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"Mi casa es tu casa" - Common Application- Personal Statement

jdsams02 1 / 1  
Nov 19, 2008   #1
If you could read this that would be great. The prompt is "Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence."

Also, I was hoping to be able to use the same essay for University of California, but I know I'll have to adapt it a little bit. Could you give some suggestions for that? Thanks!

I had never smelled anything so bad in my life. From a nearby hill I looked down upon the Guatemala City Garbage Dump, the largest landfill in Central America. Men and women with babies strapped to their backs scavenged the dump for trash that they could trade for food. Children wandered dangerously close to operating bulldozers, also stooped over to search for potentially valuable items. Overwhelmed, I turned away from the dump and watched a boy approach me with a handkerchief in his outstretched arm. "Here," he said in slow, careful English. "You can cover your nose with this."

Last summer, I traveled to Guatemala with a student volunteer organization called Global Visionaries, which pairs groups of American and Guatemalan teenagers to improve social and environmental conditions in the rural countryside. This is how I first met Miguel. During the course of my three-week stay in Guatemala, we participated in numerous service projects designed to help local communities, including work in reforestation, local hospitals, and school construction. However, as my time in Guatemala continued, I realized this experience impacted me just as much as my group may have impacted the community.

On the first day of construction, I immediately knew that working on the school site would be a difficult task. Our job was to haul ground rock to the top of a steep hill, where the foundation for a new one-room school would be laid. Each day for five hours, Miguel and I lugged fifty-pound sacks up the hill. Becoming physically drained and tired of the monotonous ascent, the goal seemed unattainable after several days of work. I knew that I was helping someone, but I did not know exactly who this was. Often times, I concentrated more on my day-to-day exhaustion rather than the positive effects of my work.

However, one particularly grueling day of work soon changed into the most fulfilling of my entire trip. Miguel and I sat on the ground, exhausted in the stifling humidity. Miguel turned to me and said, "We have to keep going. This is the school that I will attend." I looked at Miguel, somewhat ashamed for having pitied myself while building his school. But, at the same moment, Miguel also seemed humbled admitting his need for help. We began our next trip up the hill, this time motivated by our newly found mutual desire to simply get the job done, to finish what we had started. Step by step, we gradually reached the top of the hill. We had succeeded, for now; there were still many more hauls to be made. Even though I knew that I would not be in Guatemala long enough to see the final brick laid, I was comforted by the fact that I was laying the foundation for Miguel's future school. Each load we carried up the hill soon seemed to hold much more purpose.

My experience in Guatemala eventually approached its close. On the long bus ride to the airport, Miguel and I talked and laughed as if it was any time we had shared over the past three weeks. However, the bus arrived at the airport all too soon. Shaking his hand, I thanked Miguel for everything. He smiled and replied, "De nada. Mi casa es tu casa."

His parting words turned out to be the biggest gift of all. Retrospectively, before the trip I was not exactly sure why I had chosen to volunteer in Guatemala. I knew that in helping others I might feel good about myself, but the source of these good feelings were unclear. Before this experience, I was not as conscientious about the true purpose and meaning behind working for the betterment of those around me. From our first encounter when Miguel offered me his handkerchief, I observed his compassion for others. But, upon my departure, I finally understood what I received in return for my work; his parting words symbolized an offering of his gratitude and friendship. At this moment, I came to appreciate that true friendship is a balance between helping and receiving, that in being selfless to others the favor is repaid. I entered Miguel's country as a foreigner and stranger, separated by barriers in language and custom, only to emerge from the trip as a friend and brother. I knew that the phrase "Mi casa es tu casa" was taken seriously in Latin American culture, so I chose to do the same. On the plane ride back home I promised myself that one day I would return to his home, now my home as well.
OP jdsams02 1 / 1  
Nov 19, 2008   #2
I forgot to include the prompt for the UC application. It is: "Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?"

Thanks so much.
EF_Team5 - / 1,586  
Nov 19, 2008   #3
Good evening :)

I think you have done a fantastic job answering this prompt. You have described the experience very vividly; your introduction will definitely get your reader's interest, and the story progresses very fluidly. You describe how this experience makes you proud, and you relate it to the person you are now, while reflecting on the person you were before and during the trip. Your conclusion is very appropriate and ties the whole piece together. I wouldn't change anything. Great work.

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