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Abandoning a conditioned method of thought is challenging for anyone. Yet with seventeen years behind me, I stand before my own past questioning its validity. Before the commencement of my formative years, my name was added to the roster of a small, parochial school. It was the best they could have done for me, because, as a child, self-guided reason was still irrelevant. But several years in, the atmospheric pressure of religion was weighing down upon me. It was a nebulous concept that was beyond my grasp at such a young age. The whole of my intellectual development was wavering upon a hypnopaedic idea that I had accepted with my hands over my eyes. By trusting each conditioned seed the school planted within my head, I was compelled to believe that other religions and cultures were decidedly flawed. Familial surroundings minimized the extent of my thought just the same. From my paternal family, I routinely overheard disparaging commentary concerning unfamiliar traditions and belief systems. I was ashamed of their blatant outspokenness, as many of my close friends and family had cultural or religious traditions that diverged from those I had been preached. As intellect increased with age, I placed doubt in the many provincial ideologies that I had been force-fed. I interpreted such an unquestionable moral compass to be narrow-minded and widely ignorant of other belief systems. In 2010, I discovered a completely foreign land by enrolling as a first-year student in a public high school. As I my spindly body meandered through the crowded hallways, I felt myself a part of a mosaic. Here, each small person was part of a bigger whole. Yet, religion had not vanished. As part of the curriculum to my Human Geography course, I was introduced to religion for the first time, objectively. I felt as if I had unearthed handfuls of religions around the world; never before had my youthful eyes seen them. But then I was angry, so confounded that I had never been exposed to the beauty of other cultures before. I would often return home and devote my time to researching other religions, unraveling the mystery of each. I realized that many of the concepts were comparable; only language barriers and absolute certainty obstructed understanding. From that pivotal realization, my entire frame of mind took on a new direction-- not just one individual and resolute path, but an open road that would present me with the opportunity to go anywhere, to think anything. My newfound openness was all encompassing. I tuned into frequencies I thought never to have existed. I was enamored with the people around me, so curious as to what their background and culture meant to them. I broke out of the milieu of narrow-mindedness, and dove headfirst into the

deep-end of insight. Despite having to cope with the reprehension of close relatives, I generally encountered no personal qualms during my intellectual progression. I felt better within. My openmindedness was a source of absolute pride. Challenging the beliefs that I had been taught was not effortless, but it was undoubtedly rewarding. Without having that experience, I would not know the worth of intellectual curiosity and forward thinking. Now my name is part of the Academy of Global Studies, a program that prides itself in promoting global awareness, communication, and action. Through existence and travel, countless people, and their unique ideas, have passed before me. With each year that passes I think to myself- an open mind is exponential, so why succumb to limitations?