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Define Overcome Adversity Essay

Many of us faced challenges in our formative years and we struggled with them. Some of those struggles might have changed who we are or how we later approached life. Marilyn Campbell is an overcomer. She wrestled with shyness in her young years. Before you read her essay, learn a little more about Marilyn’s background from an update she sent to me:

“I never did quite get the opportunity to thank you [for helping me develop my essay]. Regarding my college process:

I applied to three schools early action: Harvard University, Brown University, and Georgetown University; I applied to Tulane University as a backup school regular decision (it can be considered a backup for those people who reside in-state).

I am happy to say that I was accepted at Brown, at Georgetown (thank you very much!), and at Tulane; I was deferred from Harvard; I am not applying to any more schools.

If there’s something I learned about applying to colleges and watching my friends apply to them, I would recommend applying to as many early action schools as possible by the deadlines. This takes away the stress and work of doing several applications at a very busy time of the year (one is taking exams or they are hanging over our heads).

At the very least, if one applies to one school early action or early decision, s/he should not wait until they receive that school’s response to begin filling out all the other applications waiting in the wings. I know that it is very tempting to wait, but after seeing what this has done to several of my friends, I highly recommend getting an early start.

Finally, I suggest that students don’t blow off their freshman year. If that happens, one will spend the next three years trying to bring up those grades.

Thanks again!


* * * *

Marilyn’s essay:

When I was a young, awkward adolescent, I considered myself to be a shy person, especially around boys. Because of this, my experiences at a coed middle school intimidated me somewhat. So, for the past five years, I have attended an all-girls school, which has helped me to become a stronger person. I have overcome my shyness and insecurities and developed much more confidence.

Ironically, I believe that my shyness, something that I consider a communication barrier, has ultimately led me to focus on a field for my life’s work: communications. Despite my aversion to it early on in life, I now love speaking to and interacting with people, be it as a friend, teacher, or public speaker. I now have a passion for stimulating conversation, and that enthusiasm manifests itself in three different and important aspects of my life outside of the classroom: peer support, volunteer work, and music.

Peer support is a high school-sponsored program through which juniors and seniors are selected to work with eighth graders who attend Sacred Heart. It involves an intensive three-day workshop where student leaders learn how to listen effectively to and become mentors for the younger students. I love this work. Once a week, I get to speak to these impressionable boys and girls about anything that I feel is important. I enjoy learning about their lives and their issues and exploring possible solutions to their problems. We study today’s society and its impact on them. I see much of my old self in these young people and that memory has helped me to help them become more confident about their everyday lives.

My volunteer work centers on teaching, through a program called Summerbridge. After school, I go to a nearby public school and tutor learning-disadvantaged preteens. Instead of dealing with the students’ personal issues, as I do in peer support, the Summerbridge focus is more on communication through education. By working with these younger students, I have come to understand the importance of helping them comprehend and apply what they learn in the classroom. Their motivation, given their circumstances, is remarkable. We discuss in detail what they are learning so that I can keep them interested and motivated. Summerbridge is another example of how communication issues are very important to me.

Not surprisingly, music has emerged as another, perhaps indirect, avenue for me to communicate with others. Singing allows me to convey my deep and personal emotions with others. When I sing, I am transported to another realm. The mundane everyday world around me disappears, and I am enveloped in my own, new space, especially when I am performing onstage. When I act, I am transformed, feeling the happiness, sadness, impishness, or even confusion that my character feels. My performance taps into that part of me where those qualities dwell, and I love sharing it with my audience. Music is a very special form of communication for me.

Perhaps the person I am today is a compensation for who I was years ago. That awkward twelve-year old, however, is no more. Now I want to show the world what I can do. Communication has become my passion. It will be my future.

In every person’s life, facing adversity and overcoming it is one of the biggest challenges that there is. People struggle with different types of adversities and while there some people who manage to overcome them, others are not so lucky and find themselves entangled in a web of problems for their entire lifetime. However, as painful and problematic as they are, adversities are important in that if a person successfully overcomes them, they become stronger in character and as a human being as well. This paper is a discussion of the adversities I have faced as a foreign student having relocated from Saudi Arabia to the United States. The paper will also address family, cultural and personal tradition that are meaningful to my country of origin.

Specific adversities I have faced and how these experiences have made me a better person

             One of the major challenges faced by any international student would be the issue of relocating to another country to further one’s studies (Long, 2005).  In my case, it was not any different since I have faced numerous adversities some of which I still struggle to overcome. My country of origin is Saudi Arabia, which means that the major language of communication is Arabic. However, with the relocation to America, this meant that I had to learn English as a second language which is the main language spoken by American citizens. Initially, learning another language was very challenging since the language is not even closely related to Arabic. Communicating with other students in class was very problematic since I could not understand very well what some of them were saying. On the other hand, I would find it difficult to shop for most of the items on the shelves are named in English. Another major adversity I faced is the culture shock of being away from an environment and people I had become used to interact with on a daily basis.

The culture of Saudi Arabia is very much different from what I have experienced here in the United States. The roles of religion, gender, family and education all differ when I compare them to that of the American culture. In Saudi Arabia, our culture dictates that people should live together in harmony as a family, but in America, this is entirely different. I found it very difficult to adjust to this life since it is not what I was accustomed. However, I have managed to overcome most of these adversities and they have contributed to making me a better person. For instance, now I can speak another language besides Arabic and I have experienced a different culture besides that one of my country.

A family, cultural or personal tradition that is meaningful to me

             In Saudi Arabia, the country, mainly comprises of an Islamic culture with almost every citizen being a Muslim (Ham and Madden, 2004). In this regard, there are many families, cultural or personal traditions that we uphold and believe contribute a lot in defining who we are as a nation (Long, 2005). One of the most important tradition to us is that women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. The reason for this is that the Islamic establishment ruled that it is a law that every woman should have a male guardian accompanying them wherever they go (Ham and Madden, 2004). To us, this tradition is important since it gives the man control over her wife and family. If a woman wants to drive, she can only do so with the permission of her husband who instead prefers to drive her. This way, the Saudi Arabian culture ensures that men are the head of the home while the woman is their helper and has to listen to whatever he says.

The person I would like to spend a day with (living, deceased or imaginary) and why

             One of the people I would like to spend a day with must be my grandmother who unfortunately passed on five years ago. She was one of my favorite relative and person that I found interesting to spend time with. She always gave me a lot of advice about life and how I should carry out myself in the presence of other people. In addition, my grandmother guided me to stay strong in my faith in Islam and to never forget to say my usual prayers every day. Moreover, my grandmother was a very good cook who loved preparing delicious meals whenever I went to visit her. After the food was ready, I would help her serve it and we would both enjoy it as she gave me stories about our culture and how it originated. She was a very wise woman who knew a lot of things about life in both the present and the past. If she was alive today, I am sure I would still be enjoying her company very much.

In conclusion, struggling to overcome adversities is not very easy but once a person makes to overcome them, they become a much stronger person. In my case, I have learnt to overcome adversities related to relocating to the United States alone, which has made me a much better person. In fact, I have more friends who are not from my country of origin. Furthermore, I have explained why the tradition of women is important to Saudi Arabian citizens since it is one of the ways that men are able to assume total control over their women. I have also cited that my grandmother was one of the people that I would desire to spend more time with, were she alive today. All in all, it is these occurrences that have contributed to shaping the person I am today.


Ham, A., Brekhus, M., & Madden, A. (2004). Saudi Arabia. Footscray, Vic: Lonely Planet.

Long, D. E. (2005). Culture and customs of Saudi Arabia. Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Greenwood Press.

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