Unsettled, I turn to my ever-present book for comfort. They say the best books tell you what you already know, resonating with your own thoughts and emotions. As I read, it is as if the tempest of my thoughts is spelled out on paper. His words somehow become my words, his memories become my memories.
Despite the high speed of the bullet train, my mind is perfectly still — trapped between the narrative of the book and the narrative of my own life. I read the last page and close the book, staring out the window at the shining fish ponds and peaceful rice paddies.
I feel like a speck of dust outside the train, floating, content and happy to be between destinations. I am at home between worlds. I speak both English and Chinese: Chinese is for math, science, and process, but I prefer English for art, emotion, and description. America owns my childhood, filled with pine trees, blockbuster movies, and Lake Tahoe snow; China holds my adolescence, accompanied by industrial smog, expeditious mobility, and fast-paced social scenes.
We are drawing into Shanghai Hong Qiao station. Home is neither arrival nor departure, neither America nor China. Home is the in-between, the cusp of transition — that is where I feel most content. What works? This essay is an example of how to tell the story of moving to America in a unique way. This student focused on a single question — where is home? Through this skillfully crafted essay, we learn that the student has led a very international life, the student has a way with words, the student loves literature, the student is bilingual, and the student is excited by change.
If this sounds like you, then please share your story. What does that even mean? In my hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, where normality was…well, the norm, I tried to be a typical student — absolutely, perfectly normal.
I blended into crowds, the definition of typical. I became a person who refused to surprise people. Kari has passed. But you are alive. I am alive. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth and whoever finds me will kill me. Luckily, it was a BB gun. But to this day, my older brother Jonathan does not know who shot him. And I have finally promised myself to confess this eleven year old secret to him after I write this essay. The truth is, I was always jealous of my brother. Our grandparents, with whom we lived as children in Daegu, a rural city in South Korea, showered my brother with endless accolades: he was bright, athletic, and charismatic.
To me, Jon was just cocky. Deep down I knew I had to get the chip off my shoulder. That is, until March 11th, Once we situated ourselves, our captain blew the pinkie whistle and the war began.
My friend Min-young and I hid behind a willow tree, eagerly awaiting our orders. To tip the tide of the war, I had to kill their captain. We infiltrated the enemy lines, narrowly dodging each attack.
I quickly pulled my clueless friend back into the bush. Hearing us, the alarmed captain turned around: It was my brother. Startled, the Captain and his generals abandoned their post. Vengeance replaced my wish for heroism and I took off after the fleeing perpetrator. My eyes just gazed at the fleeing object; what should I do? I looked on as my shivering hand reached for the canister of BBs.
The next second, I heard two shots followed by a cry. I opened my eyes just enough to see two village men carrying my brother away from the warning sign.
My brother and I did not talk about the incident. That night when my brother was gone I went to a local store and bought a piece of chocolate taffy, his favorite.
Then, other things began to change. I even ate fishcakes, which he loved but I hated. Today, my brother is one of my closest friends. Every week I accompany him to Carlson Hospital where he receives treatment for his obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.
And Grace, my fears relieved Twenty minutes have passed when the door abruptly opens. I look up and I smile too. Bowing down to the porcelain god, I emptied the contents of my stomach. Foaming at the mouth, I was ready to pass out. Ten minutes prior, I had been eating dinner with my family at a Chinese restaurant, drinking chicken-feet soup.
My mom had specifically asked the waitress if there were peanuts in it, because when I was two we found out that I am deathly allergic to them. When the waitress replied no, I went for it. Suddenly I started scratching my neck, feeling the hives that had started to form. I rushed to the restroom to throw up because my throat was itchy and I felt a weight on my chest.
I was experiencing anaphylactic shock, which prevented me from taking anything but shallow breaths. I was fighting the one thing that is meant to protect me and keep me alive — my own body. All I knew was that I felt sick, and I was waiting for my mom to give me something to make it better. I thought my parents were superheroes; surely they would be able to make well again. But I became scared when I heard the fear in their voices as they rushed me to the ER.
After that incident, I began to fear. I became scared of death, eating, and even my own body. Ultimately, that fear turned into resentment; I resented my body for making me an outsider. In the years that followed, this experience and my regular visits to my allergy specialist inspired me to become an allergy specialist. Even though I was probably only ten at the time, I wanted to find a way to help kids like me.
I wanted to find a solution so that nobody would have to feel the way I did; nobody deserved to feel that pain, fear, and resentment. This past summer, I took a month-long course on human immunology at Stanford University. I learned about the different mechanisms and cells that our bodies use in order to fight off pathogens. My desire to major in biology in college has been stimulated by my fascination with the human body, its processes, and the desire to find a way to help people with allergies.
Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words. He was my first friend in the New World. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house.
The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together. I have learned to be humble and to work even harder than my peers to meet their and my expectations. I developed a sense of lightheartedness. When people playfully make fun of my height, I laugh at myself too.
On my first day of high school, a girl dropped her books in a busy hallway. I crouched down to her level and gathered some of her notebooks. As we both stood up, her eyes widened as I kept rising over her. Dumbfounded, she dropped her books again. Embarrassed, we both laughed and picked up the books a second time. All of these lessons have defined me. People unfamiliar to me have always wanted to engage me in lengthy conversations, so I have had to become comfortable interacting with all kinds of people.
Looking back, I realize that through years of such encounters, I have become a confident, articulate person. Being a 7-footer is both a blessing and a curse, but in the end, accepting who you are is the first step to happiness.
Tara Cicic Brooklyn, N. I am here because my great-grandfather tied his shoelace. His fellow soldiers surged across the field, but he paused for the briefest of moments because his laces had come undone. Those ahead of him were blown to bits. Years later, as Montenegro was facing a civil war, the communists came to his home. His village was small, and he knew the men who knocked on his door. But this familiarity meant nothing, for when they saw him they thought of the word America, stamped across a land where the poor were stripped of their rights and where the fierce and volatile Balkan temper would not do.
As his neighbors ransacked his home, his wife had thrust his good pair of shoes at him. I also cannot run, but I wear my new shoes with great ease and comfort. I wear the secret guilt, the belief in equality, the obsession with culture, and the worship of rational thinking and education that becomes the certain kind of American that I am.
None of these things are costumes. They may be a part, but I can say with certainty that they are not all. We visit every two or three years or so. Everybody is there, my entire collection of cousins and aunts and grandparents neatly totted up in a scattering of villages and cities, arms open with the promise of a few sneaky sips of rakia and bites of kajmak.
I love them, I truly do. But they are not me, those things. They are something else. Somebody is always falling ill, or drinking too much, or making trouble for themselves. We speak of them sometimes, or pity them, but we do not go to their weddings or funerals. And yet I feel worried, not for them, but for myself. The Serbs and Montenegrins are people of complicated histories, and as I watch the documentaries my father made during the civil war there, I am gripped with fear and fascination.
Those strange people can be so hateful. They cry and beat their hearts at the thought of Serbian loss in the Battle of Kosovo in This kind of nationalism makes me cringe. I do not want to be that way. But is there not something beautiful in that kind of passion and emotion? What does it say of me that I sometimes cannot help but romanticize something I know to be destructive and oppressive?
This is why I worry. They are not me, I tell myself, and I am right. But can they not be just a part? Can they not be a tiny sliver, or maybe even a sizeable chunk, comparable even to the American in me? Must I relegate them to nothing at all? For if those shoes, the ones my grandfather bent to tie in the middle of that blazing battlefield in France, are not mine, then why do I think of them so often?
Tommy Bowden Porter Corners, N. My head was spinning, my hands were bleeding, and my lungs desperately needed more air.
The air was filled with the shouts of men dying and steel clashing with steel. To my right an old man lay dead, missing an arm. My men were pouring out of the breach in full retreat. The sole occupant of the auditorium was a tall, bald, British man with a terrifyingly condescending demeanor. He was my Shakespeare coach.
The most minuscule mistake never escaped his notice. I emerged inflamed with the drive for victory. Every word I uttered was a strike against the French.
Every heartfelt delivery of that carefully choreographed routine was ground gained at Harfluer. I fought passionately with that ancient text, but my coach cut me off again. Do it again. I put forth all my effort, but again he stopped me.
I performed it countless times over, but with each rendition the quality exponentially worsened. Finally, he told me to stop. We had done all we could for today. I stepped off stage and collapsed into a chair, angry and defeated. I was here to prove to myself that I could accomplish something momentous. I was born with two speech impediments. Participating in theatre was the last thing anyone expected of me. Yet I wanted to sway crowds with my voice, make them cry, laugh and shout for joy.
I was a terrified year-old the first time I stepped on stage, and equally frightened moments before I finally performed at Lincoln Center. I walked slowly to my position full of fear, but when the spotlight hit my face, there was no trepidation, only a calmness and quiet determination.
In that moment all the long hours of struggle fell into place. I had already accomplished what I had set out to do before my final performance.
Just being there, having worked as hard as I had, made all the worry dissipate. It was just me and the light. As I sat there and the lights in the theatre clicked off one by one, the setting sun cast a beam of orange sunlight directly center stage.
However, when I reflect on my life, I realize that my height has shaped my character in many ways and has helped to define the person I am.
My grandpa, a man of the fields, paved the way so I could defy the odds with my prosperity. Time and time again I reminded myself of that famous phrase "great effort leads to great rewards," and sure enough, soon my aspirations began to be met.
I crouched down to her level and gathered some of her notebooks.
No, please, not yet. Glancing to my right, I saw that my ballet teacher backstage had also taken note and was rushing me to get off the stage, her hands beckoning me in a frantic manner. Then, in high school, I developed an enthusiasm for Chinese.