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"fear for challenge" - Brown University Transfer Essay


veroniquexie 1 / 7  
Feb 15, 2010   #1
"I admire you for your intelligence, but I have to confess that your cocooning yourself with fear for challenge doesn't earn you any respect from me." I never thought that the arrow that I once pointed at my father would one day be reversed towards me.

A window popped up on my Skype screen: "Dad's calling."

"Hey, I got the job!"
I thought I misheard, but apparently the ecstasy that he failed to conceal revealed that he was not kidding.
A mixture of excitement and calmness was swirling inside me. Wasn't it the moment when one should at least say Congratulations? I forgot my lines that I practiced. They were lost in the long time of waiting, during which I was easily defeated by skepticism about what I once have faith in and picked up the idea of fatalism, the idea that acceptance, rather than resistance, of inevitability is the way to go.

Me: "Isn't it unbelievable? I never thought he could do it."
Mom: "Me, neither. Nobody in his situation would even try. Everybody knows how politics work here. "
Me: "Coming from outside of Hubei Province, being a non-party member...Seems no chance at all. He's been a believer of fatalism all his life. Why now?"

Mom: "Of course he wouldn't have become the village's first undergraduate-- let alone becoming the first graduate and college professor -- if he hadn't worked hard and fought with the so-called predetermined. But ever since his education brought him a secured life..."

It's true indeed.
I remember the three-year "cold war" between my father and me when I was in high school. By the time I started talking with him seriously about my plan of going to college in the US, I had had the dream for many years. Disappointingly, my very stubborn father arrogantly believed that his plan, like what other Chinese parents envisioned for their children, is the best: get into Peking U, go to grad school abroad, get a job, then I can do whatever I want with my life. I had to admit that it was the most cost-effective, risk-free way. But of course the result of our debate depended on how we defined cost and risk. My definition of cost as sacrificing my academic aspiration and access to a unique life experience sounded ridiculous to him. My interpretation of risk as losing a secured life which I wouldn't necessarily like irritated him.

"Crap!" "Nonsense!" "I'm not paying a cent to help you bury yourself with your dreams." "Unfair? Tell me what's fair." "Don't forget who's paying for your bills. I can choose not to do so immediately." "Blame me. But you'd better blame your destiny of having me as your father!"

Case closed. Slam.

Stubborn as he was, I insisted on my own vision of my future path and secretly applied. I was away from home, attending high school in Tianjin, 450 miles away, by myself. The sense of isolation, helplessness and resentfulness all added up together, making it three years of bitter memories.

Even after it was concluded with my starting college in the US, I was still reluctant to recollect those memories. I was proud that I fought for what I believed regardless of adversities, but I'd rather that I did not hurt him or, rather, we did not hurt each other.

Mom: "Did he ever tell you that one of the most prestigious scholars in his field at that time once asked him to do a doctorate with him?"

Me: "Are you serious? He wouldn't have been in this dilemma for so many years simply because he didn't have a PhD."

Mom: "But we couldn't afford. My income alone couldn't possibly feed you...So he was stuck in this small city for almost fifteen years before abruptly being appointed to be the Dean. He would be quite satisfied if this was the end of his career, if he didn't hear rumors like 'the next head of the school has to be the Dean.' Hope is slim without a PhD; he wouldn't do anything in vain."

Me: "Mom, what's your point? I understand all this. Stubborn. Resigned to his fate. I still don't get it. Why did he choose to give up everything that he had managed meticulously for years and start over somewhere else? It's not like he has nothing to lose. "

Mom: "But he has changed, because of you."

Mom: "He has changed, because of you."
Me: "Me? How so?"
Mom: "You remember your rebellious years in high school? Ever since you started college in the US, he started questioning himself."

Yes, I should have known that. I almost heard him saying "You wanna be unemployed for the rest of your life?!" But obviously he fell in love with the idea of liberal arts education and started talking with his colleagues about reforming his school's system (minimally). I was hesitant to talk about my interests in visual arts as he might have warned me that it could only remain an interest instead of a career option. But he said "Honey, do whatever you want and we will try our best to support you." The same man who grounded me when I wanted to volunteer in Szechuan when the earthquake happened (fortunately I successfully escaped) now said to me "Taking a semester off to volunteer in Peru is a great idea. Go for it." The same man who asked me to stopping buying CDs now said to me "Great to hear that you get to see that band's live." The same man who rejected my plan of graduation travelling with the excuse that spending their parents' money to travel was an unnecessary luxury for the inconsiderate students now said "Congratulations on getting that internship! Though I wish it was a paid one, I think it a wonderful chance for you to see Europe."

I was shocked at the stark contrast and wondered why, but soon got used to it. Hysterically, I celebrated my championship, losing the precious willpower that once gained me respect from the one who challenged me. I forgot the question that I used to ask myself a lot: What's next?

The experience at Hampshire did realize and even went beyond my imagination about the American liberal arts education. I lost myself, greedily exploring various academic fields without in any way being restricted. However, as I became ready to delve deeply into what I believed would be my lifelong academic aspirations, the limits became apparent, and I chose to willingly ignore the fact that there are not many resources specifically suit my academic needs. When my beloved advisor told me that he was retiring at the end of my sophomore year, I thought "No big deal; there must be someone else who's doing African development." Sadly, there's no one else. When I realized that beyond the glorious surface of the divestment claims were some nasty realities, I did not feel terribly sorry for the endangered space for open dialogue which I cherished. Time and time again I thought "there must be some way out of this situation" but was always quick enough to resort to ignoring the problem. I faced the limitations of the environment, knowing I could at least make the most of myself, just like what I was about to tell my father in case he failed: " 'The most promising candidate for the next head of the university' is just your ironic destiny. I know you want to be the best and I know you are. That's enough."

"You taught him one of the most valuable lessons in his life: When life is not good enough, you change it."

"Mom, I'm ready for a change."
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Feb 16, 2010   #2
I thought I misheard, but apparently the ecstasy that he failed to conceal revealed that he was not kidding. ----- when I read this, it seems like an unnecessarily complex sentence, and I also feel a little "offended" by the way yo are so surprised by his success. So far, I still don't know what this is about...

"You think that's a legitimate reason? --- as I continue to read, you seem more narrow minded and judgmental.

We tacitly refrained from...

This essay would make a better impression, I think, if you made it more humble from the beginning. By the time the end comes, I see that you are talking about how you grew and opened your mind, but I still think this essay hows you to be very judgmental, and... it will be better if you express more enthusiasm and get rid of all the stuff about how surprised you were that your father succeeded and got this position.

My idea for you: You should begin and end this essay with paragraphs that mention how you feel inspired by your mother and father for their different kinds of wisdom.

:-)
OP veroniquexie 1 / 7  
Feb 16, 2010   #3
Yes, I agree with most of what you said.

I've made a few revisions and hope this time it works the way I wanted it to.
OP veroniquexie 1 / 7  
Feb 16, 2010   #4
Oh I forgot to say, thank you!!!

Following is the revised version.
peacelovesarah 5 / 11  
Feb 16, 2010   #5
What is the question you're answering? Is this for the supplement?
erinhcho 6 / 20  
Feb 16, 2010   #6
i like the last sentence :)
is this really for college? lots of conversation
OP veroniquexie 1 / 7  
Feb 17, 2010   #7
No, it's the Common App one: please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve.

I know it's a bit weird to write an essay that doesn't really directly answer the question...but I always have the tendency not to answer question directly.:(
linmark 2 / 328 7  
Feb 17, 2010   #9
The first half of the essay does not seem connected to the second half. First, it was about your father's change and acceptance of your going to school in the US, then all of a sudden, in the last paragraph (single sentences don't count) it was about a different subject leaving me totally confused.

However, as I became ready to delve deeply into what I believed would be my lifelong academic aspirations, the limits became apparent, and I chose to willingly ignore the fact that there are not many resources specifically suit my academic needs.

You need to focus more on this part - the prompt asks why are you transferring. These very general statemtns (what are your lifelong aspirations, what limits became apparent, what was the fact of insufficient resources?)

When my beloved advisor told me that he was retiring at the end of my sophomore year, I thought "No big deal; there must be someone else who's doing African development." Sadly, there's no one else.

Is the retirement of your beloved adviser the reason you are transferring? You write as if the school is discontinuing the African development department?

When I realized that beyond the glorious surface of the divestment claims were some nasty realities, I did not feel terribly sorry for the endangered space for open dialogue which I cherished.

I am totally LOST!! Where is this coming from? Is it the same essay?
What divestment claims? what nasty realities, what endangered space for open dialogue.
The same goes for the rest of the sentences - they don't fit in, you haven't prepared the reader at all for the context (are you switching back to your father's job in China or are you referring to the college situation compelling you to transfer ?
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Feb 17, 2010   #10
Oh I forgot to say, thank you!!!

You're welcome!

I like this revised version more. I don't know if you intended the previous version to seem harsh, but it seemed pretty harsh. From my perspective as a reader, this seems more impressive and dignified, and it presents you in a positive light.

I understand what Linmark said about the 2 halves being disconnected. I think you need to stop somewhere within the first 2 paragraphs and give a sentence that plainly says what the essay is all about. That way, the reader will know what direction you are going.
OP veroniquexie 1 / 7  
Feb 18, 2010   #11
Is the retirement of your beloved adviser the reason you are transferring? You write as if the school is discontinuing the African development department?

Well this might sound odd but it's true. The school is pretty small; even some of the "best" departments have only 3-4 professors. After my advisor retires, there're literally no specialized African development professors left. So I guess you can say the "department" is discontinued.

The reason why I did not say anything too specific is that...1. I like my current school. There really aren't many bad things I can talk about... 2. I talked a lot about "why Brown" in the supplement so I guess I can leave things vague here?- just to avoid repetition.

I will work on the disconnectedness between the two parts. Thank you!
peacelovesarah 5 / 11  
Feb 19, 2010   #12
I really love the last sentence, don't change it! I'm applying to Brown as a transfer too, I hope that we both get to Providence next fall!
OP veroniquexie 1 / 7  
Feb 21, 2010   #13
I hope that we both get to Providence next fall!

Good luck! Hope we both get in! :D


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