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Common App realization essay - an event which sparked a defining moment in my outlook on life


Lewis2126 1 / 2  
Dec 29, 2018   #1
Prompt:
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Tell the story well, and also the growth and new understanding aspect of the event.


missing connecting train from Mannheim to Munich



"Wait!" I yelled as I ran off the train. My connecting train from Mannheim to Munich was pulling away from the station, but without me on it. With only 5% battery left on my phone, I scrambled to text my friend in Munich that I would be arriving late. As my phone battery decreased, my stress to find another train increased. I was frantically searching around the train platforms when I realized I would be just fine--I'd been living out a similar situation for the past four months, and much of my prior life. I could, and would, adapt.

In August of my junior year, I moved to a small village in the countryside of western Germany to take advantage of a scholarship opportunity. Being a little nervous, I didn't know what to expect, but I followed through. At the time of my departure, I almost felt comfortable with being uncomfortable. Assimilating wasn't new to me; whether it was starting at a new school or simply getting lost on a hike or run, adapting had always created a positive experience. I wasn't worried.

However, from the moment I stepped off the train in Dusseldorf to walking into my first day of German high school, I felt alienated. This time wasn't like the others; instead of one or two new things, everything was different. I left all I knew -- family, friends, school, American culture, and even the English language -- for an entirely new world. Despite the worrisome thoughts that often popped into my head, I knew my situation would only improve through immersing myself in their culture and putting mine aside. Creating an optimistic and impartial mindset were necessary.

Keeping an open mind showed me not only the differing ways of German culture but also revealed my personal independence. I was forced to acclimate and live almost entirely on my own, whether that meant something as small as cooking my own meals or something as big as planning trips throughout Europe with friends. Everyday things such as buying a bus ticket, ordering food, or asking teachers a question were concepts I had to relearn to overcome the language barrier. Through many awkward encounters and various miscommunications, I felt more at home. My language skills improved, I got to know my teachers and classmates, and began to forget American customs such as a daily PB and J for the German equivalent: kleines brot mit gouda (bread roll with cheese). Adjusting helped establish my village as a place I could easily call home.

Thinking back to the train station in Mannheim, this event sparked a defining moment in my outlook on life. As the famous Greek philosopher Epictetus said, "it's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters". I couldn't control the train schedule, but I could explore the unknown city around me while I waited. During my entire study abroad experience, I couldn't control where I lived or the school I attended, but I could control my openness to Germans and their cultural habits. From these and other life experiences, I've learned the value in being open to adapting--things don't always have to go as planned for an even greater experience to take place.
Holt  Educational Consultant - / 10,686 3494  
Dec 30, 2018   #2
Lewis, this is a well told story that has only one flaw in it as far as I can tell. In the concluding paragraph, you said that you did not have any control over where you lived and where you went to school. That is incorrect. Since you were a scholar at the time, you actually had control over the school that you were attending because scholarship programs as you to list your school choices. Therefore, you ended up in a school that you actually wanted to be at. The same goes for where you lived. The scholarship program provided you with a place to stay either through a stipend for rent or on campus dorm accommodations. Therefore, you controlled both these settings to a certain extent. It would be better if you just mentioned that you had no control over the train schedule or your ability to meet deadlines in some instances. Leave the school and living set up out of it just to be on the safe side. In fact, you could close the essay very strongly by simply using the quote and why you agreed with it. Just skip the parts I told you not to include.
OP Lewis2126 1 / 2  
Dec 30, 2018   #3
Thank you so much! I'll take your advice into account and switch up my conclusion.


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