By Beth Gebresilasie
I wrote this essay for my colleges. I wanted to express my flexibility and versatility as a person, which I owe to my upbringing and changes I’ve underwent.
I had an interview for a work study position in the Anthropology office, during which my professor made a note of my accent. It wasn’t some egregious criticism of my vocalizations, rather an observation on my lack of regionality or accent specificity. I grew up in Eritrea until I was nine, after which I lived in Sudan, Uganda, and finally the United States. During these semi-permanent residences, I visited Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, and the Netherlands. I mention the above anecdote to note that my background, rather than being localized to one estate, is a combination of multiple cultures, encounters, and experiences.
My country’s dictatorship has forced countless to flee, enunciating my lack of uniqueness in terms of travels. In fact, most immigrants from my country, once gathered among dishes of injera and silsi, recount stories of failed escapes and hazardous walks through the Sahara, evading death by the skin of their teeth. In comparison, my life is healthy. I never had to cross any borders illegally. My parents ensured my future from youth, paying for me to attend Italian kindergarten and elementary school. They treated me like an adult, inviting me into conversations with mature elements, and fostering a robust ability to question authority.
The particularity of my life arrives in my ambiguity. Even at the most superficial level, my skin tone confuses others, including those of my nationality as anything but Eritrean. Despite my safe travels and salubrious education, I’m not rich. Despite my foreignness, I bear no accent. No external qualities impart the reality of who I am, and as a result, it’s easier for me to define who I am without external projections. This is a privilege I’m grateful for. It’s not that I live unaffected by my upbringing, or my environment. Rather, I have been able to gather from a wide range of resources the person who I can be, with scant barriers and loose expectations.
Through the stories and lessons I’ve heard from other immigrants, through my migrations, and amalgamation of cultures that have nurtured me, I developed. Through other immigrants, I learned the intensity of grief and trauma. I have met immigrants that were tortured by my government, and the despair of persecution haunts them. I won’t wholly comprehend their pain, yet I seek to offer those who suffer solace through my ability to listen, and through a shared nationality. My migrations have offered me an unparalleled worldview that seeks to continue expanding. Traveling has become a pattern I seek to repeat, as the act of exploration has become a facet of who I am. The cultures I’ve encountered strike me with an awe that doesn’t exhaust itself. We as people, and groups, have reacted in differing variables to the stimuli of the world. We’ve developed variations of languages, dress codes, religions, and even foods; nothing and no one is the same, though there exists relationships of interdependence between all of us.
People of my nationality also comment on my lack of accent. I can seamlessly weave between Tigrinya and English, without a pitfall or confusion. My ambiguity is a stroke of luck, I can fit anywhere. This isn’t to say I lack distinctness, rather, I have been given a chance to define who I am without the confusion of oppressive expectations and assumptions on who I am.
Totaling the experiences I’ve had, I define myself as creative, adventurous, and empathetic. These are the values that I’ve extracted from my life so far. As I enter a new academic semester, my principles will be highlighted in the courses I take, activities I partake in, and lessons I earn. I look forward to growing with you.
Writing the essay wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. It felt like I was expressing information I have been mulling over for some time. This isn’t even my first college essay, as I am a transfer. However, I felt that this essay depicted me with apt veracity, far more than my initial essay.
Beth Gebresilasie is alive and breathing in New York City. They are interested in understanding the world and its people. Fittingly, they study Anthropology and Philosophy. They grew up traveling and they hope to travel further, both literally and intellectually, as they lead their life.