We often find our true selves in the face of adversity. When I started my academic career in the U.S. as a junior in high school, I had a unique identity as a Sikh girl. My identity became a source of discrimination by my fellow students who ridiculed my appearance, my mannerisms, my accent, and even bestowed upon me the nickname of a ‘coconut’ to imply I was brown on the outside and white in the inside. It was emotionally painful but I also had the maturity to realize education and patience are often the beast responses to such situations. People sometimes engage in socially unacceptable behavior because they lack the knowledge that would help them become more productive members of the society. In addition, I also took the unfortunate treatment by my fellow students as a challenge to test my mental strength.

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But I also knew I had to do something instead of hoping that the situation will improve on its own somehow. After all, I had quickly learnt after coming to this country that American culture encourages one to become the change himself/herself that he/she wants to see. Thus, I joined The Sikh Coalition and also joined a Sikh teaching program in order to educate my fellow students about Sikh culture and religion. I also started actively participating in charity events to raise funds and promote awareness about major social problems facing the community.

My strong work ethics also extend to my academic and professional goals and one of the proudest moments for me was to be the only woman intern in a male-dominated hospital administration last year. I worked hard and my performance was highly praised by my colleagues and superiors. All of these experiences have taught me nothing is impossible as long as one has the determination to succeed and is willing to go any distance to achieve his/her goals. In a way, I treasure these challenges because they help me discover myself in ways I may not otherwise.