“Tell me everything important about yourself in 500 words or less.”–Essential prompt for personal statement essays.  Keyword: Important.


My parents told me that when I was a little kid, one of my favorite books was The Golden Picture Dictionary.  When I got older, and I started learning Chinese, I became a big fan of the Chinese-English dictionary.  My friends were all amazed at my ability to memorize words.

We hosted a Japanese exchange student for a weekend, and I thought I would teach myself the basics just to make her feel welcome.  Then I realized that Japanese was super easy and I taught myself more.  It turned out that her English wasn’t that great, so I was glad I prepared.  My dad asked me, “How are you doing this? You just started learning Japanese less than a week ago!”

When I lived with Vietnamese roommates, I started picking up Vietnamese pretty quickly.  I even started learning how to read.  I made notes and charts and spoke every day.

It’s been clear from the very beginning that my language acquisition ability is very strong.  And I’m excited to apply myself to go deeper into Korean.  Korean draws me because it is harsh and gentle at the same time.  It is brutally direct and elegantly subtle.  It has one of the most linguistically ingenious scripts in the world.  These eight weeks of language study will in no way be a waste, not only because I will retain much of what I learn, but also because I anticipate working in one of the Tiger countries.

But if I already speak Chinese, arguably the most important languages in the region, why would it be important for me to learn Korean?  The answer is that Korean society fascinates me.  The pressure to conform to social norms, especially prevalent in education is an idea that I’d like to explore more thoroughly.  The Korean notion of ppalri, ppalri has built their government—after the Korean war, people wanted to “hurry, hurry” and build a strong, new country.  As Korea has become a superpower, respected not only in Asia, but around the globe, this mindset is a role model that I’d like to see emulated in other places.  To understand this mindset, I should interview Koreans, especially those in my generation, to know where they see their country going, and where they see the rest of Asia going.  I am particularly interested in “where is the rest of Asia going” because in pursuing any of my diverse career interests, I’ll be located in Asia.

These career interests include the exponentially burgeoning tourism industry, the creative and simultaneously analytical marketing industry and the exhilarating and sometimes heartbreaking field of investigative journalism.  Knowing Korean will help me in any of these endeavors because I will be able to communicate with a lot more people.


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