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COMMON APP ESSAY-- VOLUNTEER TRIP TO INDIA


chanj 3 / 6  
Dec 29, 2009   #1
please help and give me honest advice on my common app paper..
are there any ideas that are obscure? any that i can cut (its 840 char)?
i'm sending this to 10 schools, so this would help me ALOT.
Thank you!

"Jen, stop complaining. Why don't you compare yourself to those less fortunate than you? Never in your life did you have to chiku. Why don't you volunteer in some poor areas in the world to see how others live their lives?" In Chinese, chiku literally means to "eat pain". But in other words, my mother was saying how I've never experienced any suffering. Sure, I've lived a sheltered life. But are you kidding me, mom? I thought. I've seen scarred beggars on the streets. I mean, I have dealt with pain too! I was teased by mean girls at school, had my heart broken, and gotten stitches on my head in second grade from rollerblading. So just to spite her, I said yes and went off to India to teach English through an organization I found online. I was confident that the sufferings I will face will be nothing new.

As I entered the school gates for the first time, the children, seeing a foreign volunteer, waved enthusiastically and greeted me "dee dee" which means "older sister" in Hindi. Then, they rushed towards me blissfully and started tugging on my pants and pulling my hand, begging me to join in their games. Wow. Okay, aren't these little kids supposed to sit in neat little rows like the photo shown on the website?

I admit it: I was scared and overwhelmed by the chaos in the playground. I felt like mere entertainment for the children-a doll they could tug and scream at. Thankfully, the principal of the school came to tell me that I only had to "supervise the kids until the teachers come."

After three hours, the teachers finally arrived (I found out later that there were, in fact, only three teachers who served the entire school of about 250 children). They looked at me with sighs of relief-as if I were their life buoy in this surging sea of children. Although I was told to be a teacher assistant, I became the sole teacher, for they rarely showed up to class after my first day. The three hired teachers just sat outside sipping Chai tea with their pinkies up.

At first, I sulked, not wanting to do this chaotic job. But after noticing the children's poor conditions, my attitude slowly softened. I mean, these children were deprived. They carried their one-inch sharpened pencils and their dog-eared and water-beaten books in a burlap sack that once held rice. They also have obvious signs of injuries. One girl pointed at a lump under her chin; a boy showed me one of his fingers that had been cut off. How can I have previously expected these children to sit in neat little rows like the school displayed on the organization's website? These children probably had so much more to worry about than their behavior at school!

Slowly, the children unveiled to me their vulnerability and desperation under their happy façade displayed at the playground. Some of them were so keen on learning that they pulled me aside during their recess to learn how to spell their names in English. They obviously were chiku-ing, as my mother would have said. I wanted to help them; I wanted to compensate the attention that the teachers weren't giving them. But I have to admit that it was very difficult to accomplish because of the concrete language barrier between the children and me. The children repeatedly searched my eyes urgently with theirs that were willing me to understand, looking for a hopeful answer on my face. Looking in their hopeful eyes, I felt so helpless and frustrated at times. It's like watching a war from behind a glass dome-seeing and feeling pain, yet not stopping it. I wanted to help them so much, but sometimes, I could only reply with something they understood-"me Hindi no." Seeing the desperation and pain in their eyes, I, too, felt their pain. I wanted to drain their pain and give them my happiness instead. I wanted them to have the security and happiness I had as a child.

My mother was right about me: I have never had to chiku. I never had to go through the same type of insecurity as these children when I was young. All this time, I have been feeling like Superwoman just because I have survived the shallow troubles of my life, when really, these children are true heroes for acting with such patience and endurance through troubles much greater than mine. How could they possibly live with such troubles yet still manage to remain optimistic? They were still cheerful by the way they laughed and played with one another. Seeing the children's unmistakable courage, I don't think any troubles in my life are worth complaining about. I'm so thankful to these little heroes, because without them, I would still be self-pitying and blind. One day, I shall go back to India to change more children's lives the same way those little heroes have changed mine.

FarhanWasim 2 / 7  
Dec 29, 2009   #2
Its an excellent essay. Nice transition between paragraphs. Btw, what's the prompt?
garfunkel129 5 / 18  
Dec 29, 2009   #3
They also havehad obvious signs of injuries.

Try to be consistent with tenses, unless you're using dialogue, or thoughts.

How cancould I have previously expected these children to sit in neat little rows like the school displayed on the organization's website?

It's like watching a war from behind a glass dome-seeing and feeling pain, yet not stoppingbeing able to stop it.

This one's more of a style note: in that phrase, maybe try to make it sound more like you can't do anything as opposed to you won't.

One day, I shall go back to India to change more children's lives the same way those little heroes have changed mine.

This sounds nice, but it also sounds like you're going to experience extreme chiku in order for children to realize their problems aren't so bad. More clarity, perhaps?

Overall, this was really well written. But which prompt did you choose from the common app? That's really important; if you push the wrong button, this essay would be totally off-base. But like I said, very well written. =)
OP chanj 3 / 6  
Dec 29, 2009   #4
thank you guys so much for all your help!!
i'm doing this prompt on the common app: Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence. Do you think it made sense?
garfunkel129 5 / 18  
Dec 31, 2009   #5
I think it would make more sense to use the prompt "Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you" because it's more about your experience in India than one person in India.


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