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Young Writers Project: College Admissions Essay

04/23/12 1:00AM
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Anna Rutenbeck, a long-time Young Writers Project writer, is a senior at Champlain Valley Union High School. She will be attending Bennington College next year.

College Admissions Essay
By Anna Rutenbeck
Grade 12, Champlain Valley Union High School

Once when it was November and just turned freezing cold I went outside with my orange-painted toes and stood where pavement meets grass. The grass was cold and wet; the pavement was colder. There were too many things to think about and not enough hours in the day, not enough water in the world to soak my feet for the amount of time I needed to think these thoughts.

I was thinking about writing, friendship, my trip to China the summer previous. Thinking about the people I met and how much I missed the strong sense of community that was developed in those three short weeks. When you throw 13 students who would otherwise dislike each other on a plane to China, you give them two options: put aside your differences and become a family or be miserable. Needless to say, we chose the former. And we were a family.

Thinking about how much that trip had opened my mind, forced me to think unconventionally. When the streets are flooding, the rain still coming down hard, and you speak only a minimal amount of Chinese, you have to start thinking unconventionally.

Thinking about food. How entrenched food is in the culture of a place. "Food in the north is bland," says my teacher, "so people in the north are bland. Food in Sichuan is spicy, so the people in Sichuan are spicy.” I never realized how true that was until our plane from Beijing landed in Chengdu.

When I think about that landing I’m transported back to the airport, everyone sticky from sweat and tired from a too-long day of travel, luggage missing and teachers yelling. Locals yelling, students yelling, everyone angry. How ready we all were, in those moments, to just go home. Next getting on the bus and going to our hotel. Remembering that we were a family and staying up until midnight talking anyway-- because everything that everyone had to say was important. Everything that everyone had to say was always important.

Culture affected our family as much as anything. When you're in one of the most culturally ancient places in the world, it's to be expected. Who knew we would bond over not only three-hour bus rides through the rain, but experiencing things that were culturally astonishing? The giant Buddha at Leshan, prayer flags adorning the mountainside of Emei Shan. For a bunch of kids from Vermont with almost no sense of world religion, this was huge, this was beautiful, this was eye-opening and world-changing. Our family had more to bond over than a common high school and some mutual Facebook friends-- we were experiencing the world together.
Standing with my toes in the grass, my feet on the pavement. Grass cold, the pavement still colder, there is no better way to think about ending my career as a high school student than thinking back on a family that I miss and experiences that have changed the way I view the world.

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