Constructing Your Identity Kenneth Basin They had been subjected to indignity after indignity. They had paid over six months' salary per person for the "privilege" of relinquishing their Soviet citizenship (though conveniently enough, they had lost their jobs upon applying for their visas and being labeled refusniks). They had stood quietly as armed soldiers barraged them with accusations of treason, anti-Semitic slurs, and threats of imprisonment. But standing in that train station in the Ukrainian border town of Chop, waiting for the train that would take them out of the Soviet Union and on the first leg of their journey to the United States, my parents had finally had enough: they would not let a book of Grimm's Fairy Tales go. The Russian customs official who made the final inspection of their bags had removed only the book, leaving my parents grateful that they had gotten off rather easily. But as they started toward the train platform, my sister (then five years old) lingered behind, growing increasingly hysterical at the loss of her favorite book. My father pled with the official, not as a refusnik to a soldier or a Jew to an ethnic Russian, but as one father to another, for the return of his daughter's beloved book. It was November 22, 1981, and my parents and sister boarded their train westward with two suitcases of clothing, $210 in cash, and a book of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Though I was not yet born, it is a story I have to come to know and feel as deeply as any of my own. In my experience, it is in the home that one's eyes are first opened to the outside world, and my parents saw to it from early on that my eyes were wide open. With a family that had immigrated as political refugees to the United States, arriving in January 1982, international affairs took on a whole new life within my home. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union were more than headlines my father read in the newspaper; they were personal experiences shared by every member of my family. When I began my studies at the University of Southern California, then, I never doubted that my cosmopolitan interests would find a way to express themselves. I set out on a study-abroad program to London in January 2004 in search of the one lesson I felt that USC, or any American university, could never truly offer me: perspective. And so it was that on my summer break in Europe after attending King's College London, I found myself retracing my parents' experiences through the continent on their way to the United States. In Eastern Europe, the legacy of Soviet Cold War domination allowed me to communicate using my proficiency in conversational Russian. In Bratislava, I arrived by train at the same station that received my parents' train from Chop. In Vienna, I passed by the palace where for six days my parents were held under armed guard to protect them from terrorists who had been targeting Jews and other refugees from the east in the winter of 1981. In Rome, I strolled through the neighborhood where my parents spent three weeks, waiting for their visas to enter the United States to clear. Given my experience with my family, my interest in international law comes as little surprise. When I consider the challenges my parents faced in the repressive climate of the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War, as well as those they confronted in trying to escape it, the vitality of the field takes on a whole new salience for me: the modern world is a deeply interconnected one, and with that interconnection comes an underlying sense of uncertainty. If man is to survive that uncertainty, he must find in it a guiding order. In my mind, international law is the means by whiHarvard Crimson Staff is the author of '55 Successful Harvard Law School Application Essays ', published 2007 under ISBN 9780312366117 and ISBN 0312366116.