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I grew up in a country where people value being a part of globalization. At a very young age, I was expected to be fluent in English as well as Korean, my native language. I never understood why my people wanted to westernize themselves so badly. In due time, I moved to the United States where English was relevant in every aspect of society. Specifically, the writing was heavily focused on throughout my schooling in America, and I endured a love and hate relationship with the subject.
My first exposure to writing in English was in the fourth grade, back in the fall of 2010. I was introduced to an assignment where I had to write a few paragraphs by combining simple sentences. As one of the English Language Learners (ELL) students, rather than learning English with my American peers, I was required to go to the ELL class where Mrs. Valenthout taught me very basic English, starting with the alphabet. Since I was far behind the other fourth graders, my parents forced me to take an additional writing class with a tutor after school.
However, I had no interest in writing and I thought it was such a waste of time because I wanted to learn how to verbally communicate with my peers instead. Towards the end of the year, all fourth graders were required to write a short booklet, and I remember struggling with that assignment since I moved to the United States from South Korea only eight months prior.
Mrs. Valenthout helped me with punctuation and grammar for every page of my book and she made the project incredibly fun. For a few months afterward, I wanted to be an author, so I remember writing two books with my broken English during the following summer.
In sixth grade, my English improved so I was able to stay in my regular classroom, but still supported by the ELL class a few times every week. During my English class, I learned the basic structure of how to write a perfect essay: introduction, body paragraphs, and wrapping up with a conclusion. I was required to follow the structure or else I would get points deducted. I always had to write out an outline, rough draft, have the in-progress essay revised by other classmates, and write a final draft to turn in. This process was something drilled into my brain, which helped me look over my essays and spot little mistakes each time. However, I disliked the rigid rules of writing essays and how they are required to be written in a certain way, which limits my creativity. I believe this format doesn’t allow writers to think outside the box I wish writing could be my own free space where I let my creativity out.
The next year, I learned how to write an argumentative essay, supporting one side of a topic over the other. In middle school, my English teachers still stressed that following specific steps would help us write out the perfect essay. The teachers were a lot stricter about using a wider range of vocabulary to enhance our essays. I read And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie as my silent reading book and I loved the way the author leads the story chapter by chapter with very descriptive phrasing. I had no idea writing could create such visual images in my head. I started practicing writing imagery on my own and I believe my English improved through this. Towards the end of the year, I took the ELL writing test and scored high enough to no longer need the English support system. In addition, I believe my improvement is due to the early exposure of our generation to technology. I used a cell phone to write nearly every single day by texting my friends and family. I typically write by hand for school purposes, but occasionally if I am going through a hard time or need to get my feelings out, I write them down.
I took English every school year, and I wrote the standard persuasive, narrative, argumentative, and research papers. These are the types of papers that I don’t enjoy because they just seem boring for me to write and I would get points off due to the teacher’s preferred writing style. Also, I found myself writing about the same things every year, so it was getting old pretty fast. My writing skills have improved for sure due to these assignments, but for many years but I did not enjoy it. In 10th grade, I started to enjoy writing again because we had a lot of “freedom” on what to write. I enjoyed gathering detail-oriented information and writing down my thoughts.
When applying to colleges during the fall of 2018, I wrote about my passion for helping others and my interest in medicine. After nine years of living in the United States, I finally realized that I enjoy writing about myself, my own experiences, and I love to express my thoughts and emotions onto paper. Even though it took me a very long time, it was my first ever essay that I was proud of and made changes to my thoughts that writing is important and very helpful in many ways. Expressing my feelings just like how I talk to people in person had different aspects of literacy and I prefer writing descriptively. I consider myself an introvert and this process was a way for me to communicate. Now, I know my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to literacy and I am trying my best to turn those weaknesses into my strong points.
Overall, I believe my writing skills have come a very long way. From not being able to form a complete sentence, to being able to write speeches for presentations and 12-page narrative papers. My motivation helped me to expand my writing, but I couldn’t have done any of it by myself, but because I had support from my family, teachers, and my peers along my journey. Even though I graduated high school and am in college right now, I know I’m still not even close to my full potential when it comes to writing. Now I am here at Michigan State University, knowing that people I meet will continue to teach me new skills as I grow older I believe there’s no limit when it comes to writing. Literacy has been behind every corner of my life. Every year I learn and understand more deeply what writing is and how to effectively use in everyday life. I am excited to see what lies ahead with my academic career.
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