This is a personal statement, an anecdote that happened to me when I was younger that I could say changed my character and being.
Walking from one class to the next with my group of friends, our class bully took joy in ruining our day by calling us insults and ridiculing us by making us the stars of his jokes. I had enough. I looked him in the eye and challenged him to a fight. I swung and kicked, landing only one blow to his chest. My opponent, who was much bigger and athletic than I, easily overpowered me, landing blow after blow on the back of my head. We both got in trouble, but the only thing that hurt was my pride. It was mortally wounded. We managed to befriend each other afterward. There was no bully anymore. Perhaps it was mutual respect since he realized that there would be repercussions for his actions. Standing up for myself in this instance really set me up for the rest of my life, yes I was hurt, and yes, I would do it all over again. This was a significant moment for me because afterward, the shy, timid boy who was afraid was no longer there. I had literally gotten hit in the face. I knew I wasn't made of glass. I started taking more chances in my life, asking the pretty girl out, applying for that scholarship, asking more questions in class that I was previously too afraid to ask. All this happened in a small town off the coast in the department of La Guajira, Colombia. Originally though, I was born in Barranquilla, Colombia.
When I was fifteen years old, we came to the United States. My parents had been divorced for as far as I could remember, but now that my father was helping my mom and I move to the US, I thought we might be a family again. It was then that I realized that they were happy helping each other, but they both knew they had drifted too far apart and were not meant to be together. My older brother and I were asked, “whom do you want to live with?” It was a terrible question that was borderline a statement. My father, I knew, wanted me to choose him, he had long been fighting for his citizenship in the US, and now that he had it, he helped us move. I owed him a lot and still do. On the other hand, my mother asked me to pick whomever I thought I wanted to be with. I love my mother dearly. I couldn't just abandon her, I thought. It was a terrible choice I had to make, my mother or my father. In the end, I chose my mother because she has always been there for me, always asks me to pick with my mind and heart but most importantly, to follow my gut. In this situation, I realized that my mother meant the world to me and that even though my father wasn’t there much growing up, he always worked to help us come to the US. He never forgot about us and dreamed of giving us a better life. I learned to appreciate everything you have at any given moment because, in one instance, everything you thought was true could fall apart. Always cherish your parents because they are just people too trying to make the best of their lives and yours.
My first year in the US was very bizarre for me since I was still getting used to new customs, new traditions, new people, and a whole new way of living and understanding life. In Colombia, I felt that my outward appearance and family lineage measured my worth. In the US, the focus is on the individual. There is much praise for being independent, self-reliable, less focused on your appearance, and more about who you are and what you have to say and do for your community. Like the great JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This was a major new development for me because I was worried about what others thought about me most. How I dressed was also very important because otherwise, I would have felt judged and embarrassed. I didn't understand myself very well in high school. It wasn't until college that I began to analyze myself and my whole life critically. Even now, I understand that I will always have to be open to other people’s ideas, but I have to think critically about them and whether that’s something I want to be a part of. Choices make people, not heritage, creed, or religion. It’s about what happens and how you choose to react to it. We are all not given the same chances since birth. We don’t get to choose that. We do get to choose how to live our lives, what our standard of living should be, and whether I make it happen or not. My time in Colombia makes me a natural-born Spanish speaker, fluent in reading and writing. I practice Spanish still every day by reading. I am self-taught in Latin at a fundamental level, a bachelor’s in political science with a minor in American history and sociology with a lot to add to class discussions, always willing to put in the work, and happy while doing it.