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At five I learned Chinese; Princeton supplement essay: Role of Culture in Life


SnowOhio 1 / -  
Dec 27, 2012   #1
As you can tell, I've unfortunately procrastinated on my applications pretty badly. I would really appreciate it if someone would be able to give me a few pointers on this college essay! My main concern is that it is risky. I honestly can't decide whether it is really insightful to who I am or just a load of pretentious fluff. Thanks! :)

Using the quotation below as a starting point, reflect on the role that culture plays in your life.
"Culture is what presents us with the kinds of valuable things that can fill a life. And insofar as we can recognize the value in those things and make them part of our lives, our lives are meaningful."


When I was five, my parents drove my brother and I to an old high school that taught Chinese on Sundays. At this school, I spent countless dusty hours learning about China's history, customs, and language. I played with Chinese friends, ate Chinese food, and celebrated Chinese holidays. At my American elementary school, the other kids would stare at me wide-eyed. "What are you?" they would ask, and I would laugh. Wasn't it obvious?

Growing up in an immigrant family, my first cultural encounters were through my parents. It was obvious to me that I was from same place that they were, it just happened to be a minor inconvenience that I was born in a small town in rural Ohio. Though I learned English and Chinese simultaneously, the dinner table was for rice and chopsticks. Watching the Olympics, I cheered for the Five-Starred Red Flag.

When I was ten, my parents changed jobs and I moved to a predominantly white suburb. No more Chinese school. Cheeseburgers and steaks made their way onto the dinner table, where English was now spoken. My best friends were Ben, Jake, and Ryan, and we liked playing football. Upon ecstatically joined the first Chinese class offered in middle school, I found that it was all but foreign. Finally, the day came when a classmate asked me, "What are you?" and for the first time, I couldn't answer.

When I was fourteen, I entered high school and encountered chaos. I lamented my loss of identity amidst people from Brazil, tall people, Christians, people from the city, people from all different upbringings. However, this same amalgamation of cultures also gave me the freedom to rebuild my identity for the first time. I joined the jazz band and added Coltrane, Davis, and Brubeck to my iPod. I started snowboarding and phrases like "double cork" and "reverse camber" entered my vocabulary. I became an amatuer filmmaker and watched everything from Malick to Miyazaki for inspiration. I even reached back to my roots, started proudly taking Chinese again, and managed to regain a level of near-fluency despite the class being cut prematurely.

I realized that each of 2,600 students still maintained his or her own identity while contributing the overall cultural richness. In doing so, I discovered how culture gives meaning in my own life. By embracing a country halfway across the globe, I give thanks to my roots. By identifying with other cultures, I share my aspirations and fears with all of humanity.

Although it varies by nation, culture is intrinsically borderless. At its fundamental level, culture is the human capacity to make sense of the universe. It is our cure to the existential woes that result from living for a fleeting moment on a tiny rock floating out in infinite space. It is our answer to the biggest "What are you?" of all.

What am I? I am Jeff Ding: saxophonist, snowboarder, filmmaker. Starry-eyed explorer and dreamer. I am Chinese. I am American. I am Human.
dnx2000 5 / 14 3  
Dec 28, 2012   #2
When I was five, my parents drove me and my brother and I to an old high school that taught Chinese on Sundays.

My best friends were Ben, Jake, and Ryan, and we liked playing football.

This sentence doesn't fit in very well. What is it about Ben, Jake and Ryan that you had to mention them? Either delete it, or explain yourself better.

Upon ecstatically joined the first Chinese class offered in middle school, I found that it was all but foreign.

Did you mean "joining" ?

Overall I liked the essay, especially the conclusion. It is not a "load of pretentious fluff", however it seems like an overview of your life rather than an "insight". Instead of having 2-3 sentences

about each change in your life, maybe you could focus on 1-2 occasions, to make the essay insightful, Perhaps you could combine your moving to a "white" suburb and entering high school as one big event and elaborate on its impact on you.

This is just an opinion though so if I were you I'd try to get advice from more than one person.
GO.od luck!


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