Throughout my high school years, I was sharply aware of the wealth of opportunities around me to explore many different things and to learn new people. Trying to serve other people and improve my skills and experience, I was an active participant of a number of community initiatives and social events. This active involvement left me with a variety of experiences and a broad network of friends. At the same time, taking on extra responsibilities at times prevented me from paying attention to my academic studies, which did not allow me to demonstrate my full intellectual potential in the courses I took.
Volunteering was, in my deepest belief, the most important of all things I did in my high school years. Working in the asylum, I was able to assist the mentally upset people, talking to them, giving a massage, doing laundry, and cooking food. Spending two hours a week on this activity, I began to feel strongly for these people who, by whim of fortune, were deprived of the possibilities granted to me and other ‘normal’ ones.
This sense of responsibility also prompted me to enroll in a program of assistance to the physically handicapped people to which I dedicated ten weeks a year. Helping these people was an important part of my week, and I did not spare effort to make their days brighter. I also invested a lot of effort in my baby-sitting job that helped me hone my communication skills and add extra money to our family income. The same motives pushed me to take up employment teaching elementary students after school in 2000 and 2001 and start an online business making custom jewelry in 2002.
My community involvement is also exemplified in my active role in the local Korean church where I became leader of a club engaged in meeting and accommodating new people. Spending a few hours a week on this job, I gained strong leadership and communication skills, improved my ability at organizing various events and finding contact with very different people. As vice-president of the church, I did important coordination work for president and other leaders in Korean, which consumed my time and effort, taking up to two hours each week.
I believe that in many ways this community activities prepared me for a future career in the way school studies would never have been able to, helping me to learn how to do real things for people and allowing deep insights into nature of social and community work. I learned to overcome resistance to my ideas with persuasion instead of domineering, to build bridges of understanding, to change the lives of other people, and to comfort people with words of trust and sympathy.
My activities, as I mentioned in the introduction, also had a downside. Bound by different responsibilities, I often lacked time to complete school assignments at the necessary level. I often felt uncomfortable about this circumstance, but felt obliged to continue with tasks and assignments I took upon myself voluntarily. Part of the reason was that I realized how important my contribution was to the numerous programs in which I was involved and was unwilling to let people down.
Even though I do not regret being a responsible and motivated leader, remembering many people whom I helped to adjust to a new life or children and handicapped individuals who were helped by my efforts, I also realize that devoting attention to studies would help me to gather more knowledge about the world, knowledge that could help me to assist people with more effective solutions and more informed actions.
That is why I view my undergraduate studies as another chance to catch up with gaps in my knowledge and build a strong foundation of professional expertise from which to start my career. I know I do have academic ability to make this happen. I have always been quick in understanding complex subject matters and explain many difficult points to my peers who were struggling with understanding them.
Looking back on the successes I scored in studies when I put adequate effort, I can proudly say that I have the intellectual potential to complete an undergraduate course with strong grades. My school teachers were often impressed with my problem-solving and writings skills, a fact that shows that I have the foundation from which to continue exploring the world and learning new things. Learning from the past mistake of heaping too much responsibility upon my shoulders, I am determined to balance effectively community work with thorough academic involvement in college years.
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