Georgia Tech is proud to draw students from around the United States and countries throughout the world. This unique compilation of academic interests, personal backgrounds, and various life experiences creates an exciting and inspiring educational mix. Given your personal background, what would you hope to learn and contribute through becoming part of this sort of campus community?
All my life, I’ve considered myself an American. Born to a Jewish-American father and a Japanese mother, I’ve been surrounded by two cultures in drastically unequal proportions. I never understood what it really meant to have more than one identity or to be patriotic to a single country.Though I insisted on being strictly “American,” all of the hot dogs and apple pies in the world couldn’t change my features into those of the typical American. I always looked different, but I tried to mask my singularity with a false enthusiasm for American values. I used makeup to make my eyes look rounder and refused to speak Japanese to my mother in public. In elementary school, I was tormented with the desire to assimilate. That is, I was tormented until I visited Japan for the first time.I traveled to Japan during the summer before 11th grade; before the plane landed, I felt an inexplicable, intrinsic pull to my mother’s homeland. I felt a deep yearning to see the country I had seen on TV — the modernized, futuristic cities juxtaposed with the ancient shrines and architecture. Finally, I was in a place where I would be just another Asian, another dark, short head bobbing among the throngs of natives.However, these false expectations jarred me as I stepped foot inside Narita Airport — the familiar emotions I thought I would not experience here had suddenly engulfed me in an unexpected wave from the past. Once again, I just didn’t belong. My mother chatted with the locals, bartering for fresh fruits and vegetables while I shied away from using any of the rudimentary Japanese skills I possessed. She navigated the cities with finesse while I blindly stumbled my way across town, causing everyone to ask where I was from. They could tell I wasn’t a local. I couldn’t reconcile that in my mind — why was it that in America I looked so Asian, but then in Japan, I looked so American? It didn’t feel fair at the time. Didn’t I have a country in whose soil I could proudly plant my flag of loyalty? I felt like an outsider, caught between two countries and belonging to neither. And then something miraculous happened. As I walked down the streets, I began to notice that the Japanese faces melted into each other. A homogenous population, they all looked the same: same hair color, same eye shape, same height, same complexion. I must not have been the first to notice, though, because extreme fashions were the norm, and thus, they assimilated into each other once again. As my month-long stay in Japan drew to a close, I learned an invaluable lesson, one I will never forget: instead of seeing myself as the victim of racial insecurities, I realized that not belonging to a single country is actually a great advantage. Instead of wandering the world with no country to call my own, I now have two countries to call home. I have two flags, planted upon two different soils, and between them, I have constructed a bridge upon which I can travel from to the other or relax contentedly in the middle. My self-confidence has grown tremendously from my trip to Japan, and I have come home proud and sometimes even a little smug about the fact that I have dual citizenship. This newly acquired confidence has stayed with me ever since I’ve returned to the States. I am different from everybody else, and I am proud of my differences. I learned from the local Japanese that everyone wants to be different — the unconventional fashions prove it. Ironically, the most adamant extremists are actually the biggest conformists of all. If you really want to stand out, all you have to do is embrace your own identity. From that summer, I have grown incredibly open-minded to all cultures. What I can contribute to Georgia Tech is a positive attitude toward diversity and the desire to add to the mix. I hope I can teach other people about being confident and accepting while increasing those qualities in myself. I want to teach people through my personal experience that searching for “home” will only gain you a land, perhaps a population to call your own. But if you really want to find it, “home” is yourself. And you can only find yourself after accepting your differences, your quirks, and all the things that make you singular. Once I became unfettered by convention, I stood out all on my own.