Stanford Common App Essay: My Name

Stanford Common App Essay: My Name

Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

“SunHee? Isn’t that an Asian name? Aren’t you black?”

Yes, my name is actually SunHee. Yes, it’s Asian. Yes, I am indeed black. From a young age, I’ve always carried a name that I considered too out of the ordinary. SunHee, a Korean name meaning “princess of goodness and righteousness”, packed a great deal of power and responsibility- both of which I didn’t believe I was capable of upholding. I also didn’t have an ounce of Korean blood in me. As a result, it was foreign to both myself and others.

Sometimes, when you’re different from the rest of the crowd, it becomes overwhelming and the loneliness prompts you to assimilate. There were points in my life where I was extremely embarrassed of what I believed to be the oddest thing about me: my name.

Subsequently, I began to deny its existence and use my middle name. “You can just call me Khacy (K-C) ” was the phrase that immediately followed any introduction. I had teachers change my name on attendance sheets and I ignored friends until they called me by my “correct” name. It got to the point where only my parents and family friends called me SunHee anymore. This went on for so long that I almost forgot the name “SunHee” was mine. I couldn’t come to terms with the entirety of my identity because of a two syllable sound.

However, you can only stay in the dark for so long. One day, I wasn’t quick enough in correcting a person who called me by my first name and immediately an acquaintance jokingly said:

“Sunny? Oh, Sunny like Sunny D!”

Immediately, I remembered the slogan of the sugary drink: “The power-packed taste of Sunny D! Unleash the power, unleash the sun!”

At 6 years old, the Sunny D drink commercial was filled with tacky actors on a low quality TV. Nevertheless, younger me was excited at the prospect of getting to drink the delicious “power of the sun in liquefied form”. My memories of Sunny D were fun because it stood out amongst the boring milks and fruit juices in our fridge; it’s bright orange color and decorated banner wasn’t only pleasing to the eye but satisfied my thirst every time.

Similar to my fridge, we live in a society where we’re taught that unusual is weird and fitting into a crowd is essential. We are told to be unique, but are criticized if our uniqueness doesn’t fall within certain standards of “cool”. Until that moment, I didn’t realize how relevant a drink could be to my life. A pun about my name unleashed a new confidence within me that I didn’t know I had.

A nickname was all it took for me to recognize that there is no name more fitting for me than my first one. When I debate, I unleash the power of my voice. When I interact with my peers and my teachers, I unleash a sunny personality. When I perform to fundraise and witness for my church and community, I unleash power-packed songs. Everything I do- be it academic or social -is an embodiment of the sunniness within me.

I didn’t understand that the beauty I possessed came from the unique person I was and always will be. Some believe a name only has pragmatic value but it’s so much more than that. It’s a tag that follows you for a lifetime and shapes who you are. I have a name from which people can make endless puns but also call me a princess every time they want my attention- which is pretty powerful! Recognizing the meaning and flexibility of my name has made me stronger, more confident and reflects in the way I carry myself. I will continue to be the Sunny D amongst boring milks and juices. I’ll stand out, be comfortable in my own skin, and let my brilliance shine through.

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