Friday, August 25, 2017

Overwhelming Gratitude

I remember walking into the classroom and seeing that familiar guy who always wore a Hawaiian shirt, and sandals. It was the yearly Ivy League Connection Presentation held every year to students who were academically capable of participating in the program. Since I first heard about it freshman year, I had been fantasizing about the journeys I might one day encounter. I dreamed of such an opportunity to arrive, and here it was, being paraded to me. I told myself after watching the presentation for the second time, that I was going to get into this program. It wasn’t the type of ambition where you hope to get in. It was the determination that I knew I was going to get into no matter what.

That same day, and the weeks following I spent countless nights reading the previous cohort's blogs. I loved reading about all their experiences, and the things they learned. Reading the blogs inspired me to try and apply. I sometimes doubted myself, and didn't think I would be able to get in. But seeing that these people were just like me, made me want to put in the effort and take a gamble at it. After all, even if I didn't make it I still tried. The idea of personal growth and change also caught my attention. I'm the type of person who grows a lot from struggle. So every time I struggle with something, I learn and grow from it. Every challenge I face, I grow from. So this program was also a type of challenge for me, and what I am capable of accomplishing.

When looking through the courses offered I noticed Women and Leadership. I remembered how Don emphasized that women came back from this program as different people. That they were stronger, and empowered. I knew, that I had to try to get into that program. Being a women, I have experienced the discrimination, and mistreatment because of it I have wanted to stand up for our rights, and be an advocate for women all around the world. I have always been the type to embrace change, so the program caught my attention.Women are so under-represented in society today, and I felt that this course would help me in learning about how to be a better leader.

The first step was the essay which I completely poured every ounce of my soul and heart into. While writing it, I found myself in tears and feeling so happy to write it. At  first I was afraid that my essay was too personal, but I decided that I wanted everything I wrote to come from my heart. I wanted Don to know what kind of person I was and why this program was going to mean the world to me especially. I submitted my essay to him, and found myself feeling so accomplished. Every step of the way I would tell myself that I even if I didn't make it to the next round, that I was still proud of myself for getting this far.

One Saturday morning, I received a call from Don. It was him telling me that I made it to the interview round! I was so excited that I couldn’t stop smiling the entire phone call. I even danced around my house! I put my heart into that essay, and I was so glad to find that it was rated the highest. I was so proud of myself, for being confident enough to share such intimate details about my personal life, the struggles I have encountered, and how it has shaped who I am. After the phone call, I immediately cried of joy and jumped up and down. I ran to my best friend and her mom, and hugged them so tightly. We all cried, because they knew how much I had been stressing about it. I never stopped talking about it. I was so worried that I wouldn’t get through. It wasn't just me going through the process, it was my loved ones too. They all wanted me to get in, and have this opportunity. They also knew how much it meant to me. I never stopped talking about it and worrying about it.

The next challenge I faced on my journey was the interview process. This was what was going to really determine whether I was going to move forward with this program, or if this was when I had to say goodbye until next year. I think that I wasn’t so afraid of talking in front of the judges, but more so getting rejected. I knew that if I got rejected I would be torn apart. My confidence would plummet, and it would honestly be really hard for me to want to even consider applying the next year. I found myself so nervous to face them. I was nervous to my stomach. I couldn’t stop fidgeting in that room at El Cerrito. I found out that I was going in second and my heart dropped. What really helped was the friends I made that day. I was so shocked to meet such inspiring and sweet people. We all calmed each other down, and decided to stay in touch with each other even if one of us didn't get in. I got along with them so well and I fantasized about the trip we would potentially take together.

Before I knew it departure day was here, and it was time to leave. I left my house that night feeling so exhilarated. The entire time my brain was going crazy fantasizing about all the wonderful things I might learn and do for the two weeks. I was surely going to come back a different person.
Throwback to departure day.
The beginning of the trip was like I was a fish taken out of water. I was so used to being around my loved ones, and not stepping out of my comfort zone. For the first few days I was quite intimidated, and even wondered if my nervousness would go away. I even wanted to go home at a certain point because of how different it was. I tried my best to calm down and realize that things were going to get better, and that I was just not used to everything. 

At Brown I settled in and started to have the time of my life. Everything we did was so fun and interesting. I was meeting amazing people, and learning so much about myself. I even made amazing friendships a long the way. Everyday I took a step in getting a better understanding how to be a leader. Every moment was an adventure, and I began to fall in love with the program. I even started to love my dorm, and the independence I had. The program also brought my cohort and I even closer. We learned so much about each other, and now they're some of the closest friends that I've ever had.
 "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." - Neale Donald Walsch.
The two weeks I spent at Brown have been the highlight of my entire year, and possibly my entire high school experience. I discovered so much about myself. The kind of leader I am, and how my identities blend together to form the person I am.

Every time I reflect on my trip, or think about the ILC I smile. I smile because I am overwhelmed with gratitude. The ILC is so generous, and the people who have contributed their time into making the ILC possible are so amazing. Every previous ILCer's life has been impacted by this program, including mine. I will never forget how much the ILC has impacted my life. 

I just want to thank the ILC for choosing me, and for making this all possible for the WCCUSD. This opportunity is such a life changing experience. I understand why everyone would always talk about how great it was. It really is the best. I love the ILC, and what it’s all about, which is giving back. After my experience at Brown, all I want to do is give back for all everything they've done for me. Thank you ILC, and thank you Don for all that you do. No matter what, you always had our backs, even when times were rough, you made the impossible happen. You are inspirational.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Zunarah. Kelsey.Amelia,Bianche,Don, Esmeralda,Kendra and Zunarah. I am a Pastor from Mumbai, India. I am glad to stop by your profile on the blogger and the blog post. I am also blessed and feel privileged and honored to get connected with you as well as know you and about your interest in travel. I love getting connected with the people of God around the globe to be encouraged, strengthened and praying for one another. I have been in the Pastoral ministry for last 38 yrs in this great city of Mumbai a city with a great contrast where richest of rich and the poorest of poor live. We reach out to the poorest of poor with the love of Christ to bring healing to the brokenhearted. We also encourage young and the adults from the west to come to Mumbai to work with us during their vacation time. We would love to have you all come to Mumbai to work with us during your vacation time. I am sure you will have a life changing experience. My email id is: dhwankhede(at)gmail(dot)com and my name is Diwakar Wankhede. LOOKING forward to hear from you very soon. God's richest blessings on you, your family and friends.