A Character-Building Childhood

What makes you stand out?

"Go to bed, Adelya, it's late." As a child, I heard this command very often. I did not, however, always obey.

I clearly recall the many nights I stayed up well past midnight just so I could finish studying for a test the next day. My routine was always the same. After my parents and younger brother were fast asleep, I would creep into the kitchen, turn on the lights, and continue reviewing for the next day's exam. At some point, of course, my mother would come into the kitchen and insist that I go back to bed. She always told me that I would achieve an exceptional grade regardless of whether or not I spent more hours with my nose in my books. I would thank my mother and kiss her goodnight, but after she left I would continue to study until I was positive that I would be able to answer all of the test questions flawlessly.

I grew up Jewish in Azerbaijan, a country in the former Soviet Union, where opportunities for education and advancement are slim. At the age of seven, I came to America with my family as a refugee, and our lives changed forever. In America I received a strong educational foundation that brought me many wonderful opportunities. I was given a significant university grant and was chosen for a highly competitive...

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