" The Personal Statement should be a narrative giving a picture of you as an individual. Remember, applicants are not interviewed on the national level. The Personal Statement is your opportunity to “talk” about yourself and to tell the committee more about how you came to this point in your life and where you see yourself in the future. There is no single “right way” to approach the Statement; rather each candidate will consider what they think is important for people reviewing the application to know about them.
The Statement can deal with your personal history, family background, influences on your intellectual development, the educational and cultural opportunities (or lack of them) to which you have been exposed, and the ways in which these experiences have affected you. Also, you may include your special interests and abilities, career plans, and life goals, etc. It should not be a recording of facts already listed on the application or an elaboration of your Statement of Grant Purpose. It is more of an autobiography, and specifically related to you and your aspirations. "
14 drafts later, I crafted this:
The day my two moms met was one of the most moving, enlightening, and surreal days
of my life. Not only did I view the world a little differently afterwards, I also learned firsthand that education is not limited to classroom lesson plans.
While I have a great relationship with my American mom, I was eager to have four
months of freedom during my study abroad in Ecuador. This was my opportunity to escape the heated deliberations and head butting that characterized our lively relationship. I would escape the nagging and constant lectures on responsibility and self reliance. Although I want to follow in her footsteps as an educator, a break was well needed.
One thing was certain. I didn’t escape the nagging. I sure didn’t escape the debates. And
the lectures were more poignant than ever before. The only thing that was different was the
language. If Susan Brown were Ecuadorian she would be Cecilia de Cherréz Velasco, a woman who deeply cares for her “gringo” host children with sincerity only matched by my own mother. If my mother were there with me, she would worry that I would catch a cold in the torrential Andean rains and would hound me on the values of responsibility. Good thing she wasn’t with me, because her clone was doing a perfectly fine job herself.
When my American mom came to visit and my two moms finally met face to face, a
language barrier was evident. Although they could not verbally communicate with one another, they conversed with ease as they effortlessly crossed cultural and linguistic barriers. When I offered my American mom some delicious, yet questionably sanitary street food one day, she told me that the next time I see Cecilia I should ask her if it was safe to eat. Seeing the imminent problem, (as my host mom made me promise to never eat street food) I avoided the question when my two moms met. But my American mom insisted, saying, “Joshua Alan Brown, ask your mother if I can eat the food!”
I responded, saying, “Mom, trust me, it’s fine.”
However, much to my surprise, Cecilia was one step ahead of me.
What are you talking about?” she inquired in Spanish.
“Oh, nada, Ceci, todo bien.” I calmly answered, trying to keep my cool.
The next thing that happened was one of the most surreal moments of my life. Either my
American mom suddenly learned Spanish, or she can read minds, but they both looked at each other with a twinkle in their eye and started yelling. “You gave your mother street food!” Cecilia exclaimed. When one mother would raise her voice at me, the other, completely unaware of what was said, inferred the subject matter and then raised her voice as well, almost mimicking word for word what the other was saying. When they finally finished and the laughing stopped, Cecilia looked at me and said in Spanish, “You are your mother’s son.” No translation was necessary.
It was then I finally got it. I watched my two role models, people I aspire to emulate,
accomplish something so few people can do. They formed a deep meaningful, relationship that spanned language and culture by connecting on a very simple idea. Fortunately for me, I was the very thing that connected them. Because of my personal connections with Cecilia and my mom, they were able to relate to each other based on their relationship with me. But the lesson went a little deeper than that. This experience served as a primer for the very thing I hope to do as a teacher, which is giving people a way to learn about their similarities. I learned that meaningful bonds can open the door to numerous educational opportunities and can transcend even the largest of differences. Even to this day, my two moms still stay in touch via email, with me conveniently translating their letters. Education can indeed continue long after the school bell rings, and is certainly not confined to the classroom.
Jokes aside, as I reflect back on the past 12 months, I wonder if I was able to accomplish the goals I set out for myself in my Personal Statement. When I try and quantify or even qualify that question, I'm simply at a loss for words, much less an answer.
I guess all I can say is don't worry mom, I've only gotten sick from the street food once this year.
Until next time...