I remember one of the worst moments of being a child is when you're bursting with something to say, and your parents just don’t have the time to acknowledge you. "Listen to me!" I would roar inside my head. Perhaps they could have turned and said, "Alex, you've got no idea what you're talking so about sit down." If I could have accepted the idea that I was really just immature, then that's all it would have taken to shut me up.
That never happened though, and the stubbornness inside me remained. I took up debating as soon as I realized that it was allowable, even admirable, to shout opinions under the guise of a civilized discussion. Each time doing so, I felt proud in my ability to communicate. It certainly helped me win arguments – delinquent, 7th-grade arguments in which we argued for the sake of arguing. Graded on style and content, I argued with eloquence, maybe even beautifully at times, always acknowledging that there are two sides to every conflict (but only so I could better shatter one). After a while, my mind became hardwired to scrutinize others’ words, dissecting them so that I could find some flaw that would unravel their whole argument. It didn’t matter that I hadn't actually listened. It was never an option during a debate to stop, put down my cue cards and say, "That's actually a very good point you make. I was wrong this whole time." Such options are rarely available when winners and losers are chosen. But, realizing this, debates became discussions, and discussions started to hold value.
This summer I attended an engineering program at UCLA, during which the organizer described how he hoped to abolish the stigma that engineers are "nerdy and socially awkward," so that they could “better communicate”. This is critical, he believes. But I've listened, and I believe that, as it stands, too many selfish motives far from the greater good hide themselves behind poetry and rhetoric, and not enough people just listen. We all really should just listen.
Anonymous Student. "Intellectual Development Essay for Stanford" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 26 Sep. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2018. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/stanford/intellectual-development-essay-for/>.
"Describe an intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper or research topic) that has meant the most to you."
I do not believe I can be understood completely as person, much less a scholar, without shedding some light upon the literary idea that has affected my academic self most profoundly. It resounds as clearly as ever to me today, as I consider the meaning of an undergraduate education as it relates to my ongoing search for a particular field of extended study.
The idea took shape over a century and a half ago, in Concord Massachusetts. Henry David Thoreau, in the conclusion of his celebrated philosophical work Walden, elaborates upon the inherent motive behind his foray into the wilderness that resulted in a year-long stay in a primitive cabin on Walden Pond: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Ever since I first read excerpts of Walden roughly a year ago and exposed myself to the reflections of Thoreau, I've recognized that a fundamental program for living exists in the sentence above, a program beautifully applicable to my own life and especially the method in which I approach the academic world I exist in.
The crux of Thoreau's argument insists on self-reliance, an isolation which he achieved by venturing away from civilization and making his home amongst the wildlife in "the woods" surrounding Walden Pond. Through solitude and introspection he achieves a sense of "deliberateness", a continuous confrontation of basic human notions like greed, hunger and mortality. To Thoreau, this contemplation culminates in revelation; through a deliberate existence any man can discover himself, his purpose in life, and several innate truths which ought to govern the manner in which he pursues his vocation.
I've come to realize, as I conclude my time at ----, that I've found my "woods." However, unlike Thoreau's, my woods is not populated by the squirrels and pines and minnows of a New England forest ecosystem. Instead, books, essays, problems, and articles inhabit it and give it life and inherent significance. In my woods, one which is littered with the diversity of academia, I can confront the same "essential facts of life" that Thoreau does. I can observe the natural world exquisitely modeled in figures as I work through a Calculus exercise, just as I can come face to face with my own mortality through examining the dying struggle of a fictional protagonist in Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych. I find that I'm forced to acknowledge the dichotomic tension that exists within myself between realism and idealism as I follow Don Quijote and Sancho Panza on their ridiculous adventures through 17th-century Spain. Even in Economics, a field which I at one time anticipated to be the most superficial, I've scrutinized the nature of greed and its devastating human consequences. My "woods," simply put, is schoolwork; in my own analysis and investigation, I find the same solitude, the same introspection, and the same self-discovery that Thoreau does as he observes the reflecting surface of the water of Walden Pond.
What will be my ultimate purpose in life? This final piece to my Thoreauvian puzzle, vocation, remains tantalizingly unclear to me as I progress deeper and deeper into the "woods" of a more deliberate academic lifestyle. However, I have faith that as I keep grappling with the complexity of the world around me through my studies in novels and textbooks alike, my vocation, my innate calling, will become clear and attainable. Until then, I see my undergraduate education as my expedition into the most diverse and abundant "woods" a scholar could imagine.
--Feel free to tear into it. Thanks!
Great introduction! I love how you charmingly display your knowledge of the book without slapping me in the face with it. The vocabulary is just as excellent.
It is very hard to find anything wrong with it or anything that could be better. But here's my 2cents worth:
I love that you make it clear that your interests are varied(in your last paragraph) however, I feel that with doing so you should highlight one academic interest or path that really rocks your boat.
Speaking of rocking boats, I feel that in your last paragraph you can sound a little more exciting. Though your enthusiasm is well conveyed,I believe you need to vividly express how fervent you are with regards to your academics
like I said,it difficult to find a thing that's wrong. You did an outstanding job and I think it clearly reflects who you are, while addressing the topic. Another thing I picked up is how comfortable you are with the topic,some essays sound like the topic was just a dreaded obligation,though with you I could swear that you came up with it.
I hope I could be of help!
Please read mine and be as honest as you can be. Thanks