University of California Personal Statement
Question #1: Focus - Academic Preparation
How have you taken advantage of the educational opportunities you have had to prepare for college?
By the age of four, I had discovered a love for the arts. My mother introduced me to piano and literature and taught me the value of self-expression, and I responded by composing music and writing poetry. I found that they were the perfect media through which to record those fundamental truths that can only be understood by children. Throughout my childhood, I dedicated myself to choir and drama at school and to piano and reading in my spare time. I attended all the lectures, writing workshops and arts festivals available to refine my gifts. While most schools emphasised rote learning at the expense of music and arts programs, the Cambridge-based IGCSE diploma I received focused on intellectual depth rather than credits or grades. I voluntarily participated in history classes and Model United Nations programs because they forced me to think critically and required extensive research and writing. Although my academic background is not standard, I feel more prepared for the rigors of university life because I have learned to think on my feet and approach problems from a variety of perspectives. Most importantly, I continue to find avenues - both academic and extracurricular - to express my original ideas.
Question #2: Focus - Potential to Contribute
Tell us about a talent, experience, contribution or personal quality you will bring to the University of CA.
My experiences abroad have given me a slightly different outlook on work. Miyamoto Musashi's A Book of Five Rings, a seminal work on martial arts strategy, states that to excel in one area, one must "study the way of all professions." I have adopted Musashi's approach, and I have learned to treat every opportunity as a blessing from God. The act of working itself, not the ends to which the work is intended, is what is fulfilling. While others may volunteer at hospitals and orphanages because it pads their resume, I have found enjoyment in interacting with children. As part of a project, I taught at an orphanage school in Bangkok. It was a joy to see the students participating eagerly in daily activities. Their wholehearted appreciation of the small gifts we would distribute reminded me of the simple faith of children. Returning to the States, I found a philosophical refuge working at a martial arts studio. The instructor's system of respect, combined with his emphasis on work ethic, reminded me of Musashi's words. Despite societal pressures to change, I have continued to regard work as its own fulfilment. Any wisdom I gain can always be applied to the profession I choose to pursue.
Question #3: Focus - Open-ended
Is there anything you would like us to know about you or your academic record that you have not already had the opportunity to describe elsewhere in this application?
At the age of nine, I was given the opportunity to live in Bangkok with my father. At the time, however, I did not consider it an opportunity at all; up until then my mother had maintained my innocence and complete faith in the world - I never realised my parent's separation or my father's absence - and I was completely dependent on her. In Bangkok, I not only had to take care of myself in a foreign environment, but I also had to accept that my father was no longer the same man who I remembered from my younger days. Reflecting on my time in Bangkok, I realise that it gave me the strength and independence I needed to persevere when I returned to America. The moment I set foot in Bangkok, I discovered that politics permeated everyday life. In Thailand, tradition, rather than the mass-culture of American society, reigned supreme. Family ties were crucial, and as a girl and a child of a rejected, middle-class woman, I was considered a second-class citizen. My father had had two sons by another woman since he left and I was no longer a focus of his life. He rarely came home so I went to school by myself, managed my own time, completed my work and put myself to bed. Unable to find comfort at home, I threw myself into my studies and friendships at school. My mother's reminder to work hard became a driving force in my life. Before I left, she told me that the best proof of my worth would be to succeed on the strength of my own skills and talents. Following her advice, I devoted more time to reading and to doing extensive research for even the simplest projects. Rather than bemoaning my home situation, I began to relish the freedom and independence that came with my father's neglect and the respect I gained from my teachers and peers for handling a difficult environment. Learning became a joy to me, and I found that the more I enjoyed my work, the less I worried about abuse and neglect at home. Upon my return to the United States, I recognised that I admired Thai society for its concept of fundamental beauty. In Bangkok, I found that there was less emphasis on the "time is money" concept and that people were much more patient and relaxed. My friends enjoyed sitting on the steps after school, talking quietly or even sitting in silence, just as much as they enjoyed going out on the town. Where others saw corruption in the prostitution and drugs that were prevalent, I chose simply to ignore it and appreciate the dedication of simple people who would take their handicrafts to the open markets day after day. These people depended on selling their goods, yet they would always greet us with a smile even when we did not purchase anything. There was a fundamental respect for each other's values that formed the foundation of the culture. Even though I felt lost when I returned to the United States, my experience in Bangkok made me appreciate the few good friends I made. While it was difficult to adjust to the competition and the cold professionalism of many Americans, I was able to draw on my time in Bangkok to maintain my self-confidence. Living abroad has taught me about the values and ideals of another culture, but it has also exposed the aspects of American culture that most people take for granted. I feel that I am well equipped for the challenges, both social and academic, that await me at a diverse place like the University of California.