Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story

If someone inquired what the end of the world would be like, the responses in return would envision a million different disasters, and then some, from the realms of science, folklore, religion, and more. From the sun crashing into us, to the ice caps melting, to mountains collapsing – it would be described as catastrophic. October 8, 2005 was that day for me. The night before, I had gotten into bed in my little home in Bagh, in Azad Kashmir, expecting tomorrow to be like the rest. I had woken up the next day, and was going along with my mundane routine. As I brushed my teeth, I glanced at the clock – 8:51 AM, and … it began.

Engaging every single sense of mine – my eyes saw the whole house shake with such rigor. My ears tried to distinguish between the sound of everything crumbling around me, and my mother yelling for me. My legs, my entire body was trying to retain its balance, as the ground shook with such intensity. Everything happened so fast, as my mother, sister, and I stood together, praying and reciting holy verses under our breath. After it stopped, we stood in the open for an hour or so, unsure of what was to follow. The scenes that followed were very devastating as we travelled across the town. The debris of the damaged buildings were scattered everywhere. The communication systems were cut off, and we could not reach our relatives in other cities of the country. My first time experiencing an earthquake, the magnitude of which was measured to be 7.6 (U.S. Geological Survey); and my home had to be in the second most affected district, so close to the epicenter. The aftershocks kept haunting us. How was I going to carry on over here?

With the aftermath of the earthquake resulting in a lack of basic amenities like food, shelter, and clothing, there were numerous problems at hand for my family and I. However, those problems I felt could still be dealt with somehow. The real problem was “education”. Our school needed at least 6 to 7 months to reconstruct, which meant that I had to miss the school for that time. My parents decided to move us to Islamabad, the capital of the country, for better schooling. This was the most pivotal decision to affect my life. Settling down in the city was a huge change, but I had just braved what I thought was the Armageddon; I felt then that I could take on anything.

I remember my first day at my new school as I hesitantly walked into a classroom full of unfamiliar faces, a group of kids throwing around inside jokes, and slang that I didn’t recognize. As a shy kid, I had a hard time making new friends, but eventually I started finding it easier. I started to like my new school, and the teachers. I made some new friends, and soon I found my place. If I am applying to US universities today that’s only because of moving to Islamabad. As someone who values education above all, I knew that I had to adjust and learn. I still miss my old friends, but I know that moving here was the right thing to do because I never would have met the people I have otherwise. Life has it’s up and downs, but once you brave the storm, you can enjoy the waves. It seems strange to say it, but when I look back to the day of that Earthquake, I see that maybe it just jolted me towards better things was for the best. Change can be a good thing; even if we hate it at the time. We need to learn to embrace it and give it a chance; it could end up being the best thing that has ever happened to us.

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