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"Quelques arpents de neige" - Harvard + Yale supplement essay


onimpulse 2 / 17  
Dec 22, 2010   #1
I wrote this originally to be my Common App essay, but decided to go with something else instead. But i've reworked (and shortened) it to serve as my supplement essay for Harvard and Yale.

I'd appreciate any suggestions! Thank you so much!

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In my decade of living in "the true north strong and free," I have not seen much of it, but for Vancouver. This, I believe, is a product of my former indifference to the country Voltaire's Candide lambasts as "quelques arpents de neige"-"a few acres of snow." Far be it for me to agree with the Enlightenment philosophe, but I did once share his sentiment about my adopted home. If God cannot bring himself...

after edits:

Voltaire's Candide lambasts Canada as "quelques arpents de neige"-"a few acres of snow." Now, far be it for me to agree with the philosophe, but I did once share his sentiment about my adopted home. If God cannot even bring himself to shine the sun on Canada, a land perpetually damned with rain and cloudburst, then what good can possibly come out of it?

Leaving California was a wretched ordeal, not least because it was motivated by what I thought was a stupid reason: My parents were illegal immigrants, though I as an "anchor baby" was not. In an attempt to remedy their legal status while affording their children comfortable lives, my parents opted to bring the family to Vancouver, instead of having us return to the Philippines. So on a sober March dawn in 1999, we began the northward trek to Canada along the I-5, and though I'm told children usually adapt to new surroundings with no loss of enthusiasm, something rather curious happened to me: My being American came to define my identity. My parents continually reminded me that I was American, and it made me feel rather good about myself to flaunt this to my distinctly Canadian classmates. By the time I was in the Seventh Grade, I had the list of the Presidents memorized cold. I repeated it over and over to my peers, until at the umpteenth mention of Warren Gamaliel Harding-and I emphasize the "Gamaliel"-they couldn't take very much more of it and simply just told me to shut up.

I would say that I was almost completely uninterested in being Canadian and even in the very "idea of Canada"-That is, of a nation founded on "Peace, Order and Good Government," as opposed to defiant individualism as was the United States. But that changed for me over the course of the Winter Olympics. For the first time in my life I was witness to an incredible outpouring of Canadian spirit, which is something that I thought Canada was incapable of. After coming home with a Canadian flag draped on my back, my brother sneered, "Patrick, you've sold out to the Olympic hype." On the surface it might have seemed that way, but in reality, no, I actually did fall in love with Canada. After the closing ceremony, I wrote in my journal: "We became a part of something transcendent, something we knew reached beyond ourselves and into the realm of hopes and dreams and lofty ideals. 'I've never seen a city embrace a Games like Vancouver,' Jacques Rogge, the President of the IOC, proclaimed. Way to go, Canada. We showed the world what we were made of."

I believe I have now adopted a meaningful identity as a Canadian-American. Yes, I was once averse to identifying as Canadian, but the fact I do now shows that, if nothing else, I have dispelled a little of my former ignorance.
MystErious 3 / 4  
Dec 22, 2010   #2
Hehe as a fellow Canadian I couldn't disagree with you more; but I'm not here to tell you how Canada is better than the US, I'm here to critique your essay =D. For this sentence;

"This, I believe, is a product of my former indifference to the country that Voltaire's Candide lambasts as "quelques arpents de neige"-"a few acres of snow." -adding in the "that" helps clarify the meaning of the sentence.

"...something rather curious happened to me;m y being American came to define my identity. " -use a semicolon because you're not starting a list, you are seperating two complete sentences, and the "my" shouldn't be capitalized

"Now, I have never been one for athletics, but I think it fair to say that sport changed my perception of Canada in the form of the Winter Olympics." -this is a bit wordy, maybe switch "in the form of the Winter Olympics" to another spot, like so:

"Now, I have never been one for athletics, but I think it fair to say that sport, in the form of the Winter Olympics, is what truly changed my perception of Canada" ? its up to you, but try to reword that sentence.

"Yes, Vancouver's games began dimly" -dimly? grimly, maybe. with dim prospects, maybe. but certainly not dimly, not here in Canada at least. "Dimly" implies without great fanfare, but its was a HUGE deal to this country, as you are saying in this paragraph.

"-in French, simply to be more Canadian about it-" -french is not necessarily Canadian (especially out West!) and i think that most people realize that. i dont have a suggestion as to what else you could put in, so it should be fine leaving it there, but just give it a bit of thought. i thought it was worth mentioning.

"Yes, I was at first averse to identifying as Canadian, but perhaps that I do now shows that , if nothing else, I have dispelled a little of my former ignorance." -read the red part; its gramatically incorrect, I know that, but im not sure what you're trying to say, so you'll have to make it clear. also, saying "perhaps" means that you're not sure, which means that maybe the essay, and the idea that you've changed, really ISNT true. dont give that impression; be confident and sure of yourself.

good writing. Not that i agree some of the sentences which could be (cynically) interpreted as un-Canadian, but i can feel what you're saying and the AO will as well.
OP onimpulse 2 / 17  
Dec 23, 2010   #3
Thank you very much! I have corrected those errors.

Would anyone like to comment on the content of the essay, though?
Solona 1 / 4  
Dec 25, 2010   #4
content wise, make it more about how you felt during these changes. The pride factor etc make you seem sort of negligent to Canada until the Olympics etc happened.Explainn your resistance perhaps or your acceptance of Canada maybe. Either way, I would say react more to the changes taht simply listing them.
blackpixel23 19 / 46  
Dec 25, 2010   #6
So I just read the two and I totally understand where your worries are coming from. This essay is a nice little story but I really don't learn anything about you. All I know now is that your family likes to gamble. With this story, I think what you would want to do is something along the lines of so now that you realize the beauty of this emptiness, is there something more? Did you realize the beauty of slowing down or maybe the beauty of no more distractions and such?

Currently, I like our other essay more but not by too much. The other one also falls under the same category of this as not showing me enough of you. But I think the other one has much more potential. You're almost there with it. If you take out more of your "telling" stuff and share more about what you learned from the experience of finding your Canadian-American identity, then it'd be powerful.

EDIT: Oops, made a mistake. Imagine as is if this was posted on your other essay. In other words, I like this one more.
OP onimpulse 2 / 17  
Dec 29, 2010   #7
Do you think this works? I rewrote essentially half of it.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Jan 3, 2011   #8
I always advise students to let their essays reflect their plan. I always tend to think it is most impressive to write each essay in a way that ends up reflecting your plan for taking action in this world (i.e. in your chosen field which you will enter via your chosen school.) Further, I usually think culture and national pride are destructive things, that the person who identifies with this country or that country is just practicing self-deception, because the human spirit is far more profound than some conception of what a particular culture is all about. But even though that is my general idea, I cannot bring myself to criticize this essay because it is so well written! I don't agree with your way of thinking and your way of identifying yourself, but I certainly admire your writing ability and your thoughtful reflection!


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