Growing up the 2nd oldest in a house with six kids, being a military dependent, and traveling the world have shaped my life in indescribable ways. Constantly on the move, I have lived in 11 different houses and attended 5 different schools in 4 different countries. As the daughter of a career Army officer, I have become very accustomed to relocation and look forward to new adventures with enthusiasm. When people ask me where I am from, I have several answers. Ich bin von Deutschland. I was born in Germany and have lived there twice over the last 18 years.
Germany has added an unconventional foundation to my upbringing because I went to a German public school for my first years of elementary education. I became fluent in the language and was imbued in the native culture. Becoming part of the local community, I made German ways part of my everyday life. I learned German songs, ate German food, and learned traditional dances at school. However, it didn't come easily. I remember refusing to speak German for several months, though my teachers confirmed for my parents that I could understand them; I just wouldn't speak.
It seemed as if I was determined as a young seven-year-old to force all of Germany to become English speakers. At the six month mark, exhausted from my efforts, I finally spoke Deutsch. Before long, the locals could not even detect an accent and as far as they were concerned, I was a little 'Bayerisch' (Bavarian) girl. Making the local German community a home for me was a welcoming experience. Je viens de Belgique. I spent my pre-adolescence, middle school, and beginning of high school years in Brussels, Belgium.
I sometimes feel as if I am part Belgian because I spent the largest portion of my school years there, and feel that I had a true connection with the international lifestyle of the "Capital of Europe". It was at my school in Brussels that I was first exposed to an extremely diverse student body, which was composed of children from over 32 nations. Before I moved to Brussels, I could barely name 32 countries- now I had friends from all 32! One of my favorite memories from living in Belgium was attending the annual international dinner and show, a night of celebrating diverse cultures and foods.
Everyone would proudly wear their home country's traditional attire, which served as an outward demonstration of how many nations our small community really represented. Though none of us were in our native lands that evening, we all felt at home, sharing our customs and traditions with one another as if we were a family. This night helped me to embrace my diverse international roots. However, as special as that experience was, I also treasured sharing American culture, sports, and other traditions with my international peers. I never stopped being an American for even a minute.
Living in the populous city of Moscow, Russia, for the past year has been an eye opening experience. Moving to Russia was the last thing I thought would ever happen to me, but I'm thankful it did. The Anglo-American School of Moscow has offered me a place to grow and develop not only academically, but also personally. This new experience has come with several challenges, such as encountering an 'affluence gap' with the children of millionaires and billionaires. Even more difficult has been confronting an 'integrity gap'.
While my leadership skills have developed while serving as the Vice President of the Student Council Association and mentoring such a diverse group of students representing over 67 nations, my morals have been tested as I have had to confront issues such as widespread cheating on exams. Staying true to my personal values in such a challenging ethical environment has not been easy; but when I look in the mirror every day, I like the person I have become, and I sleep well at night knowing that I have done all in my power to be an honest, hard working and loyal person.
Living in Russia has been an important part of my life because this is where I will leave my "home" and head to college. As I sit back and reflect upon all of my memories, I truly appreciate the friendships I have made, the countries I have visited, and the experiences I have had. Together, all of these events have shaped who I am in life today and where I'm "from". I am from America. I am proud to be an American and nothing could ever change that. While I have lived in other countries and have been away from my homeland for such a long time, being an American will always be a part of me.
Within the United States, I have lived in four different states, none of which are my birth state or my official state of residency. Moving around and traveling to over 22 countries has shown me the opportunities the world can offer while at this same time making me appreciate my American citizenship in ways that other kids my age cannot even comprehend. While I appreciate my international friends and their cultures, I'm thankful to call America my home every day of my life. In spite of some shortcomings, America is the greatest country on earth-the more I travel, the more certain of this I become.
Belonging to such a great nation is a privilege that I treasure as I proudly represent the red, white, and blue here in Europe. It might be the sweet childhood memories of living in North Carolina for four and a half years or maybe visiting my grandparents (both State alums) there every summer, but I consider North Carolina my home in the United States. Being able to join my older brother at NC State would allow me to make it my new home again. I realize that NC State would be a tremendous place for me to grow and learn over the next four years, as well as a place I could contribute. I look forward to those opportunities.