Personal Statement

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.


In my hometown, Nanchang, China, the Gan River divides the city into two worlds. One side of the river has enjoyed much government investment: skyscrapers are adorned with beaming neon lights, and beacons are announcing the economic prosperity of China.

I grew up on the other side of the river. Most of my childhood was spent running through rich rice paddies, catching grasshoppers, and listening to my neighbors speaking with a sense of envy about the other side of the river. They would always remind me of an old Chinese proverb, “a knowledgeable person travels ten thousand miles.” They encouraged me to go out, and see the broader world.

Is the outside world better? This question haunted me and motivated me to travel—ten thousand miles from home to Tanzania in the summer of 2015 on a service-learning trip.

Following our Tanzanian guide, Alex, through the countryside, I was entranced by lush green maize fields, straw-roofed huts, and pastures for cattle, goats and sheep. Soaking in all the beauty, I started to believe that perhaps things in the outside world were, indeed, better, just as my neighbors had promised. But the thought made me feel uneasy.

This feeling kept me up that night as I lay in a sleeping bag on the cold ground...

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