Writing the college application essay is a daunting task.
But the change went deeper than that: I had embraced the idea of being myself, no matter what others thought was cool or “normal.” Spending time in a place where “Most Original” was the highest compliment allowed me to explore myself without fear of being different or lesser, and I liked what I had found.In our College Essay Clichés to Avoid post, we advised students against writing about moving to America from a foreign country.Too often, such essays are formulaic and uninspiring – after all, while it’s certainly a challenge to learn a new language and culture, millions of people do it every day, so it simply isn’t something that sets a student apart.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.In my hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, where normality was…well, the norm, I tried to be a typical student – absolutely, perfectly normal. Our peers recognized them as being unique, but instead of ostracizing them or pitying them, the students in Berkeley celebrated them.In Berkeley, I learned the value of originality: Those who celebrate their individuality are not only unique but strong.If this sounds like you, then please share your story. You can’t be the best, or the prettiest, so you have to be “original.” I’ve won the “Most Original” award a fair number of times.I won “Most Original” pumpkin at a Halloween party years ago. I was even named “Most Original” at a basketball awards banquet. How can anybody be “Most Original” when she’s playing basketball?Okay, maybe I’m overreacting – but I cannot for the life of me understand that award. Her best friend was a boy with purple hair who once wore a shirt with built in LED lights for Christmas.“Most Original” always let me down, and as a result, I hated to be original in any context. They were the most popular people in school, in direct contrast to all that was socially acceptable in New Haven.