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Personal Essay "Nomad", topic of your choice

wya7890 2 / 15  
Dec 23, 2011   #1
So I foolishly postponed writing my essays till now, and the deadlines are either Jan 1 or 2. To be fair, I wasn't really serious about applying to the States until November (I'm a Canadian), but oh well. So, here's my common app essay, coming in at exactly 500 words (!!!). Any criticism you would like to contribute is VERY, VERY welcome.

Please write an essay (250-500 words) on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below. This personal essay helps us to become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart from courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself. I chose "Topic of Your Choice" (obviously).


There have been times in my life when I've looked back on my childhood and wished for an idyllic suburban upbringing and everything that accompanies it - the lifelong friends, the swing set in the backyard, and a thoroughly routine life. Instead of a family sedan, I had greyhound buses, trains, and airplanes. I was a regular nomad. And like any proper nomad, I never stayed in one place for more than half a decade.

There are four chapters in the story of my life. The first was set in China, shrouded in the mist of infantile amnesia. My earliest memory is of the day I left at the tender age of five: I remember going to my kindergarten school and taking my naptime blanket away with me. It may not seem so, but that act evoked confusion, fear, and devastation in me. It was the moment my five-year-old self understood the finality of my departure, and just how much I was leaving behind.

The second chapter of my life began in Belgium. I lived in Liège, a little Francophone city. I took to French life like a duck takes to water. The memories from Liège come in snippets: Leo chocolate bars; a mysterious puddle on my bedroom floor the morning after a classmate slept over; spitting chewed-up raw carrots into the garbage; flipping over a 'death' tarot card; secret rendezvous under foliage in the poppy field; wearing a one-shouldered purple shirt for a school dance. Those memories colour a canvas of four years. The day I left Liège, I cried for the four years I had spent building a new life for myself, gone to waste.

The third chapter of my life was spent in Toronto. By then, I knew my way around the relocation game. I soaked English up and spit it out like a native speaker within months. Memories from this chapter are more detailed and less disjointed than those from the last: not knowing to rise for the national anthem on the first day of school; the shy kindness of a soon-to-be best friend; bitter disappointment over elimination at the Regional Spelling Bee; singing 'Over the Rainbow' in front of the class. Just when I'd gotten comfortable, the inevitable happened - we were moving, after four years in Toronto. This time, I grieved with a dry face. I told myself that I could do it a third time. I told myself that I'd genuinely enjoyed exploring new places, new faces and new cultures. I boarded the plane with cautious optimism.

That's how I arrived in Vancouver. Five years have passed, and now I face uprooting for the fourth time in my life. This time, though, I know that I can make a home in any place I choose, and that when I leave a world behind me, I enter another just as wonderful to inhabit. Now, I face the future with the cultures of three continents behind me, and the possibility of even more in the horizon.

Is it just me, or was I a little colon-happy? That's strictly in the grammatical sense, not in the biological sense :)
cicy1994 3 / 10  
Dec 23, 2011   #2
Wow I swear to god we are long-lost twins! I live in Vancouver as well!
I love your style of writing. It flows really nicely. And don't worry about the colons! Even though you are listing things, your detailed description makes the list so interesting!

Maybe elaborate more on the conclusion. That is the only advice I can come up with.

Wonderful essay! :)
mukhia08 7 / 22  
Dec 23, 2011   #3
wow, honestly such a good essay mate
menukagrg 7 / 98  
Dec 23, 2011   #4
Your essay is really good. And i actually did like the colon happy thing you did with the essay. I happen to love colons and semi colons. :)

I also think you should elaborate on the last bit but since you have a word limit, i think it's fine the way it is.

Good luck
articuno 1 / 16  
Dec 23, 2011   #5
It's pretty powerful all around... And to address your semi-colons, I think they are needed to capture you experiences in succinct images that really show instead of tell the readers your experiences. It all seems to fit, and I was going to say you may want to cut down on the words just in case; I do believe the commonapp one is uploaded and not copied and pasted so you should be fine.

You show a really high level of writing; how long did it take you to write this piece?
ZhoeK 5 / 173  
Dec 23, 2011   #6
Hello Wya

This was a wonderful essay. It shows so many things, your growth and maturity, how you assimilated to moving and submerging yourself into new cultures and also your hobbies and activities that you've participated in - without being obvious. I agree with the other comments in that you can provide a little more explanation/elaboration for the conclusion, but other than that I see no grammar that needs to be corrected (except probably taking out those contractions - but that's probably just me). Good essay!

Eh I couldn't help it.

It was thethat moment my five-year-old self understood the finality of my departure, and just how much I was leaving behind.
OP wya7890 2 / 15  
Dec 23, 2011   #7
Yay thanks for the compliments and feedback everyone! I'll see if I can lengthen the end. I also thought it was too short.

ZhoeK: I will try to take out some contractions and make it more formal...might be a bit tight though, because I'm at exactly 500 words! Also, I have changed the sentence to "That was the moment my five-year-old self understood the finality of my departure..."

articuno: I actually have no idea how long it took me - I was in panic mode!!! I think maybe 2 days? And yes, it is uploaded.
maryp630 7 / 20  
Dec 23, 2011   #8
I love your essay especially since mine is about the same thing except Im from New York City. I love the tone of everything and it just flows so well. Great Essay!

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