U.S. Law School
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미국로스쿨J.D Top5 동시 합격 에세이

When I was a senior in high school, my friend Tyler shot himself to death in front of the local Wal-Mart. Immediately afterwards, rumors began to circulate. He was autistic. He made bombs in his basement. He had done it in a public place, in front of his mother, to spite the entire community. Having been one of the very few in the entire school who actually knew him, I felt alone in my shock and grief.

I had met Tyler at a previous school we both attended, and knew he was a quiet, uncommonly intelligent kid. A few weeks before the incident, however, I began to notice some strange behavior on his part. He was a new student at our current high school, but had made no effort to make friends. He mumbled incoherently under his breath, avoided eye contact, and was growing increasingly belligerent in class discussions. The afternoon he took his own life, we were watching an art slideshow in our AP European History class when our teacher, Mr. S, began a discussion on Picasso’s Guernica. Tyler made some unconventional comments, and was mocked by most of the class before Mr. S settled everyone down. As the period came to a close, I noticed Tyler sitting in his seat, shaking visibly, mutilating his cuticles with a pair of nail clippers. That was the last time I saw him alive.

As I sat next to a classmate at his memorial service, it hit me that all the signs had been there, yet I had conveniently ignored them all. I was tormented by my own inaction for weeks. If I had just reached out a little more. If I had just invited him to eat lunch with me sometime. If I had just, instead of looking away uncomfortably as he silently drew blood from his fingers, talked to him. Only if.

Later that year, I would board a plane for Incheon International Airport in Korea to embark on what would turn out to be the most difficult and amazing journey of my life. I entered A University in the spring of 2002 as an international student, determined to learn all about Korea and what was supposed to be my “mother tongue.” Almost immediately, my “motherland” provided me with ample instances of tough love. I found that despite its name, most of the classes in the Department of English Language and Literature were held entirely in Korean, and a significant chunk of the coursework involved translating cryptic Old English poetry into even more cryptic Korean. Moreover, A University was by far the most prestigious university in the nation, which meant competing with my fellow classmates would be no easy task. Most of these students had sacrificed sleep and sanity for the past three years for the sole purpose of earning a coveted spot on the school’s acceptance list. Meanwhile, having almost no ability to read or write the language, even graduation seemed out of reach of me.

Not one to be discouraged, I started my uphill battle aggressively. I lingered behind to inform all my professors of my language barrier, begged to be permitted to write my essays in English, and sheepishly asked if I could audio record their lectures. I was humiliated repeatedly in class. This was a long and arduous process, and my grades suffered visibly in the beginning. However as all the professors in the English Department grew to know me and my Korean steadily improved, the quality of my work went up as well. I retook certain classes to boost my GPA. The school soon showed that they appreciated my efforts by awarding me with five scholarships over the course of my college years.

The most important thing I gained from my time in Korea did not involve classes or grades, however. It involved a young Bulgarian boy and a painful flashback. I met Nikola approximately a year after arriving in Korea, in January of 2003, in a tiny village in rural Bulgaria. It was the second week of the mission trip to Turkey and Bulgaria I had taken part in, and thus far I had been true solely to my duty as the English interpreter. The trip took on a completely new meaning when I met Nikola. He was a mere 15 years old, yet so dejected and worn down from the trials of life that he no longer had any will to live. In him, I immediately saw my friend Tyler.

There was nothing I could do but sit and talk with him. There was nothing I could do but smile and nod encouragingly, hold his hand and tell him that everything will turn out just fine. All the while the lump in my throat was growing larger, and I couldn’t fight the sickening feeling that this wasn’t enough to save his life. Ultimately, I had to leave the village that night. I wrote down my name and address for him just in case, and forced my feet along. My second chance, and that was all I could do.

Upon returning to Korea, I sought opportunities where I could help depressed and suicidal teenagers. I asked my father, who was a professor at the A University Graduate School of Counseling and member of the Counseling Center team, if I could tag along on some of his house calls. I met a sixth grade boy who acted as caretaker for his elderly grandmother and drunken father. I met a 17 year old girl who had bullied one of her classmates into getting her a prescription for sleeping pills so she could use them to commit suicide. I met a teenage girl who, though outwardly seemed to have not a worry in the world, confessed to feeling strong suicidal urges every time she performed badly on a school exam. I was blown away by just how many depressed and suicidal youngsters were out there—I desperately wanted to meet them all, to be able to offer even a glimmer of hope that could prevent them from making the biggest mistake of their lives.

In 2004 I joined the youth ministry at A Presbyterian Church and widened my range of house calls. I began visiting children and teens in the most tattered, lost, and shadowed corners of Seoul. Every time I succeeded in talking another person off the ledge, I thought of my friend Tyler. And I knew this was just the beginning.

It took me an extra year, but I received my college diploma in February of 2007. I was proud of the challenges I had overcome, but more than anything was excited about the new world of opportunities that was now open to me. I continued to work with A University and A Church, and on November 19, 2007, officially joined the Counseling Center as an intern counselor.

I have met many wonderful people, and through the simple power of words and genuine concern, saved some lives. I have always felt limited, however, in the actual change I could propagate. Law, in this respect, is an area that has the power to change peoples’ lives in a profoundly tangible way. The change is real, it is lasting, and it is effective. It reaches out to so many people at once, and offers so much hope that can actually be seen, that nothing is more powerful, nothing more sublime.

Korea has the highest suicide rate among all OECD member countries with 24.7 suicides per 100,000 people. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in South Korea, topping even traffic accidents. Among people in their 20s and 30s, suicide is the number one cause of death. Making the journey back to my parents’ homeland seven years ago, I had only thought about what I wanted to accomplish for myself, never imagining that I could become so enraptured with the very cause that had caused me such grief my final year of high school. Taking all that I have learned fighting a desperate cause, I feel I am ready to take the next step.

I love Korea and the fact that I am a Korean-American, but America has always been my home. I think of the many social problems, the wrongs waiting to be corrected, all the Tylers out there suffering silently. I think of what a remarkable journey this has been, these seven years in Korea, and wonder what bigger milestones lay ahead. It is time for me to go back home.

I want to be a lawyer because I feel a need for change. I want to attend the A University Law School because I feel it will best equip me to bring about that change. I believe a lawyer is not only confident and intelligent, but a person—a real-life, breathing, feeling person. I believe a lawyer must be able to communicate, to move people, to ponder, to question, to shake the very foundations this world rests upon—things I believe that a person with both passion and a unique life-shaping story is most capable of. I am ready to learn, get out there in the world, and truly make a difference.



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