“I thought back to my college biology class, but nothing came to mind.”


Nov | Dec 2010 contents
Gazette Home

First Person

Notes from the Undergrad A bio major’s breakout

Alumni Voices
“I sell love”

One day in Paradise

Expert Opinion Playing catch-up on high-speed rail

Share |




An Example Not to Follow By Carolina Ángel

Chaperone Without Borders By Miranda Boydstun

Women’s Sanctuary (est. 2046) By Jessica Chen


By Yosef Berlyand | Editor’s note: For many years, Penn has invited applicants to submit Page 217 of their autobiographies along with the rest of the transcripts and materials required by the admissions office. This year the Gazette went looking for incoming freshmen who’d used the prompt to dream up ambitious or unusual future accomplishments. This one took the cake. Check out our website to read a few more unedited and uncut introductions to members of the Class of 2014.

PAGE 217
“You are therefore condemned to life in a human cheek cell!”
proclaimed the enemy judge. He banged his gavel, and the light of day disappeared. I was locked away behind the nuclear membrane of John the Prison Ward’s cheek cell. Every cell of his body could hold a prisoner, and most were filled. It was 2050, the first year nano prisons were in full operation. I was an army medic, caught behind enemy lines. I had to get out; the DNA was coiling, making tight chromosomes, preparing for mitosis. I was afraid the microtubules of the nucleus would confuse me for the kinetochore of a chromosome and rip me in two during anaphase. I needed to escape, but how? I thought back to my college biology class, but nothing came to mind. Like an uneducated barbarian I tried to fight my way through the nuclear membrane, but it wouldn’t budge. I sat depressed, sure of my approaching doom. “Is anybody here?” asked a voice. I was stunned to learn I was not alone. I ran to him and saw that it was the man from my neighboring cell. He had escaped his own and come to my rescue. Grabbing my hand, he said, “Follow me!”

We jumped and grabbed an mRNA, zooming through a nuclear pore out of the nucleus. Breaking through, he shouted, “Let go!” as we fell on the rough endoplasmic reticulum. We ran to a ribosome just as it completed its latest batch of protein and jumped into a transition vesicle. I felt my stomach tossing and turning as we took off and flew toward the Golgi apparatus. Before I could blink, I found myself inside a sac of membrane launching toward freedom, the cell membrane. We merged into the cell membrane and found ourselves on the outside of the cell, free from the prison walls. I thanked the man who had just saved my life but was curious. “How’d you think of that?” I asked. He looked at me and said, “Easy. I just thought back to my college biology class. Where’d you go to school?”

“Brown,” I answered with embarrassment. He winked and said, “Should have gone to Penn.”

Yosef Berlyand is a freshman biology major from State College, Pennsylvania.


An Example Not to Follow
“I was ten when I realized my brother was not at camp,
but at a Juvenile Hall.”

By Carolina Ángel | I was seven when he began not coming home at night. I was eight when the cop knocked on our door at five in the morning to ask my mother if that was her son. I was nine when I wrapped my hands around my sister’s ears and turned the volume of the television on high to block out the screams coming from the fight my mother was having with my brother. I was ten when I realized my brother was not at camp, but at a Juvenile Hall.

The root of his evil derived from his involvement in the gang life. He stole, he sold pot, he fought alongside those he called friends. That life seemed attractive to his young vulnerable mind because he thought it would fulfill his hunger for brand-name items. He bought things my father’s salary could not afford. Sucked in to the street life with a false hope of thug glory and easy money, he simply became another stereotype, another percentage, another example of how children of low-income families are doomed to become.             

As I watched my mother cry for her oldest son, question if it was because she was a bad mother; I promised myself that I would never make her cry. I would break the odds and become something. I would walk on graduation day, unlike my brother, and cause my mother to smile. I would not let myself be defined as another percentage, but I would graduate in the top three percent of my class. From that moment on I aspired to be the best I could be, not just for myself, but for the struggle my parents went through to stay in this country so that we could have a better life.  

It was not always easy. I remember the desire I had for a Quinceanera, the grand party that a young Latina has to represent her arrival at womanhood. I cried myself to sleep every night because my mother told me we could not afford one. I yelled at her that, if anything, I deserved one. I detested only having just enough money to pay the rent, I resented being jealous of those girls at school who seemed to have everything the clothes store had on stock. My mother turned to look at me and very sincerely said, “I know. You have been like a refreshing cup of ice-cold water after a long tiring walk through a hell-like desert. You deserve many things.” I did not say anything. After that I stopped crying for the Quinceanera. The pride my mother had demonstrated in me that day was worth more to me than any 15th birthday party. I never again envied anyone.

I no longer waste my time feeling sorry for myself because I do not have things other girls do. Instead, I have realized that my determination to be successful in life has given me the attitude to take advantage of every opportunity and appreciate every moment of my high school experience. I show up to school with an open-mind ready to take in the knowledge our teachers are there to give us. I vividly picture myself four years from now graduating from a prestigious university, and I can not help but wonder why my brother did not at least try to accomplish the very same things I deeply desire today.

At the young age of 22, my brother became a father. He is different than the 14-year-old boy who he used to be, but no better. Now he is well on his way to becoming an alcoholic, and in addition to spending money on pot, he has to save up for diapers. Growing up he set an example for me, one I learned quickly not to follow. However, a child can not help but be heavily impacted by their father, and I could only hope that my niece will have a healthier lifestyle than her parents do. At only eight months old, her twinkling blue eyes only inspire me to set a better example she could look up to. I want her to know that if I could accomplish my goals in life, then so could she. If I could go to college and become something, she could as well.

Six years separate my brother and me; we grew up under the same circumstances yet could not be anymore different. Both of us were witnesses to the struggle our parents went through to feed, shelter and clothe us. Our parents worked multiple jobs to provide us with more than what they grew up with, and naturally we want the same for our children; that hope made us ambitious. His ambition drove him to fall into a world of mayhem, drugs, and violence; my ambition has led me to be academically successful and with optimism that I will one day accomplish so much more.    

Carolina Ángel is freshman from Tracy, California.  This essay, which appears here in unedited form, was part of her application to the College.

Chaperone Without Borders
“He was a punk. Why? He was trying to date my daughter.”

Page 217

By Miranda Boydstun
| I decided I needed theme music, sneaky but heroic theme music.  It seemed to be the only thing missing from the moment that kept it from becoming a cheap reproduction of a PG-rated family-fun film, and I refused to settle. I was a mid-40s billion-dollar businesswoman with a castrating attitude, over 50 pairs of ball-busting stilettos, and a husband in a foreign country under mysterious whereabouts (I hadn’t been able to reach him on the international connection we had set up, and refused to believe that a day’s lack of communication on faulty phone lines meant anything less than subterfuge), and now I was trying my hand at undercover sleuthing by following my 17-year-old daughter’s “boyfriend” up a street.  

I believe I’ve made my feelings towards my future son-in-law perfectly clear, but to reiterate, he was a punk.  Why?  He was trying to date my daughter.  We often share laughs, now, at family dinners about just how terrible I am at being a paranoid mother, and each time dear Timothy must embed the idea even deeper into my cunning grey matter that wearing sunglasses does NOT in fact make me invisible.  Who knew?  At the time, however, I was brilliant, and I thought my method of dealing with undesirable “boyfriends” far exceeded the quality of my parents’, which consisted of simply telling me no.  So I walked nonchalantly down that street, humming a tune under my breath which sounded vaguely like “Mission Impossible,” and watched the boy in front of me, searching for that one wrong move that would give me grounds to banish him from my—I mean my daughter’s life for the remainder of eternity.

My mind kept flashing to different scenarios covering what exactly I would do if he turned around.  Would I look at him and say, “Oh! Fancy seeing you here Tim, it’s so nice to see you again.”?  Would I pretend to not even recognize him?  Would I jump behind a telephone pole, grab the closest flier pinned to it and plaster it over my face?  I reasoned that this last maneuver was a little extreme even for my imagination, but still, perhaps if he looked he would recognize that poor lost puppy dog.  

He finally slowed as he approached two other boys waiting at a street corner.  To me, they looked like little convicts; their hair was scruffy and they were already wearing orange T-shirts (one of which Tim pulled out of a bag and pulled on as well). Perfect.  I believe T-Dog (a nickname I was sure he had given himself) stated something like, “You ready for this guys?”

Ready for what!? Oh my God I was going to witness a murder!

The three went inside a building and came out a moment later carrying trash bags; I was hyperventilating.  I ran forward with an airtight plan—tackle the biggest one—and thankfully slowed before rushing them to glance at the building they had just exited … and then stopped.   Printed in happy bold was a sign that read, “County Volunteer Recycling Center.”  

My eyes snapped to the back of the receding boys’ shirts and there I saw printed, “We’ll take all your extra bottles.  Recycle to Save!”  Keeping to my PG rating, I believe I muttered something along the lines of, “Oh Snapdragons.”  It seems pertinent for me to mention that today my son-in-law, Tim, owns a recycling company.

Now, this might seem like an insignificant, if embarrassing, moment in my experience when compared to many of the other details laid out in this volume—and yes it really did happen—but to me it signifies an accomplishment of the utmost importance in my life: that I remained myself over the course of it.  Many people I’ve known have drowned themselves in business and progress, and have subsequently lost touch with their families and lives.  I had managed by that point to become a successful businesswoman and philanthropist, raise three kids with my husband, and do so while maintaining my quirky personality and often childish verve (said offspring love rolling their eyes at me).  I didn’t lose my sense of what was important when I had to spend hours at work while launching a new business, nor when the charity organization nearly failed, not even when my closest business partner and friend.

Miranda Boydstun is a freshman from Damascus, Oregon.  This essay, which appears here in unedited form, was part of her application to Wharton.

Women’s Sanctuary (est. 2046)

“All of a sudden I hear gun shots as a girl tackles me, clinging on to me as if I was her last hope for life.”

Page 217

By Jessica Chen | I lean over the side of the wooden boat rowed by my friend Chaiyo and let my fingers hang from the edge, creating little ripples through the water. We gently bump into the side of the dock of the floating market, or talard nam, in Bangkok.  “Korp khun, thank you! See you tomorrow,” I say as I step off the boat.

Past the merchants, my assistant Cara waits for me with an anxious look on her face. “Ambassador, we have a new case. Fourteen-year-old female, trafficked through four nations in the past five months. Terribly damaged both mentally and physically. Won’t let a soul near her.”

We approach an interconnected chain of stilt houses, their facades covered in Curcuma petiolatas, or hidden gingers— the Thai native flower. The front of the main house contains the big white letters: U.S. Guardian Women’s Sanctuary (est. 2046). This is the rehabilitation center I founded for human trafficking victims. As of today, in the year 2051, over 500 girls have been able to reintegrate themselves into society and live almost normal lives, scars and all.

I decided to concentrate my efforts in Southeast Asia after traveling around the world during my first eight-year tour as a diplomat. Although I’ve seen so many conflicts and strife throughout the rest of the world, one memory of a Thai girl who I accidentally met in Mexico (transport nation sending into the States) compelled me to start this sanctuary. I was walking toward a gift shop on the day I was leaving Veracruz and all of a sudden I hear gun shots as a girl tackles me, clinging on to me as if I was her last hope for life. Bodyguards quickly shield us from the on coming traffickers. It may have been our similar racial complexion or just a complete twist of fate, but from that day on, Cara (she had forgotten her Thai name) became my right had girl.

Inside, sweet aromas of candles and spices waft as two Thai interns greet us with the traditional bow (or wei).

“EEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!” a scream of anguish pierces through the tranquility, “ARRRRUGGG!!! NYYYAAAAAAA!”

“We have to sedate her,” the doctor relays in Thai as I run into the room.

Her sienna colored skin is covered in patches of blue and black. Long gashes of discolored scabs wrap around each limb like king snakes. She squirms as if possessed, twisting and writhing, pulling her hair as she arches over and throws her head back in a final cry.

The nurses rush towards her with the needle as she backs into a corner bearing her teeth. “Stop,” I say sternly as she lashes out for a second round, “Let me.”

I get on my knees, place my hands firmly on my lap, and wait for her. Ten minutes pass as she claws a hole into the straw mat. Thirty minutes pass, and she is drenched in sweat and tears. After 72 minutes, she tires herself out, stops thrashing, and lays her face on the ground.  “Chuay, please,” I hold out my hand, “Khan chuew dai kah, let me help you.” She chomps down hard on my finger. I hold back my grimace. “Chuay,” I whisper once more. When she loosens her grip, tears start stream down her face again. Tears stream down mine as well. Sarai looked 20 years older than she should. “Siia, I’m sorry,” I whisper.

As with all of my survivors, I want to tell her how sorry I am that no one protected her, that she was robbed of her innocence and afflicted by one of the greatest human crimes. I promise her that she has a home here and that she will heal. I pledge safety and warmth. Again, I whisper, “siia”.  

As she reaches out to my face, I notice my staffers shuffling uncomfortably, anxious that she might attack me again. Her ring finger touches a tear on my cheek. She meets my gaze intensely, surprised that someone would cry for her, and revealing that she understands what words cannot say.

Jessica Chen is a freshman from San Francisco.  She wrote this essay, which appears here in unedited form, as part of her application to the College.

©2010 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 10/25/10