Unique opportunities or challenges experienced throughout high school career that have shaped who you are today?


Tell us your story. What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today? It must be no longer than 120 eighty-character lines of text (including spaces and blank lines). I am a 18 year old male from Houston Texas If you need any other personal information please let me know This is an example: Looking at the sheer size of the bush, I began to shake with excitement. “Is this the one?” my brother asked. Thorns pricked my side as I crawled into the dense and overgrown primrose jasmine. I muddied my knees kneeling on the damp soil, “This will work.” My younger brother Robert wriggled in with the shovel and pruning shears. Together we carefully planned which branches to remove. The trick was cutting enough to make space for the two of us without leaving big holes in the canopy of the bush. We figured out how to weave vines from a nearby fence into the branches to cover our mistakes. Over a weekend we fortified a secret hideout in our own backyard.  I grew up in household buzzing with projects. From intricate porches to massive organic gardens at our elementary school, our weekends always involve building or making something. Our home has no fixed roles. Walking into our kitchen on Saturday morning, you might find my father baking apple pies with my brother and me while my mother and sister disassemble the broken dishwasher.  My parents taught us how to use tools safely and encouraged my sister, brother, and I to dream up our own crazy projects. We made a “pool” by threading an old rock climbing rope through the grommets of a tarp and securing the ends to three different trees. We created “rafts” from duct tape and remnant plastic containers to float down a nearby creek. We constructed our own computers from parts bought at an electronics store. Every project was an exercise in imagination, design, planning, negotiation, and iteration.  We have only 130 students in our high school. International students from China, Korea and Vietnam make up an important part of our community. I had a brief experience studying abroad in Spain and appreciated how hard it is to learn and fit into a foreign culture. I even learned to love my host mother Marta’s breakfast special, mashed eggplant. I trod lightly and made peace with my eggplant so as not to offend her Cadiz sensibilities. Since living in Spain, I’ve made time to tutor our non-native speakers in math and physics and founded a club focused on integrating our international classmates into our community.  We cook dishes like Bulgogi Pork together, and we sing karaoke, badly. We talk about family, current events and life in Beijing, Saigon, and Austin. It is challenging to discuss history and world politics with my friends from China. Our reference points are different, so our conversations can be lively. You learn a lot about your own biases by listening closely to another person’s perspective. I am eager to experience more perspectives through travel and study abroad, particularly in Asia.  I love living Austin, a technology wonderland with inspiration literally around every corner. Last spring, I walked five blocks from my school to sit in a small room at the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) conference and hear leading experts from Amazon and IBM debate about the dark sides of Artificial Intelligence. I walked away from this conference wanting to know more about professional programming.  This summer, I applied and was selected for an electrical engineering internship at Silicon Labs, a chip design company. After years of self-study in programming, I wanted to see what software development looked like inside a big engineering company. We worked in teams and did everything from soldering circuit boards to programming microcontrollers. I learned from mentors tackling hard engineering problems in a supportive and collaborative environment. The experience confirmed what I hoped: designing and building software and hardware could be a fulfilling career for me. I can see myself thriving in that world. While my tools have changed from pruning shears to coding environments, my projects and dreams are still big. I am ready to trade my backyard for a campus full of creative and driven people from all over the world. I already have some projects cooking and cannot wait to see what my classmates are dreaming up. Another Example:  Soft melodies float in the air, feathery sounds of consonance and dissonance create a bed of melodies that I fall asleep on each night. I was born into a family of musicians. I’m the daughter of two pianists who moved across the world to continue their studies, built a home to house two grand pianos, and taught their children to write their life stories on black and white keys. My version of a bedtime story was The Swan by Saint-Saëns; I can sleep through a concerto to this day. When I turned four years old, my parents dedicated a portion of my day to sitting and practicing at our piano bench. As my relationship with music evolved from reading into interpreting, my hours with the piano turned into adventures, times to transform a monochrome score into a piece of art with color and dimension. Throughout most of my life, the best part of my day was spent creating music. Enter high school, I found myself taking more classes, joining more extracurricular activities to feed my resume, and spending more time studying subjects that never quite sparked my interest. As a result, my hours spent with the piano were replaced with hours spent at my bedroom desk. I became increasingly frustrated when my parents would remind me daily to practice the piano and envious of my older brother whose piano accomplishments made my parents so proud. By sophomore year, it would need to be a good day for me to practice the piano for even an hour. My performances became defined by cold hands and memory slips, and I found it difficult to keep up with others in competitions. I began to resent the instrument I once considered to be my first love because I believed I had digressed from the hardworking pianist my parents have always wanted me to be, to a girl who let her talents go to waste. For months, I felt empty and distant from even myself; I no longer had the means to express my emotions and relate to the people I love the most. Two nights before my brother left for college, he asked me the question I had been avoiding: “Are you ever going to practice the piano again?” After watching my uneasiness and embarrassment of not having an answer, he shrugged and explained simply: “I don’t practice the piano to win anything. I practice because I enjoy the process. I thought you did too.” When my brother moved to Austin, my home became quiet. I no longer studied to his late-night practice sessions or fell asleep to his classical music study playlists. Our pianos were left untouched for longer periods of time and scores of music begged to be read. This absence of music made my heart grow fonder of the piano. I realized that I longed for the process of learning. It wasn’t the awards or successful performances that I craved; I wanted to again embark on the journey of telling an infinite amount of stories with just eighty-eight keys. As I began spending more time expressing myself through the piano, I felt the joy of being heard and the vulnerability of being understood. I learned that music, much like academics, is about the individual journey. In our overly competitive society, I forgot to simply enjoy the moment in front of me. My journey with music over the past years has taught me that the travel is often more important than the destination, that I should cherish the imperfections inherent to learning and be content with my capabilities.

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