172/3.8 Personal Statement - Comments welcome

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
jp2013
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Jun 09, 2012 2:47 am

172/3.8 Personal Statement - Comments welcome

Postby jp2013 » Thu Sep 13, 2012 5:33 pm

The statement's vocal point used to be my volunteer work with North Koreans defectors, but it ended up talking too much about them and giving tons of background information to make it comprehensible to someone who isn't familiar with the situation. I've tried to shift the focus more onto myself in this version, but I feel like it doesn't carry the same amount of substance.

Also, the law school advisor at my university was dead set on making me write a concrete reason for why I'm attending law school, but I was under the impression that most schools don't want to hear that. Thoughts?

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After studying German, Russian, and Latin in high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a new language in college. A serendipitous decision led me to study Chinese, and I quickly fell in love with it. It was totally unlike anything I had ever seen or heard before, and I relished the challenge. My passion grew, and I resolved that I would put forth all of my effort to become fluent by the time I graduated. This led to the biggest challenge of my college career: a year abroad in China.

Life at first was tough. My orientation consisted of a secretary from the office buying me lunch and chatting as best we could with my limited Chinese. I had come alone and knew nobody for 6000 miles. I felt the pressure of my isolation when I woke up around four on my first morning. I went for a walk alone through the empty streets as the sun crested the horizon and couldn’t help but think, “Where am I, and what am I doing here?”

After classes began things got better. None of my classmates spoke English, but we had childlike conversations with our budding speaking skills. I met some Koreans who helped me buy a cell phone and a Russian who showed me around town. I was feeling less and less isolated, but the irony was that although I was speaking plenty of Chinese with the international students, I still had yet to meet any of the Chinese students.

The international students were cloistered off in a separate building that served not only as a dormitory but also housed our classrooms. There were no organized programs for integrating with the university students, and so I worked my way into everything from English discussion clubs to badminton tournaments by hunting for friends on campus. By the end of the third month I was texting non-stop in Chinese to my new acquaintances, but it would be a little while longer before I could remember how to pronounce the characters in their names, let alone which names belonged to who.

One of the oddest things about living in China was meeting North Koreans. There they were, the suited henchmen of the hermit kingdom, always proudly bearing a pin of Kim Il Sung on their lapels. Previously, I had only thought of North Korea as a semi-mythical land full of opulent party officials and starving underlings as it is so often portrayed. To see these party men in the flesh, and to have a casual conversation with them no less, was surreal. Even stranger was the amicable manner in which they addressed the South Korean students. I wanted explanations, and so I resolved that my next expatriate experience would be in South Korea.

“I can tell you the entire life story of Kim Il Sung, but I don’t know where Rome is!”

XX often made quips like this while we took a break to sip on the instant coffee that populates every South Korean conference room. The statements are a reminder of the physiological scars she carries with her, yet we had to laugh at their absurdity all the same. From her appearance alone nobody can tell, but XX is a North Korean defector.

I was eager to volunteer with North Korean defectors after I finally arrived in South Korea. I had already met the faces of the party and had come to understand that they were not the “real” North Koreans: they were the exceptions to the rule. XX was a real North Korean.

During our weekly English discussions XX and I evolved beyond the student-teacher relationship. She is now a dear friend, and I have learned from her far more than I could ever teach her. Living abroad I learned a tremendous amount about language and culture, but I also discovered how difficult it is to be alone in a strange new world. I am proud of how well I adapted; however, XX made me realize that the real challenge in living in another country is faced by those who cannot return home.

As I continue to travel through life and around the world, I no longer want to focus first on whom I can meet and what can I learn from them. After meeting XX, I would prefer to begin by thinking of what I know and how I can use my knowledge to help others. This is how I will approach life throughout the course of my legal education, and no matter where that education may take me I will remain dedicated to this maxim.

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Thanks for reading!

WhiskeynCoke
Posts: 372
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 1:12 am

Re: 172/3.8 Personal Statement - Comments welcome

Postby WhiskeynCoke » Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:04 pm

I see some potential, but this could use a lot of work. Some initial notes:

- The "study abroad" thing is incredibly overdone. Everyone and their mom gives the whole "being overseas and out of my comfort zone made me realize who I was" spiel.

- To combat this you must stand out by making yours different, including the structure.

You should start with this paragraph:
----------------
“I can tell you the entire life story of Kim Il Sung, but I don’t know where Rome is!”

XX often made quips like this while we took a break to sip on the instant coffee that populates every South Korean conference room. The statements are a reminder of the physiological scars she carries with her, yet we had to laugh at their absurdity all the same. From her appearance alone nobody can tell, but XX is a North Korean defector.

-----------

It immediately grabs the readers interest and sets you apart. Combine this first part with the last part of your first paragraph.

jp2013
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Jun 09, 2012 2:47 am

Re: 172/3.8 Personal Statement - Comments welcome

Postby jp2013 » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:06 am

Thanks for the advice.

I'd really like to know what you think the other issues (apart from grabbing attention at the beginning) are.

If the vibe you're getting is that I'm making an attempt to claim being abroad "made me realize who I was" or any nonsense like that let me know what makes you feel that way. The only thing I'm guess that could be interpreted that way is the part about XX making me realize the difficulty faced by refugees.

A couple of things that it probably would've helped to mention from the start: study abroad was a big thing for me because my major was Chinese (and my minor was Russian Language and Literature in case anyone is curious). The only exposure to Chinese I had before college was from fortune cookies and Jackie Chan movies. I was fluent after graduating in 3.5 years, and one of those years was in China. I'm not trying to pat myself on the back; I'm just saying that this year was a defining experience in college, not just BS for a personal statement, and my year afterwards on a Fulbright grant in Korea was an outgrowth of the experience.

Swimp
Posts: 493
Joined: Sat May 26, 2012 9:32 am

Re: 172/3.8 Personal Statement - Comments welcome

Postby Swimp » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:55 am

You cover a lot of ground here. The part about PRK defectors feels kind of tacked on, despite the fact that it seems to be the experience the whole China episode was leading up to. I get the feeling that maybe you started with the story about XX and then realized that you weren't talking enough about yourself, so you started with the China experience. Whether or not I'm right about that, the China stuff isn't all that interesting as written because it feels like a story I've heard so many times. I'd recommend zooming in on something here. Search your memory for a vignette that exemplifies the whole experience in miniature. Otherwise, you're going to be left with kind of a vanilla statement. Of course, that probably isn't the end of the world, as you seem to be hinting at with your mysterious inclusion of your GPA and LSAT score in the title.

WhiskeynCoke
Posts: 372
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 1:12 am

Re: 172/3.8 Personal Statement - Comments welcome

Postby WhiskeynCoke » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:10 pm

Exactly what Swimp said. Your first 5 paragraphs are very bland and generic ("Vanilla"). Condense all this shit into one, juicier paragraph. Rather than spending valuable space describing the menial details of adjusting to your surroundings abroad, capture this sense through a specific story. The story of XX and working with the North Korean defectors is perfect. Show the reader, through your actions and role in the details of this story, that you grew and matured as a person.

Second, and most importantly... Where are you going with this statement? It's hard to discern a central theme and I have no idea what your thesis is, even in a general sense. Is it:

"I lived in Asia and learned chinese, it was hard. When I was over there I met people who couldn't go home. now I want to help people." ??

Figure out what your trying to say, then say that through a story that also simultaneously demonstrates your qualifications as a law school candidate while showing how you've grown as a person.

WhiskeynCoke
Posts: 372
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 1:12 am

Re: 172/3.8 Personal Statement - Comments welcome

Postby WhiskeynCoke » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:25 pm

Some more thoughts... If you hadn't already considered it, you should try structuring your statement around what XX said:

“I can tell you the entire life story of Kim Il Sung, but I don’t know where Rome is!”

This quote speaks to a greater truism: That what you know and who you are is largely a product of where you born and raised. Through your story you can demonstrate how one can overcome the limitations (mentally, physically, financially, etc...) imposed on them by these factors and grow as a person if they put their soul into it.

When you first came to China, you knew the entire life of Kim Il Sung (except its the "Western" viewpoint) yourself but didn't know where Rome (how it was to exist elsewhere) was either. The story of working with the North Korean Defectors is a metaphor for your own growth and development. Your "awakening" to the outside world. You get the point.

Make your statement make a statement.

jp2013
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Jun 09, 2012 2:47 am

Re: 172/3.8 Personal Statement - Comments welcome

Postby jp2013 » Sat Sep 15, 2012 1:28 am

Thanks for the more detailed advice.

WhiskeynCoke wrote:When you first came to China, you knew the entire life of Kim Il Sung (except its the "Western" viewpoint) yourself but didn't know where Rome (how it was to exist elsewhere) was either. The story of working with the North Korean Defectors is a metaphor for your own growth and development. Your "awakening" to the outside world. You get the point.


I was thinking about this and another quote by a friend of mine in China popped into my head. Do you think it would be too repetitious to include two quotes, or would it lend some continuity to the statement?

In case you're wondering, the quote was something along the lines of: “If China tried to liberate Taiwan, do you think America would stop us?”

Swimp wrote:Otherwise, you're going to be left with kind of a vanilla statement. Of course, that probably isn't the end of the world, as you seem to be hinting at with your mysterious inclusion of your GPA and LSAT score in the title.


Exactly the opposite. I'm no genius, and I've worked hard to get those numbers. I want my personal statement to reflect my numbers (and thus my hard work), and I'm perfectly willing to admit that I need help to do it.


And yes, I started with my volunteer work with NK defectors but I discovered I spent half the statement explaining background information so that the reader could understand what I was doing and why. I then tried to start with China and have that lead into my work with defectors, but I guess the balance of the statement swung in the wrong direction.




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