Monthly Archives: September 2012

Scholar Check-in: Julie Kwong

Camping with my new friends.

I am having a great time here at Princeton! Move-in day was a success and I had my family and relatives there to help the process move smoothly and comfortably. I live in Buyers Hall in Rockefeller (Rocky) College, possibly the most convenient location to live because of its accessibility to the street of convenience stores and restaurants and the campus’s main centers. I arrived and spent the first night camping, on campus, with my Outdoor Action (OA) group in preparation for what was to come in the next week. I have made many new friends through the camping trip and they are all so friendly and supportive as well. I have to say that the camping trip was the greatest thing ever! We went to Shenandoah Valley in VA, which was about a 5-hour bus ride from Princeton.

Although at times it was difficult to hike for hours on end, I felt so wonderful in the end knowing that I had accomplished the trail/goal. We hiked about 4-5 miles per day, set up tents in the woods, and spent a lot of time getting to know each other and just enjoyed the environment and new experience.  I was really challenged on the trip since I am not athletic at all. But here I am today, proud to say that I hiked a total of at least 20 miles last week! I feel so great and have made friends that I know I will keep for a long time. I broke out of my shell a bit, too, as I participated in games that I normally wouldn’t find interesting (because they are humiliating and a bit embarrassing). We all shared innumerable laughs, learned a lot about how to live in the outdoors, and picked up some new games.

Specifically, I learned to play a little bit of the ukulele and really bonded with the other students as we cooked, ate, slept, and did everything else together! On one of the nights, we even decided to squeeze all seven of us into a tent that is only meant for five! We were that comfortable and close with each other! In addition, the leaders were so open and fun. Things could only get better! The trip was awesome and I wish I could go back and do it again! After the trip, we came back to a lot of orientation events on campus, ranging from art performances to lectures on public safety. All of these sessions were extremely informative and helpful and I met a lot of people who gave me advice on how to choose classes and how to balance academics with social life. I also went to the eating clubs with my friends, which host parties that serve alcohol at night. However, I didn’t enjoy them because all the people did was stand around getting drunk. My camp leader told us that the parties will be much more fun during the year.

This Sunday there is going to be a lawn party (concert) with the band Third Eye Blind! I am excited to attend my very first concert! I have met some great people in my hall as well and our RCA is so nice, fun, and extremely helpful with everything! I have no idea how everything is working out in my favor. I feel extremely grateful! In addition, I feel pretty certain on pursuing a Math major since it is such a versatile field. If I wanted to go into finance, I could, or even become a math teacher like I have always wanted! I could also get a certificate in education as well as in finance. But for now, as many upperclassmen have suggested, I am going to fulfill my general education requirements by choosing courses I am interested in learning more about, not necessarily choosing courses to fulfill particular certificates. I enrolled in classes yesterday and am signed up for classes between 11a.m. to about 3p.m., which includes Spanish, Math, Writing Seminar, and an English poetry course. I am excited to see what is to come and experience the real college academic life.

On another note, the campus is absolutely gorgeous! I constantly find myself staring at the buildings and snapping shots of random landscapes. There is still so much more to see and learn here, making this the most perfect educational environment for me. Not to mention, the food in the dining halls is so delicious and presents a lot of variety! The next four years here will no doubt be four years to remember for the rest of my life!

More pictures:

Rocky Dining Hall

My desk

Buyers Hall

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An Interview with CDI’s new Executive Vice President, Dr. Rachel Mazyck

Dr. Rachel Mazyck

CDI welcomes new Executive Vice President Rachel Mazyck to the fold. She joins CDI after spending two years on the Chief Academic Officer’s team in the Baltimore City Public Schools. Among other duties, she oversaw strategic planning and teacher professional development across the schools in the district. Dr. Mazyck graduated with Highest Distinction and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead Scholar. After spending two years as a Teach for America teacher in Indianola, Mississippi, she earned a Masters in Education from Harvard. She then attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, earning a D.Phil. in Education and serving as a Junior Dean at Oxford’s Harris Manchester College. With her distinguished background, Dr. Mazyck is an excellent fit for CDI and will no doubt be an inspiration for our Scholars. Today, her first at CDI, she answers a few questions for blog readers.

CDI has been helping Scholars successfully find their way since 2005. What is your vision for CDI’s future? 

I am excited to join the CDI team; so much good work has been done already! My vision includes making sure that we have codified all the good practices that make CDI successful. I look forward to supporting the expansion of CDI to reach a broader group of students, with our systematized approach captured in a clear and concise way.

What are some of the challenges you foresee with that vision?

One of the things that makes CDI so special is the individualized approach that the counselors and tutors take with each student.  It can be a challenge to maintain that quality of tailored support as a program expands, but that individualized attention is essential to making CDI work.  I am committed to working with the team to maintain the core values that make CDI great.

Now that CDI has been around long enough to see Scholars graduate from college, we will have an ever-expanding alumni network each year. How do you hope to harness the energy and enthusiasm of our graduates?

I am so excited about the CDI alumni!  I’ve had the opportunity to speak with several CDI college graduates, and I look forward to bringing them together and hearing their thoughts on how CDI can continue to support them. I have been dreaming about an alumni network where CDI graduates can get advice, discover job opportunities, connect current Scholars with internships, serve as mentors for current Scholars, and help us refine our model so that each year our Scholars are better prepared for success in college.  Those are my dreams, but I would love to hear from both current CDI Scholars and graduates about what their vision for an alumni network might entail.  If you have some ideas, please get in touch!

College Scholar Check-in: Mauricio Novoa

Mauricio Novoa

Mauricio Novoa

In the second installment of our year-long series of college Scholar check-ins, Mauricio Novoa (CDI Class of ’10; Gettysburg College Class of ’14) discusses his workload and some of his extracurricular activities. 

The start of the school year went pretty well: reuniting with my friends after the summer, getting mass amounts of readings the first week, and giving my word to volunteer at 20,000 different things before getting used to my course load. I’m currently enrolled in 17th Century English Drama, Literary Foundations of Western Culture, Critical Methods for English, and a Poetry class. My grades may not look so hot this semester, since reading isn’t really my strongest attribute and these classes are basically all reading. But who knows, I might pull off some miracles.

For volunteer work, I’ve been asked to help out with the Migrant Education after school program again, which helps children of migrant families bridge the education gap with help on homework, English, and anything else they might need. This time, though, instead of just being a tutor, I’ve been asked to take on more of a staff role and be on hand to help the tutors if need be. I’m not quite sure exactly how this will work, but I’m helping to train the new tutors. I’m also helping with adult ESL classes for Migrant Ed, which I did over the summer during my internship in Gettysburg. I’m really excited to get back to working with the families, especially the Lopez-Espinozas, who sort of adopted me while I stayed in town over the summer. I’m hoping they invite me over to their house again for some nice home-cooked Hispanic food, as I am severely lacking it in school. In addition, I have a work-study job at Vida Charter School as a classroom aid, which is an amazing experience. Working with the little kids is so much fun, and how can it not be when they’re so adorable and trying to learn Spanish. This group of kids looks to be a bit more challenging behavior-wise than my group last year, but I’m sure Mr. Victor (the head teacher) and I can handle it.

With my fraternity, we’re working on getting a big philanthropy event set up for October. The event will essentially be a night of inflatables; people will come and play on them for 4 hours. They will then purchase raffle tickets for prizes and that would be where we get money to donate. This would be a collaboration between the Latin American Student Association (I’m Vice President) and the Campus Activities Board. Since I’m the philanthropy chair for the fraternity, I have to run around talking to people to try and get this going, but other people have been handling the bulk of that so far, so now I’m just trying to tie up the loose ends.

Read Scholar Julie Kwong’s first check-in from Princeton.

A CDI Scholar in Tibet

by Hayoung Kim (CDI Scholar ’09; McDaniel College ’13)

In the West, it’s commonly believed that Tibet is oppressed by China. While studying abroad in China, I had a chance to visit the Tibetan Autonomous Region (Tibet) to research human rights issues as part of a class I was taking. This opportunity allowed me to see for myself if the stories were true. Before I landed in the world’s highest altitude airport, in the capital city of Lhasa, Tibet was a mystery to me, but I couldn’t hide my excitement. Standing in the thin air, I had a hard time breathing for the first couple of days. Some of my colleagues suffered from altitude sickness.

Standing atop the highest point in Tibet.

In Tibet, I was fascinated by the country’s religious culture and beautiful scenery, which remain unspoiled by humans. The streets of Lhasa were full of ascetic monks and Tibetans walking around with prayer wheels and mala, which are unique Tibetan religious tools used when reciting Buddhist scriptures from the Mahayana Sutras. The way of life was quite different than what I had observed in Beijing. Tibetans dressed differently, wearing their traditional clothing—thick and conservative dress—and ate Yak momo (the Tibetan version of dumpling) and Yak butter tea. They also spoke a different language than the commonly used Mandarin Chinese, Tibetan, and lived in huge houses known as  “common.”  Typically, 25 to 30 households live together in one common, forming an enormous community.

Hayoung in front of a “common.”

During my research, my professor, Dr. Kabir, took us to different villages to engage with local Tibetans. Interestingly, the Tibetans I spoke with seemed satisfied with the Chinese government, which they say was doing as much as it could to ameliorate the living conditions in Tibet, one of the poorest regions in China. At one of the villages that I visited, Drigung Village, people were very nice; they invited us into their homes so that we could charge our cell-phones and cameras, and offered us their traditional yak-butter tea. I didn’t like the bitter taste, which reminded me of salt water that I tasted during science class, but since it was their way of showing respect and hospitality, I had to drink every last drop.  One of the children I met was a very timid but energetic and ambitious boy named Tsering Chodun. His mother informed us that his dream would come true one day because the Chinese government was increasing the education budget for minorities in order to close the gap between Han Chinese and Tibetans.

I was in Tibet for two weeks. What I witnessed during that time may not represent Tibet as a whole—there is of course the possibility that the villagers and Tibetans with whom I spoke were scared of foreign contacts and did not speak openly during the interview—but they were confident and relaxed, and happy. They showed me their Chinese flag and Mao’s portrait, which hung in their house. One of my new Tibetan friends told me: “I feel free as a bird, as long as I do not care about politics.”

View more images from Hayoung’s trip:

At Potala Palace (where the Dali Lama used to live)

Roughing it.

Tibetans praying outside of a temple.

Young girl in traditional dress.

CDI Scholar Check-In: Julie Kwong Goes to Princeton

Julie Kwong (photo by Rob Crue)

Over the course of the next year, two of our Scholars–Julie Kwong and Mauricio Novoa–have agreed to deliver bi-weekly check-ins for posting here on the blog. Today we publish the first of these, by Princeton freshman Julie Kwong. In this post she discusses her transition to college life.

Within the past three weeks, I completed all of the necessary assignments for Princeton, including the Freshmen seminar application essay and language placement test. I am satisfied with the results of the placement test, as I am placed in Spanish 105; by the end of this year, I will have completed the language requirement and have the ability to sign up for different classes for the next school year. In addition, I applied for a Federal Work Study job on campus and even spoke to the coordinator of the job I applied for.
           Since I need to complete about 290 hours (assuming a pay rate of $10 per hour) to satisfy the allotted $2900 for federal work study, I may have to work around 9 hours a week. I am a little bit worried, though, because I am sure I will have a lot of time-consuming work for my classes as well and would like to participate in a couple extracurricular activities. I am excited nonetheless for the job opportunity!
            I have been spending a lot of my time navigating the university website and learning more about college life and academics, and I’ve been an active questioner in the class Facebook group. Also, I have been packing for both a camping trip and for college living and, quite honestly, I had no idea I would need to bring so many things! This week has definitely been bittersweet; I gathered with family and friends to celebrate my departure on Saturday. I am really looking forward to starting this journey, but I will also miss seeing the people I love everyday.