A cold yet refreshing breeze overwhelmed me and tousled my hair as I strolled down California Street. Finally, the evening of the Vanderbilt dinner had arrived; it was the last of the Ivy League Connection dinners and was to be held at the lovely Perbacco restaurant in San Francisco.
Our company for the dinner included four Vanderbilt Alumni (Rachelle Soderston ‘04, John Tilsch ‘04, John Labiak ’08, and Tyler Sanchez ’10), three of our panelists from our interview for the program (Mr. Hermann Blackmon, Mr. Don Ellis, and Judge Henry Ramsey), three of our School Board members (Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and Ms. Merriweather), Don, our chaperone Ms. Bulls, and our parents.
As we ascended a flight of rich, wooden stairs to the second floor of the restaurant, a kind lady offered to take our coats and hang them up for us. We were to dine in the “Baralo” room, which was essentially a large elegant wine cellar. Bottles of fanciful wine lined the glass cases along the wall, and the size of the room provided for an intimate yet lively dining experience.
I had the opportunity to sit between Rachelle Soderston and John Tilsch, two of the four Vanderbilt Alumni. They both graduated in ’04 and provided great insight on Vanderbilt and their rich experiences there.
As I spoke with Rachelle about her decision to attend Vanderbilt, I learned that I wasn’t alone when it came to what I really look for and want in college. Rachelle had initially attended two other colleges, including UCLA, before settling on Vanderbilt. It was comforting to hear from her that changing one’s mind is perfectly fine when it comes to deciding on college.
I was also extremely interested in the fact that Vanderbilt had a very diverse atmosphere; it attracts many students from all fifty states. It was very awesome to hear John speak about his experiences at Vanderbilt and the amazing, lifelong friendships he made with people from across the country. It was pleasing to hear about how wonderful and open-minded the students are at Vanderbilt; I learned the people are just as significant as the academics when it comes to choosing a college.
I also discovered from John that Vanderbilt offers a study abroad program. Although he chose to not study abroad due to his commitment to other things, such as his fraternity in which he was very involved, he encourages others to take the opportunity to do so because it offers the ability to learn and engage in a new culture and environment.
In some ways, I feel as though our journey to Vanderbilt will be like its own study abroad program. We’ll be exposed to a whole new culture, which includes Southern accents (Rachelle confirmed this with me), and we’ll be right in the middle of a somewhat major city, as John put it, and grassy fields. The fact that we will be learning so much more aside from our World Religions course makes me even more excited to embark on our journey.
It was, overall, a very fine evening. But of course, I cannot forget to mention the food: I ordered the duck breast, which was plated with wonderfully warm, caramelized cherries and fresh arugula. It was simply delectable. For dessert, we had a satisfying chocolate cake (or brownie) alongside a light, sweet meringue. I could only devour half my cake, not because I was afraid of smiling with chocolate unknowingly smeared across my teeth, but simply because it was just too rich for my taste.
I am so honored to have had the opportunity to dine with the Alumni, along with everyone else at the dinner. In their speeches, Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg stressed one of the most important goals of the Ivy League Connection: to make connections. As the ILC has never had students step foot onto Vanderbilt, I hope we did just that.
I want to thank everyone for the wonderful evening. I am very delighted to have met and spoken to such brilliant people, and now, I am even more excited for the time to approach to travel to the great Ivy League of the South.