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Talking about myself - environment, culture, or family history helped to shape my identity


cpham7780 1 / 1  
Sep 26, 2015   #1
I hate talking about myself. I am someone who initiates the conversation, asks questions with curiosity because everyone loves talking about themselves but me. My peers always ask, "Catherine, I feel like this is a one-sided conversation. How come you never talk about your hobbies or accomplishments?". As a child, I was taught to show humility and to be empathic to the needs of others.

Bombs slammed the ground, and debrief flew all over. The sounds of the booming explosion rang, as my mother stayed in the church fearful for her life and questioned whether she would live one day longer. My parents grew up during the Vietnam War, an era where they did not know when their last day on earth would be. Neither my father or my mother was wealthy, but their family scrabbled any piece of gold in order to have the chance to escape their homeland.

Lost at sea, wander endlessly in a small boat full of twenty people, is how I imagine my mother. The fear of the unknown, when all you can do is have faith that everything will be okay. Through days without food, encounters with pirates, endless days in concentration camps, and residing in a foreign land, my mother would eventually make home to the city of Seattle. To endure all of that pain and fear, it would be easy to give up. However, she fought through obstacles and strived to achieve the American Dream through the endless opportunities that are offered in America. At age seventeen, she would attend high school and arrive home in tears because she could not understand english. She would work at McDonalds with a wage of $1.80 per hour to fund for her little sister's piano lessons. Despite the odds against her, she would work even harder to attain the education she desperately desired. She never gave up.

While my mother had so little, she never failed to give back to her community. Her weekend was spent at the local soup kitchen, as she did every little task to help those in need. She always managed to consider others before herself.

I am a first generation American. I am Vietnamese. I am American. My parents' history has shaped me into the person I am today. I am blessed to be able to embrace two different cultures, yet learn to reach my full potential with my parents' influence.

Understanding where my parents' come from, and the adversities they faced throughout their life helps me understand the importance of being compassionate, to find ways to assist the needs of others. It has taught me that I can achieve any goal through hard work. They showed me the importance of gaining an education, solely for myself and my enrichment. There is nothing out there that could ever make me less Vietnamese or less American. It is a part of who I am, it is my friends, my family, my background. Everything I do, references back to my heritage and culture I was raised with, and while my views and opinions may change through the years, I can never be far from where I came from.

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Please give all feedback! Please let me know if my reflection connects the entire essay all together, and whether I clearly answered the essay prompt.
lcturn87 - / 435 236  
Sep 26, 2015   #2
I would need to know the essay prompt. Is it " environment, culture, or family history helped to shape your identity"?

The missing connection occurs when you transition from your introductory paragraph to the second paragraph. If this is a self-reflection, then it should have a transition. For example, as I began reading your essay, you discuss your parent's lives but you are not included in the story until the conclusion of the essay. You could tell the reader that this is the story you were told about your family history.

A better way to approach the subject is to focus on your perception about your life or how your environment, culture, or family history influenced you. You could also use your last paragraph to develop your topic. This paragraph really helps the reader to understand your perspective more.

If you could please verify the essay prompt that would be great. If you need more assistance I can help you.
OP cpham7780 1 / 1  
Sep 26, 2015   #3
I'm sorry, I made a typo. The prompt is "Describe how your environment, culture, or family history has helped to shape your identity."

I was a bit confused on how to approach this prompt. I aimed to share my family history and then connect it with how my heritage has shaped the person I am today. Do you have any particular approaches/ideas that you think would make my essay flow better?
lcturn87 - / 435 236  
Sep 26, 2015   #4
Thank you for posting the prompt! There are many ways you can approach this topic. I would encourage you to focus on one topic.

1) You could discuss your environment. Where did you grow up? This is a broad topic. An environment could consist of the neighborhood such as urban, suburban, or rural. You could discuss how this helped to shape your identity.

2) You could describe Vietnamese culture. Since your parents grew up in the Vietnam, you could explain how this has shaped or influenced who you are.

3) Also, you could discuss your family history. The history of your family is quite similar to what was already stated in your essay. However, after the introductory paragraph you would need to make it clear to the reader that you are recalling past events from stories your were told. In the first paragraph you discuss how you were taught humility. In the second paragraph, here is a suggestion to help you begin your essay: "I was also taught my family's history, which has helped to shape my identity. Then you could use this sentence from your paragraph as your next sentence: "My parents grew up during the Vietnam war, an era..." Then use the first and second sentences in your paragraph. Then keep the last sentence the same.

I hope this helps!
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Sep 26, 2015   #5
Catherine, I have a different take on your essay than Lakisha. My opinion is that you do not really need the first paragraph that you have. In the first paragraph, you talk about being taught about humility and empathy growing up. This is not something that really makes sense in its current position. I would save this comment for another part of the essay. Further down, after you have described the background of your family and you have already begun to speak about your own identity as shaped by your parents influence.

By the way, you spoke about your mother at great length in the essay. She actually comprises 80 % of the paper. Somehow, you forgot to make reference to your father and his influence in your life.You make reference to the plural form of a parent (parents) in your essay so I assume you just forgot about the father part :-) If it would be possible for you to include the influence that he has had on you, please do so. That will bring a balance of content and equally represent the importance of your family history in the paper.

While the content of your current essay is already usable as an application prompt response, I believe that you can approach this from a different or better angle. Have you considered writing the story from the point of view of lessons learned from your parents? For example, when you speak about the empathy that you learned from your parents, Talk about a time in your life when you were boastful, then use that to transition into a lesson from your mother about the hardships that she had to endure in order to give you the life that you had now. That would bring her struggles to come to the country, the under paid wages, and other struggles she had more relevant to your own identity development.

As for humility, you can use the same instance of being boastful to tell the story of your father and his hopes that you will learn from their life experience in order to become a better first generation American. Talk about his experiences that taught him to empathize with others. A trait that he felt you needed to learn because you love to talk about yourself. By connecting your parents experiences with a lesson that they taught you, the reader will get a better insight as to how your environment, family, and culture have helped shape your identity.

I will refrain from correcting the grammar for now because I am trying to help you make the essay flow better and use better representations for the lessons that you "learned", which also helped to shape you as a person, from your parents. I hope you consider my suggestions and come back with the 2nd version of your essay. If that version flows better, then we can work on polishing it :-)


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