The first time Stephanie visited the Cornell campus she knew that it was her dream school. It didn’t matter that she was 4 years old at the time. She gained the inspiration for writing this essay after speaking with her father, whom she describes as “rather philosophical." The two discussed how she had connections with both her ethnic culture and American culture. A graduate of Stuyvesant High School, Stephanie was co-captain of a technology event for the Science Olympiad and enjoys drawing the humanoid form and creative writing. She plans to work in web development or web design.
A Convergence of Clashing Beliefs - Cornell University
I grew up in a traditional Chinese family. All members of the older generations in my family are immigrants from China or the former British Colony of Hong Kong and still hold with them the customs and traditions they practiced in their homeland. Immersed in this sea of traditionalists I grew up thinking that American and Chinese cultures were identical. However my understanding has changed greatly since…although I still see both cultures as “identical," it is from a different perspective.
It wasn’t until I began school that I became slightly exposed to American culture. Since I was young, my parents were protective of me and only occasionally allowed me to play with friends at their houses, thus decreasing my association with American families. When I began American School, my parents also enrolled me in a Chinese School that met once a week. To me, Chinese School was simply an extension of the customs I already practiced at home. As a result, even if I had more interaction with non-Asian friends, my greater familiarity with Chinese culture gave me the impression that the customs of my ethnic homeland were the customs most Americans followed.
As I became more familiar with American culture, however, I began to fuse characteristics of and customs from both cultures and inherited a hybrid culture. For example, Chinese philosophy teaches us to maintain a low profile, that is, to not unnecessarily flaunt possessions and knowledge. Know your limit; never underestimate yourself, but do not push beyond your own abilities. American philosophy, on the other hand, encourages aggression and competition and acceptances of challenges, even those that may be too much to handle. There is an obvious clash in the beliefs of both cultures.
While Chinese culture may be too conservative and wary, American culture likewise seems too aggressive and does not have enough caution against things not working out as planned.
Although the philosophies of either culture by itself may be too self-destructive or self-denying, I’ve found that it is efficient to pick the best from each and combine them to the best advantage for myself. For example, don’t be too passive as Chinese philosophy advises, yet don’t jump at every chance for promotion or raise as American philosophy suggests and possibly blow a blood vessel in the process. Rather, I find it most efficient to take the middle road, try new things and accept challenges with an open mind. Nevertheless, once your duties become too much to handle drop some less-significant activities and see how things work out. Instead of being an unknown entity or an arrogant big shot who announces every accomplishment in your life (and who will undoubtedly gain a few more envious enemies), make yourself known, but just enough so that people know who you are but not to the point that you are just another celebrity. This adaptation of two very different cultures converging is the hybrid culture that I follow.
Why This Essay Succeeded…
Writing about culture (especially if you were raised in an immigrant family) is very popular. Unfortunately, most essays try to include every similarity and difference and in the end all sound the same. Stephanie is able to avoid this trap by focusing on just one major conflict between her two cultures: the Chinese tendency to show restraint versus the American tendency to be competitive.
She goes a step further by discussing how she has resolved this conflict. We can see from Stephanie’s essay how taking the middle ground helped her to assimilate the two contrasting impulses.
When writing about a big issue such as the clash of cultures it is much better to do as Stephanie did. She broke down the topic into manageable parts and focused on just one or two aspects. This will almost always result in a stronger essay. Not to mention it will make your job of writing easier, too.
College Admission Essays to Cornell University - College Admission Essays to Cornell University