Charlize Chen–Common Application


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Essay:

I was born in the United States to a mother from Taiwan and a father from China. As a result, I was inevitably influenced by different cultures. While only the Taiwan Strait separates these countries, it would often feel like there was a barrier dividing my cultural identity into two: one side of me felt Chinese and the other side was deeply entrenched in my Taiwanese roots. While many Americans fail to recognize the political division between China and Taiwan, I understood intimately that these cultures were distinct.

The difference between these two places is something I have experienced in a microcosm in my own life. Like my mom, I hold relentless passion and hot-blooded determination within my heart. Like my dad, I have a sense of empathy and level-headed stability. In order to explore Taiwanese and Chinese culture more deeply, I wanted to discover what made me truly Taiwanese. This quest took me to Changhua, Taiwan. It was this journey that allowed me to have an amazing epiphany, in which I decided what to do with my life. 

Over the summer, I had the privilege of teaching English at a grade school in Taiwan for disadvantaged children. With an enthusiastic smile on my face, I tiptoed into the classroom, as twenty-five blank faces stared back at me. As these students became more familiar with me, their demeanor shifted from confusion to enthusiasm. I was electrified with excitement towards these little boys and girls. Their reaction ignited a love for teaching within me. 

During my two weeks with the students, I learned crucial universal lessons. I was deeply moved when my hands gently held a student’s pencil, tracing the English phrase with him. My fingers wiped the tears off a girl’s face as the nurse disinfected her scrape. My legs stepped along to the rhythm as I danced with the children to after-school songs on the speaker. 

On the last day of school, I understood that I had very little chance of seeing my students ever again. My puffy eyelids desperately tried to retract the teardrops threatening to leak out. Before the sun set, one of my students told me to leave the classroom for a moment. When she prompted me to return, she carefully placed a pink envelope in my hands with the Chinese words, “Thank you, big sister.” As I wept with both joy and sorrow, I glanced up to see that she was crying as well. Each student gave me a goodbye letter. Some of them had doodles, others blurred eraser marks with misspelled English, others with tear streaks. As I read their heartfelt words, which have become some of my most treasured possessions, I understood fully what it means to be an inspiration for others.

Indeed, I had an epiphany in Taiwan. I realized that I had a gift for teaching. The relationship between a student and a teacher is something that I have learned to cherish. As the future lies before me, teaching will infuse any path I choose. Whether I become a politician, a lawyer, or something else, I will use my passion for teaching throughout my life.

 

Tips for Writing:

For my college essay, I focused on writing about my own experience and how that experience shaped me as a person. I decided to write about my Taiwanese and Chinese heritage, because very few people will write about being Taiwanese- choose a topic that fits you uniquely and that nobody can replicate. In terms of this essay, I rigorously checked it for any grammar mistakes. Make sure your essay is absolutely impeccable in terms of mechanics, and cut out any words that do not contribute to the overall meaning. Avoid cliches and overly general statements. One tip that really helped me while writing this essay was “be interesting.” Don’t end your essay with a sob story or something negative, rather, end with an optimistic and inspirational tone. The people that read your essay remember the essays that made them smile. Make sure your essay is engaging throughout, because the admissions officer will be seeing thousands of essays. You want the person reading your essay to still be thinking about it hours after they read your work.

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