Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Personal Statement

Attempting to write a personal statement is quite possibly the most arduous thing I have encountered in all my years.  It is the most unique assignment I have ever had to complete, and possibly the most important.  It's sad that I cannot seem to write a captivating few pages about my life's history and what makes me unique.  I'm surprised anyone applying to graduate school ever completes this assignment.

While not the most interesting man alive, I have had several experiences that seem to set me apart.  Some came as I lived in Portugal for two years as a missionary for the LDS Church.  (This is common among Utah students, especially males, but I believe very unique to the rest of the country.)  Even more unique is learning a language to fluency, a skill that I cherish and hope to expand.  Consider living in a different country speaking a foreign language with only one arm.  That is how I spent a few months in Portugal after severing some tendons in my left wrist.  How many people can say that they have ridden in a Portuguese ambulance for an injury caused by shattering the glass panels on an apartment building door?  Few.

Other experiences came during college.  Though not the first and certainly not the last, I was an intern in the United States Congress for a semester.  Not only did I have the daily duties of answering phone calls, guiding tours through the Capitol, writing letters and attending meetings, I also had to write a 25 page research paper.  What else made that unique?  I was there for "the Blizzard of 2012" - a snow storm that rendered the city inoperable for a solid week or two.  I saw President Obama board Marine One from the White House lawn and shook the hand of legendary new anchor Dan Rather.

Another college experience was completing an internship in Amman, Jordan.  I went there on a whim, to be honest.  After being told that the Brazil internships were canceled, I looked to go somewhere else.  Browsing through the list of internships I found "Ministry of Social Development" in Jordan.  My initial response was to quickly turn the page - there was no way I was going to the Middle East.  I knew very little about the Middle East.  I knew Osama Bin Laden was hiding there, riots were happening there, and Jesus walked there.  Beyond that, I knew nothing about that region of the Earth.  Yet somehow I kept turning to that page to read more about the internship.  Then, out of curiosity I talked to an academic counselor about it.  Not only did I find myself turning in an application and resume, but I actually wanted to go.  I couldn't explain it.  I still can't.  But I am extremely glad that I went through with it.

I first found myself in the Middle East without a plan.  I knew I was going to be an intern, but that was it.  I had no home, no phone, no friend, and no ability to communicate.  Although I knew I should be panicking as I sat in the airport at 8 p.m. with nothing but my bags, I was totally calm.  My mom had told me before I boarded the plane that everything was going to be fine, so everything was going to be fine.  I bought a phone, met Vladimir from Russia, and together we split a cab to the city.  I spent two nights at a local church building before I was able to find an apartment.

It took me a month or so to really feel comfortable and safe.  Just when things were going great someone stole my bag containing everything important to me: passport, wallet, phone, camera, favorite hat.  Gone.  Being an American in a foreign land is one thing.  Being unidentifiable is another.  Fortunately I was able to replace the passport for a successful trip home, but it wasn't without hardship.

My trip to the Middle East was enlightening on several fronts.  I learned a lot about the world, especially Arabs, that I never can fully express through words.  To understand a people you must live among them.  I learned that I can do things for myself, but you must be able to work with others.  I learned that there are many different views in the world, and it is possible to respect each other.  I could go on.

That was much more about Jordan than I had expected to write.  I was just going to mention that I feel like a fairly dynamic person.  My resume attests to that.  I have worked at a radio station, car dealership, congressman's office, Middle Eastern office, and in the IT department of Utah's biggest car dealer.  Outside of work is no different.  I have run in dozens of races, weight lifted, played sports, acted, sung, danced, volunteered, and served - a lot of which was done while I was completing my bachelor's in Information Systems and a minor in Political Science.  I don't know why I have done many of the things above, but I don't regret it.

I guess the big question is: can I use any of that on my personal statement?

1 comment:

Tyler, Brooke, Britain, Braden and Beckham said... you have done a lot and I absolutely think all of these experiences are noteworthy for the very reasons you listed here. I don't know how formal it needs to be but I really like your style of should feel very proud and blessed for all you've done!