Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Feminism is For Everyone

My favorite moment during the Challenge Course.
When I first started ILC, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve heard a couple of stories that have convinced me to go venture into this from previous ILC alumni, but nothing that actually felt as if I would have a place in it. The first person I talked to was Jahnvi, who gushed about her time at Vanderbilt. I felt excited and happy for her, but I knew mathematics was something I lacked skill in, so I couldn’t relate. The second person I spoke with was Komal, who took the same course I ended up being selected for in a few months after our conversation. She didn’t mention details, but she completely recommended it to me and I’d never seen her so enthusiastic about something other than the JSA club.

Flash forward to February. I entered the room full of other women that were selected for the Brown interview. I was already feeling discouraged from not being able to get into Vanderbilt and UChicago, but I since I had experience, I knew I had to try my best and not give up. The first thing I decided to do was talk to the people in the room, and though I felt intimidated by them, I found several familiar faces in the room that provided me comfort. First was Esmeralda, who had been there with me at the Vanderbilt interview, and Zunarah, who I knew through my best friend who goes to De Anza. The atmosphere felt so positive, that I couldn’t help but feel as if we weren’t at an interview, but instead at a meet and greet with other high school students.

When I was selected, I found it hard to believe because it was late and I had binge ate too many twizzlers for my own good. I was delighted that my hard work had paid off and I was proud of the five of us- Amelia, Kelsey, Esmeralda, Zunarah, and I, making it this far.
The Brown and Cornell dinner.
The Brown Cohort listening to Zunarah's speech at the District meeting.
I had a blast decorating my mug and learning more about everyone.
The milestones we all faced ended with us feeling more bonded with each other, especially after the chaperone and cohort get-together at “Color Me Mine”. We met Kendra at the District meeting and dinner, but by having a more casual setting for us to interact, I got to know more about them than I thought I would. I still have my little owl mug on my desk, and it brings me back to those times as if they were yesterday.

Next came the applications to take the Brown course. Don came at our backs once every few weeks for each requirement needed to complete it, and I’ll admit, it was a hassle to deal with it. But, I knew this was absolutely necessary and I had no right to complain for a couple of hours spent calling Don for a few requirements that were needed. After the last piece of work was finished, we were all finally free of having duties regarding ILC, and could focus more on the summer ahead of us.

A few weeks before our planned leave, we received an email from Don telling us Amelia couldn’t make it. I was devastated to find out about this, since we’d always worked together as a group. Now we had only four and during the weeks we stayed at Brown, I felt as if something was really out of place without her. We made sure to send letters, clothes, and souvenirs to her, and I really hoped we were able to support her, even if it’s just a little.

We first traveled to Philadelphia. This was the home to the University of Pennsylvania, one of the Ivy League schools that Don wanted us to tour in. I had a fun time there, my only complaint is the food size, which was too large for me and I ended up throwing leftovers away even with just an appetizer. But on the bright side, the food tasted delicious.
The four of us each took a rightful letter on the famous "LOVE" sign.
Brown University was our permanent stop for the next two weeks. We were able to arrive there on time to see the WaterFire Providence event. Though we stayed for a short time, I felt more relaxed by the environment than I had been for the last six months.
A calming view of the WaterFire Providence event.
Before class started, we had to meet our other dorm mates and tour around campus. I met several students and I found it easier to talk to them because I had lots to ask and lots to tell. Because of the different environments and experiences each student lived in, it was easy to be immersed by the stories they tell about themselves and others. I met people from the East Coast, China, Korea, Turkey, and Argentina.
The whole Women and Leadership class.
Say cheese!
Class started the next day, and I was honestly a bit scared of what the class would be like. I thought it would be a six hour lecture, with little tests or quizzes at the end of the week. But the class I experienced was nothing like I anticipated it to be. The class was discussion based, and our teacher, Mary Grace, shed a different light on the social injustices we face today. I’ve been able to learn more about and from my classmates than I thought I possibly could during those two weeks.
Mary Grace is honestly the best teacher I've ever had.
Brown Bears: the cohort!
I’ve also been able to learn about myself, which was something I didn’t expect out of this program. I feel like I can accomplish anything from the support the Women and Leadership classmates have given me. Even now, we still talk to one another in the WhatsApp and Snapchat group we’ve created.

If I were to write a letter to the me of six months ago, they probably wouldn’t believe how much this course would impact me in a short amount of time. I’m grateful to have had this opportunity, and I hope others would be convinced to join next year as well. As Mary Grace says, “empowered women, empower women”.
It was a life-changing ride. Until next time, Brown University.

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