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Dream Odyssey, Desperation and Inspiration-Columbia GS Autobiographical Essay


OhPolly 1 / -  
Oct 8, 2012   #1
Apologize for the length,It's a 1000 word essay, in which I should talk about my life, my ideas and why I wanna go to Columbia GS, I hope you guys can help me with this. Basically it's a hodgepodge of everything I think I should talk about. I cannot be more grateful for your gracious comments. Also I want to know how do you think of the style of it, and I really want to trim it down a bit.

I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but an inhaler. Those nights, the world would suddenly narrow to one point,my throat.

"Mama, Jyuming (Help)!"
Someone grabbed my neck, I opened my eyes only to find myself on bed, suffocating.I shouted for help but my vocal folds vibration only constituted a mumble- there's no air in it.

The cry,the shortness of breath and the scream of the ambulance obscured into the dark winter night, when my life started at the touch of death, at one simple question,

"If I die of asthma tomorrow, How should I live today?"
Laying on the hospital bed, shivering, I felt like a lonesome boat in an ocean. When I closed my eyes, the smell of impending death would overwhelm me and keep me awake. I cried and prayed until the sun shined on my body, radiating through my soul. I felt alive,it felt great.

Emerson said, "The sun illuminates only the eye of man, but shines into the heart of the child."
On that morning, it shined into my heart, inspired me to suck out the marrow of life as hard as I suck in the air in asthma, to inhale the fear of death and breathe out the fire of life,

To shine, bright like the sun.
Another sunny day 20 years ago,my birth also lighted up the my parents' world. They would name me Hui, Sunshine, hoping the sun will finally shine on our family after the political turmoils of Cultural Revolution,which killed my dissident granddad and the Tiananmen Square 1989,which forced my activist parents out of school into rural labour. Stigmatized but perseverant,they worked multiple jobs during the day and studied for degrees late into the night.I would often wake up to smell the aroma of tea wafting in the air and see my exhausted mother leaning on my father's shoulder in the pale lamplight, which ever shines in my memory, composing the most heartfelt picture of my life.

I inherit the artsy DNA from my mother, a Jazz singer and a painter, with whom I observe the world as it is and create it as I want it to be. On my 10th birthday, she bought me a guitar, kickstarting my music career. When I strummed the chords to make a melody, mother recorded them into cassettes and proudly presented them to everybody she knew. Those "mom selects" sound crude and energetic,smelling like teen spirit. Converted to the Artistianity, I spent everyday singing, drawing and creating, exploring the kaleidoscopic world of Asian and European music. Still, Jazz is my religion and I dream to learn at the Center of Jazz studies and audit for Louis Armstrong Performance Program in Columbia University. Growing up listening to John Coltrane, reading Langston Hughes, the Harlem Renaissance looms large in my artistic universe. The liberating spirit of the Jazz age echoes in the NY subway and runs deep in my veins, I belong to the Jazzy New York. Also, the school of general studies has been a mecca for artistically involved students and I dream to join them and bring the lost-art of Chinese "Guqin" to the GSSC spring showcase.

I grow up in two Chinas, one in the textbook, it's all too peaceful, the other on Tiananmen Square, from my parents' story-Tanks,dead bodies-all too bloody. I decided to observe China on my own and I found it just around our apartment,on the square of Provincial People's Congress, the only place where protests are allowed and take place every single day.Here, the hidden side of our economic miracle was revealed through the stories of the protesters-Violent land seizures,water contamination,unlawful detention of a dissident mother.On the square,I witnessed the fire of a self-immolating landless farmer, the teardrops of parents whose son died of lead pollution, I saw how their democratic dreams were trampled by our authoritarian government. But on the same square, the microcosm of China, I heard the voice of the voiceless, felt the hope of the hopeless and sensed the power of the powerless. They all kept me wondering,

"How can I change the authoritarian China?"

To search for the answer, I started my political career first as the Model UN leader of my high school, bringing my team to Peking University to find solutions to Iranian Nuclear Issue, to Georgetown to cope with the EU crisis and to Harvard to discuss the conservation of the rain-forest in Brazil. In retrospect,although I have become a great communicator, our resolutions didn't have practical impact on our society.Recalling my own experience, I established the Model Provincial People's Congress in high school to let students to innovate solutions to local issues such as the ecological restoration of the burgeoning Nan Sha county,Guangzhou. Surprisingly, it caught the attention of the Deputy Meng of Guangdong, a liberal politician who later invited me to be his summer assistant in Beijing.

For the first time, I entered the political realm to run an initiative against the construction of toxic copper plant that triggered widespread protests in Shaoguan,Guangdong. After gathering thousands of signatures and attracting the media coverage, we heard a sudden knock on the door- the Big Brother came. As we were grounded and our campaign suspended,the local demonstrations were violently suppressed by the armed police. Mounting fears, I learned the hard lesson that social progress wouldn't grow out of the efforts of the few but the grassroots civic engagements of the many.

Therefore, I founded wake&love with XXX(Sophomore at Columbia University) to raise the public awareness of environmental and educational issues in Shaoguan. In 3 years ,we have set up a scholarship for talented rural students, conducted 4 volunteering teaching programs and established a psycho-consultant hot-line for the rural left-over kids whose parents left them for urban jobs.To repair computers for Kengtang Elementary School, we also cycled 400km across the mountainous terrain to Shaoguan. Though physically challenging, seeing smiles on the children's faces, once we accomplished our mission, was a privilege and pleasure. As the keynote speaker of TEDxScpo, I told my community organizing story on the stage of Sciences Po. Still, I want to share my dream on the larger stage of Columbia University where I can work closely with XXX to fight against the exploitation of the countryside and to finance our next project to deliver e-books to the schools in the rural Shaoguan county.

On my 20th birthday, my summer love story ended as I hugged Richard and the Mercers goodbye and went on a tearful solitude along the Yangtze River,cherishing the summer with my Columbia family. Leaving them is harder than leaving my girl because the passion,progressivism and the activism of my Columbia professors was engraved in me, I sensed the Columbia Blue blood was flowing in my veins,in front of me,I saw the moonlit waves, ever flowing eastward.

Why the Yangtze River always runs east? I wondered, inside the waves,were the determination to march forward ,the hope to nourish our civilization and the dream to embrace the ocean. Life is a river,never ending as it flows,only gets greater with time, dreaming that one day, it will be part of something grandiose. In river of time, our family witnessed the market triumphed over communism, the tanks over idealism and the money over moralism. River ebbs and flows, people come and go, but our dream stays eternal, a dream to be a part of something greater and to make great changes of our society so our own tragedies are not repeated.

That dream's calling me to be part of the vibrant community of Columbia University, to work with XXX to spread the idea of Wake&Love,to perform in the Center of Jazz Studies, to learn about the West with Richard and Christia in the Lit Hum Core, to learn about the East with Prof. Andrew Nathan at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute,to bring those ideas back to China and become a civil rights lawyer, defending the environmental and social justice until I die with my boots on.

Columbia University is the one and only place that makes them all possible.

But to make my admission possible, I should write a love letter to Columbia Univeristy in a thousand words plus one solemn and hopefully life-changing promise,

"You are the love of my life," you read.
I swear, under the divine wisdom of Alma Mater,that I will spend my life proving it.

Jennyflower81 - / 690 96  
Oct 8, 2012   #2
Emerson said, "The sun illuminates only the eye of man, but shines into the heart of the child."
This sounds like a great way to open your essay, I love a great quote like this!

On that morning, it shined into my heart, inspired me to suck out the marrow of life as hard as I suck in the air in asthma, to inhale the fear of death and breathe out the fire of life...

This sounds a little odd, clear it up, and say exactly what you mean, the analogy is a bit off.

To shine, bright like the sun.
Another sunny day 20 years ago,my birth also lighted up the my parents' world. They would name me Hui, Sunshine, hoping the sun will finally shine on our family after the political turmoils of Cultural Revolution,which killed my dissident granddad and the Tiananmen Square 1989,which forced my activist parents out of school into rural labour.


This is a really nice transition. I would break up the really long sentence into 2 shorter ones though. Try to connect these thoughts to the end of your paper.

But to make my admission possible, I should write a love letter to Columbia Univeristy in a thousand words plus one solemn and hopefully life-changing promise,

"You are the love of my life," you read.
I swear, under the divine wisdom of Alma Mater,that I will spend my life proving it.

I think it would sound better to write a reminder about the sunshine here, and this ending could be better, it is a little weak compared to the rest of the paper, I think the love letter is too much, a bit corny, so mention something about how the alma mater will help you gain the skills you need for the future, or something like that. Good luck in school!


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