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"A Background or Story so central to my Identity" - My Common App Essay


EpsilonDelta 2 / 2 1  
Oct 24, 2013   #1
Hello all. So here's my common app essay: (Personally, I think it too trite and overdone, but my English teacher said it to be "remarkably interesting.."

Just fishing for some second opinions...

Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. (250-650 Words).

The world was but a delicate network of dirty little alleyways. Scattered here and there were cramped dingy houses that provided a comfortable shade from the sweltering heat. Familiar accents and intonations of local Sri Lankan dialects rang in the air as market goers chattered with each other. That network of dirty little alleyways, enveloped in all its muddy and dilapidated glory, was where I grew up; it was my entire world.

You see, I'm what you would call the "0.5 generation," part of a generation consisting of those who immigrate to a new country at a young age. Some say that these half-generations belong nowhere, that they are essentially caught between two entirely different worlds, and for a period of my life, I believed they were right.

I clearly remember those early years of American School for us, that during school lunches, I would look at around the room at the delicacies around me and then at mine in dismay. Bacon and PB&J were exotic elegances that I could only dream of. I disdainfully and wistfully stared down at my lunch, trying to imagine what turkey on Thanksgiving tasted like. What I did not realize was that this experience was universally shared by all immigrants: the Pakistani kid at the table next to me, the Ecuadorian in my class, and the Colombian I played with at recess.

As time passed, I looked back on those things I thought and smirked to myself. Over the years, I became more aware of the universality of immigration and I gained enough confidence to initiate conversation with others. Because of financial difficulties in the first few years of immigration, my family moved from place to place and as a result, I was exposed to a medley of cultures. My circle of friends in school expanded to include families from Korea, Peru, India, and Russia. When I went to their houses after school, their parents offered food ranging from roti to kimchee. Being observant by nature, I noticed the differences in the interior decorations - oil paintings, African sculptures, Persian carpets, scents of candles, incense and coconut milk, and distinctive handicrafts. Some parents greeted me with hugs and grins, while others were more reserved and offered nothing more than a polite smile.

As I grew older and my family moved from that large city to a conservative communal community, I realized the significance of diversity and started appreciating America's multiculturalism. While volunteering at my local hospital, I learned from nurses about their lives in Nigeria. My Korean classmate taught me (rather unsuccessfully) how to use chopsticks and I learned how to fold origami from a Japanese exchange student. I became more aware of the cultural impacts around me, and was fascinated by just how, still in a predominantly conventional "American town" there were still pockets of different cultures. I recognized that because of my cultural roots, I could move anywhere, and still stay connected to who I was, a Sri Lankan; my place in the "0.5 generation" was not something to loathe, it was something to embrace.

Bearing this new mindset, I returned to Sri Lanka years later. To my surprise, the alleyways were still there. They were just as dirty, just as crowded, and just as familiar. Retracing my steps one afternoon, I realized I was hearing the same local dialects I had heard as a child but they now represented something different. Even within these alleyways, I recognized diversity, however slight and subtle. Grateful for having learned to embrace everything with a curious mind and open heart, I closed my eyes and let the sounds wash over me, relishing in the beauty and intricacy of the world's greatest orchestra: humanity.

98_IIG 1 / 7  
Oct 24, 2013   #2
I have a similar background to you, but I am from the middle east as an Arab not knowing anything about his country origin.
Really good I liked it.
dnice 1 / 2  
Oct 26, 2013   #3
How old were you when you immigrated? and it seems to me that i this paragraph (I clearly remember those early years of American School for us, that during school lunches, I would look at around the room at the delicacies around me and then at mine in dismay. Bacon and PB&J were exotic elegances that I could only dream of. I disdainfully and wistfully stared down at my lunch, trying to imagine what turkey on Thanksgiving tasted like. What I did not realize was that this experience was universally shared by all immigrants: the Pakistani kid at the table next to me, the Ecuadorian in my class, and the Colombian I played with at recess). Your trying to convey a strong sense of diversity between immigrants and natives however, in my opinion you should use a stronger message than different foods to portray that.

Overall a good essay!


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