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The sun glints through my window on a shining San Juan morning, and I bask in the burning embrace of my own sweet light, beaming over Puerto Rico. The sun does indeed strike differently here. I remember the golden Boston sun of my college years, which was almost ornamental, emanating hardly any heat and bathing the world below in a shimmering aura, an unreal, fantastical glow. It was not the vibrant light that filled my childhood memories, stark and striking, always invigorating. And the pale blue sky was always a whispering echo of the turquoise canopy that filled my dreams.
And yet today I seek to leave again. Even as I enjoy the savory typical Christmas dishes and the balmy weather of the winter months, I know that these things are not enough to make me content. I left Puerto Rico in search of the extraordinary opportunities offered to me as a literature student at Harvard University. And now that I am back, I have started itching from wanderlust again-the prospect of the unknown, of the extraordinary, has always been alluring. "No man is an island, entire of itself," wrote John Donne. "[E]very man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." This was a lesson I learned early on.
My taste for traveling and exploring was whetted and nourished primarily through reading as I was growing up. Some of my first memories involve reading fairy tales, myths, and Bible stories with my mother and three younger siblings, sitting at my father's side as he translated stories into Spanish, or being roused as he came home with a bag full of ten-cent books from the Salvation Army store. In subsequent years, I visited many lands and characters through my books; in discovering my passion for words, I lived a thousand lives across time and space.
By the time I graduated from high school, my traveling experience transcended my books-I had already been across the United States and to several Latin American countries with my family. I quickly became involved as press director with Harvard Model Congress Europe (HMCE), a conference for high-school students which models different government organizations of international relevance. I found it extremely rewarding to instill a sense of political and social awareness in the students through their coverage of the intricacies of U.S.-international relations as simulated by the program. This experience with HMCE also enabled me to travel to Paris and London. Furthermore, in the spring semester of my junior year I moved to Spain to study art, history and literature, learning from my coursework, but also from visiting museums; going to the opera, restaurants, and shows; and wandering around the country and joining in the fray of impromptu celebrating. And at the end of the semester, I bought myself a cheap ticket to Rome, taking as my entire capital some four hundred dollars for three weeks.
My time away from the island has fundamentally changed the way I perceive my cultural identity vis-à-vis the United States and the Hispanic world. Puerto Ricans claim Hispanic heritage and Spanish as an integral part of our national identity. And yet our links to the rest of the Hispanic community are weak, whereas our infrastructures and our collective fate are intrinsically bound to the United States. I learned more about Latin America away from Puerto Rico by interacting closely with Hispanics from different national backgrounds than I had in all my previous years as a student. This strengthened my sense of vocation for law since I realized that as Puerto Ricans we are disenfranchised, that normal democratic channels are not available to us because of our peculiar relationship with the United States. There is still much room for a re-definition of the laws that gird Puerto Rico to the rest of the Union.
Today, I am committed to a career in law, but my passion for reading and writing, for the challenging and the intellectually stimulating, for advocacy and politics, had initially marked me for work as a journalist. As a high-school journalist, I was fascinated to learn that language, far from being a mere vehicle of communication, can also serve as a tool for chronicling and shaping history, public opinion, and the policy-making process. In my pursuit of journalism, I was driven by a desire to effect real change in the community through those snappy, juicy little articles I wrote and edited. I thus sought to work for organizations dedicated to raising public awareness of and proposing solutions to the problems and issues which plague our society. Yet an internship at Newsweek, a national magazine, and especially the election coverage I performed for the Associated Press convinced me that I was more interested in the crafting of public policy and law.
As I face a change in career paths, away from journalism and toward a legal practice, my continued aim is to craft documents with immediate impact, using my talent as a writer to improve the quality of public life. My work with the press has given me a sense of how public consciousness and opinion can shape the law, and has allowed me to cultivate qualities such as originality, keenness, the ability to work under pressure, and a commitment to the truth. It has also trained my writing specifically for precision and style, and so that it can serve as a sharper and finer tool for public service. Furthermore, my curriculum in college-ranging in courses from literature, foreign cultures and languages, government and history to moral reasoning, economics, religion, and anthropology-has given me analytical prowess and solid research skills. I want to use these skills more directly by being involved in politics and policy making through a legal career.
In the words of a Puerto Rican folk song, my heart stayed by the sea in Old San Juan, by the placid Caribbean shores. For now there is time, I feel, time for a hundred visions and revisions, to explore and learn, before I need to settle down. Eventually, however, I would like to return to Puerto Rico, using my talent and my education to forge significant social change and to improve the cultural and economic landscape on the island by bettering the international networks between the island and the rest of the world.