Berkeley Bound

This past Sunday was the day I had thought would never come, and was simultaneously subconsciously dreading: move in day for UC Berkeley. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited to be here at Cal. I’m also super NOT excited to only get to see my family every couple months. Apparently I was much more attached to my family than I realized which is definitely not a bad thing as it means that they raised me right.

Right now the transition to becoming a “grown-up” has been a little rough without my parents directly behind me, always having my back. But I do know that things will get better once I adjust and I’m sure that I’ll have an awesome freshman year and maybe even be a bit sad to leave Berkeley come next summer.

Tomorrow is my first day of class so that means I’ll get to sit in on my first chemistry lecture! Yay (or not yay, I can’t tell yet)! Hopefully all goes well and I conquer Berkeley chemistry rather than have it conquer me. It’s always best to be positive.

This was a super short post, but it’s just an update to how my life is going and a note to suggest that many more chemistry posts will be coming as I delve into General Chemistry at Berkeley.

Go Bears!

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Creative Corner: One Word

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from eighteen years of life, it’s that boredom can be to a fault. Here I am, slouched down on my parent’s leather-upholstered couch, staring at a blank computer screen that is adjusted for maximum brightness. There are a number of websites that I could easily search up and scroll through until a snazzy picture or article catches my eye and prompts me to click on the tempting link. I could just as easily remove myself from the couch and find something mildly productive to do, but I don’t.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t in any way attempt to suggest that sheer boredom, strong enough to slay Argus, has led me to this degenerative state of mere existence. It is, in fact, a series of vaguely annoying events that has thrown me into a lack of being which I am halfheartedly pulling myself out of.

You see, this year, which is coincidentally my senior year of high school, has allowed me to realize my supposedly deepest fears. I wouldn’t typically downplay my fears with the word “supposedly,” but I’ve entered into unemotional territory as of late and I feel that I can’t honestly state my fears without something of a qualifier to describe my intense lack of feeling. And really my only goal here is to be honest, if not with others then at least with myself.

I may be a little naive due to the fact that I pictured senior year as one long episode of “Hannah Montana” or another equally picturesque high school sitcom. I would be riding around with people piled in the backseat of my car, going out to basketball games with my friends, picking up takeout on random school nights. The issue with my high school fantasy is that I left out the most important, fate-determining factor–myself. When you’re the type of person who worries over safety and legal responsibility for minors, you might not be the best driver to tote around a horde of wild teenagers in your mom’s beat up minivan. If you’re taking six advanced placement courses, you are more likely to be buried under sheets of math homework than getting takeout at ten at night. But if I have to hear the words “you did this to yourself” one more time, I just might burst.

The issue with things is that I can’t say that I’m unhappy. I desperately seek an aching sadness that clings to my rib cage and pulls me inward, away from everyone and into a self-constructed cocoon. In a way, I feel that that type of emotional distress would be reasonable as everything I thought I was working towards has been swept cleanly away like it never existed in the first place. Picture a blackboard with differential equations and trigonometric identities haphazardly written across to suggest intense concentration and high levels of academics. I’m the clean slate next to the blackboard confused because my identity seems to have been misplaced without the possibility of blaming it on disorganization.

My life is organized. One look in the mirror and I see a young girl with neatly combed brown hair, lips parted in a wide grin. There’s a splash of tiny blemishes across the cheeks, but there’s nothing inherently messy about them, despite their undesired presence. In fact, their symmetry is almost unnaturally perfect. A pert nose rests under a forehead that has remained unlined from youthful energy, despite the amount of stress that has been placed on the delicate shoulders that curve down into slim arms. Everything is as it should be. There’s still the big, bright eyes, opened wide with optimistic faith, the curious mind questioning what it is that life is all about. This person hasn’t changed on the outside, so what’s the distinction?

I suppose that the distinction here isn’t even about myself. It’s about the unfavorable, though entirely irrelevant, events that have unfolded around me into an inescapable ring of fire. Maybe I’ve been singed. But I have this uncanny ability to consistently believe that even a third-degree burn can be healed.

At this point, I’m still sitting on the couch, but I no longer feel a weighted opposition to all movement. I guess I’m just not bored anymore. Even my computer screen no longer bears the sickening whiteness of a blank monitor. Now there’s one word typed in the top search bar.

And I only need one look to comprehend the dire importance of this word, “live.”

Don’t Count Your Acceptances Before They’ve Come

As a senior in high school on the threshold of college acceptances (or rejections?), the question of the moment is undoubtedly “where are you going to college?” It’s safe to say that this question is directed at me at least once per day, if not more, and that I have absolutely no idea how to answer it. Where am I going to college?

With university admissions becoming more and more competitive, it’s no surprise that students across the nation are placing less faith in their academic and extracurricular qualifications, no matter how impressive they may seem. The declining admissions rates for top-ranking universities ensure students that there is no absolute certainty about the likelihood of their being admitted to the schools of their choice. This uncertainty has led to the great increase in applications submitted by individual students. In my twenty-student high school English course alone, I know at least two peers who are applying to over twenty universities due to fear of not being admitted at any institution.

And it is with good reason that they fear rejection from their dream schools: Harvard College’s undergraduate admissions rate for the class of 2019 was a record-low with only 5.3% of applicants accepted. Yale University, with a slightly larger admissions rate than Harvard, welcomed a whopping 6.5% of applicants to its prestigious facility. Universities claim that dwindling acceptance rates are due to larger influxes of undergraduate applications, but the suggestion that a larger applicant pool precipitates more rejections for prospective students predicts a grave future for higher-level education in America.

The United States appears to be heading on a trajectory towards the competitive educational characteristics of European countries where only select middle school students are admitted to high school. Yes, in countries like Romania, some 14 or 15 year-olds are forced to accept trade school as an alternative to high school. While high school is mandatory for all teenagers in the U.S., the declining possibility for gifted students to enroll in Ivy League or other comparable institutions parallels the lack of opportunity in the Romanian education system. My own mother, now a successful Treasury Accountant at a notable law firm, was forced to opt out of university in Romania due to her lacking physics exam score and went to work immediately after graduating from high school. It was only when she came to America that she was able to enroll in college courses and pursue a career in accounting.

If the United States were to become a country where intelligent students are forced to develop their education at universities that are unable to challenge them intellectually, the very heart of progress would be diminished. Students are told to aim for universities where they will neither be too comfortable with the courses nor challenged too greatly for their academic capacity. Yet, when many qualified teenagers are being rejected from schools that suit their abilities, there seems to be some sort of hypocrisy.

I guess the only thing that is safe to say now is that America will once again get a glimpse of its educational future come March when admissions decisions roll out.