Ideas Worth Spreading — the College Application Essay I wrote having been Inspired by TED

Context: I met Chris Anderson, curator of TED, at an event in Palo Alto, and told him about how TED talks changed my life and how I wrote about TED talks in my college admission essay. I subsequently sent an email to his assistant attaching my college application essay, and to my surprise she asked if Chris Anderson could use it in his speech! Of course, I said yes. It was extremely surreal to actually hear him mention me at his talk at Amazon HQ! I thought I’d share my essay so others can read it as well. https://www.facebook.com/valeriejrpang/videos/1057013447707411/

I love ideas, and I love TED talks to bits. TED embodies much of who I am as a person, what I am passionate for, and what I believe in. It offers hope, that our current circumstances can be bettered. TEDs share innovative solutions for challenges in the world, reveal new areas of knowledge, and point towards a greater future. I admire the speakers for their accomplishments, be it their tenacity amidst insurmountable odds, or their willingness to openly share their knowledge such that others can benefit. Kent Larson, Susan Kane, Don Tapscott, Brene Brown. They inspire me to stand up for my beliefs as well. My dream: to one day speak at TED and “seek justice, defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17)

I’m enamored with the idea of making connections with people across the globe. It’s amazing when people can come together to share the love for common interests, which span across cultures, backgrounds and countries! It is my deep desire that understanding and acceptance of one another forms the basis of interactions between people in a collective community. I feel that education through technology can be a force for cohesion: through online learning platforms like Coursera and Udacity, there have been multilingual global study groups formed where people can connect with people from other cultures. If I do have the privilege of studying in Yale-NUS with people from all over the world, I would want to converse with them, forge meaningful relationships and understand how things are like through their perspective.

Ideas in business and technology attract me as well. That probably explains my addiction to sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and the Verge. In Kickstarter, the experience of contributing to bring a product into market and taking part in the innovation process is really intriguing. I have backed projects such as Cordcruncher, Makey Makey, Smart Things etc. and these provide an inside view of start-ups and the challenges faced in manufacturing. Being able to bring an idea to fruition excites me; and I’m really keen on starting an open source community-based social enterprise in the future.

A new idea in action is an experiment. I’ve experimented with new things before, like speaking about a random table topic in Gavel club, learning the “Art of Manliness” and talking to a tourist on the train. I used to be a tenor drummer in the only female bagpipe band in the country during secondary school; it was glorious sporting the Scottish kilt. Still, there are so many interesting ideas I have yet to try out. I long to go on more overseas educational trips, or use Airbnb to live with locals when visiting other countries, experiencing authentically their life and culture. It’s a big world out there and I feel there’s just so much more that I’ve yet to discover. I am excited, even amidst all this uncertainty of what is to come.

Perhaps my openness towards new ideas and willingness to explore unfamiliar territories is due to the strong curiosity and sense of wonder which I possess. Without a sense of wonder and curiosity, one would find it hard to achieve innovation or gain new insights. Socrates once said that “wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” Of that, I am not fully certain. But one thing wonder has taught me is that it is better to dwell in questions and curiosity than to seek answers to control, predict or be certain. When we become too comfortable in dwelling in ‘answers’ instead of ‘questions’, in ‘knowing’ instead of ‘wondering’, we run the risk of believing that knowledge is finite, absolute, and cultures are neatly delineated spaces. When we think we have all the ‘answers’, we end up alienating people who are not in alignment to what we know. The minute we stop wondering and start asserting, we also start to belittle the viewpoints of others and create separation. More emphatically, our worldview inadvertently becomes parochial.

In my opinion, I truly believe that the road to harmony, graciousness, beauty and growth can be found when we choose to wonder. It is precisely this reason that I hope to study at Yale-NUS, so that I have a chance to interact with others from different cultures and nationalities. I hope to use my sense of wonder and openness to learn more from others who come from different contexts in order to become a balanced global citizen. It is interesting to note that in wonder, paradoxes emerge — I see community from separation, and possibility from improbability.

I am raring to go, raring to discover and raring to explore.

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