Personal Statement: TITLE: 26 Seconds
Accepted: Columbia University, Full Scholarship
I was raised in Haiti and happily lived there until the winds of change brought events that turned my world upside down. Before the tragedy, my mother worked for the U.S. Aid as a medical doctor and my father was employed at the American Embassy as the chief maintenance engineer. My sister was living in Paris after graduating from Yale College with a degree in Chemical Engineering and my brother was in his first year at Brown University studying applied Mathematics. Like them, I aspired to attend a prestigious university in America and worked as hard as I could to maintain my nearly perfect GPA. I attended the Montessori School of Haiti and then the Lycée Alexandre Dumas International School. I was a typical young girl, blessed with a loving and supportive family, and my biggest fear was a Monday morning quiz in French.
Never did I imagine how drastically my life would change on a seemingly calm day in mid January. The sun was at its peak, submerging the beautiful blue sky with its cosmic embrace. It was right before dinner time, when suddenly a loud blast pierced my ears. Instantly, all the glass windows throughout our house shattered and debris from outside flew onto our floor. I stared with awe as the entire left side of our two story house began to crumble; my father and I were the only ones inside, and ran for our lives. Seconds later, our entire house collapsed; it was truly a nightmare. Those were the longest 26 seconds of my entire life.
On January 12, 2010, an Mw 7.5 earthquake struck my homeland, Port-au-Prince, leaving more than 1.5 million homeless, killing more than 300,000 Haitians and destroying most infrastructures throughout the capital. Within days, I was forced to leave my homeland, as well as all of my memories behind. I never had the chance to see or say good-bye to my classmates and had no belongings to take with me. On January 16th, 2010, I flew to New York with my mother on a U.S. military plane while my father stayed behind to help in the rescue efforts. I did not turn my head to waive goodbye to my beloved homeland; it was too painful. I still feel chills as I think back to how simple and carefree my life was before the earthquake compared to what it would be like in the days to come.
Seven hours later, I arrived to the United States, and had to start over from nothing. Before I really had time to process the tragedy, I gained immediate acceptance as a transfer student to Lycee Francais in New York. It was there that I began to truly immerse myself in my studies and clung onto my books as if they represented the familiarity I longed for. My mother missed my father greatly, and the months that followed were the longest I ever went without seeing my father. I worried for his safety a great deal too. The Lycee school was very kind to me, and offered to send me to counseling as I could not and would not discuss the earthquake with anyone. Indeed, in time, I sought help, and learned that I had to cope with the aftermath of the ordeal. All my classmates at Lycee Francais knew that I was the victim of the earthquake and many expressed their sympathy and many went out of their way to comfort me. However, I felt at times that I just did not want them to view me as an earthquake victim; I just wanted to be a normal girl.
Proving my academic abilities was yet another obstacle I had to face. I was tested and retested and ultimately placed into the most advanced programs at the school. My teachers realized early on that I was academically advanced and continued to provide me with challenging coursework. I became a workaholic; back then, my studies saved me. I clung on to my books as they represented stability in my life. I scored a perfect 800 on the French SAT subject test. I enrolled in Advanced Spanish, English OIB, French OIB. Calculus and Economics. Like in Haiti, I continued to play Varsity Volleyball at the Lycee in New York. Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to adequately prepare for the SAT test. The score I received does not truly reflect my academic ability. It is a miracle that I will be graduating from high school on time. So much of my life changed over the past two years, and I am still coping with the loss of dear friends and loved ones. I think that I matured more since the earthquake than even I thought imaginable. I am better, stronger, and more prepared to face any challenges that life sends my way.
Rebuilding my life after the earthquake taught me that I can overcome any obstacle. It showed me how vulnerable as human beings we really are, and that one should never take life for granted. I value life now more than ever before, and unlike typical teenagers, I am well aware of my mortality and the fact that it can be taken away in an instant. I have learned to appreciate all the little blessings in life. I will take nothing for granted and will appreciate all that I have. This year, I am applying to top American universities for college, and look forward to my dreams coming true. I plan to make an incredible positive contribution to the college I will attend.