Ctrain890's essay





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Discus: College Admissions: 2002 - 2003 Archive: August 2003 Archive: Ctrain890's essay
By Ctrain890 (Ctrain890) on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 04:05 pm: Edit

“Hora, hora, mite! Gaijin da yo!” shouted the young girl to her friends. Look, look, a foreigner! My mind automatically the Japanese as I boarded the subway train. The girls all wore the drab uniform of the Nippon educational system, their make-up plastered faces frozen in classic expressions of awe. As they pointed at me and giggled excitedly, I began to feel more like some new and particularly exotic species at the zoo than a fellow human being. Indeed, despite the fact that the train was packed far beyond its capacity, the other passengers kept their distance and eyed me warily, as if sitting next to the foreign beast would be an insult to their dignity. At the time I had only been in Japan for one month, but I didn’t think that I would ever get used to such naked displays of xenophobia.

After over an hour on the train, I got of at my stop and started to walk the rest of the way home. As I strolled down the streets of Nagoya City, I became painfully aware of Japan around me: the ubiquitous vending machines that sold everything from beer to video games, the convenience stores on every street corner, the gaudy neon lights that the Japanese are so fond of… everything that once seemed so new and amazing now only served to elicit my contempt. Two full hours after leaving school I arrived back home, where my host mother announced that we would be having octopus and miso soup for dinner, along with the requisite rice and tea. What am I doing in this crazy place? I asked myself. Suddenly, in an uncharacteristic display of emotion, I sat down and promptly began to cry.

I knew before I left the United States that being an exchange student for a semester would be difficult, but nothing could have prepared me for the utter and absolute foreignness of Japan. The sight of Japanese food, which was often raw, made me recoil; the two-hour commute each way to school had become tedious and draining; my woefully poor command of the Japanese language made even the slightest social exchange a nightmare… Everything I did, from using chopsticks to deciphering the meaning of the questions on a test, required an unprecedented amount of effort. Far from the utopia that I thought Japan would be, it had turned out to be a veritable prison in which I felt trapped, totally cut off from any of the familiar comforts of home. At that moment, as I sat on the floor of my room bawling like a child, I hated Japan.

However, when my tears dried and my temper cooled, it became clear that I was going to have to stop wallowing in self-pity and start becoming much more pro-active if I was ever going to find happiness in Japan. While that statement may seem painfully obvious, for me it was nothing less than a revelation. And thus, pro-active I became. Every night I started helping my host mother prepare dinner, which gave me an additional chance to practice Japanese, and both of us an additional opportunity to get to know each other. Instead of simply stewing over how much I resented Japanese peoples’ xenophobia and often overt racism, I decided join the English club at school and started volunteering at a weekly English class for local elementary school students. For most of the students it was their first time ever meeting a foreigner, and through our conversations we were able to form a mutual respect, and I was able to dispel many of the myths that they held about the gaijin. I made it a weekend habit of going out on my own and exploring both Nagoya City (where I was living) and the surrounding towns, and in so doing I was able to gain both more independence and a greater appreciation of the beauty of Japan.

It still amazes me to think about how much I have changed since returning to the U.S. Living abroad without the constant support of my friends and family truly tested my coping skills, but I think I did a good job of rising to the challenge. By meeting a wide range of Japanese people, improving my language skills, and learning to embrace Japanese culture rather than reject it, I was able to find not only contentment in Japan, but true happiness as well. And while only time will tell whether or not I will return to that country, a piece of my soul will forever remain in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Any comments--however brutal--would be greatly appreciated. This is like my 4th draft and I'm still not totally comfortable with it. Is it not personal enough?
Thanks

By Encomium (Encomium) on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 04:31 pm: Edit

My mind automatically the Japanese as I boarded the subway train. : Is there a word missing here? Translated?


After over an hour on the train, I got of at my stop and started to walk the rest of the way home. As I strolled down the streets of Nagoya City, I became painfully aware of Japan around me: the ubiquitous vending machines that sold everything from beer to video games, the convenience stores on every street corner, the gaudy neon lights that the Japanese are so fond ofÉ everything that once seemed so new and amazing now only served to elicit my contempt. Two full hours after leaving school I arrived back home, where my host mother announced that we would be having octopus and miso soup for dinner, along with the requisite rice and tea. What am I doing in this crazy place? I asked myself. Suddenly, in an uncharacteristic display of emotion, I sat down and promptly began to cry.


I think it's a little dramatic--I mean, you're not being forced to go to Rwanda for life. I'm not saying you need to take out that you cried or anything but statements like "painfully aware of Japan..." and the "gaudy lights the Japanese are so proud of"...it's not gramatically or stylistically incorrect or anything, it's just, strange.

I knew before I left the United States that being an exchange student for a semester would be difficult, but nothing could have prepared me for the utter and absolute foreignness of Japan. The sight of Japanese food, which was often raw, made me recoil; the two-hour commute each way to school had become tedious and draining; my woefully poor command of the Japanese language made even the slightest social exchange a nightmareÉ Everything I did, from using chopsticks to deciphering the meaning of the questions on a test, required an unprecedented amount of effort. Far from the utopia that I thought Japan would be, it had turned out to be a veritable prison in which I felt trapped, totally cut off from any of the familiar comforts of home. At that moment, as I sat on the floor of my room bawling like a child, I hated Japan.

Avoid using ellipses. Also, you sound like you are really bitchy here and unwilling to cope with new situations. Will admissions officers want to take someone who has to live perhaps out of state in a new dorm with new people? I'm not saying you didn't hate Japan, I probably would hate leaving my home too, but the point of foreign exchange is to see some new cultures and be very tolerant....even if the people there aren't or the food isn't traditionally american.

"And thus, pro-active I became."
Take out that sentence.

I was able to gain both more independence and a greater appreciation of the beauty of Japan.

I hate Japan, I love the beauty of Japan. Such a quick change of heart? You also may want to take out the "xenophobia" and "overt racism." They may have been weary of strangers, but that doesn't mean they're racist. If they were, show how they were.

It's not a horrible essay, but it seems like a forced attempt to prove to admissions officers that you grew and overcame a challenge (I became proactive...and I rose to the challenge). Your dramatic writing is trying too hard to tell the officers that you were persecuted practically along the lines of a Jew in a concentration camp (I was a prison, my food made me recoil, the 2 hour trip was exhausting).

Basically you need to do some more showing, not telling. It's a weak attempt to show you overcame something awful, when you basically knew what you were in for when you started and blah blah blah.

By Emma (Emma) on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 04:44 pm: Edit

I really liked it :)
Well written!

but look at some of encoms comments

By Serene (Serene) on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 05:02 pm: Edit

Agree with Encomium. Keep the positive attitude throughout. It's okay if you want to talk about difficulties, but take out that resentment. Surely things can't be that bad. =)

By Ctrain890 (Ctrain890) on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 05:20 pm: Edit

Thanks you guys.
You're right--this seems very dramatic. I guess I tried to create a contrast, but I went over-board. It didn't really come out how I meant to express it.
Ok, now it's editing time :-)

By Grapeful (Grapeful) on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 07:44 pm: Edit

good essay, Ctrain! i always attempt to read any essays posted -- to give me inspirations for my college essays (that should have been started months ago!!!) but I can never get thru any of them. yours and Steffie's (the one about the Yes-student) was the only one I got thru.

Some suggestions:

"tedious and draining..."
-I don't think draining is an adj; perhaps you should use a word like exhaustive

-(regarding 2nd half of essay) maybe you could be more descriptive? the descriptions you have at the beginning were really vivid. but i kind of felt like the rest of the essay (especially after your 'revelation') was lacking in comparison. like you changed from showing to simply telling. perhaps instead of listing all those examples of how you got involved, maybe you could just elaborate on one.

but again, good essay! good luck.

By Ctrain890 (Ctrain890) on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 09:03 pm: Edit

OK, so I revised it a little:

“Hora, hora, mite! Gaijin da yo!” shouted the young girl to her friends. Look, look, a foreigner! My mind automatically translated the Japanese as I boarded the subway train. The girls all wore the drab uniform of the Nippon educational system, their make-up plastered faces frozen in classic expressions of awe. As they pointed at me and giggled excitedly, I began to feel more like some new and particularly exotic species at the zoo than a fellow human being. Indeed, despite the fact that the train was packed far beyond its capacity, the other passengers kept their distance and eyed me warily, as if sitting next to the foreign beast would be an insult to their dignity.

After over an hour on the train, I got of at my stop and started to walk the rest of the way home. As I strolled down the streets of Nagoya City, I became painfully aware of Japan around me: the ubiquitous vending machines that sold everything from beer to video games, the convenience stores on every street corner, the gaudy neon lights that the Japanese are so fond of… everything that once seemed so new and amazing now only served to elicit my contempt. Two full hours after leaving school I arrived back home, where my host mother announced that we would be having octopus and miso soup for dinner, along with the requisite rice and tea. What am I doing in this crazy place? I asked myself. Suddenly, in an uncharacteristic display of emotion, I sat down and promptly began to cry.

I knew before I left the United States that being an exchange student for a semester would be difficult, but nothing could have prepared me for the utter and absolute foreignness of Japan. The sight of Japanese food, which was often raw, made me recoil; the two-hour commute each way to school had become tedious and draining; my woefully poor command of the Japanese language made even the slightest social exchange a nightmare. Everything I did, from using chopsticks to deciphering the meaning of the questions on a test, required an unprecedented amount of effort. Far from the utopia that I thought Japan would be, it had turned out to be a veritable prison in which I felt trapped, totally cut off from any of the familiar comforts of home.

...'totally cut off from the comforts of home.' I stopped crying. In fact, I started to laugh. What was wrong with me? I didn’t come to Japan because I wanted it to be like home; I came because I wanted to experience something NEW, something EXOTIC. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that before coming to Japan I had led a very pampered life, a life relatively devoid of adversity. So I knew that it wasn’t totally irrational of me to feel overwhelmed in Japan. However, what I also knew was that I was going to have to learn to accept and adapt to Japan, or the megalopolis would swallow me alive.

As an admittedly stubborn person, accepting the radical differences between America and Japan was extremely difficult. Change came very slowly at first, in agonizingly small steps. I started eating more of the food that I was served—and found that I actually liked most of it. Every night I started helping my host mother prepare dinner, which gave me an additional chance to practice Japanese, and both of us an additional opportunity to get to know each other. I joined the English club at school so that I could meet more students (due to strict rules, socializing during school hours was not much of a possibility). There were still times that I felt discouraged and missed home, but for the most part I found that by learning to embrace Japanese culture rather than reject it I was able to dramatically improve my attitude.

I distinctly remember one day, a couple of months after my ‘revelation,’ my history teacher walked up to my desk after class ended. He tapped on my desk to get my attention and as our eyes met my blood ran cold. Although I couldn’t imagine what I had done, I was sure that I was in deep trouble. But instead of a rebuke, he simply said to me “Nani shimashita ka? Mou amerika-jin dewa arimasen,” then he turned and walked away. “What happened? You’re not an American anymore.” And at that moment, I knew I was home.


Seriously, on a scale from 1-10 (1 bad, 10 good) what would you rate it?

I dunno. I think it's a little bit better, but I have a couple of problems:

1) It's slightly longer than it should be (about 750 words). Do you think the admissions people will care?

2) Does it still sound too melodramatic?

I'm thinking that either I'm going to stick with this version (version 5), or I'm just going to choose a new topic for the essay.

By Serene (Serene) on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 09:12 pm: Edit

Much nicer. =) what's the word limit?

By Sandy (Sandy) on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 09:38 pm: Edit

I think you did a nice editing job. It sounds less adverse now.

By Rashmi (Rashmi) on Monday, August 11, 2003 - 01:00 am: Edit

Hey..I really liked the ending...well done!!!!

By Folk_Hero (Folk_Hero) on Monday, August 11, 2003 - 09:06 pm: Edit

" As an admittedly stubborn person, accepting the radical differences between America and Japan was extremely difficult"
Incorrect grammar. Use "For an admittedly stubborn person like me..."
9 or 10!!!
I agreed with encomium on the too-quick change of heart in the first draft... but I never thought it was too much or reminiscent of a concentration camp story.

By Demilikesemyung (Demilikesemyung) on Monday, August 11, 2003 - 09:17 pm: Edit

heh heh. demi likes em yung. get it?

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Monday, August 11, 2003 - 09:28 pm: Edit

It is a real nice effort but from I've read about adcoms**, your essay carries a great risk to be tossed in the pile of cliches and deja vus.

Won't there be TONS of essays describing foreign travel, living abroad and overcoming fear and problems to "find' yourself?

Personally, I think that the poor topic selection ends up wasting an opportunity to showcase your talents as a writer.

** I do not necessarily agree with the consensus!

PS I should add that a similar essay worked wonders for the American Chinese girl who gained admission to Harvard. Although cynics might point the identity of her grand-daddy played a slight role. :)

By O71394658 (O71394658) on Monday, August 11, 2003 - 09:45 pm: Edit

You sometimes try to be too descriptive. You insert extraneous words. For example, I promptly began to cry. Promptly only detracts from the sentence, and really serves no purpose.

I don't like "relevations". You go from absolutely hating Japan to absolutely loving it in a few sentences. Sounds a little exaggerated and unbelievable.

The ending also doesn't make sense. Um, why would your teacher look mad when he said that? Eh?

But, I really do like the topic, and I suggest you stick with it.

By Serene (Serene) on Monday, August 11, 2003 - 11:37 pm: Edit

Xiggi: thousands and thousands of kids apply every year... you can't reasonably expect an one of its kind essay from a high school student. My common app essay, errr, was on this type of transition too. Wasn't the best essay I could have written, wasn't the worst either.

By Valpal (Valpal) on Tuesday, August 12, 2003 - 01:11 am: Edit

I read the first version with great interest, and had no problem hearing that the Japanese could be zenophobic and at times, racist. Homogenous cultures often have some element of this. However, I think it would be a good idea to include a concrete example of the racism you observed. CTrain, I believe your reaction to being viewed as some kind of exotic zoo animal was understandable, and most American teens in a similar situation, would find themselves feeling quite the same way. At no time, did I feel that you painted the Japanese in an unfavorable light, just a human one. Your reaction to a culture so alien to your own was equally human (and NOT overly dramatic!). However, when you provide examples of less-than-positive aspects of Japanese culture, you should show an equal number of admirable aspects to balance them out. I think your decision to embrace the unique aspects of Japanese culture and cuisine was believable and showed great attitude and a willingness to adapt. Yes, there are a couple of grammatical irregularities, but they are easily corrected. By and large, I think it's a strong essay.

I don't know if you've noticed this, CTrain, but people on CC can be brutally judgmental. I somehow suspect most Adcoms would react very positively to the above essay. Never invite brutality on CC, because you will most assuredly get it!

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Tuesday, August 12, 2003 - 02:52 am: Edit

Serene, I mentioned the RISK of using that type of topic because of the lack of originality and the very high percentage of students who could write a similar essay. I believe that people "in-the-know" have concluded that a so-so essay will not ruin an otherwise stellar application but that a great essay may contribute to pull an average application out of the common groove. And the only person who can judge what needs to be accomplished is the writer himself by asking: "Is this the best I can do?"

However, here is the essay written by Jennifer Pusey.

http://www.harvard-magazine.com/issues/so96/essay.pusey.html

And here is the link about Nathan Pusey:
http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2001/11.15/01-pusey.html

By Ctrain890 (Ctrain890) on Tuesday, August 12, 2003 - 08:40 pm: Edit

Haha, thanks Valpal.

Yeah, i know it still needs work, but honestly I am sick of it. This was my 5th draft and I think i'm just going to stick with it. I don't really think I can do any better at this point.


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