Looking for feedback on USC Cinematic Arts (Animation) Personal Statement!

Samkzarts

New Member
Hey there, I'm applying to the animation and digital arts major, and I know it's short notice but I am desperate to run this essay by a few people lol. Any advice or criticism at all is sincerely appreciated. Thank you!

“Sami Jan, come on! We’re going to be late to your amoo’s party!” My stomach dropped and my face turned red as I threw together my schoolbag and speed-walked to my mom’s white sedan, avoiding eye contact with everyone in my proximity. As we began to drive off and Mom asked about my day, I could only focus on the mocking jeers of my classmates, mimicking her thick Persian accent and barely being able to contain their laughter. When these kinds of things happened, I would never tell my mom about how I felt. I think we both ignored it, but most times I could tell through her hands’ tightening grasp on the steering wheel that she wasn’t oblivious; She could hear what was going on too. She would never really mention it, and neither would I, but it felt as if we had an unspoken understanding during moments like these.
After a long drive, we finally arrived at my uncle’s birthday party a fashionable 40 minutes late. I felt AWFUL. I would usually brush off the daily ridicule I’d face at school, but this time I could feel the knots in my stomach, so tightly wound that it felt like they were bound to snap at any moment. Why did I feel like this? I’ve been excited for this party all week, but I was suddenly filled with dread. I would normally be excited at the prospect of seeing my family, listening to the Persian Music I’d heard so often, and getting to eat my favorite Iranian food. For some reason, though, everything felt as if it was from the point of view of my classmates at school. My warm and loving family were suddenly the loud, strange foreigners that would speak to me in gibberish before dropping me off, the Persian music I would sing along to had become the obnoxious cacophony of noises that would blast through my mom’s car radio, and the food I’ve loved so much became the bizarre, foul spectacle that I’d pull out of my bag at the lunch tables. I felt sick to my stomach from the stress. Was this who I was going to be for the rest of my life? The weird kid with annoying parents and the long last name that sits alone at recess? It was like a switch flipped in me, and I wanted nothing to do with my family. I just wanted to be like everyone else in school and finally blend in.
Soon enough, I started trying to be more “American.” I would crank down the music on my parents’ stereo before hopping out of their cars in the morning, I’d ask my mom to let me bring turkey sandwiches and string cheese for lunch just like the other kids, and started trying to wear clothes that were more like everyone else’s. Most importantly of all, though, I needed my parents to stop calling me “Sami Joon.” It felt like a symbol of everything that made me different, and for some reason, I thought that getting rid of it would change my life for the better. I knew my mom and dad could see the changes I was trying to make to myself, and I felt ashamed. I knew there wasn’t a chance they’d agree to let go of this nickname, one of the most defining traits of our relationship. As reasonable as their perspectives were, the frustration I felt towards the constant bullying I faced at school was growing to be too much. I finally reached my breaking point during dinner one night when my mom called me “Sami Joon” once again. I shoved my plate away from me and yelled at my mom. I’ve never yelled at my mom before. Immediately after, I burst into tears. As I sobbed while wiping my eyes with my T-shirt and punctuating each sentence with a gasp for air, I blubbered to my mom and dad about how sick and tired I was of the constant bullying. I was sick of being one person at home and an entirely different one at school. Why did everyone at school see me as some kind of freak? I knew that my resentment towards my family was wrong, but it felt like the easiest way to get away from what made me so weird to everyone else. This conversation ended with my parents taking me out for ice cream and doing everything they could to help me feel better, but I still didn’t feel like my problems were solved.
Luckily for me, a few days after this emotional night, my parents were able to bring out the big guns. Babai. A frail and wise man with a bald head and a legendary mustache only contested by that of Tom Selleck, Babai was my grandfather, and the Patriarch of our family. If there was anyone in our family who knew the ins and outs of our culture, it was him. He and I were already very close, but my mom established a new rule that him and I had to spend two hours together every weekend. Every weekend, we’d go out to the lake near our house and just walk as we talked. He would tell stories of our family and what life was like in the capital, Tehran. As a kid, my family would take me to Persian cultural events and celebrations all the time, but the appreciation I’d felt for my culture in those events absolutely paled in comparison to how I felt when Babai would speak. I knew he loved it too when I could see a smirk forming under his gray mustache when I showed interest in his stories. Each word had value- I didn’t want to miss a single sentence because I thought it was so cool when he’d tell me about things like the bustling Grand Bazaar and my uncle’s little corner store under their apartment. He was like a manifestation of everything that I grew to love about my culture.
Babai passed away when I was 14, and I don’t think anything will ever replace the way I felt when I’d listen to his stories. The captivation I felt when listening to him was something I knew deep within me that I wanted to share with the world. I know that there must be a lot of Iranian kids out there facing the exact same disconnect I did when I was younger, and I know that not everyone is as lucky as I was to have a figure in their life that can help them embrace their identity . I want to be one of several voices that make them feel proud of who they are, and that doesn’t just apply to my fellow Iranians. Every underrepresented community deserves to have time in the spotlight. One of my biggest ambitions has been to direct productions about people across the globe that tell stories no one has heard before, and I think it can be done. My own culture’s stories about love, loss, and family have motivated me to one day lead an animation studio where everyone can express their culture through animation. To be honest, I don’t think that my ambitions are farfetched because I know there are thousands of people just like me out there that have been longing to tell their stories and would put their all into making their vision seen. There’s a little kid inside of every storyteller that wants to shout to the rooftops with all their might how proud they are of their culture, and I am confident in making my ambitions a reality.
 
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