Birch trees swayed in the gentle breeze, casting long shadows on the colorful wooden houses that were coming to life after a long, cold winter. Earlier, we had dug up trash from a dump by the pond and buried it in the sandpile by Igor’s dacha. Then we lit a fire in a rusty barrel and melted old plastic toys—typical pastimes for kids with too much free time on their hands in rural Russia.

Earlier, we had played dodgeball on the beat-up road, and now we were looking for a way to retrieve the ball that had escaped over the neighbor’s fence. I remembered that my grandfather warned me not tell my friends that I lived in America because he was afraid that they might start asking me for money.

“Igor! We got it!” yelled Ilusha, teasing us with the ball. The boys circled around him. He flung the ball, and our game of street dodgeball resumed in the sunset, but in the back of my mind, I knew that was the last day in the life I had learned to relish.

The next morning, it was time to return to Moscow. I peered through the back window of the taxi at the street where I had left my friends behind. Village houses turned into pale apartment buildings as we drove to Sheremetyevo International Airport.

Growing up in a family with two Russian-born parents, I had a single cultural perspective for a long time. But that all changed the first day that I was dropped off at Edison Elementary School in Eugene, Oregon. Bombarded by an unknown culture, formal structure, and unrestrained consumerism, I found myself in a limbo between holding on to the simplicity of rural Russian life and the intricate demands of an American future.

As I braved up to the complexity of American social standards, I found a new outlet for the simplicity I deeply wanted to restore. My computer’s panels and icons, which I found myself lost in frequently, embodied clarity and ease of use, but required constant memory allocation, processing and rendering behind the scenes. I was reminded of my grandfather’s dusty clocks on the top shelf near the sunlit window of my dacha. There, the arrows and clock faces worked in symphony, powered by a nexus of lugs, gears, and springs. My computer’s user interface and my grandfather’s clock faces aimed to solve the same problem: they brought clarity and order to complexity.

This was the turning point: minimalistic philosophy began to permeate my interaction with life’s complexity, which I found so destabilizing. I often succumbed to the desire of indulging in something new. Now, I realize that the less stuff I own, the more meaning and clarity I have in my thoughts. At an all-you-can-eat buffet, where I’d previously hoard an unrelenting tower, I stick to modest portions of items I enjoy most. In my designs––I discard old conflicting fonts, textures and graphics, opting for an elegant layout: vivid images juxtaposed with spacious margins. In my code, I optimize and streamline my work so it is easier to maintain and distribute – far from the tangled mess I would create before.

Even though I trade a sheltered suburban house for a dacha built by my great-grandfather; running water for a well; and a flush toilet for an outhouse, I am always refreshed by summers at my dacha. Exporting the simplicity of my Russian upbringing has allowed me to not only appreciate intricate systems behind clock faces and my attention to detail of my computer’s panels and icons, but also has granted me the capacity to take on the increasingly complex world no matter where I am and what I may be.

This was originally my Common Application Essay. I liked it so I figured it would be a good compliment to this site.