Maya's Plane Ticket to Korea

Hello, my name is Maya Woolridge, a rising senior from the Darrow School and I am reaching out to the public to ask if they could change my life with a $2,000 plane ticket.

            Recently, I was accepted into the 7th International Symposium at Hana Academy in Seoul, South Korea. It will be from July 18, 2016 to July 22, 2016. The 7th International Symposium has an academic environment where students from many different countries exchange their culture and knowledge. And as it is based in Korea, we will learn a lot about Korean culture.

            The theme for this year’s symposium is “Ethics and Social Technology: Building Better Communities through Social Technology.” In relation to that theme, I will write a research paper on how social media positively influences the “natural hair” movement for African-Americans. This is a topic that I am very passionate about, as I have grown to love my natural hair and appreciate its beauty and complexity. I would be honored to be the individual to present a part of my culture to people from all over the world.

            Going to Japan and Korea have always been dreams of mine. I was first interested in Japan, and my love for other cultures expanded to Korea. When I was little, my mom had to find new libraries in New Jersey because I read all of the books on Japan. Had I been more open, I would have surely done the same for Korea. I might be running out of articles to read on the internet about Korea now. I studied Japanese for 2 years by myself, and I have been studying Korean diligently for almost 2 years now. The language is beautiful and language learning is quite therapeutic for me.

            Research shows that total cultural immersion is the best way to learn a language. I have been wishing for almost 4 years now to know what that feels like. I want to go to a country with a language very different from my own. I want to know what it feels like to be lost. And most importantly, I want to learn how to find myself through it all. I’m ready to change my life. I want to, and feel as though I need to explore the world to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of it and myself. I want to be exposed to other cultures that share the world with me. If you could help me do this, I would be forever grateful.

            I also take a Semi-Independent Language Study in Korean. I learned more about the Korean language than ever before and really improved my grasp of the Korean language. Every day in class, I would do anything in Korean. Of course I watched videos and read textbooks, but I could also go on Instagram to read the captions of Korean pop stars, which were often written in Korean. I could watch Korean dramas and Korean music videos. I tried my best to expose myself to the Korean language and culture. One of the most rewarding moments while studying Korean was when my friend and I performed a Korean pop song at Coffee House (an open mic night) in front of my school. She sang and I rapped in Korean! Practicing the song together was a highlight of my year.

            I also have grown so much this year that I can hardly comprehend it. I was always a shy, timid individual, afraid to voice my opinion and step out of my comfort zone. I suffered from social anxiety and couldn’t even talk to a new person without tearing up. However, the fact that I can now stand on stage as a leader brings tears to my eyes. I decided that I wasn’t going to sit around waiting for change to happen. I decided I was actively going to become a person whom I would look up to. I started to develop a genuine appreciation and love towards everybody. I turned ineffective negativity in me into positivity and hope. I learned that realism and optimism were two similar things. One does not have to be pessimistic to be in touch with reality. Instead of walking by people, I walked with them. I forced myself to engage in conversations that in the end, were not always awkward, as I feared. I was ready to make mistakes and to learn from them.

            I think my greatest achievement this year was finding and using my voice. I spoke up louder for the quiet ones because I wished that somebody had done that for me. Not only did I speak up for them, but I encouraged them to speak up for themselves. I always tried my best to encourage people and put hope into them. I let everybody know that I was there for them and that I cared. And this year, I was a prominent figure in the student-led protest. I was a representative for those who felt discriminated against for their ethnicity. I worked side-by-side with the community and teachers to address this issue. Even if the solution was to be more aware, it was better than ignorance. I am very proud of myself. The girl who once couldn’t make eye contact without crying, cried for justice in front of an audience of many.

            I honestly believe that I should be allowed a chance to go to the 7th International Symposium in Korea. I ask $2,000 of you for airfare. Besides that, the program will provide all of my accommodations. If you grant me this opportunity, there is no doubt that I will come back a stronger leader than I am. I want to make more connections in the world and have a chance to explore this beautiful world. I urge you to put your faith in me and to believe in me. If you could grant me $2,000 for airfare, I would forever be grateful and prove to you that I am deserving of such an honor. I’m on to many great things in life that I may not even know about. I vow to make a world of difference with every step that I take, wherever I go. Thank you very much.
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Maya Woolridge 
Newark, NJ
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