Yale University Application Essay on Racial or Cultural Differences

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Yale University Application Essay on Racial or Cultural Differences

Essay by Christina Mendoza

"Ha ha! Christina is a dirty Mexican!"

Growing up in a small, conservative community, it's easy to be shoved into your own category if you don't look or act like everyone else. My hair and eyes, instead of being blonde and blue like all of my Czech classmates, were chocolate and espresso. My last name had a "z" in it, and my grandmother called me "mija." By the time I was in grade school, the teasing began, and I was hurt and confused. Didn't all grandmothers call their grandchildren "mija"? Why did everyone except for me have blue eyes? And why was I being called "dirty Mexican" when I was cleaner than the boy who made the remark?

After an afternoon of teasing and tormenting from my classmates, I asked these questions to my mother, between sobs. By this time, she had become extremely good at giving me the "you're unique and beautiful" speech, but it was hard for her to truly empathize with me because neither she nor my father knew how I felt. She was a Caucasian who grew up in California; he was a Mexican American who grew up as the majority in San Antonio. I was the product of the two—the "half-breed" daughter who was raised in the small town of Seymour, population 2,800.

My other family members didn't seem to have any trouble fitting in. My father's ethnicity is well respected. He is the only doctor within a fifty-mile radius who can speak Spanish. My sister was the beauty queen of our town—her sleek, glossy hair and olive complexion were the envy of every girl. My little brother received the recessive genes (fair skin, blue eyes), so he looks like everyone else in Seymour. I felt I was stuck somewhere in the middle of my siblings, stuck in the middle of two cultures, and not accepted by either.

Time does have a way of healing things. I didn't just wake up one morning and think, "I'm proud to be Hispanic," but as I have matured, I have learned not to be ashamed of my ethnicity. Instead of hiding who I really am, I have embraced my Mexican heritage and have become proud of it. Finding out about the many opportunities that are available to students of Hispanic descent has motivated me even more to delve deeper into my culture.

Looking back, I couldn't imagine wanting to dye my hair blonde to feel better about myself. The blonde girls are unique in their own way, but diversity makes the world go round. I absolutely love being different and not walking the same path as everyone else. The last racist comment I received was after I was named a National Hispanic Scholar. My assailant said in a mocking tone, "I wish I could be a smart Mexican." Feeling sorry for his cultural ignorance, I smiled and replied, "Yeah, I bet you do."

Christina Mendoza attends Yale University.

Essay Review

"I could't imagine wanting to dye my hair blonde"

Kids can be cruel, and students who come from minority backgrounds often have difficult stories to tell. Such is the case for author Christina Mendoza, who has the added twist of being part of a racially mixed family. Her essay tells the story of how she learned to take pride in being Mexican American. Christina does not identify one turning point or significant experience, and her essay is the better for it. Instead, she describes a process of evolution in which she gradually learns to take pride in her mixed-race background.

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