Personal Essay

In English, we were to write a personal essay. Because of its timing matching up with college applications, we incorporated the question of “Who am I?”, with “What do I want?”. Through the process of writing this essay, I realized my passions, through answering “Who am I?”. By answering this question, I was able to answer “What do I want?”, which is to study international affairs and design when I go to college.


I feel stupid, therefore, I must be stupid.

    I peered around me as I sat in my tenth grade English class. How had everyone else made so much more progress on their essays than me? This always happened. I knew it wasn’t a race, but obviously if everyone else could get things done faster than me, they were smarter than me. It didn’t help that anything that could catch my attention would catch my attention. I had told my parents that I was an unusually slow worker and that I was easily distracted but was told that there was nothing wrong with me and that I just needed to work harder. “Work harder” was always the solution. My concerns were brushed aside. Because no adult had ever directly expressed concerns about my ability to focus and learn, the anxieties of a ten-year-old were dismissed as fantasy – or worse, an excuse.

    As a result, I spent the majority of my childhood and adolescence believing that my poor GPA was the product of my inferiority, in spite of studying day and night. My grades plummeted and my confidence soon followed, led by the belief that I was stupid. In my sophomore year, amidst the chaos of finals week, I forgot to submit my English final. I was heartbroken and ashamed; I had never failed a class before, never disappointed my parents like this.  

Yet it was this slip-up that became my saving grace. I had appealed to my parents for years and now they were ready to listen.  I did my research and enrolled myself in a neuropsychological assessment at a local education center. Lo and behold, I was diagnosed with ADHD with slow processing speed. After I secured accommodations for myself at school, my academics saw rapid improvements and my grades rose dramatically.  

    In spite of the years I spent punishing myself for my poor grades and feeling stupid as a result, once my grades improved, so did my confidence and my self-efficacy.

It struck me that I was the one who identified there was a problem, in spite of being initially dismissed.  I was the one who insisted on a diagnosis from a doctor. I spoke up for myself instead of waiting for someone else to fix my problems and realized that by advocating for myself, I successfully took my future into my own hands. In the process, I learned a great deal about the merits of advocacy and how dramatically it can change someone’s life for the better.  

    Following this epiphany, I dedicated my junior documentary project to activism in the Egyptian Revolution.  I attend the arts program Freestyle Academy in which we practice a great deal of self direction in our artistic pursuits such as our junior documentary project.  My documentary followed the activism of Amr Hamzawy and Wael Ghonim during the Egyptian Revolution.  I learned that even after the revolution, there are still many people who need help and support. In speaking up for my education, I learned how to stand up for myself and others. I want to give a voice to people who cannot speak for themselves in my home country of Egypt, and am thus pursuing International Affairs with a concentration in Middle East and North Africa region. I want to ensure that the basic human rights of Egyptian citizens are protected and cannot be wrongly imprisoned as they have been for years.   I’ve proven that I can help myself, and now I want to help others too.