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The Personal Statement that Got Me into the Best Liberal Arts College in the Nation

I spoke with a surprising amount of clarity. We were arguing over something political, or maybe something about a family friend of ours? I can’t remember. But I do clearly recall my mother’s eyes laying on me, a small smile of amusement on her familiar face.

Good parents are benevolent gods to their children. I most definitely believed this about my own. My parents gave me a home. I believed in them; that they wanted what was best for me. Retrospectively, I realize that as a child, I wasn’t able to imagine my parents being wrong. I took their immigrant, unassimilated Polish perspectives and ran with them as if they were my own.

I’ve spent every Saturday of the past 12 school years receiving a Polish supplementary education. The language is inflected and its rules are irregular. I spoke it well, unlike my classmates whose parents had let go of their culture, assimilated, and joined the stampede chasing the American dream. My family and I watched others gain, while we, ourselves, stagnated. I felt hurt. It seemed like tradition held us back.

And yet, was it really all bad? My family always maintained a traditional, Polish household: a Polish household that is nationalistic, tight-knit, and set in its ways. I was taught that patriotism was my number one priority; that because I was Polish, I was special. While admittedly ethnocentric, it provided a feeling of belonging that I could never find anywhere else. I see so much value in the traditions we keep because of that. Losing our traditions would inevitably remove our closeness. However, it all seemed forced and artificial; other than our patriotism, we had nothing in common, and I was left wondering if there was anything more. I knew these ideas weren’t organically mine.

Despite this influence, when inevitably confronted with new ideas, I instinctively choose to push back, ask why, and learn. I was born in New York City, a place of progressive liberalism that focuses on individuality and self-expression. The city is filled with people unlike me: people, with the ability to tell me I’m wrong. It’s filled with artists— not only visual artists, but creators, showing their infinitely diverse perspectives— and these artists had changed me, and made me an artist, myself, prioritizing the individual, because I see so much value in sharing and seeing perspective. Nowadays, I find so much joy in hearing what people have to share from their experiences and their take on them.

The summer I spent interning at the European Parliament exposed to me the nuances of the European Union. At home with my parents, Euroscepticism was prominent, and the proposition that once-opposing countries could work together with the help of communication and trust was ludicrous. And yet, I found myself in this world: world leaders conversing casually, unafraid of disagreement and discussion. They lived without cultural limitations, and I realized that I would soon find myself in a college dining hall as diverse as, if not more than, this one, filled with opinions different from my own. I was comforted by the tactfulness of the situation in front of me, and decided that I could and would echo this in my own future interactions.

I want to have free will and the opportunity to choose. To have that, I’ve learned that I need to be malleable and explorative. My traditions have value, but I’ve left behind that supreme dedication that was taught to me. I now feel the desire to throw myself into the sea of that which is different from me, so that I can learn and develop and be exposed to the world’s beauty and complexity. I look at my mother, chuckle, and say, “I hear what you’re saying, Mom, but I personally disagree.” The warm light of the ceiling lamp in the evening is comforting, and I feel satisfied in my diplomatic statement of dissent.