From Hopelessness to Opportunity | University of California – Los Angeles Undergraduate Application Essay

At an age when most young girls spend their days watching Sunday morning cartoons and playing with Barbie dolls, I was struggling with the emotional turmoil that was my family. Growing up in the slums of L.A., my living situation was abominable: I could never have invited my friends over to my cockroach-infested cupboards and sparse closets. My father was rarely around to support us, and the memories I do have of him are mostly repressed visions of nights filled with violence and horror. My mother disappeared most nights, slaving away to feed two growing children. I became a latchkey kid, forced to grow up early.

Ignoring reality, I played within the safety net of my imagination, desperately envisioning my dad’s return so that we could finally be one happy family living the American Dream. Yet being Korean-American made the stigma of poverty especially difficult to deal with. No other Korean I knew suffered from the same lower-class humiliation. I became painfully aware of my “difference,” but I could never confide in my comfortably affluent peers about the hellhole I lived in. The tides finally turned when Mom transferred me into a magnet program in the Valley; it was a far cry from the L.A. schools I had attended, and my hopes…

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