Saturday, June 20, 2015

Our Final Destination

After yesterday’s packed schedule, waking up at 6 o’clock in the morning was difficult. I woke up to the sound of Julie’s alarm and the knocks of the door. I suddenly checked the time to see that it was around 6:20 AM, and then I swiftly packed all of my belongings and did my morning routine. When I was done with the bathroom, Julie went in and did her morning routine. We quickly packed the remaining items into our luggage and double-checked the room to be certain that we had everything. We left our room at 6:45 AM and headed down the lobby. In the lobby we waited for the shuttle to arrive at 7:10 AM. We received our Cornell schedule for Saturday and Sunday that explicitly stated times and events. I can’t believe that it has been a solid four days since I left my home. It feels as if I have been traveling with the Cornell cohort for at least a month, but it has been four days. I never knew how much I would be able to see and accomplish in one day, but this trip has showed me what I am able to do. After we got into our shuttles, we headed toward the Amtrak station

When arriving at the station, I realized how massive the station really is. Furthermore, the exterior is not as impressive as the interior. It was beautiful with high glass ceilings, sculptures, and tiles. It was gorgeous.

We boarded the train at 8:45 AM. Eager to get on the train and to hopefully talk to an interesting person, similar to last years’ experience, we went into the quiet car. I didn’t know that this car was part of the train, but the purpose of the car is obvious. An old lady had the audacity to implicitly tell us to stay quiet. In the end, I didn’t really have the “guts” to have a conversation with the guy next to me because I didn’t want to be “that” person. But I liked the experience. I think the silence is something that I appreciate, especially when looking at the scenery and listening to classical music. The scenery at the East Coast is a view that everyone should see because it is so rich in nature. Tall trees, full flowers, flowing rivers, and big bugs, they are all here. The train ride was about an hour and thirty minutes from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia.

When departing from the station we headed toward White Dog, the destination where we would be meeting the University of Pennsylvania students. It was a twenty minute ride from the 30th Street Station, but once arriving at the restaurant, I fell in love with the street. The street is so adorable, with color-coded wooden buildings and delightful plants and flowers. We had to wait for the restaurant to open up at 11:30 AM, so we decided to stay outside of the restaurant before two UPenn students, Dyana So and Kahaari Kenyatta, arrived. Dyana is a former ILCer, so she knew the program. Plus, she has done the ILC for two years at Cornell University and Yale University. 

Talking to the current students at White Dog was more informational than the actual college tour. It was a shame that one person couldn’t show up, but it was fun talking to Briana Williams, Dyana So, and Kahaari Kenyatta. I sat next to Briana on my right, Kahaari in front of me, and Dyana to the left at an angle.

I mainly talked to Briana, who is majoring in criminology and minoring in the psychology of Koreans, because I heard that she traveled to Seoul for a study abroad program. I’ve always wanted to go to South Korea to taste all the good food, and experience the culture. I was primarily interested when I watched Eat Your Kimchi, a YouTube channel that features places and foods in South Korea. I wanted to venture out and go to the more local places that Martina and Simon, the stars, revealed in their videos. I was charmed by South Korea. Coincidentally, Briana knows them as well and had the chance to take a picture with them. I was surprised and amazed that she took a picture with famous YouTube stars. I can now say that I have a friend who took a picture with a celebrity. On the topic of Korea, we bonded over Korean dramas and had a blast with the conversation.

I also had the opportunity to talk to Kahaari Kenyatta. Kahaari is the coolest person. He and I bonded over music. When we went around the table to talk about our grade, course, and interests, Kahaari snapped his fingers when I mentioned that I wanted to major in music. I felt a spark that lit. It’s been awhile since someone has connected with me. This is because he is part of the performing arts program at UPenn. I felt more confident with my major, but I also included that I want to be an engineer as well. Kahaari majors in public health and has a minor in chemistry. He also studied abroad while earning credit. He traveled all over the place. I truly admire that aspect of him, because I would love to study abroad. He is a charismatic person, and I had a fun time talking to him.

To reflect on the lunch, I learned a lot more from all of them. One thing that they told me about UPenn was the competitive atmosphere. The application process is already competitive, and probably a bit intimidating. But they mentioned how it’s not necessary to be super competitive. During this lunch, I realized how much I love UPenn. Dyana, Kahaari, and Briana revealed their amazing experiences at UPenn, and I became attracted to the university. I wish that we didn’t go to the tour because I had a blast talking to them, and I gained a lot of information just from that lunch.
Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Kahaari Kenyatta, Stephen Fong, Justice delos Santos, Helen GIlbert-Snyder, Alfredo Chan-Law, Thao Le Hoang(Me), Briana Williams, Julie Lum, Shanti Shrestha, Dyana So
After leaving and saying our good-byes, we headed to the campus tour. Walking into an amazing building, with unique design, my heart skipped a beat. I believe we entered a concert hall, and it was packed with people. I didn’t know that so many people would be touring today, so I was surprised. 

The informational session was similar to the other universities. Studying abroad, financial aid, and the common application process were discussed throughout the session. I was astonished to hear many music related questions. It really showed me how popular the music program at UPenn really is.

We finished the informational session at 2 o’clock to transition to the campus tour. At this point, I knew what to expect because it seemed to follow a similar pattern as the previous college tours. Our tour guide was Stefanie Kligman. The feature that I liked about the tour was how there was shade and seats wherever we went. I appreciated it because with about four hours of sleep, I needed to take a rest. UPenn has beautiful architecture and numerous trees. I never once realized how many different species of trees there are until going on this tour.

Afterwards, I thought about applying to UPenn. UPenn has stunning buildings, especially the hall we were in, and I believed that I would be able to study music and engineering. But the competitive atmosphere and environment has made me uneasy and intimidated. I want to be in a campus that is not to intense, though challenging. Even with the competitiveness, meeting up with Dyana, Kahaari, and Briana provided more exposure to what UPenn students are actually like.

Our Plane to Ithaca
As the day comes to an end, we still have one more travel to do; one more flight. The plane ride to Ithaca, New York is home to Cornell University, our last destination. This is truly the end of our traveling days, and I will truly miss talking to the college alums and students. I never had so much of a connection with distant people in a long time, and I’m glad to be able to experience this for the last time.

The plane ride leaves Philadelphia at 9:42 PM, and we are expected to land in Ithaca at 10:38 PM. We land close to that time, get our luggage, and head to our next home for the month. I watch the scenery go by, absorbing as much of the scenery that I could gather. “I will be attending here,” I thought, “at an Ivy League College.” 

When I step on the campus, I am nervous; nervous to meet my roommate, nervous to meet my resident adviser, and nervous to see my room.  However, when I entered my room, I see that I have no roommate.  


  1. Because you checked in a day early it was unlikely that you would have a roommate yet. You’ll have to fill us in on your new friend once you’re assigned one.

  2. I hope you read Julie’s blog about the great experience she had meeting someone new on the train. That could have been you, too, Thao. You could have taught this person some of your gang signs from Hercules.