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"I am reminded of how unique my life is" - Common App Essay--Seeking Feedback


swirl92 2 / 5  
Dec 7, 2009   #1
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated :)

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

On most mornings, I do not drag myself out of bed until I hear the clattering of pans and smell the aroma of eggs frying downstairs. They are not just any eggs; my dad serves them golden brown and crispy with a healthy squeeze of ketchup. I acknowledge that my morning dose of ketchup may seem weird, but the cool, glossy ketchup paired with crunchy egg is an undeniable culinary harmony. Each bite is a collision of east meets west, of eggs fried Chinese style paired with a classic American condiment. On these mornings, ketchup is no longer simply a tangy condiment but a representation of a cultural fusion that I have learned to thrive and evolve in.

I wondered what my friends would think about fried eggs and ketchup. I can just see then scrunching up their noses in disgust. There was a time when I wished my dad would cook scrambled eggs, because that's what my "American" friends would have eaten. I had wished that he would let me cut my own food with the help of a fork, and that he wouldn't send me off to school with a box of pungent cabbage dumplings he loved to make. I found it amusing yet disappointing that most of my formal documents had the words "alien" written on what I thought were the most conspicuous areas, even though I had lived in the states for nearly my whole life. Most of all, I wished that I was the typical blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl, and that my parents did not have that awkward accent when we went to greet-the-teacher night. Did I actually want that? Was I supposed to want that?

Such awkwardness followed me to my native land. I found myself sticking out like a sore thumb even when I visited relatives in China. The uncles and aunts who helped raise me in my childhood now referred to me as the "American girl," even though I have sleek black hair and brown eyes like they do. Furthermore, the world I lived in revolved around Saturday orchestra rehearsals, the latest article in Time magazine, weekends in the laboratory, and the newest indie bands - a world out of touch from the frugality that they must endure and from which I was able to escape. Stemming from years of detachment, a growing language barrier shattered any hope left for understanding and personal connections. Because of that same detachment, not a single bone in my body could register the smell of my coal-mining hometown, the shabby fu sign on our weatherworn double doors, or the row upon row of clay shingles with any signs of familiarity or home. If I wasn't American or Chinese, then what was I?

I had an epiphany one day as I was eating my eggs. Eggs themselves were so bland and ketchup itself so tart and sharp; the combination of two extremes made a perfectly balanced intensity that still excite my taste buds. This single meal made me realize that maybe I didn't need to assimilate to a single culture; I walk the middle ground and have the ability to select the best from each culture to use to my advantage. For example, in negotiations, I now utilize both philosophies of Chinese complacency and American persistency. Concerning family, I exercise the Chinese traditions of honoring one's elders but retain the American sense of personal identity and opinions. In social scenes, I exhibit both Chinese restraint and a hint of American effervescence. My mind was finally able to release the cookie cutter mold I had identified with Chinese or American, and I was free to discover the hybrid me.

Now, there are no more complaints about eggs. Each morning, I am reminded of how unique my life is and how fortunate I am to be able to experience the wonders of two worlds.
Vulpix - / 71  
Dec 7, 2009   #2
Great essay! It's well-written, thoughtful, and engaging, and as a fellow Chinese-American girl who identifies with both cultures but does not fully belong to either, it definitely resonated with me. I swear, this is somewhat creepy, but I play in orchestra on Saturdays and read Time and listen to indie bands too... as it turns out, stereotyping can be pretty reliable sometimes.

Anyway, before I have an identity crisis, let's move on. Here are some grammar edits:

" Each bite is a collision of east meets west"
Either change it to "a meeting of east and west", or "a collision of east and west."

"I found it amusing yet disappointing that most of my formal documents had the words "alien" written on what I thought were the most conspicuous areas,"

Change "words" to "word", since alien is singular.

" I found myself sticking out like a sore thumb even when I visited relatives in China."
"I stuck out like a sore thumb" would make your verbs more active.

"Because of that same detachment, not a single bone in my body could register the smell of my coal-mining hometown, the shabby fu sign on our weatherworn double doors, or the row upon row of clay shingles with any signs of familiarity or home."

I'm sorry, this is probably a really trivial complaint, but you're sort of mixing your metaphors here- bones by nature are unable to register things like scent or smell or clay shingles. Furthermore, "familiarity or home" seems redundant, because it is assumed that a home is familiar, and you already have too many clauses in the sentence. I would probably change this sentence to "Because of that same detachment, neither the smell of my coal-mining hometown nor the sight of the shabby fu sign on our weatherworn double doors gave me any sense of home."

Your first three paragraphs seem very strong to me, but the fourth was somewhat disappointing. Instead of briefly mentioning an epiphany (eating eggs makes for a rather anticlimactic epiphany, anyway), I would jump right into the point developed in the rest of the paragraph by saying "I realize now that, like bland eggs and tart ketchup, my two cultures are not opposites but complements. Instead of assimilating a single culture, I walk the middle ground [...]" This is just a suggestion, of course- everything is completely up to you.
Mandoy10 1 / 2  
Dec 7, 2009   #3
I loved your essay and I could really relate to you because our morning are similar. I like how you addressed the fact that you didn't have to fit under one race and said "I now utilize both philosophies of Chinese complacency and American persistency"
OP swirl92 2 / 5  
Dec 7, 2009   #4
Wow, thank you guys for the encouraging remarks! I guess we can all relate to life's simple themes. And Vulpix, you don't happen to play flute in the orchestra do you? lol
Vulpix - / 71  
Dec 7, 2009   #5
Haha, no- I play the violin! How long have you been playing the flute?

And, so I don't get suspended for making "futile or meaningless answers", here are some more grammar edits (in case you can't tell, I can get obsessive with details):

"I wondered what my friends would think about fried eggs and ketchup. I can just see then scrunching up their noses in disgust."

I think you have a bit of an inconsistency in verb tenses here: "wondered" is past, and "can" is present.

"I had wished that he would let me cut my own food with the help of a fork, and that he wouldn't send me off to school with a box of pungent cabbage dumplings he loved to make."

"I wished" is fine, you don't need the "had". Also, change "with the help of a fork" to just "with a fork", otherwise I start wondering what other utensil the fork is "helping", since you don't specifically mention a knife. Unless the fork is helping you? But without the fork, you wouldn't be able to cut your food anyway... suffice it to say that I was slightly confused by your phrasing.
OP swirl92 2 / 5  
Dec 8, 2009   #6
I've been playing for...six years or so. Geesh, time flies. How long have you been playing your violin?
Speaking of all these stereotypes, do you think the stereotypes I mention (ex. blonde hair blue-eyed girl) detract from the overall essay? Otherwise the whole point of the essay would kind of be counterintuitive.

And I really appreciate the obsessive details!
Eddy92 3 / 7  
Dec 12, 2009   #7
I love the essay,nice flow!The only thing is the start of the fourth paragraph felt a bit strange,you can make it smoother.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Dec 14, 2009   #8
Use italics for Time magazine.

No need for " " marks here:
...because that's what my American friends would have eaten.

I don't think the mention of stereotypical blond/blue eye, fitting in, etc., detracts from the point. I think it is perfect. And how clever of you to observe that fried eggs and ketchup seem gross to people who did not grow up with it! I did grow up around eggs, and I still think they are gross! It is better to stick with the cabbage! :-)


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