Alexa’s College Essay: Vulnerability & Connection
Alexa is an alum of our high school Service program in Nepal. She wrote about her Nepal experience in both her personal statement and supplement for Wellesley College, which she’ll attend in the fall with a full tuition scholarship as a Posse Scholar. She plans to double major in data science and sociology so she can use data to raise awareness about structural issues in society.
* * *
It’s dark outside, and I’m sitting in my bed. My teenage self begins to feel lonely in a world where communication and connection with people are ironically only a finger’s touch away. Instead of reaching for my phone to FaceTime a friend, I reach for a journal from my nightstand. It’s unassuming with colorful circles and the phrase “make the world a little kinder” on the cover, but on the inside, I am reminded of the relationships I made during my past summers and the journey I went through to become who I am today.
“Thank you for choreographing our group dance, we all truly bonded because of you,” my friend Sophia writes in pink ink. After three weeks of writing poems and short stories, my friends and I were nearing the end of our time together at a Stanford creative writing program. Outside of classes and daily check-ins, I never spent time with everyone else in our house. I feared the regret I would have if I never developed lasting relationships. One afternoon, I gathered everyone to choreograph a group dance for the talent show. So much laughter was shared as we pantomimed the lyrics of “I’m the One” by DJ Khaled, freestyled, and goofed off. I had overcome the anxiety of finding a community and learned to build one by sharing something I love, developing the confidence to later bring my school’s unique community together.
Flipping through my journal, I read: “Don’t be in fear of losing a world you’re not meant for.” During my first year of high school, constant comparisons to others and the looming “B” in dance on my report card had deflated my newfound passion. Going to Perry Mansfield’s Performing Arts School and Camp was my attempt at reconciling my relationship with dance, but in one rehearsal, the lingering thoughts from school resurfaced and overwhelmed me. Tears streamed down my face. The rehearsal came to a halt. As my camp counselor Nicole led me outside, heavy sobs continued to interrupt my words as I opened up. Later on, backstage at the show, I told David, a peer, about my struggles with dance. Through Nicole and David, I came to terms with the quote from the journal. Two years later, after continued frustrations then indifference, I can acknowledge the impact dance has had on my life and internalize those words.
Near the end of the filled pages, I read my leader John’s scribbles: “Your vulnerability early on with the group set the stage for others to take risks, trust one another, and speak what was on their heart.” Less than one week into my service trip to Nepal, we had arrived in the small town of Salleri and were taking a dance class from the local girls. Because of the language barrier and difficulty of teaching to non-dancers, people started making negative comments about our teachers’ abilities. After frequently hearing side comments from my high school classmates when we were taking masterclasses in a new style, I was hopeful to be around people who were willing to learn about and appreciate another culture. After feeling frustrated, I decided to tell the group about how I felt. I learned that vulnerability was not a weakness but a facilitator for connection and empathy. Today, vulnerability has motivated my decisions as a leader in my community. By seeing the power of my own emotions, I acknowledge others’ openness.
From my time as a naive 14-year old to the soul-searching rising sophomore and to the confident junior in Nepal, my high school summers have served as a great reminder to me about the power of community. As I turn the page with the last letter, I am met with blank pages.
Pages that would have been filled this past summer with even more happy anecdotes. Pages that will soon be marked by the experiences that are yet to come.
* * *
As I scroll through the Wellesley College 100, I find myself getting inspired by the alumni and excited about the available opportunities. From reading how Ophelia Dahl’s time at Wellesley taught her “how to combine confidence, understanding, and expertise,” qualities I admired when I read about her in Mountains Beyond Mountains for AP Lang, to events like Fall Frenzy that remind me of community-building StuCo events I coordinated, I began to find ways Wellesley resembles my beloved high school. As I continued to read, I got a sense of the change-making community of women I hope to join at Wellesley.
Two summers ago, I travelled to Nepal for a service trip. We worked with local organization The Small World Nepal to help build an orphanage after the 2012 earthquake and to learn about their initiatives supporting girls’ education and women’s empowerment. We met cofounders Karma and Sanam Sherpa, hearing their incredible stories and their drive to help their community, which taught me the importance of empowering local organizations. When I read about Kavindya Thennakoon and Without Borders with their IdeaLabs, I was reminded about Karma and Sanam. Throughout high school, I realized I was most fulfilled from my interactions with people with a passion and drive to better society. The trailblazers I will find at Wellesley will push me to become a leader who can one day give back to my community. When I read that she is a user experience researcher, as someone who hopes to study both data science and sociology, I found a role model who shares my interests in technology to support a cause, such as creating a data dashboard to demonstrate the inequalities in education. At Wellesley, I hope to continue fighting for education for all. After learning about the disparities between the diversity of my school district and of my school, I started the MentArts program, a student-led arts mentorship program for middle schoolers from schools that don’t usually matriculate to HSPVA. When I found the Mission Hill After School Program at Wellesley and the opportunity to tutor students in Boston neighborhoods, I knew I wanted to volunteer and provide the support these students might need to succeed in school. At Wellesley, I hope to join this community of inspiring women that can change the world for the better.