Cornell University Application Essay About Racial or Cultural Differences
"Who Am I?" by Prince Agbo
As I am filing all those college applications, the question keeps coming back to me. Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I heading?
Am I African? Am I French? Am I Caribbean? Or…soon an American college student?
As I reflect on my African roots, my French and Caribbean upbringings, and now, my new life in America, I could compare myself with a palm tree, being laughed at by an African baobab.
I will always remain deeply rooted in my African ground. Actually I am a palm tree here—a very hard to knock down palm tree. My neighbor is a friendly Baobab. He is my companion on this red ground. He is so tall and so powerful I sometimes get jealous. He is impressive, also. Who am I? Well, he may be tall, powerful, impressive, strong…whatever; at least I, the palm tree, did also grow up in France, unlike Baobab who will never see the French sun. Baobab does not like me thinking that way. He gets mad at me. Anyway, as he says, he absolutely does not need the French sun. His is the brightest, the yellowest, and the warmest sun on earth: the African sun!
The African sun has those qual- ities, for sure. But, dear Baobab, I also know about them. Indeed, it is the African sun that, a long time ago, made my first seed grow. It is also this African sun that gave me that strong color, and the red of my sap. Dear Baobab, I have experienced the virtues of the African sun. But I have also experienced the virtues of travel. Though I remain the same palm tree.
Baobab does not appreciate my comment. Blowing, bowing, his devil eye confirms his saying: the French sun would never make me as tall as him. He is right. I am not that tall, certainly not as tall as he is. But my branches are wide, so wide that I can embrace different cultures from all over the world. Plus, dear Baobab, may I mention that your flowers lack some vitality…some brightness? I keep on considering your flowers, and they definitely cannot compete with mine: mine are brightly, joyfully colored; they actually come from French Guiana, to be precise. I am the only palm tree with rainbow flowers welcoming so many butterflies.
Baobab does not like my reasoning. Neither what I say, nor the calm I say it with.
"Who do you think you are?" he asks me, screaming.
I am me. I am always the same. Wherever I go, whatever I go through. Today, my flowers are covered with Vermont snow. Tomorrow, who knows…? For sure I am small, but I am rich, rich with those different weathers I go through, with those new experiences that each season and each trip brings me. Baobab stares at me; he looks confused. Then he bows until he reaches my height and, delicately, he uses his height to protect me from the snowfall. What's next? Baobab is curious.
Well, dear Baobab, for now I am still a bit sleepy, but soon will come spring and my flowers will blossom, paving the way for a new adventure: America!
Prince Agbo attends Cornell University (NY).
chatting it up with a Baobab tree
For exotic appeal, it is hard to top the following essay from author Prince Agbo. Prince is of African descent but grew up in France and French Guiana, and he uses the device of a palm tree talking to a baobab tree to represent the tensions in his multicultural identity. (Baobabs, native to Africa, are massive trees with trunks up to sixty feet in diameter.) Any writer can use personification; simply choose two objects to represent facets of a personality, sides of an issue, etc., pretend they are people, and let them go at it. The device generally works best when, as in Prince's essay, the objects have a common tie (such as both being trees) that makes the conversation plausible.