"Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are" (Reagon, 2010, ¶ 1).
Challenges in life have helped me not only discover who I am, as the introductory quote by Reagon (2010), an American historian and musician, asserts. They also strengthen and help me realize who I can become; a person who actively approaches life with a positive, optimistic attitude: an individual who discovers opportunities in life's challenges. During this essay, I recount a number of my life's challenges and the ensuing lessons that have helped shaped me and my life. I also relate reasons as well as the rationale for my desire to attend MIT. Growing up as a Palestinian in Jerusalem, challenging opportunities regularly presented experiences which helped me to change for the better as I learned more about myself. These experiences also left treasured imprints in my heart for life. Learning to deal with several different languages at a young age proved to be one primary challenge I consider as primus inter-pares. This challenging opportunity evolved from having a Palestinian-Muslim father and a Polish-Christian mother. My father spoke Arabic, his native language. My mother spoke Polish. In addition to each of my parents speaking their native languages at diverse times in our home, they frequently spoke to each other in English. This daunting experience growing up in a home with parents speaking three languages became even more complicated as others in the society where our family lived spoke yet another tongue, Hebrew. Many of my Israeli neighbors did not speak either English or Arabic. In school, many of my classmates were native Hebrew-speakers. Consequently, fluency in Hebrew proved to be a necessity while living in Jerusalem. Living in a world and being exposed to these diverse tongues, albeit, enabled me to become a multilingual person. This particular challenging opportunities has proven invaluable; nurturing me into a person who not only belongs to but who can more effectively communicate in globalized world. In addition to being exposed to English, Arabic, and Hebrew as well as Polish at times, at the age of three, when I enrolled at the Lycee Francais de Jerusalem to begin my primary education, I also started learning French. The confusing linguistic challenges I experienced during my childhood, nevertheless, proved integral to enriching my life at home with family, in school, and in ensuring endeavors. Matriculating at the Lycee Francais de Jerusalem afforded me the opportunity to study with not only Arab and Jewish students but also with students from other countries. In time, as I made momentous discoveries about my neighbors and classmates, I simultaneously became more fluent in French, Arabic, Polish, English, and Hebrew. In addition, I learned how to better express myself in terms most comprehensible by those I interacted with. My childhood communication challenges taught me the value of languages and dialogue. These opportunities continue to serve me well in my personal, academic and professional experiences. In addition to deliberately focusing to achieve academic success, I also strive to be a rounded person who can contribute to the community I live in. During my teen years, I regularly participated in various youth activities and community service programs; serving as a volunteer. My fluency in French, English, Hebrew and Arabic proved to be a valuable asset in these volunteer activities as it empowered me to communicate and interact with a diverse group of multilingual staff and participants attending summer camps. While attending one particular camp, organized by Peace Players International-Middle East, a group endeavoring to educate, inspire, and unite young people in divided communities through basketball, I was honored with the opportunity to represent my school at two model United Nations conferences; one in Israel and another held in Germany. On an individual level, I discovered personal fulfillment from investing 10 years of study and practice to learn to play the piano. My mother inspired my passion for the piano, which began at the age of six. At that time in my life, my mother, an accomplished musician, contracted for me to take piano lessons from a brilliant Russian teacher. This instructor, a particularly staunch, serious woman refused to tolerate any type of failure on my part; despite my age. This teacher's stern methods, nevertheless, cultivated and helped develop the talent helped me realize and encouraged me to become a creative musician. From sessions with this teacher, I came to understand "Learning how to learn is ultimately the greatest challenge facing education in the age of globalization" (Wright, 2000, p. 112). This investment led to me performing in a number of concerts and playing piano at various events. My performances in five prominent piano competitions earned me first place recognition in each competition. The once seemingly endless hours of practice, I now realize, were to hone my skill; to help me become a master at playing the piano. The challenge to persevere in practicing the piano enables me to travel throughout the world and share beautiful, inspiring music with others; to serve as a conduit to bring the joy of music into each of our lives; a true calling.
I realize that in addition to music, I have a call in my heart to pursue my other passions, science and mathematics. At the age of 17, after receiving a scholarship to study in France, I moved to Paris to seize this wonderful opportunity. In Paris, while attending Lycee Saint-Louis, classes included preparatory school classes (preparatoires aux grandes ecoles (CPGE). These classes, known as prepas or prepas, comprise a vital component of the French post-secondary education system. Students typically attend two selective years with the system's goal to train these undergraduate students to later qualify to enroll in one of the French grandes ecoles. During this time, I had to work harder than ever to meet the extremely high workload. Here, I and the other students competed, yet encouraged each other as results from testing sometimes proved lower than we anticipated. Several of the students I sometimes studied with quit before entering their second year due to the ongoing stress and pressure to excel. This challenge, I perceive, helped strengthened my resolve to stick with and complete whatever goal I set. Also, while in France, I discovered the value of becoming more independent and learning to take care for myself; further helping me grow.
To me, people seemed to regard Paris as the city of fashion and lights, a place full of joie de vivre and laisser-faire attitudes; the home of magnificent Eiffel Tower. Paris, the capital city of France, holds an impressive reputation as an international hub for culture, museums and art galleries, cafes with culinary masterpieces and world-renowned architecture. Virtually any significant "happening" in the country begins; ends, or currently takes place there, making Paris the republic's administrative, business, and cultural center. . The French have a saying: "Quand Puris eternue, la Frances' en rhume' (When Paris sneezes, France catches cold)" (Fallon & Williams, 2008, p. 18). With a population close to12 million, "the greater metropolitan area of Paris is home to almost 19% of France's total population" (Ibid.). Paris reflects an air that often captivates and can deceive those not aware of its timeless aura; particularly places like the backstreets of Montmartre and the terraced cafes of Montparnasse.
Most people visiting Paris focus on two of its historical treasures, the Eiffel Tower, the world's tallest monument as well as the universal symbol of Paris, and the Seine's placid waters. The name Seine evolved from the Latin Sequana, a Latinisation of the Gaulish (Celtic) Sicauna, which some assert to mean "sacred river." Throughout time, the river has repeatedly been used as a scene for those determined to commit suicide as well as a place where some murderers dispose of the bodies of their murder victims. During times past, the Seine served as the primarily route for transportation and protection for Paris. The Eiffel Tower serves as a tribute to engineering and to its German designer, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. Any place I travelled in Paris, I found that no matter the season or whether the day was cloudy or full of sunshine -- the sparkling tower demanded attention; making it almost impossible not to, at some point during the day, succumb to its majestic structure.
Treasures equally captivating that helped me better cope with challenges during my tenure in Paris included music, which continually flooded the streets, and The Cafe de Flore, located at the corner of the Boulevard Saint-Germain. While attending Lycee Saint-Louis, the streets of Paris served as a first-class stage for music ranging from classical, to well-known pop and rock musicians and world-renowned jazz. Rich immigration has dramatically influenced the music mores which reflects vibrant subcultures and the open-minded, supportive public in Paris who help make the street music scenes an avid breeding ground for experiential music. Walking from classes in the evening, I often paused to savor tunes floating with…