Friday, July 8, 2011

HBCUs and Great Food in Atlanta

Well I got about two more hours of sleep last night than I had the night before - which doesn’t exactly add to a whole lot of sleep, but some is better than none. We ate at the hotel’s restaurant for breakfast. I had a delicious breakfast of French toast, home fries, and OJ, as well as a complimentary shot glass of a guava smoothie. I have learned from this trip, that as well as not liking oysters, I am not a big fan of guava as well. You may think my tastes buds are out of control, but it tasted strongly bitter.
French toast
We were trying to hit the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, also known as HBCUs, in Atlanta. Three HBCUs are right next to each other, in a secluded area downtown. We had tours and info sessions scheduled for Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse, which is an all-male school. Our chaperone, Ms. Bulls, had attempted to schedule a tour and information session for Spelman, the all-female college, but they denied us because Kye is male, and they do not allow males on campus for tours.

Our first college session was for Morehouse. Because it’s a college only for males, Julia and I sat back and respectfully listened to the information that was being given. I did ask one question which was, “what is the benefit of going to a single-sex college?” The student guide responded that he believed there were fewer distractions in a classroom, and the guys had a better chance to strongly connect with one another and truly have a brotherly bond. He also pointed out that Spelman, Morehouse’s sister college, is right next door, so they’re never too far away from girls, if that’s a concern a guy may have about attending Morehouse.

After Morehouse, we drove through Spelman in our car, since we weren’t allowed to leave the vehicle. All three of these colleges are right next to each other, and all have the same look and feel to them. The buildings are all made from clean brick, the campuses are open, and the fields are spacious. It would have been nice to go to an info session for Spelman, but I understand their rules.
We had a lull of a few hours before our next tour at Clark Atlanta University. We decided to become true Atlanta tourists, and visit the famous World of Coke. Atlanta seems to be ruled by the Coca-Cola Company, as there are billboards, advertisements, and a wide variety of Coke flavors in every restaurant; poor Pepsi. The World of Coke tour was a lot of fun. We saw decorated Coke bottles from all over the world, different Coke slogans and advertisements in dozens of languages, and the process of making coke (unfortunately, they didn’t post their secret recipe in the process). The last stop was the tasting section, where they had soda fountains dispensing different flavors of soda from countries all over the world. My favorite was “Fanta: Exotic” from Uganda. My least favorite was the “Beverly” from Italy. It was bitter and left a horrible after taste. But definitely, the most interesting flavor was that of Japan, which was called “Vegita Beta”. The tour ended with a complimentary bottle of Coca-Cola, donned with a World of Coke label. We bought some gifts at the enormous gift shop before leaving.
Our last college visit here in Atlanta was Clark Atlanta University. This is not a single-sex school like its neighbors, Morehouse and Spellman. CAU’s strongest majors are Mass Media Arts, Business Administration, Fashion, and Psychology. What stood out from this college is its scholarship opportunities for those with a higher GPA and test scores. The professor who was speaking to us brought this factor to our attention. He reminded us that hundreds of other students will be graduating the same year as us with the same major as us. He emphasized the importance of building up our resumes and making ourselves marketable by “bringing something to the table”.

These three schools share a strong similarity: they pride themselves in preparing their students to take action and be leaders in the world. What I liked about these schools is that their admissions requirements aren’t as high as other colleges, but the students can still receive a top notch and rigorous education like that of any other private institution. What I mean by this, is that for kids who struggled through high school with keeping up grades, or weren’t in the top percentage of their school, can still attend an outstanding college like Morehouse, Spelman, or Clark Atlanta. There are opportunities for every student to go to a great college, regardless of hardships or struggles.

The previous night, the admissions counselor we dined with, suggested that we eat at the restaurant called the Westin. There are a few important facts about this hotel. The first is that it is the tallest hotel in the western hemisphere. The second is that at the top of the hotel, there is a rotating restaurant! So we took the elevator to the 73rd floor, dined at the spinning restaurant, and had enormous ice cream sundaes and a delicious strawberry cheesecake. The view was amazing.
Our last dinner in Atlanta with alumni and a college admissions officer was at a restaurant called Bacchanalia. This was the fanciest restaurant I have ever been to in my entire life. It’s a four course style restaurant, so everyone picks their own appetizer, entrĂ©e, cheese and salad, and dessert. I ordered a blue crab fritter, pheasant, Robiola Bosina cheese with a lettuce vinaigrette (which had a strange consistency), and finally a chocolate torte with vanilla ice cream. Now even though this is quite a lot of food, we received even more food from the complimentary dishes that the chef gave us throughout the night. We got grilled okra stuffed with goat cheese, a shot of fish soup, panna cotta, an array of chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallow, as well as freshly baked madeleines.
We dined with two Emory college alumni. One of the two knew Ms. Bulls from when they went to UC Berkeley together, and is currently working as a PA in the medical department at Emory. The other is the college admissions officer that we met two days ago at the Emory college information session, Tyler Sant. He talked about the atmosphere at Emory, the strong sense of community the school has, and the differences between the private school of Emory and the public life at Georgia Tech. We loved hearing about his studies in race and psychology in South Africa, and his experiences studying in China. He encouraged us to get into the Study Abroad program no matter what school we go to. We also enjoyed telling him about our extracurricular activities such as my love for band, Kye’s participation in football, and Julia’s leadership in the science club at our school. We all exchanged stories about our experiences in Speech and Debate, and his stories about his home in Missouri, and his life in Atlanta. Overall, it was a great dinner; it was very laid back and fun. I love that we can have conversations with these Emory faculty members ranging from the admissions process to stories about our sports injuries.

Tonight is our last night in Atlanta until the end of our World Religions course. All in all, I really do enjoy the city of Atlanta. It seems like there is always stuff do around town, and getting there is extremely easy. Out of all the colleges we visited so far, I think that Emory is my top choice. I love the college spirits and the sense of taking pride in one’s community. The campus size is medium large, which is around the size I am looking for. The opportunities in the Study Abroad program are something I am very interested in as well. They have my intended major, and I like that there is plenty of leniency when choosing classes for GE credits. I also like how dedicated they are in choosing the right students to attend their school. Every single written and entered part of the application is read three times, and it seems like they really care about their students. I can see myself being at Emory University and fitting right in.

Off to Nashville, Tennessee tomorrow, y’all!

The ILC’s Maiden Voyage to Vanderbilt: The View from the Top

It is a true blessing to wake up every morning because every moment isn’t promised. But to wake up to a city as beautiful as Atlanta in the morning is an awesome pleasure. Today, after beginning with a slow start, we went to the Prime Meridian restaurant, a local place within our hotel, to eat breakfast. After filling up on steel cut oats, brown sugar, and raisins we set off for our first college visit at Morehouse, a school for men in Atlanta and a school I wanted to see.
At the admissions session I was happy to hear about the tradition that Morehouse College holds. Their school environment consists of a huge brotherhood including students and teachers, a lot of whom are alumni, forming one body. Within this body students push and support each other toward the common goal of changing the world. Their main goal is create a renaissance man with a social conscience, pushing students to become well read, well spoken, well traveled, well dressed, and well balanced. Even though Morehouse is an all men’s school, they’ve formed a strong bond with Spelman College—an all girl’s school as another part of this brotherhood creating a family. Each Morehouse student is assigned a Spelman sister whom they support and receive support from. I was extremely happy to find that Morehouse College does offer both merit and need based aid toward their hefty price tag.
We also visited Clark Atlanta University which is in the same vicinity as Morehouse College which is called the Atlanta University Center. Clark was an interesting place to be especially because I knew some Pinole Valley High School Graduates who would be attending classes there in the fall. Before the start of our admissions session we were able to look through yearbooks portraying the school’s history. I found the school to be a very nurturing place. Our Admissions Presenter, while at the same time talking about his school, gave advice to the students in the room about applying for college, going through college life, and even life after college. Clark Atlanta University also offers scholarships for students with a 3.0 and 1100 SAT (Critical Reading and Math). I made sure before we left that I grabbed an application because even if I don’t end up there next year it’s still good practice.
The thing I really enjoyed was being able to see some of Atlanta’s attractions. We ventured to the World of Coca Cola and learned about the history of Coke. I took a personal lesson from the trip about how to get people to pay to do your marketing. I also tried every flavor of soda that Coca Cola produces worldwide. I found the best flavors of soda reside in China called Smart Apple and Smart Watermelon. We also ventured to the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere to dine at a revolving table at the top of the building. The Sun Dial restaurant is found at the top of the Westin-Downtown Atlanta 73 stories up in the sky. We enjoyed an extensive view of Atlanta and the surrounding areas, even seeing the Stone Mountain of Stone Mountain, Georgia. I learned that no matter how busy I may be, I must slow down and enjoy the environment around me, the natural beauty of this world. And only when we do this can we open up a bottle of happiness.
We then proceeded to have arguably the best dinner in Ivy League Connection history. We had dinner at the amazing restaurant Bacchanalia. We enjoyed a deluxe four course dinner and great conversation with our guests representing Emory, an alumnus and active Physician’s Assistant at Emory University Hospital, her precocious son, and Tyler Sant, an admissions officer at Emory University. We learned a lot about Emory and Atlanta from our three sources including Atlanta’s weather patterns, the new Emory Medical School, and in depth what Emory expects from its students and how Emory’s private status allows it to customize its stipulations for incoming freshmen. Along with the combination of various and conversation topics and great food, we enjoyed about 6 specialty dishes given as gifts from the chef.
And finally I received the chance of a lifetime and met Jerome “The Bus” Bettis, former running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers and business mogul. He gave me an autograph and allowed me to take a picture with him while I introduced him to my Ivy League Connection cohorts—all thanks to my Ivy League cohorts, Aiyana and Julia, who pushed me to seize the opportunity.