Greetings. I was wondering if any of you kind folks could have a look at my "Zero Draft" of my personal statement. Is it too cliche? (Going overseas. etc?) I guess I think it might be lacking in direction, but any suggestions would be helpful (I'm uncertain about how best to start the thing). Anywho, thank you in advance!
We would often choose to work long into the night after the rest of the Interfax news team had completed another day of work on the 15th floor of the XinCheng high-rise office building in Shanghai, China. As they filed out into streets bustling with hoards of taxis, bikes, buses and cars, the intrepid energy desk team, which consisted of two Chinese reporters and myself, would have the mostly-empty office to ourselves to work more and freely debate topics which would have been frowned upon between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. For example, I was met with jaw-dropping fascination when I informed my two colleagues that I was the oldest of six children in a mixed race household, something, I was informed, that could never happen in China. I was equally surprised to learn that one of my co-workers had a younger brother who was working on a farm in the impoverished Anhui province because he was unable to receive a proper education due to China’s strict one-child policy. These small, yet significant revelations helped me better understand my place and purpose in a country that I ended up in almost as if by chance.
For as long as I can remember, I have always sought experiences that involved going well outside of my comfort zone. I believe that in conjunction with a solid educational foundation, such events are prime opportunities to stimulate myself intellectually, cultivate empathy and grow as a person. Although I only had to complete just two courses in order to complete my degree in 2008, I decided at the time that it would be best to step out of the academic realm for the first time in over 20 years and enrich myself with experiences in the real world before finishing undergrad studies officially and deciding upon a graduate program. It was after having little luck finding gainful employment in California that I made the decision to move to Shanghai in a week’s notice in March of 2010. Upon arriving in a city of some 20 million, I very quickly discovered that there were virtually no safety nets or guarantees of any kind. I knew the risk that I had taken would only pay off if I took initiative and adapted at the pace of the city itself: immediately. With the help of a longtime friend, I began work the morning after my arrival as editor of the energy desk at Interfax China.
The most challenging aspect about adapting to and living in an environment that was literally about as far away from my California roots as I could have gone was not the different ideas, foods, or even the government, whose distrust of a foreigner with a journalist visa was made apparent via its almost endless requests to appear at various administrative buildings throughout the city to check my passport and sign papers. It was the simple act of communicating effectively that initially hindered my ability to thrive. Everything I had learned in school all the way through to my studies at Berkeley seemed to disappear as I struggled to learn a language considered among the most difficult in the world. My English studies meant practically nothing in situations that required me to do something as simple as order food or more complex tasks such as asking one of the Chinese reporters to elaborate on an idea in a story. I soon realized that the level of education I had attained, by itself, would not amount to anything of value unless I took the initiative and used what my studies at Berkeley had taught me: to closely analyze situations, work hard and to keep an open mind.
I became determined to hone my writing and editing skills at work and study Mandarin furiously on the weekends and various evenings with my tutor. I realized that I had not been this studious or driven since college, perhaps even more so, given that the heft of responsibility lay squarely on me and that I would have to pay for the mistakes I made, as opposed to my parents. As a result, I made vast improvements in my analytical writing and editing skills and was promoted to Lead Editor of all departments and manager of the fast-paced energy department. With the trust I had gained from my team, I was dubbed “Older Brother” or “gēge” (哥哥), a role I had already assumed in a different, yet no less important capacity.
While having the effect of boosting my confidence and ability to communicate more effectively, I was better able to focus my attention on the future, because I knew that at the end of the one-year contract I had signed, I would definitely go back to the U.S. with a newfound commitment to pursuing a graduate degree. The year I spent in China helped to solidify and enhance what I had learned in my undergraduate studies while at the same time provide me with skills that have allowed me to make a mature, considered decision about the best course of action to take regarding my graduate studies, something that could not possibly be learned in a classroom. Although I had merely pondered the idea of going to law school since I was in high school, I did not seriously consider it a full-fledged passion until after I had arrived back in California. Thus, I completed the required courses for my degree and have been attempting to gain as much practical legal experience as possible by working on criminal cases as an assistant to a private investigator. While criminal law may not be the type that I end up practicing, I am rapidly learning a new vernacular that will certainly improve my chances at success in law school and beyond.