10. Significant Experience Essays

oceanThere are many kinds of autobiographical writing that focus on significant experiences, some can be quite formal, such as documenting a service project with which you’ve been involved, a study abroad semester, summer, or year-long program, or a personal challenge that lasted for weeks, months, or even years.  For your second essay for our class, due Oct. 22, you will focus on one of these extended experiences of your own.

Let’s evaluate the short essay below, looking at Luana Pereira’s “favorite place” experience in three stages: Stage One—What type of significant experience would you say that she is writing about:  travel, humorous anecdote, conflict & challenge, contemplative/spiritual event, nature & wilderness, or perhaps, something else? Stage Two—Descriptive Techniques & Style: From the descriptive point of view, Luana’s essay shows us ways that we can experience her “favorite place”: 1) using a variety of our natural senses: touch, smell, sight, sound, etc. Can you find some examples?  2) Seven times, Luana also uses present-participle “ing-phrases,” sometimes beginning with a preposition.  Can you find and mark them?  3) Luana also uses a “simile,” an analogy that compares one thing to another. Do you think it’s a good one? Why or why not? There is just a touch of narration (a story over time) and argument (giving her point of view or opinion): how does she show each of these? Stage Three—Now it’s your turn, write a paragraph about your own favorite place or another type of significant experience.


Sometimes I must leave my e-Person identity and go to the real world: real body, little clothes, open senses.  The best place for me to forget all my worries is under a palm tree at sunset. Worrying about a problem, or just wanting to be alone, I like going to the beach around six in afternoon and just sitting in the shade of a palm tree. The sand is a little rough to sit on, but I’m not really bothered so much. As the wind blows like a whistle, and the waves become softer as they reach shore, the air has a slight smell of the sea. Pelicans pass by in groups of seven before disappearing behind the horizon. Other pelicans float on the water, hoping to catch a fish before flying off. As time passes, there is an immense silence; the sun begins to descend, and the sky changes from tones of dark blue to canary yellow and finally to deep orange.  Leaving behind my worries, the sun slips below the horizon.

Luana Pereira (Venezuela)