Saturday, July 9, 2011

The First Glimpse

I awoke and rose from bed early this morning, spent after yet another night of three refreshing hours of sleep.

We had all spent some time the evening before packing our suitcases and preparing for the four and a half hour drive to Nashville. We all agreed to meet up early for breakfast at the Prime Meridian restaurant for breakfast once again.

We hit the road soon after feasting on scrambled eggs, orange juice, and toast, awaiting a new, exciting adventure laid out for us in the music capital of the world.

Tired, I fell asleep for, essentially, the whole ride, only waking once to see Ms. Bulls trying to take a photo of something outside to the right of the car while driving simultaneously. I turned my sleepy head to that direction, laying my eyes on a beautiful lake over which the highway we were driving on was built. It was flowing with sparkly, shiny water—a truly beautiful sight—and then, I was knocked out again.

The next time I awoke, we were already in Nashville. I gazed drowsily at the city from afar on the highway, and noticed that it was a much smaller and condensed city than Atlanta. The weather also differed between the two.
Back in Atlanta, the weather is very tropical and humid—I could almost feel the moisture in the air between my fingers. The air in Nashville is much drier—almost comparable to the warm weather in California.

We finally arrived at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, which is located right across the street from the university itself. After checking in, we decided to rest up before dinner since it was still a bit early for supper. Curious to see if there was a pool in the hotel (apparently, the Omni Hotel did not have one), we paid a visit to the concierge table only to discover that this hotel did not possess one either. Their game room was also under construction. We decided on an alternative to amuse ourselves: going to the fitness center after dinner instead.

While we were on the elevator on our way to our rooms, I noticed a plaque on the wall that advertised a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, located on the same floor of the lobby. I remembered having eaten at a Ruth’s Chris in San Francisco, and suggested it to our group. We decided to have dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse instead of barbecue, and it was wonderfully delicious.

I ordered a watermelon summer salad, a garlic crusted halibut fillet, and a crème brûlée for dessert. The salad’s dressing was a bit too sour for my favor and tasted funny with the melon; now I will be sure to order dressing on the side from now on, just to be on the safe side.
Other than that, we all enjoyed the delectable dinner immensely.

A very restful and relaxed day we had; however, we still had one more thing on our agenda: a visit to the hotel’s fitness center.

I never ran on a treadmill before, let alone even set foot into a fitness center. This was a completely new and incredibly fun experience for me; I had tons of fun learning new exercises from Kye. Some of them were, however, extreme and intense (he's a football player), but it was very amusing as we laughed and had a really good time.
I am awaiting tomorrow with anxiousness and the determination to learn, not only through our course of world religions, but through my own experiences on campus, such as eating dorm food, sleeping in dorms, and the gut feeling I'll have while there that may determine my future.

The ILC’s Maiden Voyage to Vanderbilt: First Day in the Music Capital of the World

Today was not the day, but the eve of the day before we started our World Religions class at Vanderbilt University. We left the illustrious confines of the city of Atlanta to travel through the vast country to Music City U.S.A, Nashville, Tennessee. Today we took time out to relax before our real educational adventure. We visited Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse to wind down and enjoy dinner after our 3 hour trip.
We enjoyed an extraordinary dinner—which afterwards we worked off at the gym. I find it extremely important to bond with my cohorts and my chaperone because this experience is a true partnership. We are sent as a group to these trips for a reason, we were chosen as a unit for a reason. I find it rewarding to be able to take time out with my group to further strengthen our bond, allowing us to be more productive, and helping us to discover what was seen in us that made us seem like a prospective group.

Snoozing on the Road

The three of us stayed up pretty late last night since we had a nice, long dinner, and then stayed up blogging and packing. Since this was our last late night dinner, I think we’ll be getting more sleep, which is something I greatly look forward to.

We packed up the rest of our belongings and headed towards the restaurant for some breakfast before we hit the road. I had just a regular breakfast of scrambled eggs and potatoes - so no gourmet food photos for breakfast this time.

Our original plan was to drive through Memphis and sightsee before going to Nashville. However, the route to Memphis would add too many hours of traveling and wouldn’t be worth it. We decided to just drive the four and a half hours to Nashville.
The three of us all knocked out pretty quickly while Ms. Bulls drove. Since Julia and I were in the backseat, we had a bit of difficulty finding a comfortable position for the drive, but we eventually found a comfortable, but bizarre looking sleeping arrangement. By the time we woke up, we were only about 20 miles away from Nashville.
Our hotel is called the Loews Hotel. It’s right across the street from Vanderbilt. The university is fenced off, so we couldn't see into it just by driving by, but the campus looks absolutely enormous. I can’t wait to tour it tomorrow!

We ate a late lunch/dinner at the hotel restaurant called Ruth’s Chris, which is a steakhouse. Since I don’t eat steak or veal, it took me a bit of looking to decide what I wanted, which was a choice between fish and chicken. I ended up choosing the poultry dish, which was a good choice. It tasted delicious. For dessert, I ordered the cheesecake, thinking it would be a small slice of cake. Boy was I wrong. They gave me my own personal round cake of cheesecake. It was fabulous in taste, but gigantic in size after eating such a large entrée.
Afterwards, Kye, Julia, and I went to work out in the hotel’s gym in order to lose a few of the many calories we gained at dinner. I love those elliptical machines and exercise bikes, and we ended up working out for about an hour. All of the machines have a screen in front of them so you can track your progress and watch TV at the same time. I enjoyed watching old reruns of Two and a Half Men while watching my distance in miles steadily increase.

Today was mostly a relaxed and chill day before our fun and hectic day of checking in tomorrow at Vanderbilt. I am honestly extremely excited to tour the campus we will be staying at for the next three weeks. I am also eager and a bit apprehensive about meeting my new roommate. Tomorrow will be a day packed with new and exciting experiences.

Plan B

I awoke to the sound of my alarm buzzing in my ear, and, tired from the busy day before, hit the snooze button to catch a few more minutes of sleep. I ended up rising from bed forty minutes later, which allowed me enough time to prepare to go down for breakfast with Aiyana, where we would meet Ms. Bulls and Kye when they were ready.

We dined at the Prime Meridian, which was just located inside our hotel. I asked for a glass of orange juice, and ordered a Southern Breakfast from the menu with a side of crispy bacon.
Grits--along with biscuits and gravy--are the staples of the Southern breakfast
It was one of the best breakfasts I have had so far; the scrambled eggs, grilled ham, home fries, and grits were simply delicious and filling. It also came with a buttery biscuit and a bowl of gravy. At first, I thought I was supposed to pour the gravy into my grits (don’t laugh—it was just my second time eating it), but Aiyana came to my rescue and told me I could dip the biscuit into it if I wanted to. I have had biscuits before, of course, but I had never had them with gravy before. The combination was superb, and I found myself savoring every flavorful bite.

They also gave us small bottles of ketchup, which I found absolutely adorable.

After breakfast, we hurried over to Morehouse College for an informational session. Morehouse is a historically black all-male institution with rich traditions and dignity. Although I will not be able to apply or attend Morehouse, it appears to be a very distinguished school with a strong brotherly connection between its students.
I was surprised to hear that if students at Morehouse would like to take a course that is not offered at the college, they have the ability to apply and take it in Spelman College, which is essentially right next door to it. After hearing this, I wondered why those with authority at Spelman would not allow one of our cohorts, Kye, on campus for a tour when they actually do allow male students on their campus, if not for educational purposes.

We did not step foot onto Spelman, but we drove around the campus to catch a glimpse of its beauty.

When we finished, we had a couple of hours before we had to head back to Clark Atlanta University, which is also adjacent to Morehouse and Spelman, so we decided to go to the World of Coke.
The World of Coke was very fun and enjoyable. We admired antique Coke brand artifacts and advertisements for the drink from around the world, including countries such as Germany and Japan.
We also had the distinct pleasure of exploring their Tasting Room, which was, in my opinion, the highlight of the “museum”, if you will. It was a large room with drink dispensers that featured different sodas manufactured by the Coke company that is distributed in only certain countries. For example, I sampled a soda called Ice which one can only find in Japan. It was actually very refreshing, and an almost minty “icy” feeling lingered on my tongue afterwards. Aiyana and I also tried another drink from Italy called the “Beverly”, which was not quite appealing to our taste buds. We could not get the taste out of our mouths afterwards.
Before our dinner, we decided to check out the Sun Dial, a rotating restaurant located on the 73rd floor of the Westin Hotel recommended to us by Mrs. Ray last night at our dinner. I ordered a White Chocolate Mudslide and a small portion of cheesecake, and we sat back and relaxed while we watched the beautiful scenery of Atlanta slowly pass us by. Everything was simply delicious.
After finishing up, we drove back to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and sat in on an informational session of Georgia Clark University.

One thing I found very engaging was the institute’s Presidential Scholarship. If a student applies to the school with a 3.75 GPA, a score of 1300 or higher on the SAT, and a score of 29 or higher on the ACT, then the college will offer them a free quality education. This is one of the perks of private universities—they are usually always willing and able to offer generous financial aid, in contrast to public universities.

We had scheduled a dinner at Bacchanalia, a very lovely and fancy restaurant here in Atlanta. The menu was very diverse, and was served in a four-course style. Some of the items I ordered on the list included goat cheese with summer melons and peach cobbler.
Tyler Sant, the admissions officer from Emory’s focus session yesterday, as well as Ms. Bull’s friend, who attended UC Berkeley with her and is now a physician’s assistant at Emory, joined us for the delicious dinner.

We had the opportunity to ask more in-depth questions about Emory and absorb even more information aside from what we had already learned yesterday.

One thing Mr. Sant touched upon that I could really relate to was the fact that many high school students simply do not ask enough questions, especially when meeting with admissions officers. Often, he explained, students are afraid of asking questions they think may sound foolish or unintelligent, partly because they are intimidated by the presence of an admissions counselor. I could completely relate to students who do so, but now I understand that in order to be on the road to finding the right college with the perfect fit is to not be scared or distressed to ask questions about things that you want to know more about. The admissions officers are kind people that are there to assist you, so do not be afraid to use your resources.

We had a wonderful, tasty dinner, and I am very glad that we all had this opportunity to sit down with these two individuals that helped give us insight about Emory. Honestly, this experience changes a few of my former opinions and views of the college, especially about the benefits of going to a liberal arts college that offers such great student programs, such as study abroads.
Tomorrow, we will begin our long journey to Nashville, Tennessee.