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Common App Essay - A Year in Japan Prompt 1 - identity, interest, or talent


Haruka_na 1 / -  
Oct 5, 2020   #1
This is my essay for the common app. I feel like it's kinda cheesy and all but I'd like all the feedback that I can get. Thank you for reading.

Prompt :1
Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it.

If this sounds like you, then please share your story.



The dust billowed against the windows of the school bus, arousing me from my stupor of periodically counting pigeons on the knotted power lines. I looked up and stared in surprise as it slowly appeared in front of me -- an elephant. Its giant gait, elegant as the man on its shoulders kneaded its ears to direct it through the traffic. As it carefully made a path through the thousands of mopeds ladened with chickens and goats, 6 year old me jumped in her seat ready to rush home to describe the events of her day.

For the entirety of my childhood I grew up in countries where the potholes were evened out with trash, women would walk around with woven baskets balanced on their heads, and the unusual was expected to happen. The extent of my "de-americanization'' became visible when visiting grandparents, their astonishment when they discovered their grandchildren believed Walmart was a marketplace that sold walls. When I first saw a Harley Davidson, I started trying to calculate how many goats could fit on the monstrosity. I never believed I was truly from anywhere, but rather existed in a constant state of motion, settling in one country only to pick up, neatly place my belongings into a new box, and shipping off once again. The only fixed notion of my cultural identity was my parents own nationalities. However, I enjoyed every part of my extended cultured upbringing, anticipating the next region in my repertoire.

Yet, this passion for new experiences diminished when at the age of 11. I was forcibly moved to Japan for a year to learn my mother's mother-tongue that I had only developed a basis for. The lullabies of muted music down the street or the honking of beaten up cars disappeared and was replaced with silence. I was admitted to a public school where I couldn't understand anything that was being taught and was treated like a rare specimen in a zoo, receiving the silent gaze of those meant to be my classmates, my peers. I was called hafu (half-foreign) or gaijin (foreigner), labelling me as a heterogenous variable in a homogenous society.

I was alone, a concept that had never really resonated with me up until that point. Suddenly, I was drowning in this newfound loneliness and emotions not benefited by the rampanting hormones of puberty. I drew into myself, spending all my days and nights reading tales of the Brothers Grimm not only to serve as a dark escape from my motherland, but to actively work against it by reinforcing the language that I was fluent in.

However, despite my early grugingness towards the country, I eventually met Liliana sensei, a bustling second generation Argentinian woman. She brought me to her volunteer supplementary school, filled to the brim with other multicultural kids. Not a single person in that school could speak beyond a rudimentary English, but that didn't matter. I was able to join a community of people grappled with the same lack of understanding, however, in viewing the true earnestness that my newfound peers had in learning the language, I began to question my distorted vision. I began to see the positive experience that I had once ignored; the sight of Mt. Fuji, the love of my Japanese grandparents that I was unwilling to comprehend or understand, and the beauty of the language that I had once despised so much.

I still miss the chaotic, balmy, energizing vigor of my youth, but I now hold an appreciation for the country of my birth. The impact that all the cultures I grew with still follow me throughout my life and have become integral to who I have become. From the years since my time in Japan my love for my culture has steadily grown, the hate that I once had softening with the warm fond breath of my motherland.

Holt [Contributor] - / 9,732 3069  
Oct 6, 2020   #2
Try to come up with a more interesting title for the essay. One more descriptive of the discussion you are actually presenting. Do not make it sound like a travelogue where the presentation of the information will be generic and one size fits all. Your essay is interesting enough except for one important detail. You forgot to mention why you kept moving around the world with your parents. This will be part of the description of your background. What profession were your parents engaged in? How did you really feel about having to constantly move about. Do not keep the information about being born in Japan for the last part. Include that in the paragraph where you say you went home to learn your mother tongue. The last part of the essay is engaging and shows an emotional relevance on your part. I believe that with the proper revisions and information inclusions, your essay will be quite an interesting read for the reviewer.


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