Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The ILC’s Maiden Voyage to Vanderbilt: The Roads to and through College

Rebecca (on the left) revealed an impressive testing history during our Seminar on academic rigor in college

I believe some of the great things about having current students and recent alumni deeply involved in VSA are that they are probably more enthusiastic about the opportunity, rather than how much it pays, they have so much pride in their school, and lastly they are the perfect people to design a college information session around because they are living it right now.

Tonight was our College Seminar Night and after spending a full day of classes discussing the ins and outs of Hinduism and an hour of learning and practicing the art of improvisation, we were able to sit down with some VSA proctors and staff in focus groups speaking on one of four issues: questions one should ask on a college tour, things to do to increase chances of getting into the college of your choice and to make Freshman year more comfortable, the academic level of college work, and the options about postgraduate education. With a choice of two, I attended the Seminars on the academic rigor of college work and things to do to increase chances of getting into the college of your choice and to make freshman year more comfortable.

Rachel answered questions in the Seminar about academic rigor in college

Kevin and Malikah were just some of the proctors that participated

The meeting was simply a question and answer style seminar, I learned that Vanderbilt offers lots of services and activities for Freshman, like the wonderful environment of the Freshman Commons, a weeklong orientation consisting of Seminars, fairs and mixers for Freshman, and Academic Advisors. I learned that a student at Vanderbilt doesn’t declare their major till the 2nd semester in their sophomore year. I learned the importance of the application as a whole, the total package, instead of just ones test scores or grades alone. I also learned about college style test especially at Vanderbilt which usually consists of essays and no multiple choice questions. In fact some courses have no tests, just written papers.

Most importantly I learned that getting to college is a truly competitive process, even regarded as harder than staying in college according to some. Academically one must be on the top of their game at all times and one weak moment can become an off topic essay response on a final. The college experience is rewarding, but all good things come at a price.

Going Beyond

Tonight was College Night, so we had the opportunity to sign up for informational seminars regarding pertinent college material. I signed up for Questions to Ask on a Campus Tour as well as Beyond the B.S., and they were, for the most part, extremely informative.

Beyond the B.S. covered the many college degrees offered in undergraduate and graduate schools, what steps an aspiring student must do to obtain these degrees, and whether the student’s future career or direction required a certain degree or not.

I learned an enormous amount of information regarding professional degrees because frankly, I was not educated about them at all until now. Therefore I absorbed as much as I could about the different levels of college degrees, and now, I have a clearer image of the steps I need to take and degrees I need to achieve in order to reach my future goal of becoming a physician. This seminar cleared much of the thick cloud of confusion I had about my future college education, and I feel very much better informed and confident about it.

My interest in my World Religions class is constantly increasing as we dive deeper within the many major religions of the world. I can honestly say that I now have a much better understanding of faith—not simply the history of it, but the impact and reason it has in people’s lives. I have learned things about Christianity, Judaism, and Islam that I never knew before and probably would never had the chance to study much (or at all) in school or college.

We have officially begun our studies of Hinduism, and many of us walked out of class today with an aching head and question marks circling above our brows.

Because we have just concluded our analysis on the Abrahamic faiths, which share a history as well as certain aspects of worship, the introduction of Hinduism put forth completely new and almost incomparable ideas on the table.

After much discussion on the Hindu belief of Brahman and reincarnation (it is much more complicated than it may appear), we left class a bit more enlightened than before. Just a bit.

During Study Hall, however, I seemed to have reached an epiphany of some sort and my ideas about Hinduism began to click. I cannot wait for class tomorrow so I may present my conclusions and essay about the night’s reading.

Our first field trip to Sherith Israel Synagogue is scheduled for tomorrow as well, which makes me even more excited than ever. There is a dress code for our visitation tomorrow—since it is a holy place, we must dress respectfully. That means long pants and covered shoulders for the ladies, and a hat for the men (the synagogue will provide kippahs).

I am enjoying the activities and class here at VSA, but the one aspect that never ceases to put me in an indecent mood is the bug bites that no one is safe from.

Many of us have been suffering from fiery mosquito bites since Day 1. However, this day must have been one of my less fortunate ones. I awoke to a swollen left eye (which is probably not one of the best things to wake up to). I hurried downstairs to the office before breakfast with Aiyana to seek some medical attention (VSA provides exceptional student services in regards to the well-being of their students), and was given some allergy medicine to decrease the swelling. However, I found that Benadryl is not effective on mosquito bite swellings, to my dismay. I suppose I will have to walk around with a puffy eye for the next few days.

Reincarnation: Yes and No

Hinduism is one of the most complex religions in my opinion. The only defining characteristic of Hinduism is that there is no one defining characteristic. In this belief, the path to absolute is as unique as the individual. Your own spiritual path is unique to you.

To illustrate this last point, our class was divided into two groups and brought to two opposite sides of Vanderbilt campus. Our goal was to find the location shown in a class picture on campus. All we had to go on was a large, old tree; two benches; grass; and a covered pathway. Our group’s plan of action was to walk to the older side of campus, since the area where our dorms are newer. The picture seemed to depict an old location. We set off in our direction, but the opposite team got to the location first. The professor told us that the point of this adventure was to realize that everyone has a common goal to reach, but everyone has their own way or idea of getting there, depending on their own wants, beliefs, or actions. Essentially, that is what Hinduism is.

Since today is our first day trying to grasp Hinduism, my understanding of the learnings and teachings and stories of the religion are still a bit hazy. There are many circles and contradictions that are all correct. One of the things that I kind of have a handle is the form of God. God has “hundreds of thousands of multifarious divine forms of different colors and shapes” that can only be seen with a divine eye. Krishna, who is God incarnate, was revealed to Arjun (a warrior that asked Krishna for guidance) as a terrifying and frightening infinite being with infinite tusks, arms, eyes, legs, etc., and is the entire universe but is also One. BUT, for those who reach Brahman and see God through their divine eye, God can be seen in any form of one’s choice because He is a vision in your own self, in your own mind, BECAUSE you have individual enlightenment. So God is different, but is also everything, because everyone reaches God in different ways. See the circle? But to find God, you must limit distractions in your life which keep you from discovering who you truly are, and discovering Brahman, which is a spirit that lives inside all. When Brahman is discovered, the cycle of reincarnation (which isn’t good) is broken. It’s a lot to take in and understand.

Honestly, I feel like compared to the Abrahamic faiths, I can connect more with Hinduism. Even though I don’t fully understand it, I like the idea that every single being on this planet has a spirit inside of them that could lead them finding their inner selves and being close to God. And even though Hinduism dislikes reincarnation, I think it would be pretty cool to constantly be reborn into something new, and have a new life. But Hindus dislike the constant dying part of reincarnation. I like the constant living part. It’s a bit conflicting, but I’ll learn more about it throughout the week.

We learned our last dance for arĂȘte today. We’re doing our final practice tomorrow before the performance on Friday.

Kye and I played ping-pong in the common’s work out center before meeting with Ms. Bulls. Ms. Bulls checked in with how we’re doing, and made another date to have breakfast, hopefully with a Vandy College Admissions officer for California. She also dropped off cupcakes for us from Gigi’s Cupcake shop, the bakery that we wanted to go to yesterday, but was closed. I got the Wedding Cake cupcake which was pure white and pure deliciousness. I shared some with my roommate, Cat, who had a heart attack when she saw that I had a cupcake from Gigi’s.

For our activity tonight, we signed up for different sessions for College Night. I signed up for the Academic Life session and the Freshmen Adjustment session. Since I’ve been thorough many of these sessions before, I mostly learned about what majors each of our proctors went into, what classes they took, what life is like at Vandy, what activities they did, the housing choices, etc. It was more on a personal level than a general talk about the school with hard facts.