Falling in Love with Columbia University

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I’d like to mention that this post definitely goes over key parts of Columbia University, partly because I want to share what I learned with all of you AND so I can actually remember everything when college admissions season rolls around.

I’ll be honest, I think I fell in love with Columbia University.

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And how can you not fall in love with this Ivy League school in New York City? When I was in New York in July, Columbia University was my second stop—after Times Square the night before. Since college is on the horizon (sort of) and most people my age aren’t thinking about it yet, I might as well get a jump on it, right? Most people don’t realize this, but I’m going into my sophomore year of high school in about one week.

So there I was, sitting in Low Library and listening to people from the admissions department talk about Columbia University—their different programs, their engineering school, stories, and anecdotes—while surrounded by people who were actually going to start the application process this year! Um, whoa, just whoa. Continue reading

Learning to Say “Hola”

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These past three weeks, I spent three hours a day—right after lunch—at a Spanish immersion camp at the Dallas International School. I never would’ve expected it be such a fun experience!

I’ve always dreamed of being a polyglot, so I was enthusiastic to start learning a second language. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to take a Spanish immersion class at DIS.

Languages are a critical part of diversity, and other languages need to be embraced. In the United States, there is little—if any!—pressure to learn a second language. A lot of people hold the view that other people should be expected to learn English, while they make no attempt to start learning another language.

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Playing Scrabble in Spanish. Surprisingly difficult! (Okay, maybe not surprisingly, but still difficult.)

A typical day during my summer at Dallas International School included classroom time playing games in Spanish and learning new vocabulary, going to the computer lab to research for a project or to learn grammar, recess, and possibly a non-language related class (like “Clay” or “Body Motion”) with either the ESL or French class.

All of our classroom and computer time was in Spanish. Our teacher spoke to us almost entirely in Spanish, and we learned to respond in Spanish. I’ll be honest, I was completely lost on my first few days and I needed the help of an Argentinean girl who spoke fluent Spanish.

Unlike school, which pounds grammar rules into your head and puts less emphasis on actually speaking, this camp focused primarily on speaking, which will get you much further than just being able to explain the present progressive or direct object pronouns.

Our usual ping pong tournaments. The kids in English class were better than the rest of us in Spanish class.

Our usual ping pong tournaments. The kids in English class were better than the rest of us in Spanish class.

As fun as speaking Spanish was, my favorite part of the entire camp was the people. Within my own class, everyone wanted to learn Spanish. Unlike school, where the majority of the kids couldn’t care less about learning the language (see the “English-only” mindset I was talking about earlier), here everyone wanted to learn, and we all supported each other.

Our class mixed a lot with the English class next door, and we all grew incredibly close. We had people from France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Taiwan, and Korea all coming from their respective countries to learn English. Even within my own Spanish class and the French class, we all grew up in different cultures—including Iranian, Chinese, Puerto Rican, and Argentinean ways of life. And the coolest part? All of us—whether we were from the United States, Europe, Asia or Latin America—were completely open about our cultures and were willing to share.

IMG_1241A friend I made from the English class came from South Korea, and after finding out I do taekwondo, we made an instant connection. Two of the kids from France would share French words with us. My teacher, originally from Mexico, shared stories about Mexico City and all the delicious food there.

We broke down ethnic, cultural, and lingual boundaries, all during one summer. We didn’t ignore language, culture, or nationality, but instead we embraced it. We embraced our differences, since all of those differences are part of who we are and help make us unique.

The world we live in is incredibly diverse. Whether we belong to a different ethnicity, believe in a different religion, practice a different culture, or speak a different language, we are all just people who have different life stories and experiences that should be shared.

This is the world I want to be a part of. A world that cherishes other cultures. A world that encourages other languages. A world that wishes to truly embrace diversity in all its forms. And we can be that world by breaking down boundaries and being truly interested in the other ways of life, experiences, and languages around us.

A group photo of the English and Spanish class at the end of my third week.

A group photo of the English and Spanish class at the end of my third week.

My Spanish class on the last day of my second week.

My Spanish class on the last day of my second week.

In Celebration of Education

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Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights. Malala Yousufzai

Yesterday, July 12, was Malala Day, the birthday of a courageous girl from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban. Why was she shot? Because she wanted to go to school. She celebrated her 16th birthday yesterdat by giving a speech at the United Nations, demanding all governments to ensure free compulsory education for every child across the globe.

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It’s so incredibly easy to take education for granted. I definitely have, and I’m sure many of you have too at some point. It’s almost unfathomable to think that there are children who don’t go to school.

There are 57 million children, both boys and girls, who do not go to school. There are 215 million children doing hard labor, deprived of an education. In some places, not all children are even allowed to go to school—31 million girls are out of school. In the United States, there are over 1 million primary-age students who are out of school. In the Philippines, there are 1.46 million children out of school. In Nigeria, there are over 7 million. Continue reading