Sample Successful Wharton Lauder Essay
Describe a cross-cultural experience in your adult life that was challenging to you. How did you meet this challenge and what did you learn from the experience? (1,000 words)
My parents, both immigrants and entrepreneurs, encouraged me to study abroad to broaden my perspective. I was involved in other extracurricular activities throughout high school and college. I never prioritized studying abroad until my senior year of college; the same year I witnessed the transformation of my younger sister, Tanya, a high school junior who spent the year in Zaragoza, Spain.
When Tanya returned, she was more mature and self-confident, her Spanish was impeccable, and she had a newfound sensitivity towards people from other cultures, politics, foods, and activities. Her transformation over that year was inspiring. I realized that it was time to instill in me those same characteristics.
After graduating from Tufts, I set my sights on living and working in Paris. Although I didn’t speak the language, I had always dreamt of walking along the Seine, sipping coffee at a café, and staring at the Eiffel tower. As I boarded the transatlantic flight, I struggled to understand the announcements in French. What was I getting myself into? When my plane landed at Charles De Gaulle airport, I would embark on the biggest challenge of my life. This was not going to be a short vacation.
Instead, I would have to establish a life in Paris, learn French, make new friends, and become self-sufficient in a foreign environment. I did not have the comforts of home or the support of my family and friends. I only had myself, my determination, my positive attitude, and my resourcefulness. In retrospect, these were the only things I needed.
My temporary landlord, Madame Chabert, was friendly and offered to connect me with her neighbors and friends. After settling into her apartment, I enrolled in an intensive six-week introductory French course at Sorbonne University. Through my class, I met Israeli friends who had finished serving in the military and British students studying during their “gap year.”
Our conversations were fascinating, spanning politics in the Middle East, the latest film by Cedric Klapisch, or how the Greek system worked in US universities. I emailed friends back home, seeking out other acquaintances in Paris who would be willing to meet me and show me around. My independence made me grow bolder.
To improve my French, I overcame my shyness and approached French students at the Sorbonne. Rather than living alone, I searched for a social living situation with international students, ultimately sharing a small but cozy two-bedroom apartment with Brigitte, a French-Norwegian student.
With the help of Madame Chabert and my newly expanded network of acquaintances, I eventually met the SVP of Marketing at Technocom, Madame Heilman. Impressed with my ability to learn French quickly, my persistence in unfamiliar territory, and my high energy, she agreed to hire me into their international marketing group.
Having begun my life in Paris, I encountered one major challenge: obtaining my work visa. It took three months to acquire my work papers and visa. When I was not in class, I ran around the city doing everything in my power to secure my position at Technocom. I recall a day when I went to the French prefecture four times to present new documentation, new translations of documents, and new stamps of approval. There were moments when I felt frustrated and defeated, but every time I encountered the same prefecture agent, I became more determined.
Activities I once took for granted had now become obstacles, like ordering my favorite pastry at the neighborhood patisserie, answering phones at Technocom, and establishing my wireless internet with France Telecom. I immediately had a newfound appreciation for my parents and their experiences as youngsters in a foreign land. I never realized that learning a new language, immersing oneself in a new culture, and working in an international environment would be so difficult.
As I think about my strolls along the Seine, my frustrations with the prefecture, my favorite café with the tastiest duck confit, and my nights out on the town with Brigitte, I smile and look forward to returning to France. But even more than good memories, I reflect on the lessons I learned. Through my courses and work, I met people of all nationalities and learned about distinct cultures and heritages, all of which collectively broadened my perspective.
I learned to venture into the unknown and unfamiliar, shedding my reserved nature and approaching new people and situations. After visiting the French prefecture multiple times in one day, I learned that I can achieve any goal with positive attitude and determination. Lastly, this experience taught me to appreciate the comforts of home that I had previously taken for granted.
I am now more confident, self-sufficient, resilient, and resourceful, and I draw upon these qualities in my personal and professional life. When I arrive in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for a new consulting project, I am suddenly reminded of my initial arrival in Paris. In this unknown territory, I will encounter new clients, new issues, and new cultural challenges.
But I know I can assess this new environment and adapt accordingly. I can shift gears from my previous engagement. I can confidently interact with cross-functional groups, such as buyers, planners, IT personnel, marketing, and senior executives.
I look forward to becoming acquainted with clients outside of meetings to get a broader perspective of their company culture. Due to my ability to see different perspectives, facilitating meetings and solutions amongst these groups is a fluid process for me. While onsite, no task is too daunting for me; I am resourceful, from hunting down the nearest color printer to approaching key decision makers with additional questions.
Living in a foreign country taught me about myself and what I can achieve. I am overwhelmed with a sense of personal satisfaction, knowing that I can learn to adapt to any foreign environment, establish a life for myself anywhere in the world, and make things happen.
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