Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Heading Off

Today was full of activity! I went to bed at eight o' clock last night to prepare for the early start that I knew I would be making this morning. My alarm went off at 2:15 AM, at which point I rolled out of bed and got ready, being sure to double check that I had everything that I needed.

When my mom and I pulled up to El Cerrito High School, there were barely any lights, but we could make out the group of my fellow ILCers, their families, Mr. Hillyer, and Don gathered in the front. Don had us sign a few last minute forms, weighed our luggage, and doled out some essentials that we might not have thought of, as well as some more information about what the following three weeks will be like and what will be expected of us. Once he had snapped a group picture, the five of us took off in the airport shuttle to SFO.

We arrived at the airport on time, but it took us awhile to finally make it to our gate. The security line in particular set us back a half an hour or so. We had anticipated that we would have time for breakfast, but once we made it through, it was time to board the plane! Our group was seated all together, so we unfortunately didn't get to make any new connections during the flight. I spent the five hours reading and looking down at the tiny farms and cities below us.
The view from the window seat as the plane finished its ascent
Our landing was a bit difficult, as it was pretty rough and we had to circle back around after the first 
My first impression of Philadelphia
attempt. As someone who tends to get motion sick, I just had to breathe through it. It helped to watch as we approached the Delaware River from New Jersey, and Philadelphia came into view. Mr. Hillyer pointed out some famous buildings to me, as well as the UPenn campus!

We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel, which was a quick ride. When we were checking in, we noticed that the hotel was currently hosting the Organ Historical Convention, which meant that the lobby and the elevators were more crowded than usual. Diana, Kamillah, and I will be sharing a room for the next couple of nights, and we took a few moments to get settled in before heading back out to grab a bite to eat. Mr. Hillyer took us to a pizza joint across the street, which was great. We browsed the UPenn bookstore as well, and walked around the area surrounding our hotel for a bit. Then we returned, and Diana, Kamillah, and I looked around at the facilities such as the lounge, pool, and gym.

The real highlight of the day was meeting Dyana So, a former ILCer who just graduated from UPenn and is now working as an admissions counselor there. Together we went out for a gelato, and Dyana shared her experience as a member of the Ivy League Connection and later a student at an Ivy League university. We took a walk around campus, with Dyana pointing out different buildings and their purposes and telling us about what it was like going to UPenn and living in Philadelphia. She also answered any questions we had about college and the admissions process in general. It was great to hear from someone with a similar background to ours, who had gone through what we are going through now. Dyana was very sweet and very helpful, and I will definitely reach out to her in the future as a resource. It was also nice to see parts of UPenn before our tour tomorrow, such as the statue of Ben Franklin and the dorm we will be living in (below).

Today has been a very long day. It seems like so much time has passed since I arrived at El Cerrito High School this morning! I can't believe we are all finally here. Now, we have to get our rest for tomorrow, which will be another day of exploring this new city and the school that we will be attending for the next few weeks.

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