My New York City Experience

Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

As I headed towards the corner of 58th Street and 9th Avenue, towards one of the various Ray’s Pizza restaurants scattered about New York City, I saw a bicyclist cut off a taxi driver in rush hour traffic. Normally, this violation would result in a horn from the driver; however, the taxi driver must have screamed something offensive, because the cyclist stopped, backed up, and pulled next to the taxi. At this point the taxi driver stepped out of his car (passenger in the back) to face the cyclist in the middle of the street. I turned to an Indian man in a suit standing to my right and muttered, “This should be interesting.” After a mouthful of slurs and insults, no one threw a punch, as we expected. When the traffic light flashed green, we continued in the same direction and began to talk. Our conversation followed the template of stranger-to-stranger talks in New York City. People ask, “What do you do for a living?”, “Where are you from?”, but never inquire “Who are you?” What we had just seen reminded him of a situation he had witnessed some fifteen years ago in his hometown, Calcutta. A man, clearly of high caste status based on his clothing, was screaming at a taxi driver and began violently shoving him. Although the passenger’s claims may have been justified, the crowd on the street sided with the lowly cab driver and ganged up on the rich man. After telling me this story and something about his job as an investor, my acquaintance turned up 6th Avenue. My city daily allows a glimpse of different cultures, even those on the opposite side of the world. My family represents a microcosm of this city, as my mother is from Detroit and my father is from Istanbul. Every holiday, be it Passover or New Year’s, it is hilarious to see my father’s parents speaking a mixture of French, Turkish, and German, and to watch everyone else try to decipher it. Seeing through the eyes of others has been enhanced by my involvement in Model UN, which requires me to defend cultural values different my own. At my first debate, for example, I discovered that my partner and one of the representatives from the Republic of Djibouti could not attend the conference. I was re-assigned to represent Djibouti, a small African country that is primarily Islamic but is financed by the secular nation, France. Our topic covered nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. As the representative of an Islamic country with funding from a western nation, I was left with few options to both benefit my country and appease the riled representatives of the Middle East. Due to my Jewish heritage, it was particularly hard to adopt a viewpoint against Israel. Nevertheless, I took on Lebanon’s view and argued against a cause I believe in, nuclear nonproliferation. I proposed a controlled and secure environment for Iranian, Palestinian, and Israeli nuclear development, which appeased the representatives of each nation but did not abate the looming threat in the Middle East. With only one amendment, my treaty was passed unanimously. Disregarding my personal standpoint in order to analyze others’ views has strengthened my reasoning abilities and taught me intellectual empathy. Conceptualizing different sides of an argument has also allowed me to examine and often adjust my views so that they are neither too biased nor too extreme. This ability to think from different vantage points also influences my choice of how I want to proceed in life. I hope to find a career that demands an ability to understand various perspectives, solve problems, and imagine situations from diverse, even opposing, viewpoints.

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