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When I was 6 years old, I remember waking up and hearing my parents argue. My parents were both dentists and we lived a comfortable life in Turkey. However, earlier that day my father’s car had been stolen by police officers and when he had confronted them he had been senselessly beaten. That night he convinced my reluctant mother and decided that enough was enough. He wanted the absolute best for his children and America was it.
We came to America in August 2001, about three weeks before 9/11. My parents’ Turkish dental degrees suddenly became worthless. It took three years for our life savings to run out. My mother stayed at home while my father studied to pass the dental board exams. My father began driving taxis. Working about eighteen hours a day, he would come home in the morning, sleep, study for hours and start work again. My father kept failing the exams and we went on welfare. This was not the dream my parents had for our future; to be transformed from respected medical professionals to a taxi driver and housewife on welfare. I remember being picked up from school, a classmate sinisterly taunting “Is that your dad?” as my father parked his yellow cab; my face turned crimson as I lowered my eyes. However, though it was difficult, my father held onto his dream, slowly passing exam after exam. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I was fundamentally forged during those long and hard years. I didn’t have any of the advantages my classmates had but I had something much more important: drive. I knew as early as 3rd grade that I had to make something of myself and fast; I knew that no one would do it for me and that hard work and dedication, rather than family name or social prestige, were the only routes to success. Not being able to buy me video games, my parents took me instead to the library. My father would show me history books “Look here Mehmet, this was the Roman Empire” his voice gentle as he pointed at a map and quizzed me, “Remember what we discussed, now why was Marcus Aurelius an effective emperor?” Reading soon became an addiction, in class I would be caught with Thucydides when I was supposed to read Dr.Seuss. I transformed from hardly knowing English to acquiring the most points in the school’s accelerated reader program. By the time I was in sixth grade I habitually read Dostoevsky, Vonnegut, and Chekhov. I often stayed up till 2 or 3 AM reading under the covers; sometimes greeting my father as he came home after a night of working. One such evening my dad came home with a bruised face, a passenger in his cab had punched him due to his Muslim sounding name. That day I realized the the extraordinary opportunity he was fighting to give me.
A few years later my father finally became an American dentist. Though we had been hurt and shamed we finally made it. My dad looked at me, smiled warmly with a tear in his eye and said: “It was all worth it.”My parents lived and realized the American Dream, now it was my turn. I studied long and hard and whenever I felt tired or bored I reminded myself what my parents had gone through. A counselor once asked me “Don’t you want to scale back a bit?” I replied, thinking of my father, “I have to push myself.”Possessed, I took the most rigorous classes and began volunteering hours upon hours tutoring kids much like myself. I made sure I enrolled in IB, MUN, and in all AP classes possible. And though like my parents before me, I stumbled from time to time, I never lost focus. I went from hardly speaking English to the top 2% of my class.
I came to possess the same drive that propelled my father to leave his home and create a new life from scratch, a drive to realize my dreams.I have grown to love knowledge for its own sake and hope to become a doctor one day in order to help others. My father taught me that we have nothing if not our dreams. I want to attend the UC system because it is one of the best in the world, because it will give me the tools I need and because it will allow me to realize my dream as well as my father’s, to live a life worth living.