Hello fellow applicants! I'm in the process of sending in my apps and I was hoping to get some last minute feedback about my personal statement. Anything you can offer would be super appreciated!!
“Ek, do, teen. One, two, three.” The class and I stood facing each other, raising our fingers as we counted together. It was a week into my trip across northern India and I had already fallen in love – with the smell of freshly brewed chai wafting through the mid-summer air, with the busy streets lined with bright red flowers, but most of all, with the children standing directly in front of me.
I had booked the trip a month earlier at the urging of a friend, who insisted that I join him on his bi-annual trip to check up on the educational program he had organized a couple of years prior. The program serves the children of Mankaiya’s Musaher tribe – a group that belongs to the dalit caste, otherwise known as the “untouchables,” which is perhaps the most marginalized and disadvantaged population in India. It provides these children with an education that, due to oppressive policies and overwhelming discrimination by local government officials and employees, isn’t accessible to them through traditional routes. A self-proclaimed travel junkie, I couldn’t refuse an opportunity to journey across the world and see this kind of project in action, but I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into.
Soon, I found myself in a small village with no electricity or running water and only one other English speaker. In between counting lessons and lunch, I was crouching on the ground, repeating the word for “hair” in Hindi, then English, as a shy six year old touched my pigtail and giggled at my pronunciation. I knew no more than a dozen words in Hindi, and the children knew approximately that many words in English, but we traded whatever small phrases we could – simultaneously and gradually increasing our vocabulary in each other’s language. The ability to learn from and teach children who could not possibly lead a more opposite life than I did was amazing in its own right, but when I took a step back, there was an obvious difference between the overall impact I was having on these children’s futures and the impact that I wanted to have. I wanted to change their lives and leave them with a permanent benefit, but when I left the village, the class would likely be left with little more than a memory of the American girl who taught them some English phrases, and a slightly larger vocabulary.
In my classes at Berkeley, I learned that lasting, sustainable change is best achieved by addressing the root cause of an issue, not just the symptoms produced. By using the knowledge that I already had, I was able to address a symptom of the children’s exclusion from the public school system - the lack of training in a second language. However, I was not equipped to tackle any root causes. It requires a certain set of tools to effectively address the failures of a system with laws that do not adequately protect all children. To truly make a lasting difference in the lives of these children, and the thousands of others like them, more than just a teacher was required. These little ones needed someone to advocate on their behalf and to fight for their right to a public education.
Throughout my life, I’ve seen the remarkable difference that having a strong legal advocate fighting on someone's behalf can make. Working for a law firm that defends against foreclosures, I am able to use the little knowledge of the legal process that I already possess to advocate on behalf of my clients and help protect them from losing their homes. I am convinced that a legal education will only expand the ways in which I can help others live their best lives, whether it is by helping children across the world access their right to an education, or assisting a family who has fallen on tough times obtain a chance to keep their house. XXXXX's strong emphasis on teaching law as a tool to better serve the public provides an incredible opportunity to receive the training necessary to improve lives globally and locally, and I would be honored to study there next fall.
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