Popular cliches about "appearances being deceiving" are particularly relevant to those of multi-cultural heritage. By appearance, I am a stereotypical Indian male, with dark hair, olive skin and a lean, athletic build. Yet my childhood in Barrington, Illinois has been decidedly "American", providing a powerful contrast to my parents' native Bangalore. I've spent nearly eighteeen years bridging the gap between two very different cultures and carving out an identity that is uniquely my own.
After leaving their native India, my parents embraced life in the United States for the myriad educational and professional opportunities it affords its citizens. From my earliest memories, my parents encouraged me to do everything possible to succeed. Yet their unfamiliarity with American culture placed me at a distinct disadvantage when I started elementary school. Guided by my strict Indian upbringing, I had a difficult time finding my place in a culture that celebrates sports icons and MTV.
With a burgeoning Indian and Asian population, my community eventually became more tolerant of ethnic diversity. Yet, throughout my early childhood, my parents and I simultaneously struggled to integrate ourselves into mainstream society. My greatest challenge was gaining acceptance into a peer group whose values were inherently superficial. Even as a young child, I knew that other parents did not share my family's passion for education.
Academia became my salvation. With a natural proclivity for math and science, I became one my school's most popular "computer jocks". I brought honor to the school, winning second place in the national competition in Technology Concepts, sponsored by the Future Business Leaders of America. With my participation on the school newspaper and Model UN, I found my niche among a group of academically-gifted students. Ironically, as I became more confident of my identity, I was more selective in seeking friends. Several of the most popular students were intolerant of diversity, tormenting those who they perceived to be "different". Some of their actions, inspired by fear and ignorance, were cruel and morally wrong. Adhering to my core values, I opted to surround myself with more compassionate friends who are well-intentioned and accepting of others.
As I prepare for college, I embrace the benefits of my dual heritage, equally appreciative of Indian chants and alternative rock. Both cultural influences have shaped my character and made me the independent thinker I am today. With my strong intellectual curiosity, I am eager to enroll in a top-notch computer science program to prepare for a career as a software engineer. A talented pianist and basketball player, I will also pursue opportuntities to develop my athletic and musical potential. On a campus that celebrates diversity, the enrichment possibilities will be endless. Throughout my endeavors, I will continue to share my success with my parents, who encouraged me to fulfill my educational dream. Their vision of a better life in America was the catalyst to all I have subsequently achieved.