I Am Myself and My Mood This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

June 18, 2013
By , Cambridge, MA
Freshman year, I was dazed and confused. I had just moved across a stretch of 5368 miles from Ukraine to the American Midwest, got the chance to mould myself into the creation of my dreams. Caught in the whirlpool of opportunities, I was desperately trying to grab on to a straw of normalcy as I defined it: enrolled into the maximum number of classes (still half of what I had been used to), sought math circles, clubs, and competitions, made as many new friends as possible to figure out the novel culture. Later that year as part of my school’s experiential learning week, I travelled to Chicago with a group of fellow science enthusiasts. Together we explored the Windy City and its museums, savoured the unforgettable deep dish pizza. This was my first independent trip. I did not want to go back to the serene Midwest.

Sophomore year, I felt powerful and exultant. I was struck with a purpose. Earlier, I had been distraught at the lack of knowledge about foreign cultures before (I can’t count how many times I had been labelled a “communist”), but realized I could change that. First semester I taught a class on Slavic cultures at my high school, and twenty students were aghast at the thought of sandwiches with one piece of bread, of school bathrooms with no sanitizer or toilet paper, but also amazed at the richness of the language, the respect of tradition, the unique mentality of a Slav. Second semester I got involved with the Columbus International Program, worked as an interpreter for Russian-speaking delegations from Turkmenistan and Belarus that had come to spread word of their culture. I got to tour the Supreme Court, translate for the director of Nationwide Insurance Human Resources, befriend incredible people from all around the globe. That summer I also proposed to organize a cultural awareness training program at my local library, a project that developed into the Exploration Station Program for young children.

Junior year, I was motivated yet haphazard. The time had come for me to pick a direction (so I felt), and I decided to experiment. What did I really want out of life? I loved children, that was certain, from experiences at a summer business camp for elementary schoolers to those with my own baby sister, for whom I was a mentor, piano player, singer, big bear, wolf, princess, beast... I pursued this path through the cultural program at the library, signed up for the community homework help center, cooperated with the math teachers at my school to help failing students. What next? I adored mathematics to the point that it was impossible to bear its absence when I had first arrived in the U.S. To aid with this, I took an Honors Analysis course at the local university, participated in several math competitions, spent my experiential learning week on the subject. Later that year, inspired by "Freakonomics", a book written by a UChicago professor, I set out to do a research project of my own. Not only was I able to put myself in a behavioral economist’s shoes (which was great fun), but I also overwrote a popular conventional wisdom about bottled water and raised money for my school. After a temporary detour into the realm of theatre and music performance, I began my college search. Contrary to popular belief, I did not have to pick a path early on! In fact, at UChicago, I could experiment until my third year. What a relief indeed!

Senior year, the prevalent mood is “excited”. It is college application time, an entry year into adulthood. I am teaching a “Joy of Mathematics” class the first semester, continuing with piano performance, fencing, tutoring, babysitting. I am enjoying every available opportunity, overwhelmed but happy, eagerly awaiting the wonders 12th grade holds for me.

It’s safe to say even now that I’ve had the best possible time in high school. All that remains now is to pick a college that would allow my luck to continue. This essay is the final step towards that beautiful dream.

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