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An Indonesian student in the United States - Common App Essay - 1st Prompt

jasmine17 1 / 1  
Oct 29, 2018   #1
Hey guys, I would love to have some feedback on my essay!

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.

expressing my individuality in the usa

"So, how do you pronounce your name?"

"You can just call me Jasmine," I replied, as I forced a smile on my face.

This is always the first question that people come up to me and ask.

Truthfully, I don't blame them for inquiring about my name. Having a widely-recognized first name as a last name is certainly unusual, and frankly, I would do the same thing if I were them. Prior to leaving for Boston, Massachusetts as a high school transfer, my name was the least of my concerns; instead, I expected it to be one of the more appealing conversation starters that I could use when meeting new people at school. So why do I find it arduous to fully express such a significant piece of my identity?

Yes, my last name is Jasmine, but it isn't my surname. My father is Korean and my mother is Indonesian. Just like any married couple, they held a wedding ceremony and have been living with each other under the same roof. However, due to the political climate in Indonesia in the late 1990's, they were never recognized as husband and wife; they didn't have marriage papers or hold dual citizenships. By law, they are two different citizens, but by heart, they are parents to three children. Despite our differences in our last names, it didn't make me any less of my Dad's daughter, and it certainly did not make me any less unique.

I've been going by "Jasmine" for as long as I can remember; my Mom can even recall my chatty, blabbering two-year-old self taking pleasure in running around the park of our narrow neighborhood exclaiming, "JA-MINE, JA-MINE!" While I've grown to accept my last name as my nickname over the years, a part of me still feels missing. My first name, "Hany". But what does it mean? Why is it my first name? And how do I pronounce it? My younger self was absorbed in asking those questions, and it was partially due to my distaste in being called by my first name. But it all changed after a trip to my Dad's hometown of Busan, South Korea in the summer of 2012.

It was my very first visit to Korea. I had never met my Dad's side of the family before, so the fact that I didn't speak Korean only increased my reluctance in meeting them. However, as soon as my family and I touched down at Gimhae International Airport, our relatives welcomed us with open arms. Within just a week, I was exposed to Korea more than ever before; from authentic kimchi jjigae to k-drama nights with family and friends, I found myself immersed in a new reality that had long been subconsciously ingrained in my identity. That week, when my relatives referred to me as "Hany" with their Busan dialect instead of "Jasmine", I didn't feel ashamed or embarrassed; instead, a sprout of validation grew inside of me, and I finally felt whole for once. Things didn't feel the same when I reverted back to my daily routine in Jakarta - the week that I had spent in Korea suddenly felt forgotten. It then dawned on me that I had been disregarding my Korean heritage all this time, and it was my fault for not contributing enough to accept who I am - both as Korean and Indonesian.

Now, as the only Indonesian student in the United States, I have never felt so strongly about expressing my individuality. In a reality that can often feel homogenous, I strive to be confident of myself - to be proud of my cultural heritage; and my name is just a starting point. To my friends, teachers, coaches, and dentists who often mistook my first name for my last, you can still call me "Jasmine", but I'll always be the out-of-the-box-thinking, kimchi-jjigae-loving, computer analyst-aspiring, and Korean-Indonesian-identifying "Hany Jasmine".
lynnlynn 2 / 4 1  
Oct 29, 2018   #2
I really like what you have here. It's interesting and fun to read, but there are some parts that I didn't understand.
"Now, as the only Indonesian student in the United States," What is this supposed to mean? I'm pretty sure there are many other Indonesian students in the States.

" but I'll always be the out-of...". " This phrase is too wordy and the "computer analyst-aspiring" feels out of place because you never mentioned this previously.

Good job!
Holt [Contributor] - / 7,660 1998  
Oct 30, 2018   #3
Hi Hany. This is a very strong essay that responds clearly to the prompt requirements. You have a truly unique and interesting background. You may want to clarify thought that eventually, your parents did marry and that you and your siblings now carry only one last name. That part isn't very clear in the essay and leaves the reader with a question about how the love story of your parents was resolved. That's just a small observation on my part that may or may not be important to the reviewer, but still, you should make sure that you present a completely told story for your background and the story of your parents integrate into your story. Aside from that, I don't really see the need to change any presentation in your essay. It is extremely well written for the purpose it was intended for.

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