Common App Essay: Airports
As the college admissions season winds down and I find myself having to commit to a university soon, I thought it might help others to post an essay or two for public record. What follows is my Common App essay, the oh-so fabled and “main” essay required for admissions.
Prompt: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
An eerily dystopic voice of an adult woman blared. I caught the words “boarding” and “immediate” but I couldn’t bring myself to care. Bringing my head up from the stiff, cold plastic seat that I spent the night sleeping in, for a brief moment I was in a haze, wondering where I was. “Hurry the hell up, we gotta make security in time if we want to make this goddamn flight!” While I was trying to regain consciousness — and failing to realize the gravity of the situation — my father was frantically trying to gather my family’s bags while we tried to make a mad dash for our gate. We were a worried, sweaty, and frenetic family in a foreign land and, despite the alarming wake-up call I received, I absolutely loved it.
Episodes like that are a common theme in my life. In my 17 years of life thus far, I have spent more nights and days in airports than there are fingers on my hands. The thick slabs of concrete, the seemingly stoic yet easily irritable security personnel, the hustle and bustle that gives way to non-stop streams of human noise — oft-maligned aspects of airports, yet things I’ve grown so accustomed to that I can’t help but hold some sort of familial love for them. Spending large chunks of my childhood in airports was never a planned affair on my part — my parents, being immigrants to Midwestern America, longed both to see their family back home and to momentarily escape from the bleak cornfields in which they became accustomed to living in. The first time I found myself in an airport, I was scared. I was used to seeing many people at the mall, but for four-year-old me, it was another world.
As the years passed, we left town more and more often. As the stamps in my passport increased in number, my perspective changed. The focus of trips shifted from monotonous employees and long security lines to scouring duty free shops for local wares (among other things). From the devilishly tasty Vivident gum discovered while stuck in layover in Milan to the innocent joy I found in tasting the Dutch McDonald’s menu, my experiences in airports almost paid homage to the notion of childlike curiosity.
Some people may choose to view airports in a less than favorable lens, something for which I can’t blame them, but after spending time in so many, my nascent appreciation for airports grew into an insightful love of sorts. I find that there is more to airports than just what’s in the name — namely, being drab centers for global transportation. Rather, airports are towering cultural hubs symbolic of new experiences and worlds previously unknown. I admit, I become giddy when I arrive at an airport. Childishly giddy. Embarrassingly giddy. Why? Because a new opportunity has fallen in my lap — an opportunity to explore facets of a culture new to me. An opportunity to learn about Japan’s fiscal future with the investment banker sitting next to me, an opportunity to experience what a German’s spin on mango chutney is really like, an opportunity to see the world differently and in someone else’s shoes. Granted, I probably won’t be gathering much from the investment banker, but I digress.
My appreciation-turned-love for airports grew and still grows due to the window of perspective they provide. Back home I might be limited in the scope of people I interact with and the culture I experience, but the amalgamation of culture and differing personas at an airport has engendered a newfound appreciation and love for things I may have never discovered. The ability to peer into and learn from another world or two, even under the physiological stress of traveling, is unmatched.