DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Hello Julian.

Thanks for choosing etutoring. My name is Don and I will be your tutor for this session. I see you are writing a narrative essay, and you need to reflect on a personal story.

Your concerns:

You requested help with your structure. This is a personal narrative essay, which is a story told in the 1st person (I) in the past tense. You also asked me whether you are transitioning smoothly, and if there are things you can do to improve the essay. We can do that.

Strengths of the essay:

You have a natural storytelling voice, and you present the story in a chronological order which is easy to follow. Also, the essay is organized in such a way that, for the most part, it flows smoothly.

Issues needing work:

Some transitional work is needed, but not much. I would suggest some more action scenes, as this is a narrative from your past.


Julian Velez

Professor Brackett

English 101

September 19, 2012

My Fork in the Road

            Even though I never really thought about it as such, there is one moment that has changed the direction of my life entirely.  In the eighth grade, a representative from the Center for Global Studies magnet school program came to my middle school.  As soon as I heard him say that we would be able to visit the countries where these [use “these” if the language was named; if not, you may choose another word (other or different) languages were spoken, my jaw dropped to the floor.  I knew that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that I would be a fool to turn it down.  Yet, I still hesitated.  At the tender age of thirteen, I had never made such a big decision before.  If I decided to enroll in this program I would be spending the next four years taking a train to Norwalk from Milford every morning, to go to a school where I didn’t know anybody.  Boy, am I glad I decided to go for it.

            It turns out that had I not taken that chance, I would have missed out on the greatest opportunity of my life.  By making the decision to enroll in that program opened the door to foreign worlds for myself, broke down a lot of stereotypes, and set myself up for success in the face of crisis down the road. [Eliminate “By” at beginning; subject is “making that decision, and that ties in to the verb phrases which follow]

            The Center for Global Studies (CGS) is a magnet school connected to Brien McMahon High School, located in Norwalk, Connecticut.  Newly enrolled students choose to learn Japanese, Chinese, or Arabic.  By the time I graduated, I was learning all three.  The CGS allowed me to go places I would never have gone and meet people I would never have been able to meet.  In freshman year, after a year of Japanese, I went to Japan for two weeks.  While there, I was able to roam Tokyo on my own with a couple other students.  We were able to see the city for what it was, free to explore without a tour guide.  After a week of Tokyo, we stayed with host families for another week.  I lived with my host brother and went to all of his classes with him, experiencing life as a Japanese teenager firsthand.  To this day, I am in contact with the people I met in Japan.  Sophomore and junior year, I was also enrolled in Chinese, while still studying in the Japanese program.  I never went to China, but I did host students from there.  Luckily for me, their English was much better than my Chinese.  Speaking with them about their lives over there was really amazing.  Learning about their course loads in school and the way their government operated was really eye opening.  We hear about Red China all day on the television and internet, but to hear what it is really like from a primary source made me realize that although some of the information is true, the overall lifestyle is more complicated than our media makes it out to be sometimes.  In my senior year, I took Arabic up along with my other two languages.  Unfortunately, I never got the chance to stay with or host an Arab student.  Both of our teachers however were from Egypt themselves.  They gave us an account of how life is over there and taught us to speak like the native people.  They really emphasized the reality versus the textbook. [You have a lot of information about what you did; this may be 2 -3 paragraphs. Also, as this is a narrative essay, I would suggest more action scenes and less summarizing. Imagine you are writing a scene for a movie; present the action as it happened at that place and time. This makes for a good narrative – Action!]

Because I went to the CGS, and had these experiences, I can now go all over the world.  I’ve learned languages and experienced things that now allow me to have a whole different perspective on the world.[Great point; use examples, or illustrations to build on your point]  I can go to these countries and truly enjoy what it has to offer.  I don’t have to worry about tour guides or following a preplanned itinerary.  This program has made me a citizen of the world. 

            My experiences with the rest of the world allowed me to also have a more intimate relationship with the people of these countries.  I grew up with an obsession with Japanese and Chinese cultures.  Having never been to Japan, I thought that all Japanese people were humble, hardworking, and basically idealized.  When I finally did go to Japan I got quite a wakeup call.  Although humility and hard work were inherent in their culture, I was quite surprised when I realized how similar teenagers from Japan and teenagers from the U.S. were. [Tell a story to illustrate your point; use examples and action] We both cracked jokes about each other and hung out with friends after school. [Who is the “We” here? It is unclear. Use a name and tell the story; perhaps you can even use dialogue] I was similarly surprised when I had a Chinese student stay at my house.  Having heard the horror story of fourteen hour school days in China, I expected the students I met to be worn out and stressed.  On the contrary, they were all very good humored, and some were downright kooky.  Again, I found that teenagers from both countries were almost exactly the same.  Learning about Egypt from an Egyptian perspective, versus my preconceived notions of the country, was just as eye opening.  The country is much more “Western” than I had previously believed and I began to find many more similarities between their country’s culture and my own. [Again, great point; add a story to give the reader a view into your experience] 

            If there’s one thing that I learned from going to the CGS, more than the languages or nuances of these foreign cultures, it is that we are all human.  Being human we all have the same fears and motivations.  Our cultures may seem unique and varied, but they all boil down to the same ingredients.  I learned that we separate ourselves too much and lose sight of our common ground. [Excellent insight; good use of reflection]

            Interestingly enough, my life was most changed by going to the CGS not because of what I learned and experienced in the program itself.  In my freshman year, I met the girl who would become my high school girlfriend.  When my parents got divorced and I fell into deep depression, she dealt with my mood swings.  When I couldn’t afford to feed myself and my sister, she kept me from turning to drugs for money by feeding me every day.  On the days that I wanted to give up and drop out of school, she gave me a reason to persevere.  [This could almost be another essay in itself; I believe it can work, but make sure you connect going to the Center strongly enough so that your point is that the Center has changed your perspective, and it has allowed you to meet your soulmate] Had I never went to the Center for Global Studies at Brien McMahon High School, I never would have met her.  Without her, I don’t know where I’d be.  Because I chose to go to the CGS, I now have a fiancée who has stuck by me in my lowest lows and brought me back from the brink.  In this way, the CGS has changed my life forever. 

            In conclusion, I am forever thankful that I chose to go to the CGS.  The moment that I made that decision has changed everything for me.  I went to foreign worlds and learned about the truth of human nature.  Because of that decision, I have been blessed with a partner in my life who I know will give me support whenever I need. [Okay. It seems your conclusion brought together both benefits you received from the Center. Nice way to wrap it up. However, you may want to add a bit about the added benefit of finding your partner at the beginning of the essay]

Next Steps:

  1. I would suggest adding more action scenes in this essay, since it is a narrative. Let the action move the story. You can keep some of the summary, but action will bring it to life.
  2. Dialogue is also useful in bringing out the scenes. Perhaps a funny moment, or a time when you discovered something about a friend would bring the reader in to your story at key points.
  3. The transitions are smooth here, which was one of your concerns, but they will change to more time transitions (after that, a week later, then, when we left, etc,) if you add more action.
  4. You may want to add a hint, at least, of the added benefit you also received (your girlfriend) in the beginning. The essay was all about the experiences of meeting foreign friends, and then it took a turn at the end. Think about it. Also, you may even want to point to your title at the end – your fork in the road – and, like Frost said in his poem “The Road Not Taken,” “I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”


Thanks for choosing etutoring. I enjoyed this essay. See the suggestions for improvement, and keep writing!


DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.