Last Updated 17 Mar 2023

The Struggles in My Life and the Pursuit of a Career in Law

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When I was nine years old, my family fled Sri Lanka to escape the civil war that ravaged our country. February 18, 2000, we packed our lives into four suitcases and boarded a plane westward with only $210 in cash. Although numerous obstacles have consumed our time in the United States, the personal challenges my family has endured together and the educational challenges I have faced alone have profoundly influenced my pursuit of a career in law.

My father never completed the sixth grade and could not speak English fluently. This made it difficult for him to find a permanent employment and as a result, my family experienced ongoing economic and geographic instability. We moved constantly throughout California and eventually we came to Riverside, but even now, the instability remains: despite owning a home, we have nearly lost it several times because of economic hardships. While these difficulties may appear daunting, they have taught my family and I essential life lessons.

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My parents taught me that anything was possible if I worked hard enough to accomplish it. I learned at a very young age to apply myself in any task I set out to do. When my mother was cleaning houses for a living, I would accompany her to work; if she became sick, I cleaned the entire homes myself. During the weekend, my father and brother passed phone books around the city to earn $40 a month to help pay the electricity and water bills. My brother and I walked around the apartment complex collecting empty plastic bottles and aluminum cans to earn some cash from recycling.

Our hearts filled with excitement when we saw free furniture and clothes left outside houses. In 2006, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, which affected our lives tremendously. To help with my family’s bleak financial situation, I worked full-time as a senior in high school to provide for my family, applying for college was tiresome with all the external pressures, but I knew gaining an education was a step towards success. Through these early experiences, I attained a strong work ethic and began applying it to my greatest passion:

learning. This passion led me to become the first among my siblings to begin studies at a major university. With no one at home who truly understood the challenges of college, I independently rekindled my self-discipline and rose to the demands of academic life. I worked 40-60 hours per week to support my family, but also balanced school and extra-curricular activities. Determination and dedication, undergirded with my enormous desire to graduate, enabled me to continue even in the midst of hard times. My varied academic interests guided me towards an eclectic program of studies as a major in Political Science with a focus on International Relations. I pursued my interest in International Studies by studying abroad in Italy during my junior year widt mondis of work, scholarships, and financial aid. This experience allowed me to see my life and the human experience from a completely new perspective. The most meaningful and lasting lessons I learned were imparted by voiceless teachers, like household appliances, foreign keyboards, bus schedules and minor natural disasters.

At UC Irvine, my experiences outside of the classroom sparked my desire to study law. At the end of my freshmen year, I co-founded the Global Mentor Program partnered with Foundation of Goodness in Sri Lanka, which works through an online interactive session that fosters personal interaction between UCI Students and rural women and girls in Sri Lanka. The online mentor program helps them prepare for an education beyond grade school and stimulate civic engagement, analytical thinking, and leadership development. Working with the people in Sri Lanka, I witnessed both their dire living conditions and their amazing resilience and hope.

This allowed me to see how my personal experiences had given me a special ability to empathize, motivate and serve disadvantaged peoples. Through hard work and dedication, I was chosen as the UC Irvine campus representative for the Bill Clinton Global Initiative University Foundation (CGI U) for my international work in Sri Lanka. As a CGI U Campus Representative, I was given the opportunity to advocate and inspire other students to start commitment projects to make a difference in their community. By empowering youth, I want them to not only pursue their goals with conviction, but also generate a new social cycle for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Simultaneously, my academic pursuits such as the Summer Academic Enrichment Program (SAEP) and UCI Pre-Law Outreach Program (POP), have further affirmed my interest in law. I received the opportunity to become a fellow for the Summer Academic Enrichment Program (SAEP) for first-generation underprivileged students. Aside from living together, this experience allowed me to work closely with each member of the cohort on discussions on social issues, debates on public policy topics, research and case briefs. Additionally, I participated in the Pre-Law Outreach Program (POP), a summer program sponsored by the UC Irvine School of Law. The program furthered my desire to pursue a career in law by exposing me to cases and mentoring on admission to a legal career for disadvantaged students. Working in this setting gave me the opportunity to think analytically and enticed me to further pursue a legal career.

I received the Sidley’s Pre-Law Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship and Kaplan Scholarship to assist my law school years. I know that my insatiable desire to learn and serve will always be kept alive as a lawyer. Likewise, the lessons I have learned with my family and our struggles have provided me with the strength to face adversity and overcome the seemingly unconquerable. Public Interest Law perfectly combines my desire to be intellectually challenged and my ability to understand suffering of others in difficult circumstances. With the wisdom I have gained in my varied experiences, I am confident that I will be a dedicated activist in the legal profession, specifically to underprivileged people.

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