PS about travel--near final draft please critique

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SpaceMonkey182
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:20 pm

PS about travel--near final draft please critique

Postby SpaceMonkey182 » Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:25 pm

Airplane rides have long lost their novelty for me. The thrill of travel, however, will never be easily shaken. Travel is and has always been an integral part of my life. Whether it was tagging along with my parents on a business trip to Munich, backpacking with a friend across the Iberian Peninsula, riding elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand, snorkeling with whale sharks in Mozambique, or studying abroad at the University of Cape Town, each place that I have been has opened my mind to a new set of experiences. While these experiences have been both good and bad, inspiring and sobering, they have all contributed to my current quest to study environmental and international law.
In Thailand, I became uncomfortably familiar with the dangerous side of mother nature after witnessing the devastating effects of the 2004 tsunami, all from the steps of my hotel. Seeing the destruction in person, amplified by the ineffectual emergency response efforts of a third world country motivated me to use the shocking photos I took in Phuket to raise over $5,000 for the International Red Cross through my high school and local rotary club upon my return to the US.
Backpacking through Spain and Portugal, where my background in French and Mandarin was useless to me, I learned not only the importance of communication, but also the depths of my own self-sufficiency. Traveling cross-country without reservations, while translating and improvising along the way all does wonders for ones' confidence. But never could I have anticipated what I would experience during a semester abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. There, travel became more to me than just a pleasure seeking endeavor, or an opportunity to take nice pictures and buy souvenirs. Because in Cape Town, I met Freddy.
South Africa is the richest and most developed country in Africa, so naturally it is the target of a huge number of immigrants. Which is why it should have been no surprise to see a beggar at our doorstep. Freddy was from Tanzania. He had recently moved to Cape Town with his family and was trying to secure a new house for them, which would have been a step up from the crudely made shacks that littered the surrounding lowlands of the city. All he needed was enough for a housing deposit, he said, and his family was guaranteed a home. I gave him the 250 Rand he asked for (about 25 US Dollars) because he seemed like he was telling the truth, and admittedly, his story had gotten through to my conscience. A week later I was surprised to find Freddy at our gate again, but this time he wasn't begging. He'd gotten the house! Freddy became a frequent visitor to our house, always giving us updates on the house and his increasingly problematic landlord. And then for a month Freddy didn't show up. One of his friends finally did, and explained to us that Freddy had killed himself. He couldn't come up with the rent for his new house, and it was taken away from him. His family had nowhere to stay, and he couldn't feed his baby, so he killed himself.
South Africa changed the way I look at poverty and Africa as a whole. It renewed my interest in the continent and its social, political, and environmental problems. Living with 10 other students of mixed backgrounds and nationality, I learned about apartheid through the perspective of people that had experienced it, and then saw the effects of it first hand as I traveled around southern Africa. Africa showed me that travel is necessary not only to learn how the world works, but also to learn who you really are as a person. From it I learned that I am passionate about wildlife conservation, about third world politics, and about globalization.
After experiencing the vast dichotomies that exist within South Africa first hand, I came home with a much clearer understanding of not just South Africa, but the third world in general, and the problems that plague it. I found within me a newfound enthusiasm to learn everything I could about Africa and third world politics. I took black studies classes, anthropology, and even film studies to fulfill my degree's emphasis on the African region. What I learned from my stay in Cape Town and from the subsequent classes I took back home is that third world politics and environmentalism, my other prominent academic interest, have a lot in common. Many of the biggest problems endangering the health of our planet, such as deforestation, water and air pollution, and soil erosion, all can be pegged as the consequences of poverty and unwise developmental strategies used by third world countries.
I want to study both environmental law and international law because each individual subject only becomes stronger, both more coherent and more relevant when viewed from each other's perspectives. Environmentalism cannot be viewed on just a local level, because the environment is a global system, just as one cannot conduct international business or aim to solve international social problems without first taking into account the environmental implications. The law has both the ability to enable, as well as to restrain. Paving the way for new business opportunities is just as important as the protection and conservation of assets we as a planet already have. Seeing the amazing wildlife of Kruger National Park, the breathtaking views of Blyde River Canyon, and lush rainforests of Mozambique reminded me of how much beauty there is in the natural world, and how much it's worth saving. Meeting people like Freddy showed me the depths of human suffering, and that people like him are worth saving just as much. In my mind, the best tools available to me in order to make a difference in the world are through the study of law, where I can combine my interests in environmental and international law into a challenging and rewarding career.


I'm nearing my final draft and want to submit soon so any timely suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

LSATclincher
Posts: 476
Joined: Mon Nov 30, 2009 12:09 pm

Re: PS about travel--near final draft please critique

Postby LSATclincher » Thu Jan 20, 2011 9:49 pm

If you're applying this cycle, I'd suggest getting this out tonight. I liked the statement. I think you tied in some great experiences, and really nailed this "why x kind of law?" PS. There might be some grammatical issues, but I'm too exhausted to edit them. Nothing stood out in plain view, however.

CanadianWolf
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Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: PS about travel--near final draft please critique

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Jan 20, 2011 9:57 pm

The first six paragraphs range from very good to excellent; the final paragraph is terrible.

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Cade McNown
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Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:54 pm

Re: PS about travel--near final draft please critique

Postby Cade McNown » Thu Jan 20, 2011 10:04 pm

reading. But how long is this double spaced in word. At first glance looks too long.

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Cade McNown
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Re: PS about travel--near final draft please critique

Postby Cade McNown » Fri Jan 21, 2011 12:14 am

Ok, pretty good overall, but I think you should condense. First, avoid the temptation to list your travels. A lot of privileged young people apply to law school, and many of them have been places. If you really feel the need to list, do it in a travel section of your resume under the extracurriculars section. "Travel" along with "Overcoming Adversity" is the most trite PS topic, and if you are going to do it well then get to the point, otherwise you just come off as arrogant.

"Airplaine rides have long lost their novelty for me.": douche
"Riding Elephants in Chiang Mai": Kewl story brah
"Snorkeling with whale sharks in Mozambique": really...?
"studying abroad at the University of Cape Town": yeah, you and hundreds of other wasps every semester...

These statements get at nothing about your potential. Yes they were thrilling, but so what? At best they are neutral, at worst they reflect poorly on you because you overestimate the impact they will have on adcomms reading the statement. Don't be boastful. Instead of drawing us in, you detract from the experiences that matter. These, of course, are the more human ones:

1) Your experience of and reaction to the tsunami, and
2) Your relationship with Freddy

Focus on these alone, trash the other stuff. You don't need a roundabout way to introduce your interest in environmental and international law. Trust me, by the end of the essay they will get it, and frankly you spoil the ending in the first paragraph. So nix the first paragraph and instead start with something like this:

"Sobered by travels abroad I am inspired to act. I came to Phuket for leisure, but from the steps of my hotel I watched as the tsunami uprooted trees, buildings and lives. Almost as horrifying was the ineffectual response...photos, fundraising...say what you want here..."

The bit about Spain and Portugal doesn't really fit. Sure you backpacked through nature. Whatever. This seems like a shameless way to plug your French and Mandarin skills, and really doesn't add much to the thesis. You want every experience you talk about to relate to nature conservation and the development of a worldly empathy. Ask yourself if there was anything particularly inspiring or sobering about this experience, and if not, then drop it.

Next, CONDENSE the anecdote about Freddy. It's a very moving story, but you need not go on and on about it. Try something like this:

"Then I met Freddy, a Tanzanian immigrant turned beggar at my doorstep in Cape Town. Asked only for the 250 Rand ($25) it cost to place a housing deposit, I figured it was a fair price to help a man and his family secure shelter. His story had gotten through to my conscience....tie it off...so he killed himself."

Boom. You just hit them hard. Move on to your point now, which must answer the question, why law school? Go for something like:

"With the right approach, these evils are all preventable. I must empower myself to address such social, political and environmental tragedies, and a degree in international and environmental law..." Then explain why while including your interests/academic background/observations etc.

To wrap it up, don't just regurgitate the things you've already told us. We know, we read it. Develop the idea that environmental and international law complement each other.

In sum, you've got a good topic but it needs more than just some touch ups. Give it a structure, make sure every line adds something to the product as a whole.

SpaceMonkey182
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:20 pm

Re: PS about travel--near final draft please critique

Postby SpaceMonkey182 » Sun Jan 23, 2011 2:13 am

wow, thanks guys. All of these suggestions have been immensely helpful. I rewrote most of my paper, here it is. ta da.


When I first saw the clump of waterlogged tourists on the hotel lawn, drying out their sand-filled luggage, I thought there had been a shipwreck. The sight of newly formed sand dunes in the middle of main street, vehicles left perched precariously on second story balconies, and giant umbrellas strewn like matchsticks across the beach revealed something far worse. Witnessing the devastation of the 2004 tsunami on the island of Phuket while remaining physically untouched was a strange feeling. This detachment and helplessness I felt was amplified by the ineffectual emergency response efforts of a third world country, and it motivated me to use the shocking photos I took in Thailand to raise over $5,000 for the International Red Cross through my high school and local rotary club upon my return to the US. Helping the victims of the tsunami felt great, but it lacked a certain level of personal involvement. The kind of involvement that I would later gain during a semester abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. Travel has always been an integral part of my life, but in Cape Town travel became more than a series of sights and sounds experienced second hand. Because in Cape Town, I met Freddy.

Freddy was from Tanzania. He had recently moved to Cape Town with his family and was trying to secure a new house for them, which would have been a step up from the crudely made shacks that littered the surrounding lowlands of the city. All he needed was enough for a housing deposit, he said, and his family was guaranteed a home. I gave him the 250 Rand he asked for (about 25 US Dollars) because his heartfelt story had gotten through to my conscience. A week later I was surprised to find Freddy at our gate again, with news that he'd gotten the house! Freddy became a frequent visitor to our house, always giving us updates on the house and his increasingly problematic landlord. And then for a month Freddy didn't show up. We later found out that Freddy couldn't come up with the rent for his new house, and it was taken away from him. His family had nowhere to stay, and he couldn't feed his baby, so he killed himself.

South Africa changed the way I look at poverty and Africa as a whole. I learned about apartheid through the perspective of people that had experienced it, and then saw the effects of it first hand as I traveled around southern Africa. Africa showed me that travel is necessary not only to learn how the world works, but also to learn who you really are as a person. I discovered within me a burning enthusiasm to learn everything I could about Africa and third world politics. What I discovered from my stay in Cape Town and from the subsequent black studies and African anthropology classes I took back home is that third world politics and environmentalism, my other prominent academic interest, are driven by similar forces. Many of the biggest problems endangering the health of our planet, such as deforestation, water and air pollution, and soil erosion, all can be pegged as the consequences of poverty and unwise developmental strategies used by third world countries.

I want to study both environmental law and international law because each individual subject only becomes stronger, both more coherent and more relevant when viewed from each others' perspectives. Environmentalism cannot be viewed on just a local level, because the environment is a global system, just as one cannot conduct international business or aim to solve international social problems without first taking into account the environmental implications. Seeing the amazing wildlife of Kruger National Park, the breathtaking views of Blyde River Canyon, and lush rainforests of Mozambique reminded me of how much beauty there is in the natural world, and how much it's worth saving. Meeting people like Freddy showed me the depths of human suffering, and that people like him are out there and need our help. In my mind, the best tools available to me in order to make a difference in the world are through the study of law, where I can combine my interests in environmental and international law into a challenging and rewarding career.




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