Hi all, I'm applying to college through a program called Questbridge which offers full-ride scholarships to high-achieving low- income students. It would be helpful if I could have some help reviewing my essay! Thank you so much.
Prompt: We are interested in learning more about you and the context in which you have grown up, formed your aspirations and accomplished your academic success. Please describe the factors and challenges that have most shaped your personal life and aspirations.
my motivation to pursue life as I wish
For as long as I can remember, each night of my pre-school year was marked by the same shenanigan: I'd wait until 9:00PM until Uncle Tim was out of work, and call him from my mom's pink Motorola Razr (the pinnacle of flip phones at the time). As soon as he picked up, I pressed the play button on the stereo by my side and became his Sharukh Khan, melodiously singing Pretty Woman, a Bollywood classic. If there was ever a night that I wasn't wooing him with my mistranslated Hindi lyrics over the phone, it was because he and Aunt Jennifer were already over at our house. Being my parents' best friends, they'd often make the three hour trek from New York City to visit us at our home in Albany, bringing toys, love, and compassion that induced happiness in times of despair.
The exposure to their empowering concern for us instituted a sense of responsibility for me within my family as well. No, I wasn't an inquisitive kid that marveled at the thought of acting like an adult, but necessity required me to act live in the real world: as my parents' accountant, their translator, and their computer expert. Throughout my early years I learned through stumbling confusion that despite being a first generation child, our lives did not fall under the epitomized "American Dream". By the age of eight, I've switched schools four times, my parents attempting to follow each business opportunity they could. Often, I found myself awake in the middle of the night, struck by the fear of going to school the next day, not knowing if it would be my last. Pain struck me on some of those nights, as I faintly heard my parents' somber exchanges, describing the scarcity of our savings.
Amidst the precarious stability of our finances, however, we sometimes found temporary remedies to quench our anxiety. My family's culture pervaded my childhood as we sang to Bollywood songs, watched Bangla natoks, and took part in prayer at makeshift mosques in rural New York. Despite this, I felt compelled to keep this aspect of my life hidden from most of my classmates in elementary and middle school. Attending suburban public schools, it seemed as if being one of the only minorities did not offer ease in conversations considering that not only was I coming from a background that was not only less well off, but entirely different in culture. Barely was I able to engage in conversations about barbecues, visiting my grandparents, or even watching Christmas movies with my family. Living in unwelcoming parts of rural New York, it felt, pressure drove us to change my name from Imran Hussain after the events of 9/11. I was traumatized, scared that at each explanation of myself at I'd be subject to laughter at school, faced with an inability of my classmates to understand.
As I grew older, Uncle Tim and Aunt Jennifer continued to come to our home, and when we spoke in Bengali and played cultural games like Carrom, the feeling of being afraid at school gradually degraded. If I enjoy being myself at home, can't I in the outside world? If this isn't me, then who am I? They offered me a sense of security in my life, allowing me to become prouder of my identity. Maybe I wasn't able to go on many vacations, spend days at amusement parks, or obtain a driver's license at 16 like most of my friends, but eventually, that no longer mattered. As I grew older, I became more appreciative of who I was- and to my surprise- found that some others were as well, realizing the gateway to happiness even in times of despair was what was right in front of me- my background. I'm first generation. I'm Muslim. I'm a person of color. And so, I started singing songs like "Om Shanti Om" with my friends, invited them to try my mother's amazing "Desi" dishes, and showed them Indian social commentary films like "3 Idiots".
Finally, I was finally able to build enough confidence to tell people that their names weren't really Uncle Tim or Aunt Jennifer, but in Bengali, I knew them as Rupom Bhai and Shazeda Aunty. With my renewed self-confidence, I've developed a new love for my culture and my passion without fear of what others saw. Finances for most of my life have, and continue to be parlous, but I take pride in my lucky upbringing, for any other would've deprived me of such connections. Though I don't have my mom's Motorola Razr anymore, what I do have now is what I have a new motivation to pursue life as I wish and to help others realize the beauty of their lives.