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Truth being told, how I got to the point I’m sitting at right now, typing my story into a virtual space from my dorm room on a late Friday night, is neither long nor different. UChicago was my top choice, so I applied there during the early action round. After I received my acceptance letter in the morning of December 19, I rejoiced in relief and happiness. I suppose I stopped worrying about college admissions and started narrating my own application stories from that point onwards. I am grateful for the journey, but at the same time, it’s growing more of a blur—a depth that is now levelled into a launching base to attain something newer, more ambient and meaningful.

You can say that I’m lucky because my application process went smoothly and ended pretty soon compared to the norm. I knew that UChicago was the perfect match for me, and I had not even seriously worked on any of my regular round applications until acceptance. In retrospect, it is inane to be so single-mindedly desperate; things could have easily become stressful and hectic had UChicago decided to waitlist or even reject me. But I am not completely repelled by such singularity. I was able to put my best effort in every element of application, to really contemplate the relationship that I was trying to establish between me and this particular institution no matter how elusive it seemed. I was slowly, but more genuinely, understanding certain parts of myself and how to present them most accurately to the admissions committee. After December 19, I did not apply to any other schools even though I had the choice. There were no other schools I felt particularly passionate about to be audacious. There was no better option for me to project the what-ifs, and I have never asked myself those hauntingly frustrating questions since the day I set foot on this campus from oceans away.

Some of the people I talked to on campus are surprised, and impressed, by my decision to come to UChicago. They are especially so after they learn I had never visited the school or had previous exposure to similar environments before orientation week. I’m an international student who studied English as her second language (and who is still trying to improve her grasp of this foreign tongue). Maybe I did take a giant leap entering a different culture and adding a somewhat unfamiliar increment of my life without any friends and family around. But when I was applying to UChicago, and even earlier as I deliberately chose to study abroad, it did not hit me so hard. It does speak rather profoundly now that I’m physically, mentally and emotionally in touch with the glorified idea of studying at a top-notch institution 8000 miles from home. It is a tough decision which does not warrant any tinge of romanticism. Yet it is a choice I am fortunate to be given and proud to have made as I look back on this entire journey.

If there is one thing I wish to emphasize to my one-year younger self, it would be the authentic aim of everything she was trying to do. I am not skirting the surface with the simplistic ideas of “getting into college” or “being admitted into a prestigious university”. I wish that she had been more often reminded of the fact that she was working so hard to gain a good education—to learn, to equip herself with the necessary tools to pursue her ambitions, to be a better person—and college was just the right avenue personally.

Sometimes I feel both lucky and overwhelmed to be a member of this community. I would look around to recognize all the amazing things from the people who surround me and inside to find all the flaws that prevent me from seeing myself as equally capable. It was a distilled sense of self-consciousness that I struggled to remove during my first few weeks on campus. It took a kind friend and an epiphany to realize that I have always been here to learn for myself. Without doubt, I appreciate UChicago for their acceptance, and for seeing something worthwhile in me as a student and as a person which can be further refined. I appreciate all the sincere compliments and appraisals directed towards UChicago students in general. But in this situation I claim the right to be selfish—along the journey, and I mean the one that encompasses my college application process, I am allowed to find my personal meanings and purposes which are detached from the name of UChicago—my alma mater.

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