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An Obstacle In My Path: An Essay On Overcoming Academic Challenges--with A Free Essay Review

What is one academic challenge you have faced and how did you resolve it?

"What is your name?", "Do you understand what I am saying?" are some of the questions I was told that teachers asked me during my first days of school in the United States. But I could not understand a word anyone was saying to me. The first couple of months in a new school were a terrible experience. I had just moved from Guatemala and did not speak English at all. I couldn’t understand anything that the teachers were lecturing, I couldn’t get my class work and homework completed, and I could not make any friends. The experience was just terrible. I felt isolated, and alien-like.

I decided I had to face this problem and found ways to learn the language. I listened more closely in ESOL class and I asked my cousin to teach me English and help me with homework. I was used to watching television in Spanish, I decided to watch it in English instead; a very helpful show was Dora the Explorer. And I also listened to students and tried to repeat what they said. After 2 or 3 years, I was doing great in school and I could have a conversation in English.

I went from a lost and confused person failing school to a person full of confidence who now speaks and writes English very well. I would not be at this point in my life if I had just decided to quit. This essay shows that I do not give up because of how big the obstacle is and how overcoming these obstacles have made me the person I am now. I am always determined to accomplish my goals and this essay proves it. There will always be obstacles and I am always ready to face them.

Essay Review:

Thank you for submitting your essay for review. There were just a couple of grammatical errors and redundancies, which I have silently edited.

Let me start with what will seem like a minor quibble concerning your penultimate sentence: “I am always determined to accomplish my goals and this essay proves it.” The immediate problem is that the essay does not really prove that you are always determined to accomplish your goals, and if the essay did prove that, you probably should try to allow your reader to come to that conclusion on her own. The larger problem is that I’m not entirely sure what the essay does prove. A couple of lines earlier, you write “This essay shows that I do not give up because of how big the obstacle is.” Again, the essay does not show that, and if it did, you wouldn’t have to tell your reader. I understand your desire to communicate clearly to your reader what message about you they should take from your story, but this is not the way to communicate that message. At best, it’s simply untrue; and at worst it comes across as a little ostentatious. Your saying to your reader, in effect: “Here’s something you can learn about me.” A rhetorically more effective approach would be to say: “Here’s something I learned about myself.”

I have lived in several different countries, but cannot fully appreciate the difficulty of moving to a foreign country at a young age and trying to adapt to a new school and a new language. You do a reasonable job of helping me appreciate that difficulty, though you could probably do more. In the first paragraph you tell me twice that the experience was terrible, and I believe you, but you don’t fully explain in what way it was terrible, you tell me what grade you were and how badly you felt you were falling behind, and so you don’t fully express your sense of the obstacle you faced as an academic obstacle. Moving to a foreign country and learning a new language is the experience of millions of people (which is not at all to say it easy), so presumably you want to do more here than say “the academic obstacle I faced was needing to learn English; I resolved it by learning English.” What I think you need to try to do here is to construct a narrative of self-discovery around the more or less traumatic event of suddenly finding yourself as a child in a school without the essential tool needed to learn or fit in. Your essay begins to do this, but it remains superficial, and is ruined, if I may say so, by the last paragraph which tells me what the essay “proves.”

In short, the paragraph defining the obstacle needs a bit more depth. The paragraph explaining how you resolved it perhaps needs to communicate a greater sense of the difficulty, or the work entailed. The final paragraph should probably have sentences like, but not so

egregiously banal and cliched as: “I learned that even the most overwhelming difficulties can be endured and overcome with effort and persistence”

Best wishes, EJ.
Submitted by: herlinmoscoso


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July,26 2011

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