Sato’s winning essay:
“Since I was little, I have constantly moved around the world because of my parents’ jobs. Consequently, I have lived in a variety of places including Bangladesh, Japan, Indonesia, Switzerland, and the US. My entire life is the airplanes, the suitcases, the passports, the new schools, friends, cultures, etc. The experiences I had at each of these places have shaped me into the person I am today by teaching me to become open-minded, caring, and motivated, but above all, perseverant and determined to achieve whatever goal I set out to achieve. Moreover, it has changed me to overcome one of my greatest weaknesses.
Being introduced to the rich and beautiful cultures, people, and landscape of different places has been remarkable and I have learned so much from simply interacting with the local community. Wherever I moved, I was always awed by the diverse ways in which people lived and how similarly or differently they perceived the world around them. However, moving around has also shown me the plethora of problems that we face, varying from poverty, discrimination, and other numerous disparities, to climate change. This was precisely where my greatest weakness came in, which was my tendency to become a mere passive observer. I knew that these issues were important and that something had to be done about them because of how unequal and unjust they were. Yet, my thinking process at the time was: What can I do as just a single person? By reasoning over and over again, I convinced myself that one person’s action would not change anything and that all of these problems were too big for me to do anything about them.
However, one extraordinary experience changed that mindset: my volunteering experience in Cambodia, building an elementary school with the local children who will be attending it next year. These children lived in a very remote area of Cambodia called Pursat, and had no access to basic needs, such as education, medical care, water, and food. In 2018, as a part of my school’s Cambodia Service Club, I visited Pursat for the first time and was confronted with the reality of people suffering from poverty. Even before then, I had researched about poverty and had fundraised for it by being the leader of Cambodia Service Club, where we partner with an NGO to construct one elementary or middle school in Cambodia every year. As an extension of it, I had also interned at the NGO twice, where I looked into the current situation of poverty in Asia and Africa. However, seeing people suffer in real life was nothing like what I had known. Their houses without roofs, their feet sore from walking 10km to fetch water every day, their children helping out with housework, girls of my age already having children of their own… It made me realize how fortunate I had been and how much I had been taking everything around me for granted. It not only gave me a sense of responsibility that helped me overcome my weakness but also a new perspective of the world and my surroundings that made me reevaluate both my place in the world and the global society as a whole.
To complement my understanding of poverty and other global issues, I joined the Model United Nations, where I represented many countries in several conferences, both domestic and international. By being introduced to a number of different global issues, some of which I had never known before, I was able to gain a deeper insight into our society. It was eye-opening for me to see the wide range of opinions around the world, but it was even more interesting to see how each country’s history and culture contributed to their specific stances. Researching about those issues, understanding various countries’ stances on them, and presenting them in front of other delegates, in addition to giving me knowledge, developed my skills in writing, research, organization, and communication. Furthermore, I participated in the Yale Young Global Scholars Program, where I attended the International Affairs and Security Session. There, I gained more insights into the concepts of human rights and how applicable or not they were to the real-life issues and conflicts that our global society faces.
All these personal and academic experiences have indicated to me the importance of being open-minded and caring, to place oneself in another person’s shoes, because everyone comes from a unique background. It taught me that no two people have the same exact background and that because of this, every single opinion is as meaningful and valuable as one another. I believe these understandings are one of my greatest strengths. As young as I had been then in high school, it made me realize that I wanted to do something to help other people in need in the future.
Consequently, I decided to pursue higher education at a university and since I had continued to work diligently towards my studies, I was able to be accepted to the University of Chicago as an international student from Japan. I am currently a sophomore there, who is planning to double major in Economics and Philosophy, and I have been keeping up my studies even with my first year of college being limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of now, I received the 2020-2021 Dean’s List and have been maintaining a 3.975 cumulative GPA.
At college, I have also begun exploring how I can achieve my goal of helping others in need. Particularly, I have been looking into a career in law, potentially as an attorney by joining activities like the Moot Court and the Women in Law Group. To widen my understanding of the law further, I interned at a law firm in San Francisco this past summer and gained valuable insights into what it is like to work in the legal field. Through these opportunities, I found myself becoming more and more interested in working with the law because of how it can help improve people’s lives. Not only can the law protect and support those in need, but it can also ensure that everyone gains access to an environment that they deserve. By interacting with the law, I realized that the value of using the law to help others lies in its ability to secure an environment that is conducive to every person’s success, where everyone, regardless of their background, can achieve their full potential equally. As Aristotle claimed in Politics, humans are essentially “political animals” and that the law is what helps us organize ourselves into an ordered society, despite all our differences. In other words, the law is what brings humans together so that we can exercise our distinct capacities to form a community of diverse individuals and achieve what no other animal can. We are meant to collaborate with one another to achieve something greater than our individual efforts.
Therefore, I am motivated to achieve my goal of helping others in need and I would like to do so through the legal field. In order to do so, I want to attend a law school in the future. However, combined with the already high costs of attending college, I realize how much of a financial burden I am and will be putting on my family. To alleviate the burden even a little bit, I would appreciate any kind of financial assistance, which would also allow me to continue being perseverant and determined so that I could prove my previous self wrong, who thought that my actions are meaningless.”