my journey

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  • Talent only goes so far; hard work does the rest. To all my inspirational professors I encountered along my journey (2011~2015); to the

    tutors/counselors/UC representatives who helped guide me to transfer; to my mentors;

    and to my best friend, Nathalie V.

    Foremost, I am writing this letter to my lovely professors and to everyone who has had a

    positive impact in my life. I want to extend my sincere gratitude for your endless support

    and your guidance in helping me become the person I am today. Spring 2015 will be my

    last semester at El Camino College, and I will be transferring to UCLA in the fall of

    2015. I have been waiting for this moment since I started college in 2011. Therefore, I

    would like to share my journey with you and express how your encouragement helped


    When I first started college in summer 2011, I studied in the west wing of the library.

    There were always students studying independently. Likewise, I always studied alone in

    the library until it closed. I honestly thought I was the first one in and last one out.

    However, there were other students who were just as motivated as I was. It was that

    moment when I realized that I was not the only one who wanted to transfer to a university

    or simply wanted to be the best; I had competition everywhere.

    Coming from a disastrous first attempt in education, for the first time in my life, I wanted

    to find out how far I could go. Hence, I joined the Honors Transfer Program. This meant

    an enormous challenge and also meant more competition. But nothing was going to stop

  • me. I knew that if I could not compete with fellow students in class and get the best grade

    in class, I would have no success in the real world. Luckily, my perseverance helped me

    pass all my 29 classes and helped me maintain a 4.0 grade point average.

    I always believe in hard work. I have met and made many friends since I started college,

    and I find it funny when people say, Youre smart, to me. But I ponder and question

    myself; what exactly does the word smart mean? Am I considered smart when I barely

    graduated high school with a 2.0 GPA, bubbled in all Cs on all my Scantron exams in

    high school, read only three books until I started college in 2011, didnt know what

    Harvard was, started from Math 12 (basic arithmetic) at ECC? Did I change from stupid

    to smart in a short period of time? No, its not that Im smart or gifted. My concept of

    success is very simple: hard work. Im not smart, but I work twice as hard as anybody

    else. The word smart is ubiquitous, but I still have trouble defining this word.

    Out of the 29 classes I took at ECC, I would have to say Biology 10 H was the hardest. I

    had an amazing biology professor and a tutor. I fondly remember the time I received my

    first exam back. I had a red mark labeled 96/100 in the corner of my scantron. Oh, boy,

    I was ecstatic to get that A because the last time I had received an A on a science

    exam was in sixth grade. My first exam went well, but I received a B on my second and

    third exams. I hadnt changed my study habits; I had studied the way I always did. Yet I

    just couldn't execute. I panicked. I thought I was going to get my first B in college. To

    get an A in class simply meant getting all As on the exams. However, my level of basic

  • knowledge was below average, so it was extremely difficult to keep up with the class and

    my competition.

    For the first time, I thought hard work might not be enough. Towards the fourth exam and

    the lab exam, my professor told me what I needed to get on my exams to avoid taking the

    final and finish the class with an A. I needed 100/100 on my fourth exam and 50/50 on

    my lab examyes, perfect scores. I was looking for a miracle. I remember venting this

    situation to a mentor. The answer sounds silly, but she simply said, Work harder. At

    first, I didnt grasp what she was trying to tell me, but she was right. I just had to work

    harder, work twice as hard, which I did. I studied and bombarded my professor/bio tutor

    with questions. I studied, studied, and studied.

    I went in well prepared for my fourth exam and the lab exam. To go straight to the point,

    I received a perfect score on both of my exams. I learned that anything is possible. But

    my story doesnt end here. I couldnt find any words to describe my joy, if joy was even

    the right word to use. On the last day of class before the final, students were giving our

    biology professor chocolate and gifts. For some reason, I wanted to do more than just

    give her a gift or walk away with an A in the class. I wanted to get an A on the final for

    my biology professor and show her my appreciation for the subject. I told her that I didnt

    have a gift, but I was going to do my best to get an A on the final. As preposterous as it

    sounds, I wanted to take the final.

  • I had an evening class that day, so I couldnt study until nine oclock that night. As you

    all may know by now, I studied like crazy. I studied like there was no tomorrow. I took

    the final the next morning, determined to get that A for my biology professor. The night

    of the final, I emailed my professor to thank her for a wonderful semester. A couple of

    days later, I received a response from her saying, You are very welcome. You did the

    hard work and you did get an A on the final. Please keep in touch and let me know how

    you are doing as you progress along your journey.

    Fortunately, miracle found me. My actions have demonstrated that hard work can

    demolish anything. In retrospect, besides hard work, I couldnt have gotten to where I am

    today without the help of my best friend, tutors, and, most importantly, my passionate

    professors. Thank you all for your countless hours of education and your endless support.

    Steve Jobs once said, You cant connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect

    them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your

    future. Indeed, I am glad that I didnt go to college right after high school because I

    wouldnt be here today. I would not have met my inspirational professors and my best

    friend, Nathalie V., who changed my life and always put a smile on my face (youre the

    best). Where would I be today if I hadnt met them along my journey? All I can say is

    thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    I could share more stories, but I dont want to turn my farewell letter into a book.

  • One thing people can never take away from me is my education. Your passion and

    inspiration have been indispensable to my success in college. You changed my life. Not

    only did you change my life, but you also created the fundamental blocks of success to

    my future. Please continue to inspire hundreds and thousands of humble incoming

    students, which will ensure their educational success. If I can do it, anyone can do it.


    Makoto Kishi