A Search for Myself | Cornell University Undergraduate Application Essay

All I ever had to define myself, all I know, is that I am part French. Warm French summers in the countryside, full of laughter, good food, family time, and my French education, that was what I considered my culture. Knowing not of the severity of any social exclusion or distinction, because I had never been exposed to it. Yet this was all abruptly shattered when my families drifted apart. I remember hearing “You don’t even know where your daughter is from!”: The first time my curly hair, tan skin and dark eyes, and my dad being adopted, became obvious to me.

Having never known my ethnicity, because my Dad is adopted, this essential part of understanding who I am never truly affected me until this point of my life. Am I white? Am I black? Something else? I realized then the different degrees of treatment according to the shade of one’s skin. It is everywhere around me. The beauty and shine and glow and originality that I saw in darker skin as a young girl, the one I wanted so badly to resemble and was so proud to be even a little bit like, became a criticism and a joke as I grew up. I couldn’t understand how my darker skin and thick curls, or the association of me to dark women, could ever be insulting. Now, I see myself and I…

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