Princeton Supplemental—Alara

In addition to the essay you have written for the Coalition Application, the Common Application or the Universal College Application, please write an essay of about 500 words (no more than 650 words and no fewer than 250 words). Using one of the themes below as a starting point, write about a person, event or experience that helped you define one of your values or in some way changed how you approach the world. Please do not repeat, in full or in part, the essay you wrote for the Coalition Application, the Common Application or Universal College Application.

Culture is what presents us with the kinds of valuable things that can fill a life. And insofar as we can recognize the value in those things and make them part of our lives, our lives are meaningful.” Gideon Rosen, Stuart Professor of Philosophy and director of the Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows, Princeton University.

The Onion

My family is like an onion. There are many layers to it but I like to describe it in three. The outermost layer contains cousins of my grandparents and parents, as well as uncles and aunts of parents. In other words, distant relatives that most people don’t even get to meet. In my family, however, long descriptions of relativity such as “the daughter of my mother’s cousin’s aunt” don’t have any effect on how close we feel when our family bonds are so strong. We regularly gather at family dinners where we have to put long tables end to end, extending from one room to another, just as my family extends … to … . Twenty-one is the smallest number of people when we gather together for a family dinner. And so far I’ve seen that number go up to forty-five, that’s when we had to knock on the neighbor’s door to borrow chairs from the neighbour so that instead of sitting on the couches everyone could have a seat at the table. 

The next layer contains my aunts and grandparents who are like second mothers to me. It contains my cousins who are more like sisters to me. My grandmother, my aunt, my cousins, and I live in adjacent apartments in an old neighbourhood. We see and visit each other almost every day. When we gather, we talk about the next elections, about the next wedding, about personal issues, and the conversation only ends when we wave to each other and the elevator door closes. My cousins lend me anything from makeup accessories to prom dresses to books, just like a sister would do. My aunt cares about me no less than a mother would do. My grandmothers love me like their own daughter. With my “XXL nuclear family”, we laugh together, we cry together, we travel together, we work together, we eat together. 

The final layer is my nuclear family: my mother, father, and twelve-year-old brother. For eighteen years, I have witnessed how hard my mother and father worked to be able to send us to the nation’s best schools and to provide me and my brother with the opportunities we have today. They gave me the utmost moral and material support to help me become the person I am today. I learned from them not to give up, to reach for excellence in whatever work I do, and to always be a good person. My mother is more than just a mother; she is my teacher, my coach, my doctor, my assistant, my guider. I feel her support every day and in every aspect of my life. Without her support, I wouldn’t be able to develop the stamina I have today. Being the elder sister taught me how to handle responsibilities at young age and also developed a loving and caring mother-like personality in me. While being the elder sibling helped me mature early, nowadays it helps keep my childish side alive as I play video games and watch movies with my brother. We can’t pick our families or our upbringing. However, I couldn’t be more grateful for the fate that made me a part of my close-knit family. These three separate yet intertwined layers and the eternal support and care I receive from and give back to my family has become a central value in my life. While this intimacy is part of Turkish culture, my family is not just an ordinary one. I have a family that supports each other on a level that seems strange to others. This is our culture.

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