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Being Different and Loving It

I like to think that my defining physical attribute is the color of my skin. I have a mixed parentage and due to the different cultures that flow in my veins I have this dark colored skin which is lighter than most Brazilians and it is a curious shade of brown that appear to be translucent. Naturally, when I am with my classmates, I stand out from the group like a sore thumb. My eyes are unusual in shape and color, I have very deep brown eyes (please change if it’s not the right color), it is round and somewhat narrow in the corners, my eyelashes are thick and wavy.

My father always said that I have expressive eyes and he could guess my emotions just by looking at my eyes. I also often find people commenting on how little I am, I am quite petite but since I was taught to walk with my head up, I actually appear taller that I really am which is why people are amazed that I am really small. At a young age, I have come to know that that I am unique, even in my own town and in my family. My physical characteristics are not typical of Brazilians and although I have siblings, the unusual skin color and eyes are more pronounced in me.

Being different, I have always been the subject of other people’s attention; I am quite used to hearing people say “she looks different”. I grew up with the love and support of my parents and family, they always encouraged me to be the best at what I do and to be content with my body and physical attributes. Hence, I did not have any problem with my physical appearance when I was in my country. However, when I arrived in this country, I felt that I was under intense scrutiny, I can hear people murmur and exchange glances in the cafeteria when I am around and some of them bluntly asks “from what country are you?

” It is quite understandable then that I often think that I do not belong in this school because of my color and appearance. My clothes reflect my personality because wear clothes according to my own sense o style and preferences rather than following fashion trends and the like. In principle I give more importance to comfort and functionality that is being able to do what I want without worrying about my precious heels or expensive blouses. But I always choose to wear something that I know I feel good in it, clothes that make me look pretty and confident and attractive.

Similarly, I wear shirts and jeans because I am comfortable in it and I know that I can still be attractive without trying too hard. Actually jeans and shirts really reflects who I am as a person, I dislike fuss, I want something dependable and consistent, I value freedom and choice and I am just like any ordinary girl in town. I don’t have much patience for matching outfits with accessories and wearing make-up and dressing up, unless there is a need for it. Thus, in a fairly normal and regular day, you will always catch me in my jeans and shirts.

When I get inspired I try to dress up but I consciously try to remain true to my cultural influences, thus I like bright colors and happy prints. I like being who I am, although at times I feel the occasional pressure to conform and be just like everyone else. But I have found comfort in my own skin and I am happy just the way I am. I have come to believe that a person’s worth is not based on his/her appearance but on his/her work and compassion. Most people perceive me as a foreigner who has a better than average command of the English language.

It actually means that people think that I am some black girl who can speak English quite well, and for this, I am labeled as different. I know that stereotypes are based on beliefs and ideas about a particular group and that it is usually false or negative. Take for example when I interact with Americans, they observe that I have a different complexion and they immediately think that I am a foreigner. They then evaluate my personality based on their definition of foreigner, and that is someone who cannot speak English, who is somewhat simpleminded and naive.

However, I do not fit into any of that stereotypes which is in conflict with what people believe in, hence I become “different”. I wish that people would not focus so much on how different I am. I think people become ethnocentric when they kind of expect that because I am a foreigner I might be dumb or stupid. And when they find out that I am well read, that I am actually good at my subjects they find it difficult to accept me as I am. I also have body piercing since it is quite normal in my country and it’s not a big deal to my parents.

But here, I notice people stare at me and maybe think of me as some teenager gone wild, partying late at night and getting drunk and high and dating boys. Actually, I am not and have no desire to spend my youth on that stuff but I guess one cannot help how people think of you. If they only see how humdrum my life is then they would probably not think of me in that way. I hear comments about my appearance every time and some are hurtful. It threatens my resolve to survive in this life but when I hear my parent’s voice on the phone, I remember why I am here and am my old self again.

My friends/family members call me funny because I am a good storyteller and when I am in the mood I imitate the voices and expressions of other people which make my friends roll over with laughter. I also have a good memory, so I am the repository of past funny experiences and practical jokes that I repeat over and over to the chagrin of my friends. If other people heard my friends say I am funny, they would probably disagree because I am quiet and rarely engage in banters and jokes in class. I live alone and I connect more with my family back home than with people I meet here.

Most people comment that I am smart although I never really boast about it. I know that I have the capacity to learn my subjects well and this is what I want, whether I think am smart or not is not important. In my family I am always the smart one and it places great pressure for me to live to that expectation although my family tells me that whatever I achieve they will be proud of it. Most of my friends also say that I am secretive which is actually true since I do not easily trust other people especially about my personal issues and difficulties.

My friend’s think that I am deep because of how I see things differently and how focused I am with doing what I want, but I think they misperceive that trait as deep, for me it’s a matter of knowing and working hard to realize my dreams. Most of my present classmates assumed that I would have difficulty with the language since I am a foreigner. In the first week of classes they would go to great lengths to explain to me how to go to the library and how to access my student accounts etc. it was kind of funny when I think of it but I was not offended by it.

To someone like me who can understand English perfectly well and who is observant and analytical, being ushered to my classes and being fussed over when readings are assigned and assignments are given and being picked last during group work because of the “language barrier” are negative experiences that I could do without. But I got to enjoy having people help me and made me feel special, which really made my first week of school a lot better. When it became apparent that I was good in English they gradually stopped telling me what to do and I felt that they resented that I did not told them that I knew the language.

What was obvious to me was that I was treated well by my classmates because they thought that I was the usual foreigner but when they realized that I was not what they thought I was, they found it difficult to relate to me. Read your essay quietly to yourself (marking any places that you think need further work or correction) and answer the following questions. What do you like best about your essay? What are its strengths? Explain. The best part of my essay is how it tells my story and my personal convictions about being different. The essay is concise and strikes the right note, it’s not too long and it’s grammatically well written.

I like my essay because it really describes who I am. What do you like least about your essay? What do you think needs to be improved? Explain. Some of my sentences are too long, and seemed to be redundant. I could improve this essay by modifying my sentences and by explaining in simple words what I wanted to communicate to the readers as well as giving more examples on some points that needs to be elaborated on. What do you want your essay to communicate to anyone who reads it? What do you want your reader to learn? What do you want your reader to remember about your essay?

In other words, what point are you trying to make in your essay? Explain. My essay is about being strong and being proud of whom you are as a person and to live life without sacrificing my values and principles in the quest for a better life. I want them to know that being in a new country, a new culture and living alone is no easy feat, but one can really do it and be happy with it if you have your priorities right. I have no wish to be absorbed in this rat race of modern life. I am here because I want to have a good education for I know that education is the key to success.

I was brave to come to America, I want to experience life here and I plan to go back to my country when I finish my studies because I want to make a difference in my own community. Being young is great but it is all too easy to be pressured to conform to the needs and desires of this culture when you do not have a clear concept of who you are as a person. I am different and I have embraced it and I love being different. Overall, what have you learned through the process of writing this essay (about you, about the story, about interpretation, about writing, etc. )? Explain.

This exercise has shed light to my own feelings about myself and why I am here. I was convinced that I came here to fulfill my dreams but I thought that would be easy and that I need not deal with the complexities of college life, and I was wrong. Being different in this multicultural environment is quite a difficult position to be in. It is difficult to explain to others how I feel and finding the right words to capture what I want my readers to understand is also mind boggling. I also had to review my grammar rules and laying out my thoughts in paper took some time.

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