How Long Ago is to Long for College Essays?

During my early elementary school years, I lived in a foreign country, when I’m originally from and now living in the US. I’ve been struggling with essay topics and was looking through some of my old keepsakes for inspiration. It brought back a lot of memories from when I was an expat but also made me realize that it’s been going on 8 years since I moved back to the states. I wanted to write about how my international experience affected me, but now I’m worried that admission counselors will think I’m grasping at straws since it was so long ago. It did affect who I am though, and I can’t imagine ignoring that part of my life in my applications. Thoughts?

I think it is fine to use anecdotes and experiences from the past (even 8 years ago) to explain who you are now. But the past needs to relate and be relevant to the present. Don’t end up writing a travelogue of your expat experience or focusing on who you were then.

You’re not talking about a single incident that happened a decade ago, you are talking about the social, cultural, and educational milieu in which you lived that has helped in shaping your world view.

In general, you should not write an entire essay about a single incident that took place nearly a decade ago unless it profoundly affected you and/or has helped define the person you have become. You can write about how something that happened back then that has helped in shaping your thinking, or how a life-long interest or passion started when you were young and how it has evolved over time.

What you proposed in terms of living between cultures for an extended period of your life can make for a good essay. Just don’t dwell on the past.

I was maybe thinking of starting off with a story about how my first year there, when America was having Thanksgiving, my teacher found and read a book to the class about the first thanksgiving and my mom made Pumpkin Pie for the class to share? And then use that to discuss how I dealt with culture shock going moving both away from the US and back and about the parts of being an expat that have stuck with me (stuff ranging from not being able to relate to American pop culture that occurred when I was away even to this day, to spelling words the British way (to this day) to having some academic struggles when I returned because of the differing curriculum) as well as how it generally made me more aware of the world outside the midwestern united states in comparison to my peers.

I also have some of my old teacher’s reports which were really interesting to read because they gave almost a third party view my adjustment while I was there (and very slightly reveal how some of the people we met in Britain, including my teachers, thought American people were low class)

Or maybe how it made me more confident in being myself because, like I mentioned, I was a slightly country/backwoods American girl going to a hoity British private school.

I’m just looking for input because I’m feeling really lost about my essays.