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News & Events for the Smith College Community
Campus Life June 23, 2014

Student Application Essays Explore the Deeper Meaning of Gifts

Drawing of a stuffed elephant
A gift can change a life, fulfill a dream, inspire a new point of view or spark a new talent. 

This year, as part of the admission process at Smith, prospective students were asked to tell us about the best gift they’ve ever given or received.

Their essays came pouring in—part of the record number of applications Smith received for the class of 2018. From a reflection on the meaning of socks to an ode to an antique typewriter, their stories illustrate the thoughtful, creative spirit of the latest class of Smithies.

Here’s a sampling of submissions from entering students:


Love. Freedom. Beautiful.

As a weak premature baby, I was not expected to survive, but my parents still gave me a beautiful Japanese name, Ayumi. There are three parts to my name.

“A” is love. No matter what kind of emotional and economic consequences my parents faced, they gave me support and unconditional love.

“yu” is freedom. My mother dreamed that I was descending from heaven holding my great grandma’s hand. Because I was too young to die. So, my ancestors gave me freedom to live.

“mi” is beauty. God gave me the beauty of passion, the beauty of life and the beauty of love.

Because of my name, I am alive. Because of my name, the evil of death shattered. And, most importantly, because of my name, I understand the preciousness and fragility of life.

 – Ayumi Akiyama ’18, Tokyo, Japan


After weeks of hunting through and losing eBay auctions, I found it. A typewriter is a unique gift by most standards, but this particular antique Corona portable model held special significance to me. My best friend, to whom the Corona went, is the only person in my life who shares both my love of the past and my secret desire to sit, as many great female authors have, at a typewriter and just pour my soul onto stacks of white paper. This fantasy has been woven through many long, emotional conversations and is a simple representation of our complex bond. She is my greatest inspiration, critic and collaborator, all in one, and each year I struggle to find a gift that adequately encompasses my appreciation of her friendship and innate understanding of who I am. This year, I succeeded with ink, paper and a shiny black piece of history.

– Lauren E. Graham ’18, Monroe, Ohio


I make tentative airplane noises, flying spoonfuls of overcooked rice toward gaping mouths. The mood of the room has shifted from aimless to urgent, for rice is in the air. Hungry girls flock to me, but Xiao Li grabs my wrist, guiding the spoon toward her lips. I hesitate, noticing the spoon is too big for her mouth; so I observe the employees who deftly stretch little lips, shoving adult spoons into each slight cheek. Xiao Li grimaces and craves. Her discomfort is blatant. I touch her cheek. She smiles at the gentle movement, but opens her mouth for more. Food was food. Spoons are spoons. The orphan knows that spoons are painful. They know this basic truth about spoons, a basic truth about their reality. I never considered my soup spoons before. Spoons are overlooked things, but can often exemplify very different lives. This experience gifted me some serious perspectives.

– Ellie MacQueen ’18, Fairbault, Minn.


As a twin, birthdays were always complicated. Giving a present on your own birthday isn’t an easy concept for a child to understand. To avoid this issue, Martin and I hardly ever gave each other birthday presents. However, in eighth grade, after our birthday dinner, I was surprised to see a gift that read, “From Martin.” I ripped the paper open and found a plaque: “The Stellar Registry preserves that this star is to be named Laura Green with a message from the recorder: ‘May your perkiness burn out with the star…hopefully.'” Of course Martin would be so considerate and yet tease me at the same time; that’s what brothers do. The star is a reminder, out in the cosmos and hanging on my wall, that no matter how much we bicker, fight or argue, he’ll always be my twin, a relationship I’ll never have with anyone else.

– Laura Wallis Green ’18, La Cañada Flintridge, Calif.


When I was a month old, my aunt gave me a little elephant plushie. It’s about 9 inches long, feels like an umbrella and wears plastic orange glasses, which are prone to breaking. I know because I’ve kept it with me for nearly 17 years and have had to superglue the bridge of those glasses thrice (I’ve since given up, they just stay broken now). It’s the oldest, most threadbare stuffed toy I’ve ever seen, and I have no idea why I love it so much. All I know is without Slonik (for such is his name; using it makes me uncomfortable), I have trouble falling asleep. At some point over my childhood I started treating Slonik like a tiny creature with feelings, though I never thought of him as human. I think loving Slonik has taught me that love doesn’t always make sense, but it remains real.

– Mariya Germash ’18, Brooklyn, N.Y.


I am proud of my collection of whimsical socks. Covered with patterns ranging from sloths to slot machines, my socks represent a wide array of exotic places. You see, my dad travels frequently for work. And whether the ritual began because he thought socks would be a meaningful souvenir, or as a last-minute purchase at the airport gift shop, he would unfailingly bring me a pair of socks from everywhere he went. I spent this past summer at an educational program in Israel. As my friends relentlessly bargained for crafts at local markets, I could not find a meaningful gift for my father. Although stressed by the prospect of coming home empty-handed, I rejected all of my friends’ well-intentioned suggestions. At the airport gift shop preparing for the flight home, they couldn’t understand my joyful tears as I bought a pair of men’s socks with camels on them.

– Ruby Hartman ’18, Los Altos, Calif.