I was going to post this yesterday and then hesitated. I read Johnathan's essay (so lovely) and thought this one would very much be enjoyed also
My daughter, Alexa, 20 years old (3rd year at CU) is getting ready to circle the world in a Semester at Sea. She has had to write many essays for the numerous applications. This one that she wrote last week is my favorite...
The majority of my life has been devoted to education – both in my fight for my own education, and later on my desire to help others is situations similar to what I went through. My journey has embodied every aspect of academic excellence, integrity, intercultural exchange, and global understanding.
Halfway through high school my world came crashing down around me. Until that point I’d lived a sheltered existence, enjoying a peaceful and supportive upbringing with a strong education in the Arts. Although my family never had a lot of money, they managed to make things work, and I never had to deal with the stress of their financial strains. Until it all came to an end seemingly overnight. There were so many aspects to the end of that age of innocence that I hardly even know where to begin. You see, my father employed radical religious beliefs and once my sister and I started nearing adolescence, he and his religious leaders started putting on the pressure for my sister and I to accept God as our savior and devote the rest of our lives to his service. Any form of schooling was seen, from that point forward, as a distraction from God. My mother, fearing for our education, left him, risking poverty over the medieval doom that would have befallen us otherwise. For a year we tried to get our bearings, my mother went out and found a job, and my sister and I applied ourselves to school full-heartedly, seeing as our mother had risked so much for something most kids take for granted. The summer after those events, my dear uncle died, a blow that left us completely shattered. My mother moved us in with her brother to be closer to family. I was uprooted, forced to transfer schools and leave behind the few friends I had, with not even a home to call my own. The complete upheaval in my life left me feeling completely suffocated. I once again reminded myself of what so much sacrifice was for, and focused all of my efforts on my education. I had always had a passion for travel and I began seeking out exchange student programs for high school students, realizing the educational value in the opportunity to live in another country. As an added bonus, the prospect of leaing behind everything that had happened and living in someone else’s shoes for a while was an extremely welcoming prospect. For an entire year all I did was plan and apply. Thanks to my stellar academic record I received a scholarship to go live with a host family in Japan. While at the time I was essentially running away, the experience ended up being so much more than that. For the first time in my life my academic excellence and integrity to achieve something I truly believed in really paid off and rewarded me with the profound learning experiences that only travel can provide. Living in Japan gave me insights into my own life that I will value forever. I attended an all-girls catholic school whilst abroad and participated in Japanese customs that are so strikingly different from our own. I was amazed by the sense of community and family. Even little things like cleaning our entire school after classes ended (students are expected to take care of their schools rather than employing janitors) made me appreciate the joy and fulfillment of giving back to others. The lessons I learned could fill a book, but that's the beauty of traveling, your mind is opened in ways that no textbook could ever replicate.
Since my return, exactly three years ago now, I have devoted much of my time to furthering my own education and helping others to do the same. There are so many people in our American culture who take education for granted. They are forced through high school as a necessity and then enrolled in college by parents who can afford the best of everything for their kids. For others it is not so easy, whether because of financial strains, or, as could have so easily been my case, cultish religious beliefs. I am so grateful for everything my mother did to ensure I could attend college. Once enrolled, I accepted a role as an academic mentor for my residence hall, holding study sessions for fellow students and tutoring in areas where I could help out. While abroad I hope to spend time in local schools, helping in any way I can to make education possible in under-privileged nations.