With moments to spare, I catch a glimpse of the boarding platform for my train. Like a compass with a broken magnetic strip, I can’t decide my true North.
Like a captain frantically seeking port in a storm, I haul myself through the turbulent ocean of people, trying to avoid being stranded – or trampled – in the dustiest city in the world: Beijing, capital of both China and smog. It is the summer of 2012, and Shanghai isn’t to be home for much longer. Unsettled, I turn to my ever-present book for comfort.
His words somehow become my words, his memories become my memories.
Despite the high speed of the bullet train, my mind is perfectly still – trapped between the narrative of the book and the narrative of my own life. I read the last page and close the book, staring out the window at the shining fish ponds and peaceful rice paddies.
I feel like a speck of dust outside the train, floating, content and happy to be between destinations. I speak both English and Chinese: Chinese is for math, science, and process, but I prefer English for art, emotion, and description.
America owns my childhood, filled with pine trees, blockbuster movies, and Lake Tahoe snow; China holds my adolescence, accompanied by industrial smog, expeditious mobility, and fast-paced social scenes. My reverie isn’t at an end, but I have the answer to my question.
Luckily, I board my train with seconds to spare, and without being turned into a pancake – always a plus. In another week I will cross the globe to start a new life in a foreign land called Charlotte. Today it is by Tim O’Brien, already worn and slightly crumpled.
They say the best books tell you what you already know, resonating with your own thoughts and emotions.
The essay is a joy to read, sharing a detailed glimpse of the student’s personality without feeling like it’s trying to list positive personal qualities.
Prompt: Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it.