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Vietnam seemed to be an atypical summer vacation destination - Common App Essay


sage28 4 / 12 4  
Dec 9, 2014   #1
Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
I don't know if my essay answers the question of is a good idea at all. Please help! Any critique is welcomed and appreciated.

Vietnam seemed to be an atypical summer vacation destination. It wasn't an all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica where at least ten workers say "Bless you" every time you sneeze or you would think "I'm quite parched" and miraculously a crisp iced Coke would somehow appear in your hand. It wasn't a trip to Paris where we would shop for hours on the Champ-Elysees and eat beautifully buttered croissants at a café gazing at the Eiffel Tower. No, this summer we were going to Vietnam.

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jus2151738 1 / 2 1  
Dec 9, 2014   #2
Your introduction is under developed, try adding something like "In the summer of 2008, I was looking forward to our annual family vacation. Little did I know, this vacation would change my perspective, and come to define some of the values I hold as an adult."

Your wording is strange in the sentence "Duc and Hue, the children of the house we were staying"... End the sentence at
"ending our trip in the small rustic village of Chay Lap." and use a stronger introduction for the family... something like "During our stay in the quaint village, we lived with a local family, and we were quickly introduced the family's children, Duc and Hue. The children showed my brother and I around..." Because your introduction to the children was the thing that fostered your transition to adult-hood, they deserve a more devolved characterization... Basically all you said was that they were poor and smiling/how could poor people have anything to smile about?/ That the thing you learned was that poor people could be happy too. This makes you sound ignorant as an adult, and you are writing as an adult in this paper. You had already previously discussed your preconceived childhood notions. Try to focus on some actions that the children took that made you reconsider your sense of superiority to them, discuss in what ways the children were superior to you, and how that made you reevaluate your own life.

Grammar and Mechanics Suggestions-

"Bless you" every time you sneezed, or when you thought, "I'm quite parched" and miraculously..."

"It wasn't a trip to Paris, where we would shop for hours on the Champ-Elysees, and eat beautifully buttered croissants at a café while gazing at the Eiffel Tower."

"At that time I was self-centered, over-privileged, and fresh out of a prestigious private school. Needless to say, I did not want to go!"

Consider, revising your conclusion for a deeper understanding, basically all you said was that you have a deeper appreciation for your materialism because you got to live with poor people.

" I was happy because I was fortunate enough to live a life with the opportunity to posses the things I wanted. The children not only showed me the importance of happiness through humility,..." this is a contradictory statement, your happiness is still based on materialism, why were the children happy, you have established that they were poor, but how were they rich, did they have a rich culture? Strong bonds with friends and family? Did they live in a tropical paradise? Were their lives simplified, does their culture place higher emphasis on interpersonal values than material goods? Contrast these things with your own life, specially in areas where you are or were dissatisfied, perhaps seeing the children with these things made you dissatisfied with your own life, because you realized you wanted something more than material goods...

I hope this helps...
OP sage28 4 / 12 4  
Dec 16, 2014   #3
Thank you for your help! I have revised the essay akin to your comments, but I am still struggling with the final conclusion.

In the summer going into freshman year, I was looking forward to our annual family vacation. Little did I know, this vacation would change my perspective, and come to define some of the values I hold as an adult. Vietnam seemed to be an atypical summer vacation destination. It wasn't an all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica where at least ten workers say "Bless you" every time you sneezed, or when you thought, "I'm quite parched" and miraculously a crisp iced Coke would somehow appear in your hand. It wasn't a trip to Paris, where we would shop for hours on the Champ-Elysees, and eat beautifully buttered croissants at a café while gazing at the Eiffel Tower. No, this summer we were going to Vietnam.

At that time I was self-centered, over-privileged, and fresh out of a prestigious private school. Needless to say, I did not want to go! Why would I want to spend three weeks in a country that does not even have high-speed Wi-Fi? How was I supposed to update every second of my ever-so-exciting life on social media without.. Wi-Fi? My mother must be joking, I thought, there is not a chance she is actually taking us to Vietnam.

During the 24 hour trip from D.C. to Vietnam, my brother and I were envisioning what we would see when we stepped off the plane. "Dirt roads, definitely dirt roads," my brother imagined. "Our hotel is probably just a hut" I added. We were both entirely wrong. Stepping out of the car and into Ho Chi Min City for the first time was breathe-taking. The streets were lined with cafés and high-end shops- Gucci, Prada. Mopeds, each with at least three people on top, buzzed past us on the asphalt, not dirt, roads. Skyscrapers and high-rise office buildings freckled the city. I was astonished, the city resembled a miniature version of New York City, with the odd street market selling whole pigs or buffalo hooves.

Over the course of the three weeks we traveled much of the country, ending our trip in the small village of Chay Lap. During our stay in the quaint town, we lived with a local family, and were quickly introduced to their children, Duc and Hue. While the children took my brother and I around the town, we instantly bonded. The following day we went to Duc and Hue's school to teach English. I sat at the front of a class with fifteen little minds staring at me, eager to learn. "Cow," I said, pointing to a picture of a cow. "Cow," the class repeated. This process continued until the children could have named every animal on Old MacDonald's farm. After the class, Hue ran up and embraced me. "Thank you," she said. My eyes swelled with tears, all I had done was teach her the names of a few animals, but it meant so much to her.

On our last night in Chay Lap, my brother and I played hide and seek with the neighboring children for hours. I was running around a village laughing and smiling, in a country that three weeks prior I knew nothing about; I was happy. Leaving the children and Vietnam was not easy, the next morning was filled with warm embraces and tearful eyes. The trip had a profound impact on my life, and without it I would still be the childish, materialistic person I was before.

Prior to the trip, I had based my happiness on the things I had and was not grateful for the life I was living. Duc and Hue inspired me to be happy just with life itself and cherish every opportunity you are offered. You cannot control the life you were given, but you can control what you do with it. As I grow older, I continue to treasure happiness and humility, not forgetting to smile along the way.
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Dec 16, 2014   #4
There was really nothing transitory about your story. I did not gather a sense of your coming of age in the story because you even ended the essay by saying that you spent your last night in Vietnam playing with your brother. Solid evidence that no transition activities were undertaken during this time. Thus, your essay fails to properly respond to the prompt. This type of essay requires a cultural or social connection to your development as a person. You should look into an activity that offered you a chance to prove any of the following:

1. Matured way of thinking
2. Adult type responsibilities
3. Recognition of adult rights in terms of your cultural structure.

These are but a few suggestions for the more accepted topics covering this essay prompt. I suggest that you do not use this story because it does not really prove any adulthood on your part. A realization of how lucky you are in life, without an follow up action such as volunteer activities, helping the poor, and other related acts while you were in Vietnam may help to show a sense of adulthood was reached during this trip. Right now, the essay just does not reflect that coming of age the way that it should.
OP sage28 4 / 12 4  
Dec 16, 2014   #5
Thank you for your insight, that is what I thought, but I really wanted to use my experience in Vietnam for my college apps. Do you think, with a few adjustments, I could use this story under this prompt? Or do you think this story could fit the prompt and adequately answers the prompt "Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. "?
OP sage28 4 / 12 4  
Dec 16, 2014   #6
i have revised my concluding paragraph to the following:
Prior to the trip, I based my happiness on the things I had and was not grateful for the life I was living. Duc and Hue inspired me simply to be happy with life itself while cherishing every opportunity I was given. I couldn't control the life I was given, but I could control what I did with it. Furthermore, the trip motivated me to begin volunteering with the less fortunate, especially children. Without the trip and the consequent charity work, I would as compassionate or grateful as I am today.

would this fit the adulthood prompt? or could i use the essay for the "background story"?
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Dec 16, 2014   #7
This essay could probably work, with a little more revision, as a background story more than an adulthood story. You could even use this as a central identity essay if you are willing to make some adjustments to the content. It just doesn't feel like a transition to adulthood story at this point. It would be in your best interest to try to find another life event that better relates to this particular prompt and save this one for one of the other aforementioned essays.
OP sage28 4 / 12 4  
Dec 16, 2014   #8
Okay! Thank you so much, again! I think I am just going to change the prompt instead of the story, because it is due soon. What suggestions do you have to alter the content?
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Dec 19, 2014   #9
Sorry I took so long to get back to you. Holiday preparations are underway where I am and it really gets in the way of helping others. I hope I am not too late to help. I suggest that you write a new introduction for your essay that will best reflect the change in the prompt requirements. That way you will be able to immediately draw the attention of the admissions officer to the topic of the essay. Also, you need to double check the message that the prompt is asking you provide and review your essay for adherence to that message. Edit any portions that you feel to not fit in with the requirements of the new prompt :-)
OP sage28 4 / 12 4  
Dec 19, 2014   #10
No problem! I actually think I may just scrap this essay all together. would you mind looking at my other essay about nyc when you have the time? I know my conclusion needs work, but I think it could work better than this one. thanks!


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