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I was sixteen years old, and scared of rollercoasters; this fear had followed me through adolescence and into young adulthood. “C’mon, let’s go Joo. It’ll be fun!” urged my hyperactive friend. Reluctantly I went to Six Flags with a few buddies, with the full intention of spending the entire day in the arcade.
When we arrived, my friends coaxed me into lining up for Nitro, the biggest rollercoaster in the park. I crept down the long line, realizing what I was in for. With a height of 230 feet and a top speed of 80 miles per hour, Nitro seemed an insurmountable obstacle. As I approached the front of the line, the tracks loomed ominously over me. Before I knew it, I was strapped into the front row. As the cars slowly ascended, I panicked. I didn’t think I’d survive. I thought of every possible disastrous scenario until I was rudely interrupted by my friend who told me we were at the apex of the first drop. I peered over the edge and looked into the face of death. As the cars clicked forward, I shut my eyes and braced myself for the fall.
When the rollercoaster hurtled down, I screamed with everyone else. Just a few more seconds I told myself while I was mercilessly thrown into tight turns and corkscrews. After what seemed like an eternity in hell, the ride came to a stop and I quickly jumped off. That’s when I realized that the ride had been exhilarating. Having braved the biggest and baddest coaster in the park, I set out to conquer others.
Thus began my first rollercoaster experience. Fast forward eighteen months and here I am, a year older and hopefully a year wiser. The obstacle I faced that summer was a physical one with a low risk of injury; the challenges I face now are mostly mental, with a high risk of failure. Strangely enough, when I compare these new challenges to Nitro, my mental image of the rollercoaster dwarfs any new ones, making it far easier to cope with them.
In the beginning of eleventh grade, my father urged me to take both AP Chemistry and Honors Physics, the two hardest science courses Portledge offers. I immediately recalled the tearful chemistry students and the whining physics students from the previous year and rejected my father’s proposal, calling him crazy. After a weekend passed, however, I thought to myself, “I nearly shook hands with Death on Nitro. Doubling up on science should be almost fun in comparison.” With the risk of being called a nerd, I can now admit that my double dose of science was, indeed, fun.
Now, whenever I’m confronted by a seemingly insurmountable task, I remember my mantra and boldly forge ahead. I don’t know where I’d be today if it hadn’t been for those fateful four minutes in the summer of 2004. I do know one thing, however: I’m applying to Penn fearelessly, fully cognizant of the possibility of failure, but willing to take the risk.
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