Any feedback is greatly appreciated! I'm applying for a scholarship to teach English in another country for 6 months. The prompt is to explain my main purpose and motivation for applying for this program.
I still have the textbook that changed the course of my life - and, oddly enough, I acquired that textbook during summer camp. Weeks before I started my senior year of high school, I had a mouth full of braces, quite a few pimples, and a burning desire to perform well academically. Not wanting to participate in the typical outdoorsy camp, presumably filled with cabins, talent shows, and campfires (how was that supposed to get me into college?), I instead convinced my parents to foot the bill for me to take summer school at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). During those six weeks, I took my first college-level anthropology class, and it truly shaped the next five years of my journey into adulthood. Initially, this camp experience helped me answer, with confidence, the nagging questions of "Where do you want to go to college?" and "What do you want to major in?" Now I realize that it also produced a dramatic change in my sixteen-year old understanding of humanity. Like drapes being flung open in a pitch black room, the study of foreign cultures and societies opened my eyes to the world outside of tiny little Redlands, California.
My senior year of high school and the subsequent four years of college flew by as quickly as everyone told me they would. As an undergraduate at UCLA, life was a happy balance of interesting coursework, extracurricular activities, and cultural experiences only available in a big city like Los Angeles. In my anthropology classes, we learned about the myriad of societal structures and ways of sustenance, we watched videos about polygamy and polyandry, and we ventured out to do our own fieldwork and ethnography in the community. Hungry for more contact with different cultures, I volunteered with the Dashew International Center Orientation Program to greet foreign exchange students and show them around campus and the city. I explained, to eager ears, how you could run five miles west and end up at the beach in Santa Monica, take the bus three miles north to the infamous Getty Museum, or walk one mile east onto campus to see a world-class performance at Royce Hall. Their gratitude for my advice inspired me to apply to become a campus tour guide, and for the last three years of college I represented my university, with pride, to hundreds of curious visitors from around the country and around the world.
During every two-hour tour I was asked to speak about undergraduate opportunities to study abroad. I obliged by regaling my listeners with well-rehearsed stories of fellow students who went to Italy to study history (like my roommate, Emma) or to Ghana to learn African dance (like Eric, my co-worker). I talked about how immersion in another culture is a life-changing experience, how it truly brings your coursework alive, and how it is one not to be missed. Sadly, by the conclusion of every conversation, I was forced to reveal to the students my one true regret about college: that somewhere in between planning large events for the Student Alumni Association, performing as a school mascot for a year, and being accepted to the two-year long Anthropology Honors Program, I missed my window of opportunity to live, work, and study in another country. I dutifully reminded the students of a quote passed on by another college senior: "When you look back on your four years at UCLA, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the ones you did." It's been almost two years since I graduated, and I still feel the same way.
For almost a quarter of my life, I have cultivated a sincere desire to understand and connect with other cultures. I am blessed to have very few regrets in life, and I am still confident that I made the right choices in college and post-graduation -- without those experiences, I wouldn't be able to take part in this program like I can now. As a college graduate and young professional, I am confident that I have the maturity and skill set to venture abroad, not just as another traveler or another student, but as an active participant of change and as a representative of my country.