Fresh Air

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Slapping away yet another mosquito, I scrabbled and slid on the rough, gravel path. The steam rising from the earth fogged my glasses and gave credence to the affectionate nickname we had for this place: ‘Hell’. It was the summer after sophomore year, and I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into. There I was, 2500 kilometers from home in what was, for all intents and purposes, the middle of nowhere. I ducked under an overhanging tree branch and paused to listen to the muffled screech of a howler monkey somewhere in the distance. As it turned out, howler monkeys would be just one of the varieties of simians I encountered in that jungle, situated near the mouth of the Tempisque River in northwest Costa Rica. Reaching a clearing on the trail, our group, led by Carlos, a large, mustachioed man who habitually wielded a machete and a crossbow (the latter of which I never divined the purpose of) came upon a small band of white-faced capuchin monkeys, which proceeded to shake branches and throw sticks at us. It was the third species of simian to bombard me with wooden projectiles that week. Our group huddled together and stared intently at the monkeys, who responded by huddling together and staring intently at us. It was a bit of an awkward moment for both species. After leaving the eerily humbling rendezvous with our fellow primates, we continued along the path and came upon the mountain’s final rise. I gripped the top of the bare granite ledge and scrambled up. For an instant, my heart stopped and the blood in my veins congealed icily. A mercifully cool breeze filled my lungs as I gazed across the splendor of Parque Naciónal Palo Verde. I forgot the rivulets of sweat rolling down my face, I forgot the dozens of mosquito bites, I forgot the welt where a particularly well-aimed nut had struck me, and I forgot the water bottle that had slipped out of my hands and fallen into the rainforest canopy a few minutes previously. None of it mattered now. The malarial swamp that dominated the landscape of the research station was now but a verdant carpet, spreading, green and velveteen, to the ridge that formed the opposite side of the valley, its blue peaks shrouded in the clouds of the impending rainy season. There, on that rocky plinth, as the fresh air off the Gulf of Nicoya whipped around me, I knew why I had gone there to study, and I was at peace. I hope the university I choose will offer a similarly liberating experience. I have spent the majority of my life climbing to the point where I stand now, on the cusp of a whole new set of invigorating experiences. My most fervent desire now is to take that last step and breathe deep of that refreshing intellectual atmosphere, and I hope the college I choose can help me achieve my goal.

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