Thursday, August 3, 2017

The VSA Journey

From the moment I decided to apply for the Vanderbilt scholarship, I was unsure of what my time with VSA would be like. I worried that I wouldn't enjoy being in such a restrictive environment, and it made very little sense to me to not be able to leave campus at our own will. Luckily, my time at VSA made me more understanding of all those regulations and proved to be a memorable time regardless of my original worries. 

Arriving in Nashville, I was slightly underwhelmed by the size of the city. I had heard it was a growing metropolitan city, and I'm not exactly sure what expected. Everyone there was very friendly though and despite not being as concentrated as I imagined it to be, there were several things to do in the area, which I'm sure adds to the experience of being a Vanderbilt student. Although VSA is at Vanderbilt, I think I forgot I was at Vanderbilt sometimes since the program is so immersive and unique. 

Checking in to VSA itself was pretty intimidating. The cohort was all on different floors, which is convenient for branching out but a little scary as well. I also soon became aware that there students who had been doing Programs for Talented Youth from 2-5 years now. So, out of 185 kids maybe 20 already knew each other. 

When I walked into my room, my roommate hadn't arrived yet, so I felt kind of lost. On the bright side, right from the start, VSA had many things planned for us to do. I got to do a painting activity with my proctor group, which is where I met Kiara, who turned out to be one of my favorite people. Throughout the whole three weeks though the existence of my proctor group and the nightly proctor group meetings created a significantly tight bond between those 13 other girls and me. I found that to be one of the best parts of the entire experience. My proctor group was incredibly supportive of each other, and if anyone needed a hug someone was always very willing. 

Having breakfast with my class and TA for the first morning and the following two Mondays also was one of my favorite parts about VSA. Getting to have some food with someone prior to being thrown into a challenging and competitive class makes everything so much easier. I don't know that VSA planned for the TAs to be as impactful as my TA Matthew was, but he was. He encouraged the whole class to pursue physics, but in all seriousness, he was very easy to talk to if we needed help and always had some good advice to give. 

My class itself was amazing and it only reminded me how much I truly love Math. Dawson made the class interesting and I felt challenged in the best way, every single day. Anytime I felt frustrated in class, it was only positive frustration and Dawson acknowledged that. We worked through some really difficult problems sometimes so it was natural to get a little upset, to go over one hurdle just to find another. I also felt very inspired in that class, partially because Dawson showed us some emotional movies about famous mathematicians. The class also made me realize I have about 13 years left to win myself a Fields medal. 

Outside of class, VSA had so many enjoyable things for us to do, SOFT nights included of course. It might sound a little crazy but SOFT nights might have not been the highlight of the VSA experience, even though I've previously stated that I wished the boundaries covered a larger area. My favorite after dinner activity that VSA set up was probably the admissions night and the career panel. Admissions night was incredible because I got to meet my admissions counselor, Brandon Nyswaner. Although that experience was really satisfying, I also got a lot of clarity from the career panel. Like I said in the blog from that night, I figured out a little more how to narrow down my college options and realized that the real decision doesn't have to be made until around April of 2018. Also, when I was doubting myself Rosie and Matthew did a great job of reassuring me that I won't be a failure at life.

I could go into the deepest of details about my time at VSA, but even then I wouldn't be able to accurately convey how I felt there. I was truly and genuinely happy and even stress-free. Sure there were assignments to do and the thought about college applications being right around the corner was in the back of mind, but my priority was to learn as much as I could. Learning doesn't necessarily have to be in the classroom either; there were so many things to talk about with all the different people I met. With the diversity of the classes, I definitely didn't just learn about Math at VSA and I certainly do not regret choosing to spend my summer there. 

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