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"Farewell to My Concubine" - Experience: Leave the Comfort Zone


ayida365 7 / 33  
Dec 13, 2009   #1
PROMPT: Tell us about an experience in which you left your comfort zone. How did this experience change you?
Length should be approximately 1-2 pages, double-spaced.

Along with uproarious blow of drums and gongs, the Peking opera began. Maids all in cyan costumes marched around the stage, followed by the concubine in a yellow mantle with blue collar. "Year after year, all over the land, I've followed my king on his military campaigns, enduring the wind, frost and hard toil." With a beautiful hand gesture, the concubine sang. Acclaim roared from the auditorium.

"The King is back!" A housecarl notified.
King strutted on to the stage, wearing a black robe with white patterns. Again, the audience broke into deafening cheers.

"Farewell to My Concubine" is the play we performed at the last day of the Beijing Opera summer camp, a basic education in the quintessence of Chinese culture, offering a lifestyle contrary to formerly mine.

The reason for me to attend this summer camp is pretty clear: I am always fascinated by the traditional Chinese culture, and eager to learn more about it. Therefore, I could not wait to mobilize my friends to apply with me when first knew about this activity, but they all agreed two months without TV, iPod, Internet or Coca-Cola is a nightmare, refusing my request. However, after some days' pondering, I finally made up my mind to seize the rare opportunity, although the life in the camp was totally out of my comfort zone: Instead of hanging out with my witty friends, I needed to howl out loud, exercising my voice from morning to night; while others were performing Kong Fu with a manipulated little man on the computer, I was practicing kicking and handstand, regardless of the harsh pain and the bruises all over my body; my classmates' iPods played the rock music of Lincoln Park all day long, but what I listened to were antiquated Beijing Opera selections, which even my mom lacks the patience to enjoy.

So there I was, 180 miles away from my home with no company but a suitcase full of Tang poetry and Yuan Zaju. The first week proved itself as difficult as I had imagined. We learned vocalism and gestures. Since I am a girl with a critical shortage of the talent in both singing and dancing from childhood, it is typical that I got blame all day long. Sometimes teachers even thought I was intended to be a clown because no one could act so discordantly and humorously (but I swear I by no means wanted to make people laugh). Nevertheless, the irresistible beauty of the motions, arias and expressions of the Beijing Opera actors convinced me to stay and work hard.

During that period, I and my roommate, an optimistic girl from Hong Kong, encouraged each other, although at first we could hardly understand one another's language. Within the two months, I taught her Erhu, and she managed to let me know how to sing Cantonese Opera, which turned out to be one of my interests later, after I had mastered the new language. Form her, I got a better understanding of life and culture in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia from a native's perspective instead of a tourist's; that knowledge showed its value two years later when I flew 1600 miles for a 4-day-trip in Hong Kong by myself. I also explained to her the lifestyle and thoughts of folks from mainland China, and she awoke to the realization that some notions she had held about mainland China were incorrect. It is observed that a communication with her is a fabulous encounter with diversity.

Life in the summer camp is somewhat isolated from the modern world. Everyday, I read lots of beautiful ancient poems, and discussed their themes and emotions with my campmates and teachers; this work not only benefited my Chinese exams in later life, but lifted my aesthetic taste to a new level. After a lite lunch of organic food, I and my campmates all enjoyed the aromatic jasmine tea and a quiet moment of introspection, feeling relaxed and figuring out more about others and ourselves. Singing was the best way to reduce pressure; when chanting an aria, I was always seized by a strong connection with the character, affected by her sorrow or joyance. I was even reluctant to let go of the dreamy feeling when the song ended. The training in stage speech gave me more confidence and skills in public speaking; after the two months' learning, my friends even sensed a positive change in my ways of talking. However, the most important thing is that, life in this summer camp made me change from a girl interested in Beijing opera, to someone really care for and able to carry on our distinctive culture. The basic knowledge I harvest from here was like a ladder, leading me to the expansive world of the traditional Chinese culture.

When come back to school two months later with a heart full of Tang poetry, Yuan Zaju and appreciation, I displayed the photos of my performance. My friends rushed to see them, and all showed a slight disappointment when they realized that I did not act as the graceful concubine, but one of the maids without any line (and the only movement I made on the stage was standing still). However, what they did not know was that, the brief moment on stage and the two months study off stage was the experience I felt proudest for in my life.

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Thank you for reviewing my essay!
I guess a photo of the Beijing opera may let the Admissions Officers have a more specific image of what I am talking about...Um...Should I attach a photo at the end of the essay?

Thank you!
OP ayida365 7 / 33  
Dec 14, 2009   #2
Ummm...Anybody here?
sosososo1114 2 / 8  
Dec 14, 2009   #3
Hi, Kaixin,

It seems that you also count listening to Peking opera into the zone out of your comfort. But I think if you really like Peking opra you will never find it boring.
OP ayida365 7 / 33  
Dec 14, 2009   #4
Ummm...I also find that the line "my classmates' iPods played the rock music of Linkin Park all day long, but what I listened to were antiquated Beijing Opera selections, which even my mom lacks the patience to enjoy." has some problems... Maybe I should delete it?
Eddy92 3 / 7  
Dec 14, 2009   #5
I rather think you should delete some of the irrelevant details like the part of your interaction with the HongKong girl,What is the message you are trying to deliver?Leaving your comfort zone,or how you like the Chinese culture.After all,the essay is a bit too long.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Dec 15, 2009   #6
Since I am a girl with a critical shortage of the talent in both singing and dancing from childhood, it is typical that I got blame all day long.---> ha ha, good sentence. You are not short of talent in writing.

Whenever a sentence gets too long with too many commas, and you think it seems awkward -- use a dash or two:
During that period, I and my roommate, an optimistic girl from Hong Kong, encouraged each other -- although at first we could hardly understand one another's language.

You are very clever! Thanks for all the help you have been giving here at EF!
Moonshadow0302 - / 68  
Dec 16, 2009   #7
I really liked this essay :-) It's humorous, self-deprecating and yet positive and upbeat. There are a few grammatical mistakes, which you should take the trouble to correct - especially in the second last paragraph.

Along with uproarious blow of drums and gongs, the Peking opera began.

It should read -
With an uproarious blow of drums and gongs, the Peking Opera began.

King strutted

The King
Make sure you put the articles in.
to someone who really cares for and is able to carry on our distinctive culture.
Also I don't think there is a word like "joyance". Just change it for joy.
Some things you need to take care of - The prompt is - how did it change you? Where are the changes in your essay? You need to talk a bit about how this experience influenced you in terms of knowledge, skills or attitude. Did you develop independence, learnt to laugh at yourself, develop a team spirit, learn that even those who have no lines play an important role in the overall scheme of things?

More than anything what I harvested from this experience was like a ladder, leading me to the expansive world


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