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When I was a year old, my family was selected for the Diversity Immigrant Visa program in Sudan

ab53292 1 / 1  
Dec 5, 2014   #1
Questbridge/ Common App Prompt #1
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.

When I was a year old, my family was selected for the Diversity Immigrant Visa program in Sudan. The prospect of obtaining US citizenship thrilled my parents, who were ready to put their lives on hold to provide their children with a good education in America. However, their initial feeling of optimism ended in heartache when they discovered that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came at a price: I was not eligible to receive a green card. Forced to make the hardest decision of their lives, my parents packed their bags and with my sisters, headed to California, leaving me in Sudan under the care my aunt. For four years, my kindhearted aunt raised me as her son in her simple, mud-brick home in the village. Then in early 2003, the inevitable moment finally arrived. Forced to leave the only home and family I ever knew, I traveled to the US with my uncle to join my long lost family.

Following an emotional reunion, I gradually began to adapt to my new life in the suburban community of Davis, California. Because of my family's large size, living in a small apartment building posed some major difficulties. I shared a bedroom with my parents and younger sisters, oftentimes sleeping on the floor so my father could have the bed. As a child, I did not have the luxury of playing with expensive toys or videogames like other children. Instead I took pleasure in simpler things, such as reading books and visiting the supermarket with my mother. My father, who was studying to become an accountant at the time, worked hard every day to make ends meet. I really admired him and always eagerly awaited the moment he would come home from work late at night. Pushing me to do well in school, he not only made sure I completed my homework, but also assigned extra math problems to further strengthen my skills. For that, I am forever grateful.

My parents are fairly religious people, so Islam did play a large role in my childhood. I visited the local mosque on a regular basis to learn about my faith and socialize with other Muslim youth. As a kid, I found the idea of praying five times a day and fasting for a whole month every year completely insufferable. However, as I grew older I came to understand the meaning behind these essential practices and embraced them wholeheartedly. In addition to teaching me the importance of commitment and self-discipline, Islam has been the medium through which I developed humility and self-confidence. For a long time, I withheld my religious identity from others out of fear of how they would react. Then upon reaching high school I made one of best decisions of my life: joining the Muslim Student Association. With the help of older students, I learned to be proud of who I am and came to the realization that trying to be like everyone else is a hopeless endeavor. Despite occasional verbal abuse regarding my race and religion, I am ultimately proud to be an African Muslim.

High school was a difficult time for me, both physically and emotionally. Several of my family members in Sudan unexpectedly passed away within the span of three years. The death of the aunt who raised me left me feeling despondent and bitter. Not only would I never see her again, but I couldn't even attend her funeral. To take my mind off my sorrows, I focused all of my attention on school. I worked harder than ever before because I knew that's what she wanted me to do. I continued to ride my broken bike to school every day, even after being hit by a car. When I had no internet access at home and couldn't do my homework, I went to the nearby public library. At the end of my sophomore year, my father became inundated with accounting work. To help him out, I spent countless hours every day after school sorting through store receipts and completing sales reports. Despite these less-than-ideal circumstances, I maintained focus and persevered.

Some might say that I was born into an unlucky life. However, I would never change a single feature of my upbringing. The obstacles I have faced and the personal hardships I have endured have only made me a stronger, more resilient human being. I look to the future with hope because I know with my determination and drive, I can accomplish anything.

vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Dec 6, 2014   #2
Abdel, I feel that you need to refocus the content of your essay because it tries to focus on too many family related issues instead of concentrating on the development of your central identity story. I suggest that you review the essay, revising the portion after your family left you in Sudan in the care of your aunt. While learning about the hardships that your family members had to go through is an interesting story to learn about, it does not help to establish your central identity. What we need to learn from you in this essay is this, after everything that you experienced in life, who did you finally realize yourself to be? How did those personal experiences blend together to create the sense of self identity that you now possess? Present that as the focus of your essay, lessen the stories about losing relatives, sleeping on the floor, etc. in order to properly answer the requirements of the prompt.
OP ab53292 1 / 1  
Dec 7, 2014   #3
Thanks for the advice, that's what I was afraid of :( I am a bit confused on how to structure the essay through. Is it supposed to about ME (like an overview of my life) or a single feature of my identity/personality/development? Thanks again
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Dec 7, 2014   #4
You can write this essay either way Abdeel. Both are acceptable narratives based upon the requirements of the essay prompt. I believe that it would be best for you to concentrate on a single event in your life that you feel helped to define who you are as a person rather than trying to cover various aspects of your life in relation to your central identity development. It is always easier to develop one story and trait rather than trying to fit in all aspects of your identity in one essay. Write up a new essay based on a single identity development story and compare it to the way this particular essay functions. You should see the difference and be able to decide upon which version you will feel comfortable using. Don't be afraid to keep revising. I have known people on this forum who wrote around 20 versions of their central identity essay before he finally got the version he felt very comfortable using :-)

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