my college essay about what I learned 8,522 miles away from home

I was at a loss on how to answer this college essay prompt: “A liberal arts education challenges you to think critically, reflect purposefully and broaden perceptions. Describe ways in which you seek to step outside of your comfort zone and challenge the world views you hold. (50-300 words)” 17,044 miles after my trip to the philippines, however, 300 words suddenly seemed too limiting for my answer. here’s what I was able to fit in (thanks god for holding my hand thru this writing process):

My mom is Filipino. My dad is Caucasian. Though I was born in Philadelphia, I once made Bangkok, Manila, and Honolulu my home—constantly in touch with my Asian half. Since moving back to the mainland in 2010, I have grown accustom to American culture. Though I speak my native tongue of Tagalog at home and beam at the mention of Asian food, I have developed the desire to act and look “American” at school, church, and elsewhere. I have contracted the habit of shrinking in shame when someone mentions my Asian half—including my almond-shaped eyes, my tan skin, or my pronunciation of English words. I feel a siren going off inside, forcing myself to study others and look and sound like them as much as possible. I have unconsciously built a fence, forcing myself to live merely one-half of who I am.

It was not until last week that I realized that I have not been living wholly. My family visited the Philippines for the first time in nine years, and though I was looking forward to skipping the ruthless cold of the East Coast, my expectations were not high. I merely hoped to take some tropical Instagram photos and eat some of my favorite Filipino dishes. However, I came back to cold Philadelphia with a new set of eyes. If I were to describe the three weeks in one word, it would be refreshing. Above the Instagrams and tasty food, I grew as a person. I learned about my other half that I have been suppressing for nine years. I fell in love with my own culture. Going back to school and real life this week, I hope to bring my new confidence. Everyday, I will choose to live both halves of who I am.