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There I sat, an American-born Indian boarding a flight to Guatemala with Japanese anime loaded on my phone and a Wheelock’s Latin textbook in hand. At only 15, I was somewhat culturally aware, but I felt culturally confused. My skin said I was Indian, my heart belonged to the children in Guatemala, my mind spoke in Japanese, my intellectual drive was fueled by the Roman literature, and my roots were in America.
“Cogito”, or thought. My interest in world cultures drove my passion in everything I did. I studied Latin in order to understand the minds that set the foundation for the western world we know today; tales of Remus and Romulus governing Rome drew me to student leadership, where I sought to improve representative government. I spend hours dissecting each new culture, and grow as a person with every new ideology I encounter.
“Sonkei”, or respect. Having hosted over 25 Japanese exchange students, I drawn to the principles of hospitality. I applied these principles not only to other people, but also to my disciplined approach to academics. As a member of a biology lab at UCLA, I worked alongside PhD students, assisting in experiment design, running data analysis, and genotyping test subjects. Although it was intimidating working with students who had been in school longer than I had been alive, I constantly implemented a work ethic that honored my mentors and the work we were doing. It was this attitude that broadened my understanding of what science entailed. Science wasn’t memorizing definitions or pipetting solution, but developing a complete view of the task at hand and having the discipline to search for answers that aren’t always present.
“Devolviendo”, or giving back. As a sophomore, I traveled to rural Guatemala as a dental assistant in a clinic that provides dental care to orphans. For so long, I had merely read about challenges in public health around the world, but this experience reminded me that behind each statistic was a real person. The thought of these children remained embedded in my mind. I knew I wanted to continue helping even if I was not physically present, so I conducted research examining natural oral hygiene sustainabilities in Guatemala. Subsequently, I was selected to publish my research in the “International Journal of Innovation and Scholarly Research”. After completing my initial paper, I wasn’t satisfied with simply writing about my findings. I continue to use my research to develop a plant-based product that I will implement in Guatemala.
These three ideals, like the cultures they represent, can interlock. I employ “cogito” to delve into our current problems with the knowledge of generations before me. “Sonkei” reminds me to approach every situation with a level of respect and practice humility in order to continue to grow. As I continue to study, I know that my end goal is to use this knowledge to “devolviendo”. As I face the issues of our flattening landscape, both socially and academically, I consider myself a student of the world.
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