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Challenging Routines with New Fears

Challenging Routines with New Fears

By Anya Carter

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Let me paint the opening of my graphic novel: Five igloos stand tall against the whipping wind as girls huddle in their sleeping bags and gnaw on frozen Snickers bars. The High Mountain Institute is infamous for challenging students to live and learn within nature through expeditions in the Colorado backcountry. From afar, the idea of a semester school—a new environment, curriculum and community—seemed romantic. Yet, as I sat in a tent filled with Junior Olympic skiers and farming gurus, I could not help but feel like an anomaly. To me, Central Park was the Great Outdoors. So, as I watched girls scurry up boulders, I feared I was not cut out for this.

Flashback to my departure: “Flight #3675 is now boarding.” It was a phrase I dreaded for months. The voice on the intercom reverberated through my body. Trying to present my parents with the confident, fearless girl they raised, I gathered the strength to say goodbye. I entered the air bridge and with each step, and every nervous look back, my mother’s figure grew more faint. Enduring my first flight alone was manageable; enduring four months alone was unimaginable. “Worst decision of your life,” I wryly whispered to myself.

My easy smile and svelte posture suggest security, but deep down, some self-doubt lingers. Though a lack of confidence has never halted my love of reading or my evolution as a writer, in middle school, I struggled to receive praise without second-guessing its validity. Timidity prevented me from joining the swim team, traveling alone to Asia, and auditioning for our play, Annie.

By high school, I developed well-grooved patterns at home that soothed my self doubt; I would wake up, ride the M79 bus, meet friends for breakfast, and take a test for which I was more than prepared. I had conquered the routine that was my high school career. However, I soon realized that my comfortable rhythm was not the reason to stay; it was the reason to leave. My underlying fear was not the program itself—it was abandoning the predictability I knew.

I entered the igloo—my home for the program’s first fourteen days—hauling seventy pounds of food on my back. I proceeded to unpack my puffy coats, fleece layers and wool socks. Allowing the harsh conditions to cripple us was not an option. We danced to keep our feet from freezing, slept with hot water bottles, and consumed 6,000 calories daily to fortify our nervous systems against the cold.

In a mere four months, I built an igloo block by block; waded through freezing rivers with ease; and skied for the first time, eating snow the first day, but shredding it on the last. I climbed Mount Elbert, a 14,000 foot peak, with skins on the bottom of my skis. Weighed down by a sled for ten days and ten nights, I learned the power of patience and mental resilience. If I can conquer nature as a city-girl, I can conquer anything.

The next time I sat in an airport was for my return flight. The fear which sullied my first departure was replaced by a sheer sense of accomplishment. Central Park now feels miniscule. If only I could tell the Anya of January 21st that courage does not mean being fearless—that the most transformative events happen in the wake of great fear. With the memory of Mount Elbert’s peak ingrained in my heart, I will not let self-doubt impede me; I will use it to fuel my ambition. So next time there’s a team try-out or an audition, I’ll be first in line. Next time I say I cannot write a novel, I’ll write two. And yes, I’m a bit frightened to enter this new chapter of my life, but I know a great story is waiting to be written.

Anya Carter, a 2016 graduate of The Dalton School, will be a freshman at Washington University in St Louis in the fall.

Signs to Good Words

by Tess Jacobson  

My mother, father, andTess Jacobson brother vanished. What happens now? I lack the words to express my sorrow, my future and…  

Mid-sentence, I struggled to convey this agony. My imagination was congested. I tried to force myself into the mind of my protagonist, but couldn’t find the words. So I dropped my pencil and unfinished story. I turned to sign language. If I couldn’t write or speak the suffering, I could sign it and capture the words. With thought as the conductor, my hands obediently brought the scenario to life, forcing me to lace my feet into the shoes of the character and bring his feelings to life in the way I had imagined: authentic, yet silent. “The growing lump of panic in Collin’s throat suddenly choked him before plummeting to the pit of his stomach where it filled him with overwhelming desolation and absorbed all other traces of sentiment.” Sign gave me these words.

American Sign Language started with a casual comment from an eighth grade teacher. Visual learners tend to acquire skills in learning sign language. As a visual learner, I decided to give it a try. The more I engaged in this culture of people who, unlike me, are deaf, I couldn’t let go. So, I searched to find a way to learn this language on my own.

Sign complements another love of mine—writing. I didn’t begin writing because I was a naturally good wordsmith, but because I needed it. My imagination lusts for boundlessness and I credit my seventh grade English teacher for facilitating this discovery. She gave the class a five-minute required daily writing period with one condition: no one but the writer would see his or her scribblings.

At first, I wasn’t exactly producing masterpieces of originality. I scrawled on the pages not knowing what to write or, if I was feeling extra imaginative, I would describe the classroom. However, regardless of the topic, there was something liberating about taking part in an activity without limits or direct instructions to follow. As soon as I discovered my affinity for this independent, unrestricted expression, my imagination was released from its shackles and I produced work that compelled me to break the class rule and show my work to others.

Today I love to write—poems, essays, stories, lab reports, term papers. My fire for this art form is all inclusive. From analyzing Hollywood’s portrayal of America during the Great Depression to describing an original biology experiment on the psychological impact of color and light, I crave opportunities to speak my mind—soundlessly and tangibly. I’m enticed by most anything that makes me a better writer, which is one reason I’m drawn to sign language. Without the two, I would have been limited without ever knowing.

The words to describe the unfathomable emotional situation in my short story seemed unattainable because I had never experienced the circumstances. Sign guided me to go below the exterior of explaining “how sad” something could be and helped me extract the visceral aspect of grief, allowing me to connect with the character, and making him a part of reality—not just an imaginary sketch. Sign forced me to reach the core of what my character could have felt, not just the mere essence, giving the words the aesthetic animation that speech cannot provide. The captivating gestures embedded in sign language are almost as riveting as the feeling that comes with giving vocabulary a physically moving existence.

After these two interests integrated into my world, I realized how they capture my psyche. Sign springs a glimpse of another culture into my life, teaching me to constantly imagine and view the world from different angles. Writing empowers me to channel those interpretations into my voice as a writer. I’m not sure if I have a way with words, but I have my own way with words.

Tess Jacobson, who became a graduate of  The Trevor Day School today, will be a freshman at Tufts University in the fall.

A New Life After Debilitation

A New Life After Debilitation

By Catharyn Watts-Battey

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“The pizzas are here!”
A stampede of hungry adolescents tumble over each other to get to their favorite food. I hobble behind them, aching under my armpits as the crutches dig into my sides and fall into small ditches in the grass. I don’t rush for the pizza, but simply make my way to a chair at the picnic table in my friend’s backyard. Since I am shorthanded from recent foot surgery, my mother brings two slices over. Immediately excited by the hot, cheesy pizzas, I folded the slice and had the hot marinara and heavy grease drip down my little hands, inspired me even more to dig in.
Parents left us to eat without them as we chatted about popular preteen topics: Spongebob, Nintendo, Jesse McCartney, among other things. Before I knew it, I was staring at an empty plate. I waved over to my mother to ask her for more. Her eyes dropped, heartbroken that she would have to say ‘no’ to her 11-year-old daughter. I was disappointed, but somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that this was best decision for me. I had to make the right choices to be healthy again.
Three months before this gathering, I underwent foot surgery and the recovery was the scariest time of my life. The preparation for surgery was four months with trips back and forth to the doctor for x-rays, check-ups and practice on crutches. Immediately after the surgery, I was woozy, lightheaded, and for months I couldn’t take care of myself. I had a growing need for independence. As a pre-teen wanting to be an adult, I didn’t enjoy my mother bathing, feeding and dressing me. Yet living through this recovery shaped my self sufficiency in ways I never imagined.

Luckily, by the time school started, I could move around a lot more on my own. Unfortunately, when I wasn’t studying mathematics, I was eating. I had always had problems with portion control. My parents’ sympathy for their temporarily incapacitated child made my condition worse. They made dinner plates overwhelmed by rice, vegetables and unreasonably large amounts of protein. I eventually decided I had to take charge for the benefit of my health, and I sought help from my doctor. After a stern conversation with my pediatrician, my parents and I made decided to make major changes to my diet.

I used my time sitting on the couch wisely by reading health magazines and researching healthy foods online. My life was on the verge of change. I scrolled through several magazines with my leg propped up as I viewed pictures of healthy women accompanied by stories of finding healthier lifestyles. As I read, I desired to make similar journeys. I wanted to be one of the women encouraging people to embrace healthy lifestyles.
I still remember important discoveries. I learned about unhealthy elements of my family’s diet, such as the abundance of white rice that was habitually eaten in my household, but not anymore–thanks to my research.
I also struggled with physical therapy and the fear that I might never be able to walk properly again. The gluttonous beast inside me wanted more food, but I fought against it by eating smaller portions. I fought hard at physical therapy and after about a year, I was walking without a limp or any pain.
This fight against my physical circumstances greatly influenced my choice of career. I built a passion that drove me to bioengineering, which combines so many of my passions– math, health sciences, and a genuine concern for the well-being of others. I spent my subsequent summers in programs introducing me to the world of bioengineering. Just as I have continued to make the right choices in living a healthy lifestyle, I know a career in bioengineering will offer the opportunity to influence others in immeasurable ways.

 

Catharyn Watts-Battey, a freshman at Cornell University, is a 2015 graduate of Newfield High School.

Where’s the Big Man on Campus?

Where’s the Big Man on Campus?

by Joe Timmes

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      “Joe, how do you show up late to pick-up when you were sitting in your dorm all night?”

      “What are you talking about, bro? You busted down my door to go out to that apartment party.”

      “Yeah, and – what’s your point?  It’s college, my man.”

      “Well, I sure as hell didn’t wake up the first time my alarm went off. So, when I finally rolled out of bed, I was already running late. Then I got down to the street and noticed I forgot my sneakers, so I had to run back and get them.”

      “Damn, bro, you’re a mess. You gotta get yourself together. Let’s just say, you’re lucky that this is pick-up and not a practice or game. Come start of the season, coach doesn’t allow shit like that.”

It is freshman year and a sophomore on my team shakes me into reality with those words: “Coach doesn’t allow shit like that.” Those phrases are stuck in my mind. The way my teammate told me straight up what wasn’t going to fly was exactly what I needed to hear at the time. Why did I need to be put in line? Because I needed to be shocked out of my extravagant college expectations, which had been influenced by stereotypical “college” stories told by people reminiscing about their “glory days.” My initial expectations had been clouded by this way of thinking: I shouldn’t be in my dorm room every night; rather, I should be out partying every chance I get. The classic college stereotype of “work hard, play hard” inevitably corrupted my thinking and caused me to anticipate a certain lifestyle: working hard in class to earn As while partying all day and night on the weekends.   

What do you think of when considering the lifestyle of a college basketball player? The image of heroic, “big man on campus” glamour dominates the perceptions regarding the lifestyle of student-athletes on campus. And to be honest, that glamorous lifestyle is something I fantasized about as a high schooler being recruited by college coaches and taking official visits to campuses. However, in reality, the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle is impractical for student athletes at NYU and many other similarly academic-focused institutions. A student-athlete at NYU cannot survive here while consistently blowing off classes. Although we are not playing at Chapel Hill or South Bend, the expectation of glamour and fame is not lost on us. NYU athletes are still privy to the same perceptions that other student-athletes have at other colleges.

The problem with the idea of “working hard and playing hard” is that it only acknowledges two of the three major aspects of a student-athlete’s college life. It recognizes the main aspect of college––the academic portion––as well as the exciting, secondary aspect––the social life. However, it neglects the third aspect of college life––the athletic responsibility––which is only applicable to those whom are student-athletes.

My expectations entering college were somewhat unique since I understood that a majority of people going to college were going to only be responsible for two aspects of college, the academic side and the social side. Meanwhile, I knew that because I committed myself to the Head Coach and the university’s athletic department as a whole, I would be responsible for making the correct decisions to prioritize these three aspects of college life.

Although the expectation of living out a glorious, party-filled college lifestyle corrupted my thought process at the start of freshman year, I quickly realized that the “work hard, play hard” expectation is a farce. My expectations have been drastically evolved since stepping foot on campus and being held responsible for preparing myself to play in the most competitive conference in Division-III––while being faced with a challenging academic workload. Personally, the “work hard” aspect is way more important than the “play hard” aspect. Am I saying that I never go out and socialize? No. I do occasionally go out to parties with friends and enjoy the social side of college, but I do so within reason. Truth be told, my involvement in college athletics has been the main reason why I am more about “work” than about “play.”

Part of the process of “getting myself together” included me recognizing the fact that college basketball is a major commitment that requires me to be efficient with my time. Playing a sport means that during your season, you typically will spend a majority of time in the athletic center. Mandatory events to which I must be on time are: (1) games, (2) practices, (3) weightlifting sessions, (4) one-on-one meetings with the head coach, and (5) team meetings. Many of these things occur on a daily basis, like practices and team meetings and lifts.  To be completely honest, my life during the season revolves around what time I have class and what time I have practice.

Can I miss class? I guess I could. But then I would fall behind on the topics discussed and would be underprepared for the exams. Can I miss practice? Yeah, I can.  But then I would be kicked off the team.

My athletic commitment may seem like an overwhelming responsibility to undertake, and it may be, but allow me to shine light on its  positive impact.

It is difficult, at times, to resist the temptation of going out to a party when you have practice early the next morning, but you have to keep in mind that your other 15 friends on the team are making the same sacrifice. This same idea translates to the times when you are physically exhausted. Practice will start and you can barely feel your body. Those extremely rough days that you do not believe you will survive make you physically and mentally tougher. Also, experiencing those rough, exhausting times alongside your teammates builds strong bonds among one another. At the end of the day, your teammates are your brothers and they feel your pain––literally, because they are feeling that same tingling sensation in their legs from running those sprints.

When student-athletes are in-season, our bodies take a beating and our daily battery is typically sub-10%. The soreness and tiredness from putting your body through the rigors of the season essentially forces you to lay low Friday nights. Practices, games and road trips sometimes make it impossible for us to rally any energy to even get out of bed, which thereby creates structure in our schedules and forces us to sleep and do homework instead of partying. College basketball has caused me to prioritize the things that are most important (sleep being one of them) and dismiss things that are distracting or of little concern.  In other words, I begin to look at the bigger picture.

Why am I in college? What are my goals? What do I want to have when I get out of college?

Personally, my goal is to graduate NYU with a degree in sports management as a 4-year varsity basketball player. My experience in college has been shaped by my decision to play a sport, but it has been nothing but a positive experience as it instills discipline, responsibility and commitment. College athletics implements structure into your daily schedule and makes it easy to live a healthy lifestyle. The luxury of having a fraternity of brothers that support you through thick and thin makes the experience exponentially better as they have your back just as you have theirs. Don’t get me wrong, the experience is challenging, but I have learned a great deal by committing myself to the life of a college athlete, and I would make the same choice if given another opportunity.

Joe Timms is a junior on the basketball team at NYU.

 

Small School Blues; Big School Hopes

Small School Blues; Big School Hopes

by Jack Reiss

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Prompt: Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve. You can type directly into the box, or you can paste text from another source. (250-650 words)

The addiction takes over at exactly 9:30 A.M. on business days. I hold my breath to see what phases the stock market. Could Pfizer skyrocket over 50 percent because of news for a groundbreaking cancer drug? Could McDonald’s dip 50 percent because of higher than expected trans fat in Big Macs? Or will it be a day like the one last March when Isoray, a cancer treatment stock I own, jumped more than 100 percent? The convergence of my interests in stocks, statistics, history and agriculture has influenced my decision to transfer to a school where I can strongly pursue these subjects, and also experience a broader, more developed and inspired social scene.

The stock market habit began a year ago, triggered by my love affair with my high school Elementary Statistics class and after my dad handed over control of my custodial portfolio. Don’t get the wrong idea, it’s chump change. But now I view stocks as closely as I watch baseball – which is pretty close – or a plant I grow from seed to flower.

I have fully engaged my interests at Trinity. My home at Trinity is the investment club where I am in the midst of preparing for a presentation on risk in health care company stocks. I want to build on experiences like this at a place with more opportunities and a more diverse population of students with similar passions or other intellectual interests that I have yet to explore. At Trinity, my grades are good and I look forward to my classes. However, I seek a university with a larger number of students who want to work and expand intellectually.

A broader social environment with stronger extracurriculars drives my search for a compatible school.  At Trinity, I attempted to join a whiffle ball intramural team, but there were not enough students to sign up so the club was cancelled. This one example indicates some of the limitations of a school with 2000 students. My hope is for a larger university with a more intellectually ambitious student body and activities and organizations that reflect that population.

I seek transferring to a school that offers inspired ways to explore

my interests and discover new ones. For years, I found many ways to engage my passion for botany. While serving as an intern horticulturist at the Central Park Conservancy in high school, I began to consider horticulture in the context of investing and the future. I lean towards companies that are committed to promoting health initiatives centered on organic foods, nutrition, and sustainability. Now that I manage my small stock portfolio, I conduct research companies like Whitewave, a pioneer health food conglomerate; it was the first company I chose to invest in and fits my criteria by intersecting agricultural, health food, and finance interests; plus it pays dividends!

My interest in statistics has helped fuel my fascination with stocks and their associated statistical models, especially volatile stocks with their sporadic graphs and possible inferences from them. I desire studying the market in ways that are connected to my academic work, including researching models for looking at the stock market as a way of creating communities through the identification of companies with interests that unite shareholders beyond profit margins. As part of this goal, I am in the process of obtaining Bloomberg certification through use of the Bloomberg Terminal system, which will be an asset to investing and complement my academic research. The certification will also expose me to information beyond the stock market. It will be a tool for exploring other subjects like history and a barometer for exploring the world’s markets and their resulting implications. I am excited by the opportunity of taking this certification into a new academic environment. It is just one of many possibilities that inspire me to transfer to a larger school.

Jack Reiss, a 2014 graduate of The Browning School, is now sophomore at NYU.

Class Clown to Class President

Class Clown to Class President

by Drew Crichlow

“Are you ready?”Drew Crichlow headshot

“Should I do it?”

Incessantly egging on my friends and warming up my audience, I ask again, “Ready …? Here we go!” As I squat, I position myself to execute my next escapade. Today’s task: exploding a juice box.

There was always something inexplicably attractive about receiving attention, so throughout my childhood, the sound of laughter was my muse. I had an appetite for approbation (clearly not from teachers, but from my peers), and nothing was more satisfying than earning the missing-tooth smiles of my immature friends.

Seated politely at their desks, my poor classmates were trying to enjoy lunch peacefully, but what is a meal without a show, I thought. And with that, I plopped onto my juice box. Unfortunately, my stunt failed; the juice simply poured out of the container without creating the mushroom cloud of beverage I had envisioned. Despite this disappointment, my friends reacted just as I had expected, jumping to evade the anticipated blast radius, screaming in disgust, and the odd few, giving me the drug I desired most: laughter. The high was incredible, but my ecstasy was short-lived. Searching for smiles, I turned to see a less-than-pleased teacher who, hearing the disruption, summoned me with a beckoning finger curl. After being reprimanded, my antics led to another level of attention I had not anticipated. She chronicled my behavior in an email to my parents. Needless to say, my juice box bomb awarded me an ill-flattering but well-fitting behavioral report reflecting the day’s escapades.

In middle school, I could no longer get away with such blatant misbehavior. Instead, I disrupted class with lackluster jokes, only provoking laughter because of their inappropriate timing. But, I was soon struck by the gravity of being the class clown: my reputation was outweighing my innocence, defining my experience as a student, and compromising my academic life, despite my intelligence. The repercussions of my behavior were no longer worth the reward of a few chuckles. This recognition defined my maturation and freed me from my self-imposed shackles; I would no longer be a slave to laughter. It was time for the next chapter in my life, one defined by academic focus and exemplary school citizenship. This chapter (entitled “Self-Improvement”), was lengthy, but by the next chapter (“New Beginnings”), I emerged as a redefined character, one whose hunger for attention and laughter evolved into a thirst for knowledge and service. The more I focused on academics, the more I enjoyed learning; the more my peers and teachers believed in me, the more I wanted to give them a reason to keep their faith.

Ironically, being a class clown may be one of best things that ever happened to me. It shaped me into the person I have become, and helped me to develop my new muse: leadership. Leadership supported my maturation, as I began to realize I could positively influence my peers. My classroom antics gave me confidence and a voice to embrace public speaking – even though at the time, it was in a negative light. Being the class clown gave me the foundation I needed to be elected class president three consecutive years, and ultimately, president of the student body. Now, I am confident enough to represent the student body as its spokesperson to school administrators and make recommendations to improve the experiences of all students at school.

The transformation from class clown to class president was not easy, but revealed my full potential: I learned that actions speak louder than words, and new actions speak louder than old ones. In truth, I still appreciate laughter. However, I now recognize there is a time and place for everything, because integrity and citizenship take precedence over laughter. So while I am more mature, I will remember my class clown episodes as a souvenir – and as a roadmap for the rest of my life.

Drew Crichlow will be a freshman at Yale in the fall and just graduated from Montclair Kimberley Academy.

Brown Supplements

Brown Supplements

by Zoe Armstrong

zoearmstrongWhy Brown? (200 word limit)

I was eight years old when I described to my mom the kind of college I wanted to attend. She said I was describing Brown, and the school has been my first choice ever since. I have not upheld most of the ideas I had at that age, nor all of mother’s advice, for that matter.  However, my feeling that Brown is the right place for me has only grown stronger. I was excited to attend summer at Brown in 2013 and devour the works of Martin Seligman in my Positive Psychology class. During those four weeks on campus, I experienced a strong sense of belonging. I felt the Brown spirit when I joined a counter-protest against the Westboro Baptist Church. The hateful messages from the protesters were disturbing, but the passion of the students displaying their support for gay rights was overwhelming. My passions and interests range from music to biology to politics and, as I learned at Brown, psychology. So the open curriculum is perfect for me. I am eager to participate in campus traditions like Spring Weekend and the midnight organ recital on Halloween and expect endless opportunities to express my values on social issues at Brown.

Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated in our Member Section, earlier in this application? If you are “undecided” or not sure which Brown concentrations match your interests, consider describing more generally the academic topics or modes of thought that engage you currently. (150 word limit)

Office hours, please! If I became a Brunonian, I would devote much of my first week to finding the office hours of the professors at the Watson Institute for International Studies. With faculty from a range of disciplines, the center is quintessentially Brown and a ripe place for my interest in international relations. I am attracted to the interdisciplinary nature of the concentration and to the mix of professors from Glenn Loury to Nitsan Chorev. I hope to take a class or go to one of Brown Visiting Fellow Timothy Edgar’s lectures. His research on cyber conflict fascinates me, particularly given ISIS’s recruitment of teenagers through social media and China’s use of iCloud to monitor civilian activity.  Though I have visited more than 18 countries in my 17 years and have taken classes in four languages, I long to expand my understanding of the world through my experiences at Brown.

Tell us where you have lived – and for how long – since you were born; whether you’ve always lived in the same place, or perhaps in a variety of places. (100 word limit)

I spent the first 15 years of my life taking for granted New York City’s looming skyscrapers and seemingly ceaseless excitement. Although I lived in the same apartment and attended the same school for most of my childhood, my days were far from banal. From that constantly changing environment I received an unusual combination of stability and unpredictability.

Then, in August of 2012, my parents and I moved to a small city in Switzerland. Basel is quiet and predictable and as different from New York as a city can be. But I adapted, and now consider both places home.

Zoe Armstrong, a 2015 graduate of the International School of Basel, will be a freshman at Brown University in the Fall.

Tufts Supplements

by Tess Jacobson

Tess Jacobson

Which aspects of Tufts’ curriculum or undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short: “Why Tufts?” (50–100 words)

        Is it a crush? No, it’s love. The Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development sparks the attraction, growing with notions of combining interests to create studies that are exclusively mine at the experimental college. Yet there is a “je ne sais quoi” crowning my infatuation. Perhaps it’s the sight of Jumbos devoted to academics by day, then transformed into a cohesive collective of burlesque or Kingsway African dancers by night. Maybe it’s faculty connections extending to applaud such eccentric performances. I can’t pinpoint one affection luring me in. My unbreakable tether: I only have eyes for Tufts.

There is a Quaker saying: “Let your life speak.” Describe the environment in which you were raised – your family, home, neighborhood, or community – and how it influenced the person you are today. (200–250 words)

        Every night, my brother and I would wait hungrily at the table, antsy to peel the tin foil off of the dinner and start serving the home-cooked meal. We never did, though. We knew better than to let our impatience overthrow the value of our nightly family tradition: the family starts and ends dinner together.

        As a kid, I took this ritual for granted. I thought that dining on home-cooked dinners throughout the week with the whole family was part of everyday normalcy. To my surprise, I learned that this was not the case. More often than not, life’s many other obligations prevent families from spending the amount of time together they would like during the week and, as a result, they depend on other sources of quality time. I may not have recognized my fortune during childhood, but this family custom that was as routine to me as waking up everyday has subconsciously impacted what I value: relationships, contact and communication.

        In retrospect, this deceptively customary act of love that earlier generations passed on to my parents and that is now shared with me is what has cultivated my appreciation for the way my family raised me, and has had an influence on who I am. Along with this nightly tradition, I’ve inherited the capacity to incorporate sentiment into various aspects of my life and treasure the small things that complete it.

Now we’d like to know a little bit more about you.  Please respond to one of the following six questions (200-250 words):

A)   From Michelangelo to Mother Teresa, from Jackie Robinson to Elizabeth Bennett, the human narrative is populated by a cast of fascinating characters, real and imagined.  Share your favorite and explain why that person or character inspires you.

     My muscles froze and tension wiped the choreography from my mind. The cue to enter stage left was a minute away. I shrank at the thought of having over a hundred pairs of eyes on me. Overwhelming apprehension disarmed me; I could not go out there. It was thoughts of Philippe Petit that prodded me. Walking on a wire in front of New York City, 1,350 feet above an audience of thousands, without pause. Whether at the top of the World Trade Center or down on the ground, charming his audience with illusions, Petit’s eccentric charisma never fades. His peculiarity inspires me to be original and his plucky fearlessness impels me to disregard my trepidation. Assertiveness and poise restored, I stepped out from behind the wing.

        From the moment he read about the Twin Towers, Petit’s ambition became relentless; fear of failure was not a factor in his vision. My aspirations don’t fall in line with walking on wires, but he remains my luminary. His striking audacity motivates me to take risks. Petit’s tenacious grip on his own objectives, each one unwilling to let others stand in his way, reminds me to keep an unshakeable hold on my aims. He’s deceptively serious, looking upon his commitments with intensity, while emanating a contagious playfulness that reminds me to make time for amusement. While against my nature, I have internalized Petit’s intrepidity and resolution.

Tess Jacobson was a 2015 graduate of the Trevor Day School in New York City. She recently began her freshman year at Tufts.

Following the Crowd as an Individual

Following the Crowd as an Individual

by Matthew Gilbert

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A stampede gushes my way. Teenagers jump, leap and holler. They want to get closer to the stage, but a low fence is in their way. Security guards scramble to keep everyone from rushing over it, but it’s too late. Hundreds of charging fans overpower them. In a split second decision, I choose to run with the fans to avoid being trampled. I can’t think of a better place to spend my 17th birthday than the Mad Decent Block Party, a music festival.

I’ve always loved the animation and excitement that comes with large, loud crowds. My first memory experiencing this intensity is a New York Liberty basketball game with my father when I was eight. I couldn’t get enough of the electricity generated by the screaming fans. Years later, I would experience the same rush at a Red Bulls game as I cheered, waving my “Red Flag.”

It wasn’t until my junior year sociology class that I discovered Durkheim’s theory which explains that electric feeling: collective effervescence. It’s the feeling of euphoria and social bondage large groups of people experience when acting together. Cavemen felt it chanting songs and performing rituals around fires, and they named it “God.” The emotional experience of the devout at church is similar to my feelings at a concert. I realized something else in that class–my love of sociology and my desire to explore its many applicable concepts. I am not in love with just being in a crowd. My passion is analyzing crowd behavior when the sociologist in me goes to work.

Beyond crowded concerts, I look for the social forces influencing the actions of those around me.  The subway ride from Park Slope to school on the 3 train allows me to apply the concepts from class in a real world paradigm. Graffiti tags in the train tunnel compel me to question how the deindividuation of this “art” will increase crime rates. In the hallways, I notice the impact of socioeconomic status on education when comparing my public and private school friends’ SAT scores, highlighting the differences in their college preparedness. I see the irony after school, when my friends jokingly make fun of “raging feminists” for “exaggerating gender inequality,” but they don’t see the misogyny all around us as we walk through Brooklyn Museum’s featured exhibits filled exclusively with male artists. The sociological laws of group behavior affect so much of our lives that we fail to realize how little control we actually have.

However, I find freedom from social pressures by studying the forces that control behavior. Interpreting the motivation behind group behavior allows me to make decisions as an individual while remaining an active citizen of a community. True individuality can blossom when the restraints of social mores and folklores are lifted from the subconscious. As I scroll through music on iTunes, I know to not let the popularity of a song determine if I like it. Studying the “Bystander Effect” gave me the responsibility to overcome this powerful situational force and call the police when someone outside my friend’s house on Suffolk Street was attacked with a hammer. The laws of group behavior don’t hinder my individuality, but understanding them gives me the tools to fully develop myself.

I am aware of all this as I stand in front of the blazing lights, feeling the energy all around me. I have no idea who is performing, nor do I care. The only thing I can feel is the heart of the show, pulsing in time with the bass. It’s impossible to think about anything else when the music is this loud. Individual lines blur into a larger collective. As the show picks up speed, my friends flash me gleaming smiles. In this moment I know I won’t be satisfied as just a member of the crowd; I must also study its behavior.

Matthew Gilbert, a 2015 graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School, will be a freshman at Wesleyan in the Fall.

Discovering My True American Identity

Discovering My True American Identity

by Zoe Armstrong

“Zoe,Zoe Armstrong you can’t sit here,”  Mark said.

“Why not?”

“This is a whites only row,” he replied

It was junior year and I just wanted to find a seat at play rehearsal. I played Baroness Schraeder in my school’s production of The Sound of Music while Mark played the self-assigned role of class clown. He laughed until he saw the shock and outrage on my face.

“I meant to be funny,”  said Mark, “You shouldn’t take things so seriously.”

Eventually, he apologized and I realized he genuinely had not anticipated the impact of his joke. He had crossed a line that he did not know existed. I soon saw that an angry or irrational reaction might be as bad as the joke itself. This moment called for education in clarifying cultural misunderstandings, which became a major part of my life when my family moved to Switzerland at the beginning of my sophomore year. Mark, a white child growing up in Basel, did not have the same understanding of race as an American teenager who grew up with a cultural history that includes segregation, discrimination, and the painful struggle of the Civil Rights Movement. He actually thought that I might find some humor in his joke. In the interest of education and community, I explained calmly why I did not laugh along with him.

In that moment of my junior year, I saw the American in my sensitivities. I lived in America for the vast majority of my life, but I never thought of my country as defining or vital in my personal construction of identity. However, being a part of an international school community of people from different parts of the world does not dissolve the idea of nationality. Instead, such international diversity has a tendency to make students more aware of their native lands. As a member of an international community, each student at ISB becomes a representative of their own country, which has made me more patriotic while simultaneously helping me become more globally aware.

Since moving, the idea of community has been totally redefined for me. This new definition produces greater responsibilities for me to learn about other cultures and to be open to educating people about my own. This may mean abandoning anger at a racial joke, while not entirely shrugging it off either.

When I arrived in Basel, I integrated myself quickly in the interest of becoming part of a new community. Shortly after my arrival, my classmates elected me to be a member of the group of student representatives who reported to the school’s administration. I also travelled far outside of my comfort zone to more adequately engage with Basel. I realized my private school existed in a bubble. So I joined a cheerleading team for the town’s football team to meet residents who attend other local public schools. Initially it was a challenge since I was new to the language. I often communicated with body language and occasional phrases in broken Swiss-German. Yet my teammates were welcoming and patient as I slowly grew comfortable with my German. Eventually I introduced team-building exercises to that I had learned back in the States, which not only boosted our spirit but also helped our routines run cleaner.

I have had my share of awkward moments in jumping into a foreign community. For example, when I went to lunch with my friend, Sophie.  A waitress took Sophie’s order in perfect German. I decided to show off how much German I had learned. “Gruezi! Ich möchte den Chicken Fried Rice, und können wir mehr Servietten haben?”  I asked.

The waitress replied in English: “Sure, I’ll be right back with your food.” Sophie could not stop laughing, calling my accent “obviously foreign.” I laughed, but still felt a little disappointed in the waitress’s reaction. Perhaps Mark had similar feelings in discovering that his joke was not funny but offensive.

Zoe Armstrong, a 2015 graduate of the International School of Basel, will be a freshman at Brown University in the Fall.