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Disadvantaged Status Essay for Dental School, Korean

My family faced a constant economic struggle as I was growing up, both before and after we immigrated to America from Korea. My father tried to help his sister’s husband build a business that went belly up, and we were constantly harassed by creditors while still in Korea, threatening to jail my father. This went on right up until we left for America and had a very negative impact on my emotional development as a child and adolescence. Finally, after selling out and signing away what little my family had, we entered the US on a visitor visa when I was 15 years old, and I went straight to high school knowing very little English.

My father obtained a student visa while he was studying at a language institute, and then we applied for permanent residency. Unfortunately, having put their trust in an unscrupulous Korean attorney in America, by the time that my parents realized that they had been hoodwinked and the only money they had been able to save stolen, it was too late, and our visa was already expired. Our status as undocumented aliens in America came at a high cost psychologically, emotionally, and most of all economically, since the undocumented status radically limits employment opportunities.  I was undocumented until my first year of college, when I was able to receive DACA status allowing me to stay here in the US without deportation and to work legally. I will not be able to obtain a green card unless there is immigration reform at some point in the future and I qualify for an amnesty.  

Upon my arrival in the US, I had left everyone and everything I had known my whole life, except my immediate family. It was a big adjustment, and life was every bit as much of a struggle for us in America as it had been in Korea, more challenging and nerve-wracking still in many ways. My family and I arrived here on August 25th, 2006, with just a minimal amount of money and nothing else. My parents did not speak a word of English, and I spoke only a little; yet, I was immediately designated the spokesperson, and I quickly accustomed myself to the new language and cultural setting. I became responsible for many things that should have been the responsibility of my parents, signing lease contracts and setting up utility services, communicating with my parents’ bosses, buying a used car, etc.; every day came complete with significant challenges.

My parents have always been very hard-working people, working multiple jobs almost always for the minimum wage. Many nights, I accompanied my weary parents to help them with their jobs. When I saw my parents working twelve hours a day, seven days a week, it made me appreciate their love and sacrifice; and it became the driving force that pushed me to excel in my high school despite the language barrier.

Being undocumented made the already challenging life of a poor, immigrant family much harder; the concerns related to fear of deportation, finances, and a sense of isolation weighed heavily on me.  Whenever I did not know the exact whereabouts of my family, I feared for their safety. My constant awareness of the fact that I was not guaranteed the same rights and protection as my high school classmates made me cautious and attentive at all times.

I began working outside the home in the 10th grade. Because I understood well that my parents were struggling despite their hard work, I had to contribute to my family financially. Despite the uphill battle that I faced, I graduated within the top 3 percent of my high school class. Still, since I was undocumented, I was not eligible to receive any financial aid or take out student loans. So, I worked multiple jobs, an average of fifty hours a week, all through college. Working my way through college was the most formidable challenge I have ever faced. Both a full-time student and more than a full-time worker, I often found myself struggling in my classes. On a couple of occasions, I missed an exam because I was passed out studying overnight two days in a row, physically and mentally exhausted.

Despite the disadvantages that I have faced, I was able to volunteer at various events and serve my community as a translator, while simultaneously shadowing a successful dentist. I take pride in being self-sufficient and achieving my goals slowly but surely. I am also thankful for the rigors that I have faced as an undocumented immigrant because it has inspired my intense compassion for others in similar circumstances.

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