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Cover Letter and Portfolio

Cover Letter and Portfolio

14 December 2018

 

Dear Reader,

 

In this cover letter, you will find a self-assessment of my writing progress over the course of the semester. I also will be evaluating three projects, that I have submitted for the Freshman Composition course, English 1100, at City College of New York: a Litercay Narrative, Profile, and Analysis paper. I believe that all of the work done by me, my professor and peers in the course significantly contributed to my growth as a writer.

An upward grade trend, that I observed during the last four months of the course, is a clear evidence of improvement of my writing skills and understanding of what is required to succeed as a writer. Every assignment given to me, gradually built a solid foundation, that I carried with me throughout the course – from the first Narrative paper, in which I could not open myself fully as a writer, to the very last Analysis one, that I really enjoyed working on and incorporated all my newly learned writing skills.

While learning and mastering any skill, people usually do not expect instant reward and excellent results right from the start. Working on each new paper was a process of gradually building “blocks” and applying what I had learned to my next projects. The assessment of my drafts by my professor and peers specifically, taught me how to be open to critical reflection, take a step back and take another look at my paper.

Throughout the course, I also developed a habit of following essential for the writing process steps, and not merely rushing to submit the assignment on time and writing my paper in one sitting. I would first carry the assignment requirements in my head for a couple of days. Then, something would strike my attention, and I would look into the matter and do more research, keeping in mind the requirements of the project. Eventually, I would filter out the information I needed, match it with the guidelines of the assignment, organize it, create an outline, and start drafting. After the draft was created and reviewed by my professor and peers, I would revise it, make necessary changes and proofread my final piece. I noticed, the new habit I developed, has not only given me a higher grade, but I also has made my writing time a lot more enjoyable.

Another learning outcome of the course was being able to write effectively and use rhetorical strategies and patterns, including argument, comparison and contrast. I believe, each assignment showed not only my writing skills, but also my personality. The thesis of every paper was chosen very carefully and reflected either things I take a great interest in, such as long- distance running, or food and nutrition, or my own memories and struggles as an immigrant. Below, you can find an evaluation of each piece of my writing during the course, along with the consideration of my strengths and weaknesses.

For my first assignment, I was asked to focus on the “self” aspect of the Literacy Narrative and reflect on a foreign experience. In my paper “Forever Foreigner”, I chose to write about my personal experience of moving to the United States from Russia, traveling between the two countries and feeling like a foreigner, while staying in either one of them. While I do not believe it was my strongest piece of writing in this course, I hope the reader found my story interesting and was able to relate to my personal experience and make connections to theirs.

While the content and the flow of the story seemed to intrigue my peers, and keep them interested until the very end, my first paper could definitely have been improved in a few ways. There were a few areas with either grammatical issues, or disjointed ideas and structure. All of these problems could have been eliminated, should careful review of the feedback on the draft, or more thorough proofreading, have been done. However, I am grateful to my first writing assignment for giving me an opportunity to learn from my mistakes, work on my weaknesses and improve in the problematic areas.

My second assignment was a Profile Paper, where I chose to do an informative profile on a New York Marathon champion, and my personal hero, Shalane Flanagan. I took a great interest in writing about my chosen character, since I am training to run a marathon myself and have always followed long distance runners. This piece turned out to be a significant improvement in comparison to my first paper, and I used the opportunity of incorporating the received feedback on my draft and worked on my weaknesses in grammar and structure areas. I found the process of writing about something I am so passionate about, very thrilling, and I believe the reader could sense my tone and hopefully get inspired by the story of the great athlete as much as I was.

During the writing process of my Profile Paper, I did a lot of research and found many articles about Shalane Flanagan’s journey to the top of the podium, her trauma, and overcoming challenges many competitive athletes face on their way to victory. The marathon runner inspired me personally, and in my writing piece, I was trying to engage the reader and show them, that no matter how difficult the road to success might seem, the hard work, resilience and belief in oneself can make any dream come true. There are some minor grammar mistakes, that I wish I could have noticed while doing a closer proof-reading, but overall, I am very satisfied with my second writing piece.

Finally, for my third assignment, I was given an opportunity to analyze a news story. I chose to go with an online video covering a news piece on the latest invention in the food world – the Impossible Burger. Apart from a couple of areas, where I missed an article, I am very proud of my Analysis Paper, and find it the best out of all three projects. I was fortunate to not only write about a current food trend, a topic I take a great interest in, but also to engage my analytical way of thinking.

Without expressing my own opinion on the subject, I was able to bring the reader to making their own conclusion and decide for themselves what they think about the Impossible Burger. I incorporated an opinion of a few journalists, after they tested the product, and showed a contradiction to the promises of the burger creators. Besides, I gave more depth to my analysis by pointing out the biased sources used in the news video and including independent experts from FDA questioning the safety of the product. I believe, all the feedback I received on my first two writing pieces, and all the effort I put in into correcting my mistakes and learning how to make my writing stronger, made my Analysis Paper the most successful writing piece.

Overall, I am quite satisfied with my writing performance in the Freshman Composition course, and I find my writing projects worthy of the reader’s time and attention. I hope that you will find them as exciting and informative, as I do. All three of my papers reflect on my areas of interest, or things that are important for me personally, and I am really grateful for the opportunity to learn how to write effectively and present my thoughts and ideas to the reader.

 

Respectfully,

 

Valentina Morgan

 

Enclosures (3)

 

 

 

Enclosure (1)

 

Forever Foreigner

 

I don’t know if there is anything I like more about American culture than its holidays. The air filled with apple cinnamon or freshly baked pecan pie smells, turkey stuffing, cranberry sauce (that in my country is considered a dessert, but not something to serve with pulled pork), pumpkin in every shape and size and food or drink, Christmas decorations galore. It seems to me like all of these are created to take you and all of your senses into a different reality, full of joy, laughter, delicious dinners and happy smiles around you.

I remember my very first Christmas party in the United States when I still was in high school. While being an exchange student I didn’t have a chance to celebrate holidays with my family, so my best friend Meg took me to celebrate it with hers. I was beyond thrilled. We both picked up the most festive looking outfits with deer and snowflakes and I had carefully wrapped my Christmas gifts for Meg, her brother and their parents. After the dinner and the gift exchange Meg, her brother Nathan and their three thousand cousins suggested we separate from the adults and go play a card game. I should mention that prior to the game time, no one had really asked me where I was originally visiting from, since they knew Meg would just bring her school bestie. Most of our conversations went around college applications, who we would like to be when we grow up, and gossiping about our mutual friends. We picked the most spacious part of the living room, knelt down in a circle and started the game.

According to the game rules each person takes a card, writes down someone/something famous and passes it to the person on their right, with the person receiving it not looking at it, just sticking it to their forehead. Thus, everyone else at the table can see it, but the person with the card cannot see their own. One person goes at a time, and they ask yes/no questions until they can attempt to guess what the person/thing is. The game is very, very fun. Unless you didn’t grow up in the same country with your fellow participants of the game, and have no clue who this famous character is from a TV show you watched when you were 12 years old; then it’s a challenge. My poor teammates lost one point every time it was my turn to stick the card to my forehead, unless it was someone like Harry Potter or Britney Spears. Then there was a myriad of questions like: “How come you don’t know Hannah Montana?”, or, “ How come you are from Russia but barely have any accent?”

I still get this question asked a lot, and it always brings be back to my childhood. Back in the late 90’s when Russia shook the Soviet Union cloud off its shoulders and started opening its door to the world, the government opened a couple of English schools in my hometown. Because of the proximity to where my family lived at that time, it was quite an easy decision for my parents what school their kids would go to. My eldest brother, who’s 11 years older than me, missed the opportunity, but my other brother and I happily spent 10 years of school with our classes taught in English and our classmates being from North Carolina, USA or Bath, England. Most of our English teachers were not native speakers, but Russians, who learned the language back in 1970’s-80’s while not having an opportunity to visit any English speaking countries or meet any native speakers. So, the base for our language speaking skills and accent was a perfect blend of proper British English spoken by Bath students or a southern accent spoken by American kids from North Carolina.

According to the school program straight A-students would be sent to their school of choice, whether it be in Bath, England, or Wilmington, North Carolina, right before junior high. My choice was based solely on reuniting with my friends in NC again, who by that time would have returned back to their lives in the US.

After my school year in Wilmington followed a long and endless chain of college applications both in Russia and in the US, studying, internships, jobs, visa and residency documents, a few years of adjusting to live on my own, and all of those not so pleasant but necessary steps one makes when moves to another country. Even though the English language has always been a part of my life, in my mind, American people have always been associated with people like Meg, Sam and Jennifer, those friends I made in Russia and whose friendship I carried with me back overseas and into the US.

Whenever I thought about where my home, my identity and my cultural background were, I always had that first Christmas party game on my mind. Since that first winter in the US I have been asking myself, “Is this country ever going to feel like home? Am I ever going to stop feeling like a foreigner here?”

A few years have passed since I moved here, and I have gone back to visit Russia 15-16 times since then. I always try to go 2 or 3 times a year, especially for New Year’s. While Christmas festivities are huge in the US, nothing can beat the New Year’s celebration in Russia which lasts for about two weeks. The massiveness and richness of decorations in Moscow can’t be compared to anything I’ve seen in the world so far. At least in my experience, the New Year’s Eve has always been the most magical and heart stopping holiday. Light installations, ice sculptures, live concerts and, of course, fireworks across the whole city make the celebration unforgettable and every year it’s different and special.

This past New Year’s Eve 2017 my family and friends got together at my brother’s house in Moscow. After a massive dinner we decided to play some games. Coincidentally enough, my sister-in-law suggested we should all play “the card-on-the-forehead game”, that I had last played when I was 16 years old in North Carolina. I got very excited about the idea of playing the game at home, with my family and friends. Obviously, I felt very confident this time. However, while being gone for more than 7 years, I haven’t had an opportunity to keep up with the pop-culture in Russia. Surely enough, the version of the same game was not a success for me this time either, while my family and friends kept saying, “Oh, Val, but this is understandable, you’ve been gone for too long.” And right then, on New Year’s Eve I got that familiar feeling of being a foreigner again, only in my home country.

Of course, there have been many, many other examples of my “culture shock” or feeling disoriented either here in the states, or back in Russia, which makes me wonder sometimes: Is there any place in this world, where I won’t feel like a foreigner? Is it possible to live between two countries and feel at home in whichever of the two you are staying in at the moment? Is my cultural identity divided in half between the US and Russia?”

I don’t think this feeling of being a foreigner wherever I go is a negative or a positive thing. I believe it is something people like myself, who move to a different country at a young age, experience. Maybe it is going to become an extremely common thing soon, not carrying your nationality on your sleeve, blending in, finding balance between all of your cultures, and belong to none of them and all of them at the same time. I just want to believe that we will be able to find some comfort and beauty in this state of mind soon, challenge ourselves to adjust better, show more compassion for one another, evolve, grow and simply become better people learning from the multiple experiences we are lucky to have in our lifetime.

 

Enclosure (2)

 

The Inspiring Journey of Shalane Flanagan

 

As the footsteps behind Shalane Flanagan started fading, her stride became stronger and more confident. After she got to the final stretch on 5th Avenue, Flanagan knew that the real race was over, and she could finally enjoy her triumph. With an official time of 2 hours, 26 minutes and 53 seconds, the 36-year-old athlete broke the finish line tape at the TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 5, 2017. It had been 40 years since an American woman won the New York City Marathon. Flanagan did not look back even once.

Behind her, Mary Keitany was chasing her fourth win. The 35-year-old Kenyan had won the TCS NYC Marathon three times in a row and was going after one more gold medal. Shalane Flanagan, determined and unstoppable, proved untouchable even for Keitany.

As a two-time NCAA cross-country champion, four-time Olympian and Olympic silver medalist, Half-Marathon national champ, second-place finisher in the New York marathon in 2010 and former American-record holder in two separate events (5,000 and 10,000-meters), Flanagan applied years of work and experience to those short 2 hours 26 minutes and 53 seconds. “I can think of no better way to end a career and my story, than with a major win,” Flanagan said before last year’s NYC Marathon. (Strout, 2017)

 

Fig.1. Flanagan crossing the finish line at the TCS NYC Marathon (Seit, 2017).

 

Flanagan’s path to her biggest victory was not smooth. The last few months before the 2017 NYC Marathon 2017 were extremely rough for the athlete. In winter of 2017, when Flanagan was just beginning her preparations for the Boston Marathon, taking place in April 2017, a snow storm hit Portland, Oregon, where Shalane resided with her family at the time. Having no choice but to train either on slippery surfaces outside, or logging too many miles on a treadmill, which is not advisable for a long-distance runner, Flanagan got a stress fracture in her back.  Just a few weeks before the Boston Marathon, Shalane Flanagan had to withdraw her entry from the race, blaming the snow for the injury and ending her big chance to make the podium in April 2017. The stress fracture in her iliac crest kept Flanagan away from running for 10 weeks. “My dad always warned me: ‘Never take a Ferrari off road.’ Why would you do that? He’s been telling me that for years as an elite runner. I probably should have known better,” Shalane recalls. (Strout, 2017)

Shalane did not know how she would be able to deal with this major injury and its consequences for her running career. Many athletes would agree that the mental challenge of recovery is more difficult than a physical one. Shalane Flanagan was not a young athlete, she knew that recovery would take a while, and she was afraid her career as a long distance runner was over. Flanagan questioned whether, at 36, she would be able to get back to the level she had been at before.

I don’t think there are a ton of women that have gone on to compete at this level at my age, at least in the U.S., she said. So, I’m kind of at unknown territory. I’m kind of always like, well, is this realistic to expect certain things of myself? Is it unfair to expect things of myself? I think there’s definitely some doubt — do I still have what it takes mentally and physically to keep working at this? (Axon, 2017)

Surprisingly, Flanagan’s injury was a blessing in disguise. During those 10 weeks off from running, Shalane was finally able to give her body the rest it needed and focus on things she loved. She spent more time with her foster daughters, whom she and her husband had adopted a couple of years earlier on a trip to Hawaii and worked on her bestselling cookbook. “My body clearly needed it, and in those 10 weeks, I got to explore other things in my life that were really rewarding in a variety of ways,” Flanagan said. (Axon, 2017)

After 10 weeks of nourishing her mind and body, Shalane was back to some serious training and getting ready to race the New York City Marathon on November 5, 2017, her first race of that distance since the Olympic games, 2014. Shalane Flanagan’s greatest win was a breakthrough moment not only for Shalane Flanagan, but also for the history of American running. “I’ve been dreaming of a moment like this since I was a little girl,” Flanagan told reporters right after crossing the finish line in tears. “It means a lot to me, to my family. Hopefully it inspires the next generation of women to just be patient. It took me seven years to do this. A lot of work went into this one moment.” (Schonbrun, 2017)

I found Shalane Flanagan’s journey very inspiring. Even though I would not call myself an athlete, I have always taken a great interest in long distance running and admired people committed to this sport. In spite of her age, her trauma, her setbacks and her very strong competitors, Shalane Flanagan showed the world that the hard work, resilience and belief in oneself can make any dream come true. No matter how many obstacles you face on your way to success, nothing can stop you when you have a will to win. Shalane Flanagan’s story taught me to not be discouraged by any setbacks, stay focused on my dreams, fight to get to my own “finish line” and never quit.

 

Work Cited

Axon, Rachel. “Shalane Flanagan to run NYC Marathon.” USA Today Sports, 25 Aug. 2017. https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2017/08/25/shalane-flanagan-run-new-york-city-marathon/600774001/ Accessed 12 Oct. 2018.

Crouse, Lindsay. “Shalane Flanagan Will Defend New York City Marathon Title at Age 37.” The New York Times, 13 Aug. 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/13/sports/shalane-flanagan-new-york.html Accessed 12 Oct. 2018.

Fritz Huber, Martin. “Shalane Flanagan Is Too Competitive to Retire.” Outside. The culture of running in stride, 20 Aug. 2018. https://outsideonline.com/2337431/shalane-flanagan-nyc-marathon-retire/ Accessed 12 Oct. 2018.

Seit, Uli. “I’ve been dreaming of a moment like this since I was a little girl.” The New York Times, 21 Feb. 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/05/sports/shalane-flanagan.html Accessed 11 Oct. 2018.

Schonbrun, Zach. “Shalane Flanagan Solves NYC Marathon for American Women.” The New York Times, 5 Nov. 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/05/sports/shalane-flanagan.html Accessed 11 Oct. 2018.

Strout, Erin. “Flanagan on Her Injury: “Never Take a Ferrari Off Road.” Runner’s World, 21 Feb. 2017. https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a20847135/flanagan-on-her-injury-never-take-a-ferrari-off-road/ Accessed 13 Oct. 2018.

 

 

Enclosure (3)

The Science Behind the Impossible Burger

 

The Impossible Burger is the latest invention in the food world. Produced by the Silicon Valley company Impossible Foods, the Impossible Burger is an entirely plant-based burger that not only looks but also smells and tastes like beef. A video posted on Quartz, a news website, covering the latest trends and ideas in the global economy, shows us the science behind creating this product and success of the Impossible Foods team trying to reach the “Impossible” goal of the burger (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebNeUihciDI).

Being 100% plant based, the Impossible Burger completely differs from the ordinary veggie burger. Unlike the regular vegetarian patty, the Impossible Burger is claimed to give its consumers the same exact feeling as they get while eating a beef burger. Impossible Foods employed a large team of scientists, whose goal was “to create same sensory experience for our organs, so the brain wouldn’t be able to tell the difference” between regular meat and the “impossible meat” (Yi).

To answer the question “What makes meat, meat?”, the Impossible Foods scientists broke down a beef patty molecule by molecule and used the latest technology and extensive research to isolate every flavor. The main ingredient that they found to be essential to the flavor of meat, as well as its trademark red color, is heme (leghemoglobin). Normally found in blood,  heme can also be extracted from a soy bean. The Impossible Foods scientists used the ingredient to make their “meat closer to the original in taste and appearance”. For the texture and flavors of the “impossible” beef patty, the Impossible Food team also put together a whole set of other natural ingredients, including wheat proteins, potato proteins and coconut oil (Yi).

While the video is seemingly unbiased, its approach seems to promote the product rather than simply analyze it. The video deliberately combines two subjects: the taste – strongly supported by the vivid juicy images making the viewer crave the burger right this second, and science – adding the sense of security and trust to trying, buying and becoming the fans of the Impossible Burger. The mouthwatering images seem to be designed to attract people to try this new product. The author goes deeply into the details of the flavors, smells, texture of the burger using such appetizing words and expressions as “aroma”, “crispy exterior when seared” and “sizzling like beef fat”. The video even highlights that “several US chefs already put it on their menu” (Yi), seemingly leaving meat lovers with no reason to resist trying the plant-based burger. The scientists employed by the Silicon Valley company guarantee they have done their years of extended research to bring you the same satisfaction you get from a “real hamburger”.

According to a few journalists, the tasting of the Impossible Burger didn’t give them the same exact experience, as having a real beef burger. Leonardo Garcia from The A.V. Club, an online newspaper featuring reviews of films, music and latest trends in pop culture, gave this burger a try in Umami Burger, one of the first restaurants in Los Angeles to serve The Impossible Burger. Garcia calls this burger “burger-ish” and says it tastes good only thanks to all the burger “fixings”, such as pickles, lettuce, tomato and the “special sauce” (Garcia). Another journalist, Michael Russel, from The Oregonian, a daily newspaper based in Portland, Oregon, calls the burger “the closest to a real burger he ever tasted”, “great for veggie burger lovers”, but doesn’t believe “it can replace beef in your heart”. He states, “Silicon Valley, keep at it, you are not there yet” (Russel).

The news video also focuses on the science behind creating the Impossible Burger, mentioning that a large team of scientists have been working on it for the last five years, which in the viewer’s mind must equal to “safe”, “healthy”, “good for their well-being” (Yi). However, the discussion of the scientific and safety aspects of this product are limited to interviews with company scientists, rather than impartial experts. Furthermore, the Impossible Foods scientists do not mention anything about the health benefits of the natural ingredients of the Impossible Burger, which brings about a question: Why, apart from saving cows, should meat eaters choose the advertised burger above the real one?

When being evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it was not implied that the “star ingredient” heme was unsafe for consumption. Nevertheless, FDA “refused to give the ingredient its blessing in the form of a ‘no objections/questions’ letter which firms can show to customers and consumers” as an “FDA approved” document (Watson). After submitting data to the FDA, the Impossible Foods had further questions about the safety of heme. The industry standard to test food ingredients on animals required testing on rats.

Impossible Foods claimed they were “very committed to proving the safety of leghemoglobin” and conducted their study feeding rats “at least 100 times more soy leghemoglobin than a higher than normal intake for a human, every day for 28 days”. They found no adverse effects. As a result, it passed toxicology requirements and appeared to be safe. However, it doesn’t really tell the consumers anything about the long-term effects of this product for neither rats nor humans (Wallace).

While there is not much controversy about why the Impossible Burger is a great invention in the food world or about safety to try it, this video might still leave the viewer questioning if they should convert from carnivores into vegans. No matter how much scientific research, tempting imaging and Silicon Valley money Impossible Foods used to achieve success, consumers will still have a variety of real meat choices, so it still might be an impossible win for the Impossible Burger.

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

Garcia, Leonardo. “The ‘Impossible Burger’ bBleeds, but Does It Taste Good?” The A.V.Club. 4 Oct. 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ces-oIf_-mc Accessed 24 Nov. 2018.

Russel, Michael. “The vegan burger that ‘bleeds’: We tried The Impossible Burger”. The Oregonian/Oregon Live.  9 Nov. 2017. https://www.oregonlive.com/dining/index.ssf/2017/10/impossible_burger_portland.html Accessed 23. Nov. 2018.

Watson, Elaine. “Impossible Foods: ‘Our Goal is to Produce a Full Range of Meats and Dairy Products for Every Cultural Region in the World’ ”. Food navigator. 13 Apr. 2018. https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Article/2018/04/13/Impossible-Foods-Our-goal-is-to-produce-a-full-range-of-meats-and-dairy-products-for-every-cultural-region-in-the-world?utm_source=copyright&utm_medium=OnSite&utm_campaign=copyright

Accessed 23 Nov. 2018.

Dr Wallace, Hazel. “Sink Your Teeth Into This: The Impossible Burger Isn’t As Nutritious as You’d Think”. Women’s Health. 8 Aug. 2018. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/uk/food/healthy-eating/a708824/is-the-impossible-burger-healthy/ Accessed 23 Nov. 2018.

Yi, Hannah. “The Science Behind the Impossible Burger”. Quartz. 22 March 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebNeUihciDI Accessed 22 Nov. 2018.

 

 

 

 

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