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I have always been interested in learning about the world beyond my own backyard. As a child, I used to trace maps for fun, and I would constantly ask my dad, who had taken German in high school, to teach me new words. In high school I was able to channel this enthusiasm in an academic direction and took as many foreign language classes as I could (including three years of German), engaging in independent study to fit in the equivalent of five years of French in three years. As a senior, I put my knack for languages to practical use by helping Elvizda, who had just moved to my town from the Congo, adjust to life in the United States.
During high school, the seeds for my future fascination with Poland were also sown when I took PreCalculus with Mrs. Koch, a Polish immigrant and one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever had. She taught me my first Polish words and sparked my interest in her homeland.
However, I was not able to start learning Polish formally until college. As a freshman, I received a scholarship to study at the Jagiellonian University Summer School. I spent July 2005 in Krakow learning Polish and attending lectures on Polish history. My first visit to Poland was a cultural keelhauling. 1 knew exactly seven words, and the language barrier was overwhelming at first. I was afraid to explore the city alone for the simple reason that I could not pronounce the name of my tram stop (Akademia Pedagogiczna). However, four weeks and many flashcards later, I could pronounce Akademia Pedagogiczna and had come to love Poland. Since then, I have continued to learn Polish in Rochester, Krakow, and Cologne.
I have also been able to study abroad in Germany and France as an undergraduate, and I consider these experiences one of the most valuable components of my education. Apart from improving my language skills, study abroad has provided me with vital exposure to different cultures. I grew up in a small New England town with little cultural diversity. Living abroad has broadened my horizons and challenged concepts that I had previously held to be immutable. This is particularly true with respect to national and cultural identity. I have long been interested in identity issues since I am a Hispanic who does not speak Spanish. Yet, until I studied abroad, I felt relatively secure in my position on the issue. When I met my Ohio Wesleyan University Writing Center © 2011 Page 14 friend Angelina in Cologne, who is ethnically German but grew up in Kazakhstan and speaks Russian as her native language, the issue of cultural identity was suddenly less clear to me. I began to ask myself what exactly does determine cultural and national identity.
Unlike many students of Polish studies, I cannot lay claim to any Polish ancestry. It is unfortunate that Poland and Polish culture, which have played such a dynamic role in European and world history, are so little understood in the United States among those who have no ethnic connection to Poland. And though Germany and Poland share a common border, one meets very few students of German who also choose to learn Polish. This is one of the reasons why I plan to pursue graduate work in cultural studies with an emphasis on Polish literature, a goal which would be greatly furthered by receiving a Fulbright grant to Poland.
Essay Eight I chose to study French because of my high school teacher. In sixth grade, Madame O'Hara came to speak with my class about studying a foreign language. Using simple French, gestures, and cognates, she taught us phrases, colors, and numbers. I was thrilled to understand this language despite never having previously studied it, and chose to study French in middle and high school to learn more. In class, we not only studied grammar, but explored French and Francophone culture with movies, songs, cooking, and playacting. When I decided to study French in middle school, I did not realize that this choice would dictate not only my fourth period class, but the rest of my life. The more I learned about the Francophone world, aided by Madame O'Hara and other outstanding teachers, the more I wanted to know. Because of this interest and a desire to keep learning every day, I chose to teach languages. I entered college as French major in the hopes of continuing the legacy of my high-school teachers and one day teaching at the secondary level.
Upon my arrival at the University of Rochester, I embraced the study of French language and culture with open arms. At first it was intimidating to listen to the intelligent, well-articulated voices around me in the classroom, but soon I was contributing to class discussions. In addition to classes in the French language, literature, translation, culture, and politics, I have studied in Rennes and Grenoble, France. During both of these experiences, I stayed with host families, both of whom helped me learn about French culture firsthand. During my stay in Grenoble, I joined the University Ski Club. After several outings and a week-long "stage" or technique camp with the racing team, my skiing improved tremendously. After days of training and joking around with my teammates, my French also became more natural and fluid.
In addition to French, I am studying Spanish language and Hispanic culture at my university. Taking beginning-level language and culture classes has reminded me of the effort necessary to learn a new language. This experience will help me relate to the difficulties facing the students I will be teaching in France and has already made me more perceptive of the difficulties of the students I teach in French summer classes. I studied for a month in Oaxaca, Mexico, this past summer, which made me realize how frustrating it is not to be able to communicate, but also how rewarding it is to finally succeed. Now, I want to help other students succeed in learning a language. This fall and spring, I am working as a teaching assistant at my university for the beginning Spanish class.
While it is challenging to instruct students in a language that I began to study three years ago, I have confidence in my ability to teach languages. At my university, I tutor students in French and Spanish and lead a weekly French conversation hour. For the past two summers, I have taught French at GirlSummer, an academic camp for 7th to 11th graders. This has been an amazing experience for me because I plan my own
If awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to teach English in France, I will strive to inspire in my students the same love for learning that my high-school French teacher inspired in me. Upon my return to the United States, my teaching will reflect a greater knowledge of French culture. In my classes, I will incorporate more aspects of French life into my classroom. Serving as a teaching assistant in France will allow me to contribute to the French school system while growing personally and professionally.
Essay Nine On one hot late-summer day when I was in high school, my parents came back from a shopping trip with a surprise present for me: the legendary board game. Diplomacy. At first I scoffed at such an oldfashioned game. Who would want to waste glorious sunny days moving armies around a map of preWorld War I Europe, pretending to be Bismarck or Disraeli? But after playing the game once, I became absolutely riveted by the nuances of statecraft, and soon began losing sleep as I tried to craft clever diplomatic gambits, hatch devious schemes, and better understand the game's ever-changing dynamics.
As my friends and I spent the second half of the summer absorbed by the game, my parents grinned knowingly. How could I resist being fascinated with Diplomacy, they asked me, when I incessantly read about international affairs, and liked nothing more than debating politics over dinner? How could I resist being fascinated, when I had spent most of my summers in Greece (and, much more briefly, France and England), witnessing first-hand the ways in which countries differ socially, culturally, and politically?
Though my passion for foreign policy and international affairs undoubtedly dates back to high school, I never had the chance to fully develop this interest before college. Once I arrived at Harvard, however, I discovered that I could learn about international relations through both my academics and my extracurricular activities. Academically, I decided to concentrate in Government, and, within Government, to take classes that elucidated the forces underlying the relations of states on the world stage. Some of the most memorable of these classes included Human Rights, in which we discussed what role humanitarian concerns ought to play in international relations; Politics of Western Europe, in which I learned about the social, economic, and political development of five major European countries; and Causes and Prevention of War, which focused on unearthing the roots of conflict and finding out how bloodshed could have been avoided. Currently, for my senior thesis, I am investigating the strange pattern of American human rights-based intervention in the post-Cold War era, and trying to determine which explanatory variables are best able to account for it.
Interestingly, I think that I have learned at least as much about international relations through my extracurriculars in college as I have through my classes. For the past three years, for instance, I have helped run Harvard‟s three Model United Nations conferences. As a committee director at these conferences, I researched topics of global importance (e.g. the violent disintegration of states, weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East), wrote detailed study guides discussing these subjects, and then moderated hundreds of students as they debated the topics and strove to resolve them. Even more enriching for me than directing these committees was taking part in them myself. As a delegate at other schools' conferences, I would be assigned to represent a particular country on a particular UN committee (e.g. France on the Security Council). I would then need to research my country‟s position on the topics to be discussed, articulate my view in front of others in my committee, and convince my fellow delegates to support my position. Trying to peg down a country‟s elusive ' national interest,' clashing over thorny Ohio Wesleyan University Writing Center © 2011 Page 16 practical and philosophical issues, making and breaking alliances — Model UN was basically a simulation of how diplomacy really works.
Thankfully, I have also found time over the past few years to cultivate interests and skills unrelated to Model UN and foreign policy. One of the most important of these has been community service. As a volunteer for Evening With Champions, an annual ice-skating exhibition held to raise money for children with cancer, and as a teacher of a weekly high school class on current events and international affairs, I have, whenever possible, used my time and talents to benefit my community. Another more recent interest of mine is the fascinating realm of business. Two years ago, my father‟s Christmas present to me was a challenge rather than a gift: he gave me $500, but told me that I could keep it only if I invested it in the stock market — and earned a higher rate of return than he did with another $500. Since then, I have avidly followed the stock market, and become very interested in how businesses interact and respond to strategic threats (perhaps because of the similarities between business competition and the equally cutthroat world of diplomatic realpolitik). A final passion of mine is writing. As the writer of a biweekly column in the Independent, one of Harvard' s student newspapers, I find very little as satisfying as filling a blank page with words — creating from nothing an elegant opinion piece that illuminates some quirk of college life, or induces my readers to consider an issue or position that they had ignored until then.
Because of my wide range of interests, I have not yet decided what career path to follow into the future. In the short run, I hope to study abroad for a year, in the process immersing myself in another culture, and deepening my personal and academic understanding of international affairs. After studying abroad, my options would include working for a nonprofit organization, entering the corporate world, and attending law school. In the long run, I envision for myself a career straddling the highest levels of international relations, politics, and business. I could achieve this admittedly ambitious goal by advancing within a nonprofit group, think tank, or major international company. Perhaps most appealingly, I could also achieve this goal by entering public service and obtaining some degree of influence over actual foreign policy decisions — that is, becoming a player myself in the real-life game of Diplomacy.
Essay Ten I decided that I wanted to be a scientist while I was still in elementary school, but even in high school where I was praised for my academic successes, my relatives were still against the whole idea. My grandma still asks me every Christmas what my major is and once I start telling her about earthquakes and mountain formation, she quickly changes the subject. Coming from a small town in Mythic County and being only the second person on either side of my family to attend college, it has been an ongoing issue to convince my family that a person, let alone a woman, can make a living doing geologic research.
As a freshman at Mythic University, I was accepted for a research assistantship designed for incoming freshman women. Through this program I worked with a Mythic University geochemistry professor on the sequestration of pollutants in aquifers. Going into the program, I expected merely to be washing lab equipment and capping bottles, but instead I got to make solutions, run pH experiments and learn how to use spectroscopy instruments. By my sophomore year, I was running samples and interpreting data. It was through this experience that I learned a valuable lesson: opportunities are endless if one is prepared for them.