Sunday, December 30, 2012

From ILC Alum Connor Miller


Hello fellow ILCers!

First of all I am very proud of all of you for being part of the Ivy League Connection. I know that without this program my life would have been very different than it is right now. I am incredibly thankful for all the opportunities the program provided me, and as a result I now go to Sarah Lawrence College in Bonxville, New York.

My college experience is a little different from what you would experience anywhere else in the country. Here's the lowdown on my school: 
  • Student population consists of about 1400 students.
  • There are no required courses
  • Most classes are typically no bigger than 15 students.
  • We typically do independent research projects instead of exams.
  • We have incredibly talented professors (our faculty was ranked #1 in the nation by the Princeton Review).

The majority of my workload consists of a lot of reading and writing, all the time.

When I first came to Sarah Lawrence, I was afraid that I didn't belong there. I felt like a public-high school education hadn't prepared me to function in this college. I felt inadequate, out of place, and at times I wanted to go home. At one point, I was panicking. I had several twenty-page papers to write, on top of my class readings and my job, so I went to one of my professors and said, "I am freaking out."

"This is the de-freak out zone," my professor told me. Together, we sat down at my computer and made a to-do list, and then scheduled out everything that had to be done and when I was going to do it during the day. On Tuesday after lunch I would study Spanish. Monday mornings I would write my paper for Psychology. Fridays I would rest.

So far, this has been the most valuable lesson I've learned in college. Time management is essential. I suggest that everyone get a daily planner or schedule using iCal or Microsoft Outlook. This semester my workday typically went from 9am to 10pm, and I am sure that I would've crashed and burned without my Outlook Calendar.

I am sure that there are plenty more things I will learn, but this is the one that I think helps allow for other realizations. When you are in charge of your time, everything else gets a little bit easier. Just a little bit.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, and if you have any questions about college (particularly Sarah Lawrence) fire me an e-mail!

Sincerely,
Connor Miller

From ILC Alum Frank She


My first quarter at UCLA was amazing!

If you do not take the time to read the following testimonial, I will be very sad. But you should still skip to the end for the out-of-context summary.

I took four classes: Calculus 31A, Computer Science 31, Ethnomusicology 25, and Music 90M.

Calculus 31A (about equivalent to AP Calc AB-BC) was extremely fast-paced because lectures were only an hour per day, three times a week. For me, math was my most difficult subject. It was much more thorough than high-school calculus and my professor was not as clear as he could have been. I strongly advise future college-students to use sites like ratemyprofessor to assist in choosing professors. Also, if you have the opportunity to apply AP credit to a course, do it! College classes are difficult, even at the beginning levels.

Computer Science 31 was an introductory computing class. It was extremely time-consuming and sometimes proved to be frustrating. However, this class was slow-paced and the teacher was redundant, which I loved (sometimes snuck in a quick nap during lecture!). Computing projects really showed me the need to better manage my time and to procrastinate less. This class really helped reaffirm my desire to continue in my chosen major—Computer Science & Engineering. My advice is to study something you enjoy and to stop procrastinating!

Ethnomusicology 25 was a General Education requirement. It was fun. I skipped class sometimes and when midterms rolled around I had to copy a lot of notes from my friend. Short story made shorter, don’t skip lectures.

Music 90M was Marching Band! Oh, how I love the UCLA band. My advice is to join clubs and activities that you truly want to commit your time to. Get involved in something, but not necessarily for the sake of being involved. Do things you enjoy.

Q: How have you grown as a person?
A: Not sure.

A recap on advice: 
  • Look up your professors online.
  • Prepare to study…possibly a lot.
  • PERFORM WELL ON YOUR AP TESTS, you do not realize how much the credit actually helps!
  • Do not procrastinate. (I hope you finished your winter break assignments!)
  • Study what you love and love what you study.
  • Don’t skip class. (Or you’ll suffer…usually)
  • Get involved in some type of club that you enjoy!
  • Do your best. College classes are harder, but not impossible!
  • Have fun, and be happy.
  • Go to UCLA….what?

Go Bruins!
Frank She

From ILC Alum Beilul Naizghi

Hello current ILC-ers!

I hope you are enjoying your winter break and you all hear good things come April!

My name is Beilul and I am currently a freshman at Brown University.

This past semester, I took Campaigns and Elections (with fellow ILC-er Andrew Gonzolas), Introduction to Public Policy, Contemporary Egypt in Revolution and The Digital World.  I elected to take the last two S/NC (pass/fail) which may not be for everyone but I highly recommend anyway. My class sizes included two 150-200 person lectures, a 20 person first year seminar and a 40 person introductory course. One important difference from high school was the sheer lack of assignments I had. One of my classes (Campaigns and Elections) consisted only of a midterm, a final and a 6-7 page, double spaced memo. Most of my weekly assignments were all readings and it was a bit intimidating to have so few opportunities to demonstrate that I new the material. In terms of my major, I had initially entered Brown with the intention of studying public policy but am now considering switching to development studies.

I am now a member of the Student Labor Alliance and the High Impact Network - a relatively new organization about effective altruism. I attended some of the Feminists at Brown and Brown for Financial Aid meetings but there were too many conflicts this semester. I also did some public opinion polling for the university's center for public policy.

This semester I spent a lot of time could attending lectures and presentations, some of which were about the programs offered at Brown and others were on topics I found interesting such as the effective altruism group 80,000 Hours, the Achebe Collloquim on African foreign policy and a United Students Against Sweatshops bootcamp in New Jersey. Some of the courses I want to take next semester include African Issues in Anthropological Perspective, Perspectives on Society, and Islam and Modernity but this will probably change in the next month.

Anyway, Happy New Year to everyone and please let me know if you have any questions about Brown :)

Beilul Naizghi
ILC Cornell - Hotel '10 & Columbia - Presidential Powers '11
Hercules High School c/o 2012
Brown University c/o 2016

Thursday, December 20, 2012

From ILC Alum Dyana So


At the Outskirts of an Epic Liminal Space

Going to college on the other side of the country has altered the way I’ve measured time -- both in the duration I’ve been away from home and in the remaining time I have left as an undergraduate student of the University of Pennsylvania. The latter part might sound a bit dramatic and out of place, especially coming from a freshman with still seven semesters waiting for her when she comes back from her first winter break, but to refer back to the theme of time, epiphanies could care less about adjusting to your schedule.

“It’s only just the beginning,” they tell her.

“Just wait until you dive deeper,” they caution.

And so she listened. She listened and by opening her ears to the wisdom and opinions of those surrounding her in such a vibrant academic and social community, she was able to draft a light map of her place on campus. It is not much of a map and it is also more sensitive to changes relative to those of her peers that already know they will be lawyers, doctors, nurses, and engineers after college. Even in its early stages, the blueprint is complicated, but at the very least, she has something to work from.

I admit that my first three weeks of college were largely unpleasant. I felt like I was wearing a really itchy and aesthetically displeasing sweater in the midst of celebrating happy times with friends and family. It was an unsettling feeling -- to get what you’ve wanted for so long but immediately question the emotions that followed -- and every morning I felt like I was waking up with more doubt than optimism. I became quieter, shyer, and uncertain as a result and that was so unlike me; it was unlike what I’ve always wanted for myself. I hate being out of character.

But that’s what most transitioning stages are like. Though they are inescapable, recurring motifs of life, there are two good things about them: (1) they getter better with time, and (2) they offer this chance to grow more as a person than you’d ever think you would.

I think things started to take a turn for the positive when all the good things began to align with one another. Familiar faces were turning into friends with full names, backgrounds, and memories of recent conversations and adventures. My schedule was finally becoming routine, my professors became less intimidating, and I began to recognize the person staring back at me in the mirror. She was more organized, more confident, and above all, happier. The daily obstacles and challenge never changed but I had changed in order to face them.

I’ve been away from home for about 5 months now but it certainly does not feel like it at all. Here at the University of Pennsylvania, it is a wonder just how many classes, meetings, events, casual get-togethers, and ‘Wawa Runs’ can fit into a span of twenty-four hours (notice how sleep was not included in this list). This campus is always alive with movement -- be it afternoons on weekdays when the artery of campus, Locust Walk, is crowded with people, or be it Van Pelt Library at midnight where you will find students getting coffee in between problem sets and papers. There’s no such thing as night and day here; work spills over the daily borders of PM and AM as casually for students here as exchanging greetings with classmates on your way to class.

I always assumed college was this four-year pitstop of life -- a temporary rest stop to learn about the world and ourselves and possibly pick up a map or two for more permanent stops in life -- but it is much more than I had ever conceived. It’s only been my first semester but I’ve never felt so happy to be alive, to be thinking and questioning, and to be away from home to experience another kind of ‘home’.

With four finals, thousands of pages read, and hundreds of people met, I look back on my first college semester very fondly. There were many areas I could have improved on but I admit that it is through making them that I’ve come to learn how to rewrite my wrongs. I have no regrets. I am so excited for the next semester to start. I love going to school at the University of Pennsylvania.

What I’ve Been Up To: A Brief Summary
I am currently a ℅ 2016 freshman in the College of Art and Sciences. I have not officially declared my major yet but I currently have my eyes set on a double major in Communications and in Fine Arts/English (whatever I gravitate more towards for my second major I hope to have the other option drop down as a minor). This fall semester I took a total of three classes -- ‘Introduction to International Relations’ with Prof. Mansfield, ‘Modern Chinese’ with Professor Shih, and ‘Integrated Studies’ with Professor Tresch, Ghrist, and Struck.

‘Integrated Studies’ is part of the Benjamin Franklin Scholars program at Penn and the goal of this honor program is to challenge students from the College with an interdisciplinary curriculum that teaches students how to think instead of what to think. The week was broken down according to the disciplines and how they were being integrated. Mondays was Classical Studies, Tuesdays was Mathematics, Wednesdays was Intellectual History, Thursday was Integration, and Friday was recitation with our TAs. The 79 students who are enrolled in this class with me are also my hallmates in the Riepe Warwick residential building so this program cultivates both a stimulating and rich social experience.

Beyond academics, I am also a work study student for two cultural resource centers at Penn: the Pan-Asian American Community House (PAACH) and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual Center. I do graphic design for both and the experience has taught me a lot about working in a professional setting, the community that these centers support and advocate for. It has also introduced me to a lot of affiliated student groups on campus so I ended up feeling less excluded than I thought choosing to work over joining student groups would.

Every Sunday I take three hour kendo lessons (Japanese fencing) and when I can, I contribute photography to Penn’s very own campus fashion blog, SEEN on the WALK. Recently, I’ve been admitted into the Communications Within the Curriculum (CWiC) program at Penn, which trains its participants to be speaking coaches for other students at Penn, and I will begin training by this upcoming Spring semester.
- - - - - - -
It’s incredible how much I’ve learned both inside and outside the classroom in these past four months. Among the life lessons I’ve come to learn for myself include the following three which I now adhere to faithfully:

Beat the Herd: Conforming was so High School
It’s easy to copy what those around you are doing, and being in a foreign place, you are further encouraged to do so because it feels ‘safe’. Knowing that what you’re doing ‘can’t possibly be wrong’ has its benefits, but college is the time to take chances and obtain a better knowledge of who you are. And when I say that, I mean it -- these four years will never be experienced in the same way again. Don’t waste it by repeating high school.

At Penn, the College of Arts and Sciences has the most flexible curriculum and pre-major advisors and upperclassmen truly encourage freshmen to make the most of it. Despite this, many freshmen share similar first semester schedules of math, writing seminar, language, and economics. While I agree that completing requirements early and continuing certain subjects from high school for continuity -- such as languages or math -- are good things to consider, something should also be said about finding the space to take a class for exploration.

Many schools give students until the end of their sophomore year to declare their major. How can you be so sure what you want to major in if you never took the time out to figure out what it is that you really have a passion for? Many people have more than one passion and many of them are untapped or have yet to be discovered. If you’re worried about running out of time to ‘do it all’, channel more energy to explore who you are rather than race the clock to fulfill requirements. Those requirements will get done, but the space to stretch the limits of your character narrows with every coming semester.

This goes the same for the non-academic activities you join in college. In high school, there’s always a side agenda to join clubs and groups because they look good on college applications. Don’t do that in college; challenge yourself to break away from the pressure to join what you think society will be impressed by and, instead, join what you honestly have an interest in. No group is ‘more important’ than another until you choose to rank them. Making the most of the organization you join instead of having the organization shape you says more about your character and this will naturally show when it comes time to recollect it during a job interview.

I am glad I pursued kendo instead of joining student government. I liked being politically active in high school but part of it had to do with growing into the culture (there were many times in the earlier stages that I questioned why I was even involved in the first place). I didn’t know much about kendo but I’ve always wanted to do a martial arts. By starting something with a genuine interest, I find it more rewarding as a general experience. Likewise, I am also am glad that I took the ‘Introduction to International Relations’ class instead of a writing seminar my first semester because it made me realize that I wasn’t as interested in pursuing an IR major as I originally thought. For those students who feel that they have too many interests, such as myself, it is progressive to narrow options by at least finding out what it is you don’t like.

Finding the Infinite in a Finite Space: Making the Most of What you Have
The PAACH office wasn’t always located in a tiny office space on the second floor of Houston Hall. It used to be in the Arch building -- easily accessible to students passing by the college green -- with large lounges for students to hang around in and for student groups to gather; now it was in a space smaller than my dorm room. Though I never had the chance to compare the old space with the current space (it is temporary since the Arch is being renovated), I’m familiar with the setbacks that come with relocation having work there for work study. At first I blamed the smaller space for limiting PAACH’s progress but now, I’ve come to see that such limits are really those we make for ourselves. Even within a finite space, there is room to grow infinitely.

This metaphor goes beyond the PAACH office (where the professional staff, other work study students, and I have really become creative with marketing and promotional strategies despite relocation); this metaphor has helped me make the most of my first semester. In my first four months of college, I have many ‘finite spaces’ -- I was a freshman, I had a lot of learning ahead of me, I wasn’t specialized in any major or career plans, and I was a work study student on work shifts. These were things I cannot change but I didn’t let them become excuses for not optimizing my full potential. Taking part in work study, for instance, was a social constraint. It was not much of a choice because I needed to make the most of my work study grant, but it did mean that I was willing to give up hours of my day to go to work instead of going to club meetings or hanging out with my new college friends. That was what I made myself believe for the first half of the semester until I started to look within my jobs for opportunities. Since doing that, I’ve met many students from affiliated student groups who have introduced me to opportunities -- cultural show auditions, overnight conventions, board elections, etc -- along the way.

I once thought work study would limit my networking opportunities when really, it has done quite the opposite. By making the most of what I had, by finding the infinite within the finite, I was able to reshape what I had to work from to create a situation that was best for me. As a freshman in college, there will always be limits, but rather than break them or wait on them, you should work with them. When you can’t change the system, change yourself.

Connection over Collection: Making Meaningful Friendships
It is the people that makes me enjoy college most and there is no community quite like one made of Penn people. Part of the reason I was able to get through the turbulence of my first three weeks of college was being around and talking with people -- people who were older, people who worked at Penn, and people who shared the same uncertainty and doubt I was feeling.

In college, it is not uncommon for people to see these four years as one long networking opportunity and when you go to a place like Penn, it’s a goldmine of talent and powerful connections. When I took ‘Studies of Grand Strategies’ at Yale, I read a book called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferazzi. Back then, I thought the book was incredibly enlightening; it really made me look at the friendships I made in a different light -- in a profitable light. Granted, I’m sure that is not the core of Ferazzi’s argument, that you make all friendships with the intention of establishing some sort of intended connection, but so many people have those intentions in college.

College students are smart and when you attend school alongside Wharton students, it’s hard not to get sucked into seeing the world in terms of net-benefits and profitable markets (I sometimes catch myself using such metaphors actually). But in my humble opinion and experience thus far, one should not go about college with those intentions -- leave it for the business world that lies beyond your undergraduate years. When you approach people with genuity, in the same way you’d like others to approach you, the quality of the friendship is generally better and ultimately more meaningful.

This also eliminates the pressure of making friends narrowly. College is the time to really expand not only the size of your circle but also the quality of your circle. Some of the best connections I’ve made at Penn so far are with international students. I like that I interest them as much as they interest me. The differences in our culture brings us closer together and both sides come out mutually more informed  as a result.
- - - - -
With all this being said, it’s also important to remember not to wear any more masks in college. What I’ve definitely noticed about myself compared to who I was back in high school was that I’m happier now because I’ve embraced who I am.  High school culture can be suffocating with all those ‘labels’ and ‘race to the top’ mentality. College, while still very competitive and socially intimidating at times, can also be very empowering when you let your individuality grow. This goes back to the advice on avoiding conformity and making the most of what you have; it also goes back to the theme of time. There are four years allocated to learn in all imaginable directions and I do not intend on wasting any of mine.

Wing Tung (Dyana) So
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Pennsylvania c/o 2016

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

From ILC Alum Julie Liang


Dear Ivy League Connection,

It's the end of another semester. This semester has been rather busy for me, but not much has changed from the previous semester. I am still working at my research lab, the general chemistry stockroom, and my parents' store. The only addition is that this previous semester, I was promoted to the Curriculum Director of BEAM, a student-run mentoring program I am a part of. I also shadowed a chemistry TA in his lab section as a requirement to TA myself in the future during the school year. Each semester has become increasingly busy since freshman year, but it was a slow and steady buildup. I would encourage freshmen not to overload on classes in their first semester/year. It's nice to be able to take a lighter course load in order to explore other things you may be interested in.

I'll try to focus more on BEAM this e-mail, as that's what's changed the most for me recently. BEAM stands for Berkeley Engineers and Mentors, and we are a student-run organization that sets up a weekly 1- to 1.5-hour science lesson at currently 8 different Berkeley/Oakland/Richmond elementary schools (most are in Berkeley), 1 middle school, and 1 high school. We basically go into schools with the intention of getting students excited about science through demos and experimentation instead of through textbooks and lectures. As curriculum director, I am in charge of a committee of about 6 people, and we each write 1-2 lesson plans to be taught that semester at the different schools. What I have to make sure happens is that each person gets his or her lesson plan written by the deadline and that the concept is straightforward and easily understood from the lesson plan, which means I need to try to imagine myself as an elementary school kid and see if I would enjoy the activity. Writing curriculum has really given me a greater appreciation for my teachers in high school who always tried to come up with analogies and different ways of explaining the same concept to try to reach out to as many students as possible. Writing curriculum is harder than just writing a procedure for an experiment; one must think about how the mentors should present the concepts to the students, how should we relate the concepts to the students? What kind of analogies, etc. I've really learned a lot about how to teach in BEAM versus just tutoring students, and I'm glad I took the time to look outside of activities related to school work to do something I really enjoy. I know that many college students look for extracurriculars that are related to and boost themselves up for what they plan to do post-undergrad, but I urge you to look outside of the usual resume boosters and find something that really interests you.

A little on the specifics of courses, I take mainly chemistry upper division courses now. I have to say that the chemistry I learn and use now is much different from what I learned in high school. There's much less focus on memorization (which for some reason always seems to be a focus in high school chem courses...) and a lot of focus on trying to understand and develop an intuition for chemistry and why reactions take place. Actually, chemistry is rather multifaceted... but it is definitely not a lot of number-punching, which it seems like in high school. So if you happen to like chemistry but can't seem to get past all the math, don't let it get in your way. Chemistry, and lab work especially, is based more on hard work and perseverance than it is on math skills.

Julie Liang
Candidate for B.S. in Chemistry, UC Berkeley

Monday, December 17, 2012

From ILC Alum Selene Calderon


Dear ILC community,

Finishing the first half of my second year at UC Berkeley was a very difficult but at the same time a very rewarding experience. It was completely different from my previous year at Cal and it allowed me to grow so much more. For one, I was neither living in the dorms nor did I have a meal plan. Also, since the previous year I dedicated myself solely to my academics and did not participate in many extracurricular activities. This fall semester I decided to get more involved like I had been in high school. Additionally, I ended up changing my future career goals and even my major.

This semester I lived in an apartment off campus. Depending on the college you attend the availability of off campus housing might be different but my main advice is to start looking as early as possible. I found my apartment through the UC Berkeley FB Housing group but I do know craigslist and the listing of local apartments that UC Berkeley offers online are also really useful. When it comes to housing you really have to make sure to do the right paperwork, check out the place and area it is located in, meet your roommates, and also set house/apartment rules. Live with people you know you will able to get work done and if not find places nearby that you can go to. Another part of being off campus and off a meal plan is to find and explore the local grocery stores. Having a healthy diet is one way that you can make sure to be ready for class and your other obligations.

The best part of being in school for me has always been doing community service having to do with the things I am learning in class. I noted that this semester having more things to do allowed me to balance my coursework a lot better. Sometimes just being busy all the time gives you really little chances to slack off. I think when considering what and how many extracurricular activities to do in college the most important things to take into account are your interest in the subject and your time availability. I suggest mapping out a weekly schedule, first placing your classes and then finding things you can do in your spare time that fit that schedule. It’s important to not forget that your primary role in your college community is as a student and you shouldn’t neglect your academics for other activities. It might seem really easy and without any consequence missing a lecture or discussion that isn’t mandatory, but every single one of these is coming out of your tuition and you never know when your professor might present material that’s critical to your grade or make changes to the course.  Furthermore, using a weekly schedule of the times for every meeting or event plus all your homework and class times is essential. I could not have survived this semester without my planner. When you have a lot going on there isn’t really any way for you to remember every single thing on your own. I definitely suggest that even if you are not taking a large course load or doing other activities on the side you keep a planner or some sort of schedule to help you navigate each week of your quarter/semester.

Moreover, like I mentioned previously, this semester I definitely made a lot of changes to both my educational and career goals. I entered UC Berkeley in the Fall of 2011 as intended Psychology Pre-med and I left this semester as an intended double major in Social Welfare and Gender & Women Studies looking towards pursuing a career in Education. My changes are because being in college has allowed to explore different fields and I feel a greater passion towards my new choices in major than I ever did for psychology. When it comes to being Pre-med I think it is critical to really want it. Not only are the classes difficult but they are very time consuming not that education isn’t but personally I rather be in an education class than in a Pre-med requirement. Though I did sacrifice some things for others I feel that now I am looking more at what I want and what I am passionate about than expectations. I think there is nothing wrong with either the psychology or health field, but the person I am now is much more passionate about education. I think deep down I always knew, I just hadn’t realized it. Therefore, my advice to any incoming college student is to keep your options open and try different fields. You shouldn’t restraint yourself to any field of study but you should take advantage of the fact you are in college and most colleges have many different types of classes. Explore any topic you are curious about because that only enriches your college experience and your personal knowledge. You might find fields that don’t appeal to you in any way but unless you take the chance to explore them you will never know.

Don’t feel intimidated by the idea of starting college and making it through. College is hard but it’s doable as long as you reach out for help when you need it and you stay on top of things. Concentrate on finishing high school, learning new things each day, and ultimately preparing for your future.

Hope everyone has a great holiday break

GO BEARS!

Selene Calderon
Richmond High School ‘11
UC Berkeley ‘15

From ILC Alum Megan Robb


This past semester I took  Organic Chemistry; Cell and Molecular Biology; People, Culture, and Society Sociology/Anthropology: and Ethnic Literature.  Organic chemistry was extremely difficult and fast passed.  It was my most challenging course and I am very glad that it is over.  

My Biology course was focusing more in depth on the cellular mechanisms and the specifics on how the cell functions.  

My intro to sociology/anthropology was very interesting.  We had many discussions about the culture in America both in the past and present.

The Ethnic Literature course was my favorite class this semester. We read and discussed a wide range of literature. Some of my favorite reads were Maus I and II, Crescent, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Twilight: Los Angeles 1992. The books that we read in the course looked at Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, White, and Asian culture within America.

At Denison University there are a lot of people from the east and west coasts. Denison has been referred to as an east coast school in the Midwest. In other words, students are very well off and overall preppy. This was a sort of culture shock for me but I have grown to love Denison.

Denison, and college in general, is different from high school in regards to the importance of time management. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having good time management skills.

This past semester I was very involved in my sorority, on-campus job, and volunteering.  Therefore I had to be extremely focused and literally had no time for procrastination.

As an individual I have become more independent, responsible, and focused.

This past semester I decided that I wanted to get a soc/anth minor instead of a chemistry minor. I made the change once I realized that I was not pursuing the chemistry minor for the right reasons and that I should focus on something that I am passionate about.

I have also become better at time management and the very delicate balance between the academic and social aspects of college.

Thank You,
Megan Robb
Denison University 15'

Sunday, December 16, 2012

From ILC Alum Michelle Saechao


Dear Ivy League Connection Community,

My second year at UCLA has been so rewarding thus far. I began this year with so much more confidence and so much motivation to improve myself. Last year I secured a position working at the College Library Instructional Computing Commons, or CLICC, where I've had the opportunity to meet new people, make connections with important library officials, earn money and study a lot. I feel so blessed to have a job that not only pays well but allows me to study when it's not so busy. I hear stories from people about their other jobs around campus and I have to say that my job is one of the best around and I just received an email yesterday that I've been promoted!

On top of working all quarter, I also received the Secretary position for UNICEF at UCLA. It's been truly rewarding volunteering my time to raise money for one of the best humanitarian organizations in UNICEF, playing with and teaching children who live in an alternative transitional homeless shelter and organizing awareness events around campus.

I've also secured an internship for next quarter at Viacom Media Networks/MTV Networks International in Santa Monica working in the media library. Although I have no particular interest in the entertainment industry, I also have no idea what I want to do in the future. Hopefully this will serve as a great experience for me to see what different kinds of careers are out there and if I can see myself working them.

Double-majoring in International Development Studies and Economics allows me to take a wide-range of classes. This past quarter I took Spanish, Gender Studies and Microeconomics. Although Spanish language courses are technically taught by TAs, my TA this quarter was an older native Quechuan women from Ecuador who is incredibly educated and lectures all over the Americas. She was an incredible teacher to have because she was so dedicated to student learning. Although I am an Economics major, the subject material is generally more difficult for me to grasp, so I didn't do so well this quarter in my Microeconomics course. Instead of having midterms like other courses, my professor had three quizzes and a final. Calling it a 'quiz' instead of an exam didn't help my study habits and so I passed the course with a C. I know to take each bit of work more seriously in the future because although the material may be difficult, I am completely capable of working harder to receive a better grade. Lastly, my Gender Studies course served as a nice break from all the graphs in economics. While I didn't enjoy lecture very much, I did feel very enthusiastic about my section discussion sessions because we got to really engage with our peers about the readings for each week. Nonetheless, I'm grateful for all I've learned this quarter, but I'm also grateful for being done!

Words of advice:
  1. Get involved, but stay organized! It's important to remember that everything deserves your time and if you neglect one thing for another, you're not being fair.
  2. Enjoy people! They will keep you sane. I can't say how many times weird remarks from my roommates or freestyles from my friends have lifted my mood and given me energy to keep on working!
  3. Don't wait for midterms or finals to study! Use all the time you have to continually learn and review material. It's a drag, but it helps.
  4. Look into campus resources like free printing, writing help or tutors. Your tuition dollars go toward these programs, so let them help you!

Hope this has been helpful for all of you! Have a very Happy Holiday Season!

Go Bruins!

Michelle Saechao
UCLA Class of 2014
2010 ILC Alumna

From ILC Alum Stephanie Ny


Good evening everyone,

I’m now done with a third of my junior year at Northwestern. Unlike many juniors in college, I am still undecided about my major. I have pretty much decided on sociology, though, in case anybody who has read my previous testimonials wants to know! Since an early age, I have been interested in the way in which society functions to advantage some and disadvantage others. It was not until college, however, that my interest really developed, and now I am satisfied that I will (probably) major in something by which I am genuinely moved.

My college works on the quarter system. Generally, we have nine or ten weeks of classes, a dead/reading week, and finals week. That being said, classes move rather quickly. At times I find myself having a midterm at least once a week until the end of the quarter. At the same time, it basically guarantees that I stayed on top of my studies at all times. Because of this, I also feel like I’ve learned more by using the quarter system than I would have learned if I’d gone to a semester-based school. (There’s no real telling, though, since I have no experience with these schools).

In light of recent tragic events that are not unique to Northwestern, I must really, really advise all of you that if you are struggling in any way—emotionally or academically—to not be afraid to ask for help. Don’t think that you’re alone in your struggle, or that you’re a burden to your peers or to those whose services are open to you. College is a stressful place (high school is, too!) and can take a toll on you in ways that can make you feel isolated. But do try to keep in mind that people do care and will help you. Ask, and help will come to you.

As always, feel free to e-mail me any questions you have about Northwestern or college in general, and happy holidays!

Stephanie Ny
Northwestern 2014