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'the Veterans Affairs Hospital in San Francisco Volunteering' Common Application

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Oct 22, 2011   #1
Yes, common app ;)

Prompt: A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

I'm worried that it's too run of the mill and boring. Should I even be worried about that? Hmm...Well commentary will be much appreciated :)

ALSO, I'm at 496 words so I barely squeaked under the word count.

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During the summer, I volunteered at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in San Francisco. I wore my bright purple scrubs ("Did you match the color to your gloves" joked one patient) while cleaning gurneys, setting up procedure rooms, and wheeling patients in and out. For lunch, I went to the cafeteria two stories below where the food was priced extra cheap for the veterans who couldn't afford anything else. I saw some were ragged, their clothes worn and faces lined. Had they passed me down the street, I would have avoided eye contact while clutching my bag tighter. In general, I was uneasy since everyone I worked with, including the patients, were so...different from me. Certainly not the people I met at school or in my neighborhood. Conversation that flowed so easily while I talked to teachers and friends was stuck in the back of my throat.

Paul was the receptionist for the department, dealing with patient paperwork. I never expected to befriend a sarcastic Boston native with bushy salt and pepper eyebrows. But from the nervous first hello's I began to strike up real conversations. We talked about anything from Dr. Phil to the frightening prospect of life after high school ("It's not about the type of college you get in, it's about being a good person" said Paul) to speaking with a Boston accent ("Hahhhvadd, Bawwston" I'd clumsily say). We were nothing alike, and yet we could relate with each other. It was like that everywhere in the department. The nurses, the secretaries, the doctors, and the patients were all so different. Paul (the nurse, not the receptionist) was a Philippine native and an amazing cook. Robert, the janitor, was a Vietnam Veteran. Deborah, the secretary, owned five dogs and had a killer sense of style. And I was the high school student who liked to joke and wear purple scrubs. And yet, everyone brought cake and cookies for birthdays or swapped jokes about the comings and goings within the hospital.

The initial discomfort gone, I would talk to the patients as they waited for their rides after the procedures. I paid no attention to their clothes, their ages, or other superficialities. I was interested in what they had to say. As the conversations ended, there was always a smile and a friendly handshake. One patient, Patrick, talked about science fiction with me. He looked completely relaxed, sitting on the wooden chair as I excitedly talked about Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein. Upon mentioning Heinlein, his blue eyes lit up and asked if I ever read Stranger in a Strange Land. I nodded my head. And there was something amazing about that. That two people with such different pasts as ours could enjoy the same book. Certainly, many things that differentiate people-ethnicity, education, economic status, etc.-influence, but do not summarize who a person is. That was the mistake I made. But regardless of the differences, they cannot eclipse the similarities people share.
daniel44992 13 / 29  
Oct 22, 2011   #2
I don't think its superficial at all! I mean any essay in which you write about encountering diversity can easily come off making you sound snobby but I think you perfectly avoided that here. There is just enough talk of the differences to make a point while at the same time you talk about coming together. I would leave it just the way it is. (I'm bad at grammar so I can't help you there)
daniel44992 13 / 29  
Oct 25, 2011   #3
I closed my thread before I had a chance to say thank you for reading my Boys State Essay! I know that was a long essay to read! I'm not gonna worry to much about cutting out words since I can upload a document so the limit is not as strict, but thanks!

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