Posted by: Staff | 04.16.2008

College Essay XIV: Erika

ERIKA GUTE ’08

The day I learned the most about my place in the world started as a normal Tuesday. My mother and I were walking through a crowded market in France shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It was extremely hot and people were pushing and prodding. Someone must have overheard my mother and me speaking English, because suddenly a ball of spit reached out and slapped us. A man called after us, “Stupid Americans!” We were appalled. However, instead of being personally offended, I learned from the experience. I realized that the man’s actions were not directed at me. They were directed at the politics of my government. I thought about the stereotypes of many Americans and from that day forward I tried my best to be a good ambassador of the United States. I have tried, in my small way, to change the stereotype that many have about Americans.

My father is a university professor and part of his job is to be the academic director during the summer at the university’s campus in France. Through this very fortunate circumstance my family has spent a portion of our summers in France for almost as long as I can remember. The town of Menthon St. Bernard is compact and quaint, bordering on claustrophobic. The splendor of Paris is enticing, but my village in the mountains is real. Living in this small town in France has made me want to know and experience more of the world and has shown me the importance of a global perspective. I have realized through my summers spent in Menthon that it is crucial to understand a culture and the perspective of a country. History, for example, is a very important factor. France is an old country. It remembers the wars fought on its soil. Verdun is still scarred from the bombs of World War I. I have walked those undulating fields, and I can understand that when a country has had a gruesome past it would insist on exhausting diplomacy before engaging in war. My time in France has led me to other pursuits. It has motivated me to learn French, of which I now have a fairly good grasp. It has inspired me to pursue a career in International Relations. It has prompted me to start the day with the newspaper. (I should explain a bit more; my family has never owned a television. I begin with a newspaper or radio not only because I have grown to enjoy this habit but also because it is the only option).

Even in Boston, I have participated in many programs and events that support my goal of becoming a part of a more international world. I want to differentiate myself from the typical “footprint” of an American. I want all my choices to reflect my goal. Thus, I have been a member of the Model United Nations for the past four years and am now the President. I am an appointed member of the City of Boston’s Mayor’s Youth Council. Boston is a very diverse, multi-ethnic community. Reflected in the lives of this Youth Council are the real life problems of a major city such as gang violence, drug use and discrimination. I still have much to learn and much to accomplish, but since recognizing my interest in the international world my objective has been to create change wherever I can including my hometown.

It’s true; I am a typical teenager. I stay up all hours and sleep too late, and my room verges on chaos. I believe I have a heightened sense of others’ feelings, and I think this helps me to make others feel comfortable. I am friendly to everyone, but I reserve the word “friend’ for people with who I share similar values and morals. I do not get mad easily and am very patient. I am optimistic and am always laughing at myself.

Eight years ago, I noticed a bracelet with a quote from Gandhi. The bracelet read,
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I realized that this was the quote that summed up my then ten years of life. Not only that, but I hoped that it would continue to be the way I approach life. I have kept that bracelet’s message from that day on. My experiences in France have helped me to realize the importance of being a global citizen and living my life according to this challenging objective. Although, this can be sometimes difficult when I get caught up in my “high school” world, I feel most alive when I am globally aware.

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