I want to go in to medicine then I will definitely apply for that program.
The Arts Building at Brown

All in all I really liked Brown. The campus was beautiful, and somehow felt both compact and spacious at the same time. Providence is a large city that does not have the feel of large cities that I normally dislike. It is also a college town that has many interesting things for college students to do and good employment and internship opportunities. It also is focused on supporting its undergraduate community and students have opportunities to do research with professors as early as freshman year. I am definitely applying to Brown, and if I get in it will be one of my top choices of schools.

After the information session we went to meet with the Brown cohort to have lunch. It was there that I realized how spoiled I was last year with Cornell’s college food. We ate at one of the dining halls which was a buffet. The food was fine, but not as tasty and with FAR fewer choices than at Cornell. In the grand scheme of things however, I heard that Cornell has some of the top college dining in the country, and Brown, while not as good, is still excellent compared to some of the other options out there. I really enjoyed having lunch with them and spending time with them while getting to hear about their impressions of Brown. After lunch and a group photo they had to leave, so we headed back to the hotel.

We went to the mall in Providence to pass time until our train arrived. Aside from being biggest mall I have ever been in it was not that interesting. We did get some ice cream though! Soon enough however it was time to go to the train station, so we headed back to the hotel to get our things then took a cab to the station.

Group Photo!

I learned my lesson well last time I did the ILC and got almost my entire blog (except for the stuff that had not happened yet) done about halfway through the two hour train ride. I then spent the rest of the time on the train observing the countryside and drawing while listening to and rating the new music I got from my girlfriend before leaving. The country is beautiful and green (as I said previously) in the summer, and I tried to imagine it in the other seasons, and I could see it being just as beautiful to look at, although almost definitely not as nice to be in.

A Cool Design We Saw In New Haven
After arriving in New Haven we took a shuttle to the Omni Hotel, where we will be staying until we start our Yale course. The hotel is very nice, but a little older feeling than the Hotel Providence. For dinner we went to a local French restaurant. I really enjoyed the food, and got to try things that I would never normally be able to eat. We had octopus and foie gras (which I believe is illegal in California) for an appetizer. I then had a gnocchi and artichoke dish for my entrée, which was something I would not normally order but it was excellent and I am glad I did. I finished with a chocolate mousse dish for desert.
These last couple days have been fantastic, but went by so quickly. Now we only have one more, and we are going out with a bang… in New York City. I personally am not a big city person, but I am sure I will have fun with the group many of whom have never been to the Big Apple before.

P.S. The “camera” in our room was actually a heat sensor. I do not know why they would need a heat sensor in the room except maybe to adjust the air conditioning. One question being answered leads to more questions; such is the way of the world.

Women and Leadership at Brown

I know what you’re thinking: why did he title this blog after one of the Ivy League Connection programs? Well, the reason is because today my cohorts and I got the chance to tour Brown University and eat with the Brown group at the end. But before I jump to that, let me start at the beginning.

Josh and I got up later than usual, about seven o’clock in the morning. We got ready and by eight forty we were downstairs. We left our bags behind the counter and Ms. Tiffany, who is the Brown cohort chaperone, was kind enough to offer us a ride to Brown and told us that later we would have lunch with the Brown group. When we first arrived on the Brown campus I loved it. The buildings were pretty, the campus was nice and big, and the best part was that it is right in the heart of a metropolitan area.  It took us a while, but eventually we found the tour meeting place and picked up some grub. Ms. Tiffany then decided to join us on the Brown tour and presentation and we were glad to have her. I half expected the tour to be like that at Harvard, but man was I wrong.

The walking portion was considerably shorter than the Harvard tour, by about half an hour, but was packed with so much more information than the Harvard tour. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Harvard tour. It’s just that the Brown tour focused less on the history and famous alumni and more on the housing, majors, and classes. Our tour guide was great. She told us why Brown was such a good school, including freedom of majors, or as they call them concentrations, how good the cafeteria’s food is, and finally that the atmosphere is very friendly and student oriented. She showed us a couple of the science buildings, the dean’s office, and finally where the old Brown woman’s college was. The way she described Brown made it all the more interesting. This was definitely a better tour than the Harvard one.
A shot of the Brown campus
In the back is the tallest building in the Providence. It is the Brown Science Library.
Then we proceeded to one of the largest auditoriums on the campus inside the dancing and performing arts building.
The performing arts building.
It was a nice auditorium, able to hold at least four hundred people. My friends and I sat in the front row and got to talk to one of the speakers before the show. He shared that he was from the San Diego, California and that he was a rising sophomore. He spoke quickly yet eloquently and knows exactly what to say to get his point across. He told us that he applied to Brown on a whim, thinking that it would be great to attend and really hoping he would get in. He had been a few times on university tours when he was younger and his cousin had gone and told him how great it was, but he never considered seriously applying. As he got older, however, he became more and more determined to apply and get in. He eventually did, and told us the wonder that he felt and the adventure he was on when he came to the East Coast. He was going to tell us a bit about the admissions process when the presentation began. 

The main man who was our orator for the morning was Mr. Degulio. He told us all about the admissions process, how they count AP test scores, what the ACT and SAT with two subject tests really means to them. He also went into depth about the flexible concentrations we could have and that there were no basic prerequisites that all students had to complete. He also talked about that when you pick a concentration, you get an adviser who is almost like a mentor in some respects. Your adviser discusses with you what university classes you should take and lends an ear if you are having any problems in your classes. He also told us that our advisers would be experts in the field we are studying, so they would know what we are going through. Then Degulio passed the mike over to the man we were talking to before the presentation began. His name is Manuel. He told us that the first year on campus can be kind of rough, especially if you don’t know anyone. But he told us not to worry because making friends comes naturally if we just be ourselves.

They then went on to talk about how when you take a class, you choose whether it is pass/fail or if you will receive a letter grade. It’s a nice system because let’s say that you are a math major and you want to look into how you like computer programming. You can sign up for the class in a pass/fail way so that you don’t have to worry about getting an A in the class and focus instead on the material and maybe understand it better. Manuel then told us that when you sign up for classes, there is a “shopping around” period where you go into and out of classes to see whether you like them or not. You may find that a class you signed up for is not for you, but another one that you walked into is something you would like to study further. Manuel usually picks six classes to look into, and then picks four and sticks with them for the rest of the semester. Some of his friends, however, pick twenty classes, try to keep up with each of them, feel hyper stressed out, and then pick their four favorites and continue. He says that he doesn’t know how they do it, but they must need a lot of coffee.

Next they went over talking to the officials at Brown. There are certain hours during the day that you don’t have to make an appointment to see an official of the college or even the dean. This freedom allows students with problems and not enough time to make an appointment the opportunity to talk to the highest authority on campus. Degulio then took the mike and lastly told us about the housing situation at Brown. It was nothing new, just dorms and Greek life, along with a majority of the senior students living off campus. But all in all, I’m sold. By the time Degulio and Manuel finished talking, I was juiced and can’t wait to apply. I just hope that I’m good enough to get in.

At eleven, when the presentation was over, we headed on out towards the Brown cohorts class area. We pull up and walk into this modern building that is just beautiful. The steps to the top floor were long and winding, but I loved them. The offices were laid out to be very open and on any give floor, the only way to get from one side to the other was by these neat bridges that skewed left or right. It was an inspired design. The building also let a lot of natural light in, so that brought the outside world inside, if you know what I mean.
A shot from inside the building of the street.
We stayed on the building third floor for a while and found this great library in honor of Kim Koo. Then we were called down stairs to meet up with two of the young ladies from the Brown group.

They were Michelle and Julia. After exchanging pleasantries, we headed over to one of the eating halls where the rest of the Brown group was. I talked with both Michelle and Julia about the program, the teachers, the seminars, how they liked, what they didn’t enjoy, and more. The Women & Leadership program really sounds very interesting, and from what they told me it sounds like it was more about finding yourself so that you can do your best and be confident with yourself and who you are. It sounds very empowering. Then we got to the lunch. I had a burger and veggie sandwich with a side of rice, nothing special enough to take a picture of though. I then talked with a few more of the women in the program and they told us that it was very interesting and quite different than anything they had taken before. We ate lunch for about and hour and afterwards we proceeded to go outside to take a group photo.   

Afterwards we had a pretty lazy afternoon. Ms. Tiffany took us back to our hotel and then showed us where the mall is. Afterwards we went our separate ways. It was nice to have her with us for the day. She is a no-nonsense woman who is fun to be around. In the mall we got some ice cream, looked through a few stores, and then got a warning from Eric not to enter this store called Spencer’s because of the weird stuff they have in there. I’ll take his word.

We then proceeded to the train stations with our bags, caught the train, and arrived in New Haven, Connecticut. The ride was a couple of hours long and were we happy when we entered the Omni.
A shot of the countryside as it passes us by

Then we wrapped up the night by going to a restaurant that serves delicious lamb shanks and serves a pretty good filet. I am a fan of lamb, and I must say that this is in my top three favorite lamb dinners ever. The meat itself was nice and tender, as if it melted in your mouth after the first bite. The spices that they used along with  the medium rare meat was just fantastic.
Then came desert. The waiter recommended something called decadence, which was a chocolate mousse with a chocolate cake cover on top of a chocolate brownie within a small lake of dark chocolate sauce. The first few bites were very good, but about half way through I experienced chocolate overload. Never had I had so much concentrated chocolate in such short time. I finished it, but man do I regret it.
Yet another great day here on the East Coast. I’m starting to like this place a lot and would love to study here. Tomorrow we will go to New York University, get a tour and then see New York City. I can’t wait! Goodnight.