Princeton University Application Essay:about Academics
Essay by Ilya Alex Blanter
"I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse."—Charles V
I don't speak German. Horseless, and with two cats that understand only Russian, I never had the need. Besides, languages don't fall into neat categories for me as they did for Charles. But they do have a place in my life, and recently I have come to better understand just how important a place it is. As this year's High Holidays approached, it came to me: on those days, I would be using five different languages.
I love such days. Enclosed on both ends by my native Russian—the language of my family—and founded upon my probably even more "native" English—the language of my friends and school—those days don't stop there. They take me through Latin at school and Hebrew at my temple, two languages with such different histories: one that went on to seed countless others and has now all but vanished, the other battered for two thousand years to near extinction and yet now the vibrant language of millions of people. Those days also feature my fairly recent and much cherished addition, Spanish, the language that lets me connect with people in a small Mexican town and in a San Diego marketplace.
Now I love those five-language days, but it has not always been that way. Years ago, even two languages seemed to be more than I could handle. Fluent in Russian at the age of two, thrown into an English-speaking world, I was confused and disoriented. How much I hated English, and a year later, when it had become my own, with what vengeance did I turn on my Russian! Only relentless and often painful pressure from my parents kept me truly bilingual through all those early years. At the time, I resented them and their demands; only later did I realize how much of a gift they had given me.
Languages are my passion and they are my life. It amazes me that, having grown up speaking English, just last summer I could still pass for a native in Russia, where I have not lived in over fifteen years. I am thrilled that I was able to study The Aeneid in its original text; deeply moved that I could read ancient Torah scrolls at my Bar Mitzvah, the first person in my family in at least three generations to do so; and excited that I was given a chance to use my Spanish to teach math, science, and drama in a volunteer program for kids from underfunded, understaffed, and often just neglected Oakland schools.
I have made the transition from resentment to love, and these days I dream about going for more. I don't know which language lies next on my path, and, luckily, I don't have to make that decision now. But I do know that this is the path I want to take—through college and beyond, into my career and into my future. Should I explore Italian or Portuguese? French or Catalan? Maybe even German? Well, in that case, I'd better start saving up for a horse.
Ilya Alex Blanter attends Princeton University
Speaking His Language(s)
A well-chosen quote can be a great way to start an essay, and author Ilya Alex Blanter provides a brilliant example in the one below. The opening is light, the body is serious, and the conclusion reaches back Academics deftly to the beginning. On the surface, the essay describes Ilya's passion for languages. But a closer look shows that he uses the languages to illustrate various facets of his life, from his background in Russia to working with kids from an underfunded school. Above all, the essay shows Ilya's rare passion for learning that surely made an impression on every admissions officer who read it.
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