Common App Personal Essay - Prompt 1 (2016-17)
Prompt: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
The other night, I was invited to stay at my friend's house for dinner, videogames, and a sleepover. I texted the news to my mom, who replied, "I don't think so. You need to work on your algebra." It was a Friday night, and I have an A in algebra.
That's the way it goes in the Mitsuhashi household. Hard work comes first, family comes second, and everything else follows. Although my parents have lived in the United States for 20 years, they have instilled in my brother and me their Japanese way of life. While they raised us in a relatively prosperous area of Connecticut, we weren't able to attend primary school with our neighbors. Instead, my mother drove 25 miles each way so we could attend a Japanese school north of New York City. Even though those days are over, we must log at least five hours per week of Japanese on our online dashboards. Still, I don't live in fear of my mother; I enjoy my classes and want to get the most out of school.
Another indicator of a culture is its eating behavior. We Mitsuhashis are certainly different from our neighbors. On weekends, we have to eat lunch precisely at noon, regardless of hunger or extracurricular commitments. If we are at home studying, we are permitted to rise and proceed to the table only when our father appears at our door or study area. Just like any growing teenager, I long for junk food, a taste for which I developed at parties growing up. But if my father finds out we had french fries or pizza, he insists that we go to a trainer. When we eat out, our meals are bound to include rice; in fact, our restaurant choices are generally Japanese or Asian fusion. I sometimes prefer to eat meals at my friends? houses, especially since my parents stopped insisting that I present a wrapped gift to my hosts.
If I were to listen to my peers and neighbors, I might be convinced that life is all about having fun. But school is a reality. When our high school subjects got noticeably more difficult, I followed my parents' model and persisted until I figured out assignments, usually on my own. (In Japanese, we say, "Nana korobi, ya oki," which means, "Fall seven times, and get up eight.") Since I had to keep up with schoolwork in the summer, I never experienced transition issues from grade to grade. Thanks to baseball, I can always strike up conversation at a party, either American or Japanese, and have lifelong friends that I made at camp. Since Japanese meals are high in protein and grains and low in sugar, I've never been anything but slim. And while it was once embarrassing to show up with wrapped gifts, I know to be courteous to my host. In other words, I don't just understand my Japanese roots; I also appreciate them.
When we as a family are not studying and eating, we enjoy sports, which in our culture means baseball. Despite my father's busy work schedule, he plays baseball almost year-round, waking up at dawn on Sundays and driving to Randall's Island, where he can participate in the men's Japanese league. When I turned 13, I began to accompany him, and it still feels special. I also treasure our trips to Citi Field, where we have a favorite spot for viewing games and can enjoy the ballpark food. (My hitting improved dramatically when I was sent to baseball camp and had access to American snacks!) Through DirecTV, we can catch the Nippon League as well, and I enjoy listening to the broadcasters bantering in Japanese. Baseball, unexpectedly, has brought us closer.