I ran across the unkempt dirt road, too excited to notice as my new shoes dug into the viscous mud, calling out to my parents, as they stood in front of one of a few houses in their small Indian village. “Guess what? Guess what I just saw!?”
Hidden behind a tangle of leaves, twigs, and dirt, in a small village of just a few hundred people in rural India, lies human ingenuity in its unlikeliest form. Thirty-five years before the Paris Accord, my grandparents’ small farm was ahead of its times, utilizing bio-gas and natural fertilizer to generate electricity and power the two flickering bulbs that hung from the ceiling of the wooden farmhouse nearby. When I first visited this farm, I was a few years old. My granddad walked me to the dusty, rust-stained metal dome that slumped into the ground and explained that this was the contraption that powered his house. Then, the process seemed like magic; it was not until a few years later that I would know otherwise.
When I next visited, I was older and able to understand the science behind the magic: microorganisms and a chemical process (anaerobic digestion) that broke down cow excrement into a gas, which could drive a generator and produce life-changing electricity. This revelation sparked (pun intended) more amazement. I was fascinated with the idea that it could be possible for someone, with just the resources present in a small rural village, to create something that could change lives and stand for decades afterwards.
Over the next two weeks I would spend in India, I saw countless more examples of people, living in isolated villages with the scarcest of resources, who found creative opportunities to maximize what they had. Oftentimes these towns were miles away from more populated cities and received little financial or other assistance. Yet, people are resilient, and they find ways to overcome their adversities and improve their lives in a variety of ways. One town in my mother’s home state was recently hit by a flood, which displaced many people and destroyed acres of farmland. The residents of the community, using intermittent access to the internet and social media, crowdsourced aid for impacted families. These sorts of solutions were present for other aspects of life; my mother describes how, as a child, she would handcraft torches by burning dried coconut leaves, not just for light, but because the smell and heat would keep wild animals away. This idea even has a name in colloquial culture of India: a jugaad represents a “hack” or innovative/simple work-around to a difficult situation.
As I traveled back to the U.S, I thought about what I had seen; this experience stuck with me and gave me a new lens through which I would view the world. This is from where my motivation arises: I am a person who always wants to observe and reflect on the world around me. These reflections help me appreciate that around me and inspire me to create something that will leave an imprint. Many of the most fulfilling projects I have worked on, whether as part of competitions and programs or in independent projects and research, have been initiatives that could be applied to the real world. As part of a summer research program, I researched piezoelectric as a way to improve capacitors (and therefore increase energy efficiency of micro controllers). As part of a team competition, I contributed to designing a robot that could autonomously navigate through an obstacle field. With each experience, I have grown a little more. Life-changing lessons can come from anywhere, even a small village in the farmlands of India, so long as we want to look for them.
Tips for Writing:
So, it’s finally that time. After years and years of hearing about the inevitable onset of the college process, of seeing your older counterparts drown in their essays and applications, it’s time for you to start writing your own. It’s a daunting task, but it can be survived – as long as you follow a few suggestions (and just like when a college website ‘suggests’ you to do something, these aren’t actually suggestions: they’re requirements). First and foremost (and bolded and underlined for a reason), don’t procrastinate. It’s something everyone will tell you, from your parents to your teachers. It’s something you’ll probably promise to yourself to not do, as I once did. But it’s important to actually make sure you follow through on that. Make it your top priority, otherwise days will go by, then weeks, then months, and eventually it’ll be halloween and the only thing that will be scary is the amount of essays you still have left to write. So, plan your writing process out early, spread your essay writing out and write them every day. Secondly, stay organized. During your first semester of senior year will be extremely busy and its important to be able to keep up. In addition to your essays and applications, you’ll still have the same amount of tests and homework as previous years to manage. With all of that going on, it’s easy to lose track of things. Make sure you write down everything you need to do somewhere and refer to it often to make sure so you can keep yourself from getting overwhelmed. Finally, when writing your essays, be honest and have fun. If your write your essays about things you actually enjoy and are passionate about, the essays will be much easier to write and will go faster. You can never actually predict what a college wants, so don’t try to predict what a school might want to hear and say things about yourself that aren’t true. In the end, you want to be proud of what you’ve written, and that will only happen if you feel what you have written really is a reflection of who you are. If there’s anything I learned from my experience writing essays, it’s these three things. Try to take the process in stride, don’t get to stressed or too sleep deprived, and just write the best work you can.