Friday, July 29, 2011

The End of Days

I write today’s blog with a mixture of emotions. On one hand, I’m happy to be returning home to my family and friends. On the other hand, I’m leaving the “family” and friends that I have grown to know so well over the past four weeks. Tonight, the three of us departed from the quad, departed from our lives at Penn, and watched our Clique wave goodbye to us. The events of today were truly a great way to end the month.

We began class with our final presentations, our reports of the exponential physics experiments. These were, by far, the best presentations so far. All of the slideshows and presenters were entertaining, informative, and concise. Our presentation on Newton’s Law of Cooling, I felt, went exceptionally well. We had good background information, sufficient data, we came to the correct conclusion, and presented it in such a way that Bill and the TAs wholeheartedly agreed with our analysis and description. Ryan even told us that our analysis was exactly the way he would have taught the topic. This was comforting to hear since we did not have a lot of guidance with this experiment. The research, experiments, and presentation were largely left up to our decisions. To learn that we had come to the correct conclusion and that we taught the class the same way one of our instructors would was a great feeling.

Following the presentations, we had a long discussion on what could be improved in the program and what should be kept on for the next year. It was interesting to hear about what everyone thought about different aspects of the class. For example, I enjoyed hearing the opinions of people that had never taken physics before coming to the program. Most of them felt that the program was a great way to get involved in physics and that it was still a very educational experience, despite the pace. Even the students that have been taking physics for years said that the program benefited them immensely, and I could not agree with them more. I do not have any regrets or negative feedback for this program whatsoever. Everything was run excellently, Bill and the TAs were great, and the overall experience was one that I will never forget. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in pursuing science, and even to some who aren’t necessarily interested in taking that path.

After lunch, we all gathered in the small lecture hall on the ground floor of the DRL. This was the greatest part of today. We were told that this was Bill’s time to show off all of his best demonstrations. This was absolutely true. We were given quite the show this afternoon as Bill took us through the most entertaining demonstrations of physics he had to offer. He displayed the properties of elastic potential energy by sitting on a gigantic coil that was attached to the ceiling, blew up a small house using the flow of electrons through an unstable environment, and even shattered a wine glass using sound. Bill really pulled out all the stops today, and I couldn’t think of a better way to complete the course. After the demonstrations were over, we were given USB drives with everything that we could possibly want from the program. We received the slideshows from every lecture (guest and regular), well-known physics papers that were written by some of our guest lecturers, and even every single document and presentation that Mary uploaded to Dropbox. We were also given certificates of completion for the program and wooden stars that had C’s on them, as a testament to our ability to accurately measure the speed of light. Once Bill and Mary said all that they wanted to say, goodbyes, thank you’s and even some sorrowful hugs were exchanged between both classmate and staff. I made sure to say thank you and goodbye to Bill and all of the TAs before I left, except Adam, but he left early. It all felt complete after that.

I finally got my picture with Bill

Ryan was always a huge help and a pretty cool guy. Couldn't pass up a photo-op.

It was sad to say good-bye to Mary. We have grown close.

Coolest. TA. EVER.

Bill in serious clothing??

Once we returned to the dorms, I had to finish my packing. Somehow I managed to cram all of the things I brought and all of the souvenirs and gifts I purchased into my suitcase and suit bag. I couldn’t find a scale though, so I am really hoping that my luggage isn’t overweight. If it is though, I can always transfer some items from my suitcase to the suit bag, because that is definitely under-weight. I couldn’t wait to finish packing because I wanted to get as much time with everyone else as possible. Unfortunately, it took everyone quite a while to get everything packed, so we weren’t all finished until about 6:00. We decided to just get sandwiches from the convenience store near the quad and eat light, since we would be dancing later.

The dance began around 7:30 out in the lower quad. It was actually pretty funny because after about fifteen minutes of music, it began to rain. That was actually one of the hardest rains that I had experienced during my time at Penn. This put the party on hold for about fifteen minutes, but after that, it did not stop for another three hours. The music was loud, everyone was having a great time, and for a while we all let go of the fact that we would be leaving each other very, very soon.

At 10:10, Mr. Miranda arrived to sign us out. We didn’t actually leave the quad until at least half an hour later. It wasn’t that sign out took a long time, but our good-byes took a very long time. This would be the last time for a long time, if ever again, that the seven of us would be together, so it was all very emotional. I realized at that moment how attached I had become to my friends here. I knew that I would miss them, but I did not imagine that I would be so moved just by having to say goodbye. It truly is like ripping off a bandaid, you just have to do it quickly. Sometimes, that just isn’t possible. We were so unwilling to let go of each other. Several hugs were exchanged between each of us, touching parting words were said, and there was a universal need for tissues by the time we exited the front gates. Ed bid us adieu and we were officially out of Penn’s Summer Discovery experience.

This past month has been filled with fantastic events that I will always treasure. Whether it was meeting new friends or exploring the college that I may one day call my home, I never regretted coming to Penn, not for one second. I have never been more thankful to the Ivy League Connection, and everyone who supports it, than I felt today. Although I am sad to leave Penn and my new family behind, I am overjoyed to know that I have made life-long connections, and it wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for this amazing program. I am forever indebted to the ILC for all that they have done for me. For my last time in Philadelphia, I’m signing off. Good night, and good-bye Philly.

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