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Reflective Essay Examples
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Self-reflection might seem like a no-brainer when you start a reflective paper. But, delving into your thoughts and experiences is harder than you might think. Learn what a reflective essay is and how to write one through a few examples. Plus, explore several topics to get you started.
What Is Reflective Writing?
Reflective writing is a form of creative writing where you examine an experience or situation through self-reflection. Through the course of creating the reflective paper, you describe insights that you gained or express your views on some experience. Reflective essays are typically personal writings about an experience, but they can be made up as well.
Tone and Structure
Self-reflection is a personal experience. Therefore, the tone and voice of the writing are personal as well. Written typically from a first-person point of view , these types of essays take the reader through a journey of growth and discovery.
The structure and format follow a typical essay writing outline . Begin with a great hook and a strong introduction . Pull the reader in without giving too much away, then provide a quick overview of the reflective topic. Next, in the body of the essay, move into the meat of the paper by describing your experiences and growth. Round out your writing with a solid conclusion that concisely restates what you learned.
Examples of Reflective Essays
Now that you have an understanding of what it takes to write a reflective essay, check out a few examples for inspiration.
My Little Brother
This essay example is written at a middle or high school level, reflecting on the arrival of a younger sibling.
In my short life, there are many experiences that could qualify as life-changing. Every new experience was, at one time or another, the first experience. For good or bad, each instance changed the course that my life has taken. But, the most transformative experience was the birth of my youngest brother. Joel is someone my parents often call a happy accident. At the time that my mother became pregnant, I was 13, and my other brother, Jake, was 10. We were what you would call a well-rounded, perfect family of four. We neatly fit into the perfect classification in nearly every way. We didn't realize what we were missing until the moment that my youngest brother first opened his striking blue eyes. In truth, I resented the fact that I would be having another sibling. Nothing needed to be added to our family, and my mother, already 38 at the time, was considered high risk because of her age. The pregnancy itself was full of complications that sent the straight course of my life into rollercoaster-like loops that my 13-year-old mind had a hard time comprehending. But now, I can see how forging through those loops helped me to roll with the punches that life inevitably brings The day Joel was born, my mother took me with her to the hospital rather than my father. It wasn't a planned move, but Jake and my father were both feverish; I was the next best alternative. Sitting with her through every contraction, I gained a new respect for just how powerful and strong a woman could be in what might be considered their weakest moment. Holding her hand and feeding her ice chips, I gained a connection with my mother that I didn't realize we were lacking. The moment my new baby brother came into this world, I realized two things nearly simultaneously. First, you don't realize how much you need something until it's sitting in your lap. Second, my life after this moment would never be the same. The moment he curled his chubby little finger around mine, I understood the words "happy accident" completely. There are many different experiences in life that have changed a part of me as a person. But, nothing so profoundly changed my views and outlook on life like the birth of my youngest brother. Joel's arrival was a life-altering event that caused me to see the world through new eyes.
Reading My Favorite Book
This reflective essay example about a favorite book is something you might find at the middle or high school level.
When it comes to books, I didn’t understand the appeal. I’d read one after another for each assignment not understanding what all the fuss was about. However, the moment I read Pride and Prejudice , it was like my literary eyes opened for the first time. It stirred love within me for classics I didn’t realize could exist. When I was first given the assignment of reading Pride and Prejudice , like many of my friends, I scoffed. With an eye roll, I internally calculated how much time I would have to read the book and write a report. I sighed at the loss of time with my friends for a stupid classic. Cracking open the cover, I was determined to hate it before even reading the first words. By the time I reached page 3, I nearly called it quits. But there was something about Elizabeth Bennet that quietly piqued my interest. I can’t say where, but somewhere along the way, my eyes devoured the pages instead of trudging along. The moment I reached the end, I was ecstatic and disappointed at the same time. Their ending had been perfect, but I realized I would miss them. Not only them, but I would also miss being part of their world. It was the first time characters of a story had affected me this way, so I tried to shake it off. However, after several days, that sadness carried me to the classics section of the school library. The moment I cracked open my next classic, my soul instantly felt more at ease, and I’ve never looked back. I never thought I’d say a book changed me, but in this case, it’s true. The love I found in Pride and Prejudice introduced me to a beautiful world of classic literature I can’t imagine living without. Despite not reading Pride and Prejudice for a while, it will always be my favorite book.
Reflective Essay Book
This reflective essay example about the topic of creative writing is what you might expect to see at the college level.
I’ve always felt I excel in written communication. The skill of effectively communicating my thoughts and feelings through words and expressions seemed to come easily to me. However, I didn't realize how much my writing was lacking until my thoughts and feelings on writing were pushed nearly to their breaking point through my creative writing course. Learning the best way to manage time was a huge hurdle for me. I've always been a procrastinator. However, after the first day of class, I realized I would need to modify my thinking and approach to homework. I wasn't able to completely kill the procrastination habit I developed in high school, but I did learn some much-needed time management skills. I also learned how writing without the looming cloud of a deadline could open a creative door. A natural thinker and writer at heart, I thought I understood creative expression and wordplay... until my professor handed me my first grade. Upon looking at that striking "D" on the paper, I realized I would have to push myself harder and explore the depths my writing could reach. Not only did I learn to sharpen my technical writing chops, but I have found out how to dig into my creative soul to view my emotions and experiences in a whole new way. Going beyond the five-paragraph essay and fully exploring my feelings about a situation or action was challenging. This creative writing class pushed me to realize there isn't a limit on words when it comes to expressing something. I can convey a simple action a million different ways, and I mastered how to explore each one to find perfection in my written words. I also picked up new flexibility in my writing by opening my mind to different scopes of expression. Expressing all the changes that this class wrought in my writing is truly difficult. But, over the course of the eight weeks we spent together, I became a more competent writer. Not only do my words contain more depth and soul, but my writing itself has entered a whole new arena I didn't realize was possible. By studying new techniques and researching other approaches, I now have a sturdy foundation and a robust writing arsenal for future endeavors.
Reflective Essay Communication
Finding the perfect topic.
Half the battle in creating a great reflective paper is finding the perfect topic to write about. Your topic should be something that you experienced, learned, or grew from. It could also be a topic that requires you to think more deeply about a place or book.
Some fun, creative topics for self-reflection include:
- A fight with a family member - Why did it impact you? What did it change about you?
- The moment you feel in love - Explore the feelings and emotions that come with love and how it changes you.
- A sunset - What is it about the beauty of a sunset that impacts you?
- Your secret spot in your house - What about that spot is so important?
- Your first job - What was the experience like? Why was it meaningful?
- Your first date - Examine your emotions on the first date. Did it live up to the hype or fall short?
- Getting engaged - Discuss your feelings and the meaning of the experience.
- Experience in a college class - Class experiences are designed to change or mold you in some way. Discuss how you grew and fell short.
- Your first year in college - This is another larger-than-life event full of self-reflection.
- Is college important? - People feel strongly one way or another about college. What are your experiences?
- What college has taught you - How has attending college changed you and your thinking? Has it helped you grow as a person?
- A vacation you'll never forget - What about the vacation was so memorable?
- An incident you can't forget - Why can't you forget it? Explore your thoughts and emotions.
- Your most embarrassing moment - Everyone's most embarrassing moment is different, but there is always a lot of growth.
- Birth or death of a loved one - This can have a very profound effect on a person.
- Public speaking - People are either good or bad at public speaking. How did you feel?
- First fight with a friend - Were you able to get past the fight? How old were you? How did it change your relationship?
- Big win or loss of a sports team - This could be a sports team you were on or a sports team you love.
- Moving - This could be moving to college or moving away. Explore the way that the move affected you.
- Helping someone - Did you ever help a family or someone in need? What was the experience like? How did it make you feel as a person?
The Art of Self-Reflection
Reflecting on a personal experience might seem like an easy essay to write. However, to ace your reflection paper, dive deeply into your feelings and choose a topic that triggers a strong emotional response.
If a reflective essay doesn't fit you, try exploring more about argumentative essays , including tips for making a compelling argument.
How to start a reflective essay + Introduction Examples
When you are assigned a reflective essay , one of the hardest things to do is to come up with a good introduction. A good introduction sets the tone for your essay and engages your reader. It is important to make your introduction interesting so that your reader will want to keep reading. In this introduction writing guide, we will discuss 5 steps in writing an engaging introduction for your reflective essay!
How to Start a Reflective Essay
Before you start writing a reflective essay, it is important to understand what this type of paper actually is and what it should include.
A reflective essay is a piece of writing that explores your personal thoughts and experiences on a certain subject. In most cases,reflective essays focus on recent events or experiences and how they have affected you.
reflective essay examples
Personal reflection essay, reflective summary essay.
- Reflective Essay Topics & Ideas
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Write a nursing reflective essay.
When writing about past events, it is important to reflect on how these experiences have shaped your current beliefs and opinions. It is also helpful to consider how these events may have impacted your future choices.
By understanding the purpose of a reflective essay, you will be able to develop an effective and well-organized introduction for your reflective paper.
Here are 4 steps in writing great reflective essay introduction paragraphs:
1. Introduce your topic
Before you can start writing your reflective essay, you need to have something to reflect on. That something is usually an event, a memory, or an experience. Once you have something to work with, you can start introducing your topic. Introducing your topic means more than just saying what it is. It also means giving some context and background information. For example, if you’re writing about a time when you got lost in the city, you might want to provide some information about the city itself. What is it like? What was the weather like that day? How did you feel? By providing this context, you give your readers a better understanding of what happened and why it was significant to you. With that said, there are a few thing yous should avoid doing in your introduction:
- -Don’t give too much detail. You don’t want to bore your reader or ruin the element of surprise.
- -Don’t provide too much background information. As we said, you need to provide some context, but you don’t want to write a whole history lesson.
- -Don’t make it too long. An introduction should be around one paragraph, or around five to seven sentences.
These are just a few tips to keep in mind when introducing your topic. Now let’s move on to the next tip!
2: Make a Thesis Statement
Every essay needs a thesis statement , and a reflective essay is no different. A thesis statement is a one-sentence summary of your essay. It tells the reader what your essay is about and sets the tone for your writing. For example, if you’re writing about a time when you got lost in the city, your thesis statement might be something like this: “That day, I learned that it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings.”
Your thesis statement should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. It should also be arguable, which means that someone could disagree with it. If you’re having trouble coming up with a good thesis statement, try this exercise:
- -Write down everything you want to say about your topic in one sentence.
- -Now, look at that sentence and see if you can make it more concise.
- -Finally, ask yourself if someone could disagree with your statement. If they could, then you have a good thesis statement!
If you can’t seem to come up with a good thesis statement, don’t worry. This is something that you can always revise later on. Now let’s move on to the next tip!
3: Use a Hook
A hook is a way to grab your reader’s attention and make them want to keep reading. There are a few different ways that you can do this, but some of the most common reflective essay hooks include quotes, questions, and statistics .
For example, let’s say you’re writing about a time when you got lost in the city. You could start your essay with a quote like this: “The first rule of thumb is never to go anywhere without knowing where you’re going.” This quote is from the book How to Get Lost by Margaret Atwood. It’s a short and attention-grabbing way to start your essay.
You could also start with a question like this: “Have you ever felt like you’re the only one who knows where you’re going?” This is a good hook because it’s relatable and it will make your readers want to know more.
Finally, you could start with a statistic like this: “According to a study by the American Psychological Association, 60% of people have felt lost at least once in their lives.” This is a good hook because it’s interesting and it will make your readers want to know more.
4. Use descriptive language to set the tone for your essay.
The language that you use in your essay introduction should be reflective of the tone that you want to set. For example, if you’re writing about a time when you got lost in the city, you might want to use descriptive language to set the tone of your essay. You could say something like this: “I was lost in a sea of people, all moving in different directions.” This paints a picture for the reader and sets the tone for your essay.
If you’re not sure what kind of language to use, try this exercise:
- Read over your introduction and highlight any words or phrases that are particularly strong or vivid.
- Now, look at the tone of your essay and see if the language you’ve used reflects that tone.
- If it doesn’t, try to find a way to make it more reflective of the tone you want to set.
Remember, the language you use in your introduction should be reflective of the tone that you want to set for your essay.
5. Create an outline.
Before you begin writing a reflective essay, it’s important to create an outline. This will help you organize your thoughts and structure your essay in a way that is easy to follow.
Here’s a basic outline for a reflective essay:
- Body paragraphs
Now you can start writing your reflective paper based on your teacher’s requirements. Let’s look at a few examples on how to begin a reflective essay effectively.
Reflective essay introduction examples
Here are eight reflective essay introduction paragraph examples that you can use as inspiration for your own writing:
Reflective Essay Introduction Paragraph Example 2:
Topic: A time when you faced a challenge:
“ It was the middle of winter and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball under my blankets. But I had a paper due for my English class, and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t make myself start writing. I was about to give up when… ”
Topic: A time when you were proud of yourself:
“ I remember the first time I ever rode a bike. I was so excited, but also really scared. My dad held onto the back of the seat and ran next to me as I pedaled my legs as fast as I could. And then, suddenly, I was riding all by myself. ”
Reflective Essay Introduction Paragraph Example 3:
Topic: A time when you had to make a difficult choice:
“ It was my senior year of high school and I had been accepted to both my dream school and my safety school. I didn’t know what to do. Both schools were amazing, but in different ways. After a lot of thought, I finally made my decision… ”
Reflective Essay Introduction Paragraph Example 4:
Topic: A time when you learned something new:
“ I remember the first day of my cooking class. I was so excited to learn how to cook, but also really nervous. I didn’t know if I would be able to keep up with the other students. But from the very first lesson, I was hooked. ”
Reflective Essay Introduction Paragraph Example 5:
Topic: A time when you failed:
“ I’ll never forget the time I failed my driving test. I was so confident that I was going to pass, but I made a silly mistake and ended up failing. It was really frustrating, but I’m glad that I didn’t give up. ”
Reflective Essay Introduction Paragraph Example 6:
Topic: A time when you were disappointed:
“ I remember the first time I didn’t get the grade I wanted on a test. I had studied so hard, but I still didn’t do as well as I wanted. I was really disappointed in myself, but my mom told me that it wasn’t the end of the world. ”
In conclusion, the introduction paragraph of a reflective essay is very important. You need to make sure that you use descriptive language, set the tone for your essay, and give your readers a good sense of what the essay will be about.
By following these 5 tips, you can write an engaging reflective essay introduction that will set the stage for your entire essay.
Writing a Reflective analysis essay
How to write a reflective journal, process essay introduction, related guides, reflective essay topics & ideas.
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A great example of a reflective essay
(Last updated: 12 May 2021)
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Fieldwork experiences can often be a daunting way of conducting research but they can also be fulfilling. I have had first-hand experience conducting fieldwork for my master’s degree, and while it was a generally enjoyable experience, I did make a number of mistakes during the process. However, I learned some valuable lessons as a result of this too. During my fieldwork in Rwanda, I increasingly realised that it was important to incorporate primary research data into my study, but because of a lack of data on my topic, I made use of other sources of qualitative data to validate my findings. This strategy, according to Denzin (1970), is known as methodological triangulation and it allows researchers to make use of various data gathering methods to ensure internal validity. Based on the use of methodological triangulation, I specifically designed interviews targeted at both elite groups and slum dwellers in Rwanda to investigate the thinking behind the urban policies designed by political elites, and how it impacts marginalised slum dwellers.
The first group of interviewees that I targeted comprised of government officials and the second comprised of a group people living in slums. The elite interviews were generally semi-structured in nature and were based on open- and closed-ended questions. Scholars such as Harvey (2011) have noted that this is the best approach for elite interviews because it allows flexibility and hence, maximises response rates. Notably, scholars such as Aberbach and Rockman (2002), Hoffmann-Lange (1987) as well as Zuckerman (1972) have also shown that elites prefer to engage with open-ended questions so that they can articulate their views coherently. During my interviews with elite groups, I did not always draft formal questions, but I made sure that I was familiar with the topic so that I could comfortably develop a natural rapport with the respondents. Interview times ranged from thirty minutes to up to two hours, and respondents commonly offered me some data sets to consult, which followed with some discussion. I was often required to submit a formal application to access these files, and although I formally submitted a request letter to the Ministry of Urban Development, my efforts proved futile, and it became increasingly frustrating for me to access the data sets I needed.
In some of the interviews, I found that political elites provided evasive answers because of the politically sensitive nature of some of the questions posed. The general etiquette according to Peabody et al. (1990) suggests that political elites should ideally not be interviewed using recording devices as it can cause elusiveness and anxiety – although I did not use a recorder, I continued to receive elusive responses which sometimes left me frustrated and disillusioned with my project. I felt particularly irritated because the absence of a recording device meant I was unable to get hold of a verbatim record of my interviews. Because I had to write down observational notes while engaging with the respondent, it was difficult to record all the information and I lost out on some important points. I tried to strike a balance between note taking and the interview process, but I found this to be a difficult endeavour. I was able to access more political elites than initially anticipated, however it often felt futile because I couldn’t source as much information as I had wanted from this sample group. I tried to counteract these limitations by shifting my focus to the second sample in my study, the slum dwellers, although this was also fraught with some complications. Comparatively and overall, the second sample group proved to be more cooperative and I quickly learned that I had wasted a significant amount of time focusing on political elites, when a lot of the responses I desired could have easily been sourced from policy documents and government reports.
As mentioned, I discovered that slum dwellers, after gaining their trust, provided a great deal of nuanced insight into my understanding of urban regeneration in Rwanda, which was very beneficial for my project. Harvey (2011) has highlighted how field researchers must endeavour to earn the trust of their respondents to gain access to high quality data and looking at the results I garnered, I believe I was able to do this successfully. The data acquisition from the sample group was however, not without complications. The first complication pertained to my status as a foreigner, which I realised made several people wary of my presence. After visiting the research site continuously over a period of time, they became more familiar with me and thus opened up to the idea of participating in my study. I also ensured that I hired a local research assistant, and I realised that my association with a local gave me a greater deal of legitimacy in the eyes of my potential research respondents.
While oftentimes the data collection process was extremely stressful, and sometimes precarious, I learned to be resilient in, and how to maintain focus on meeting my set objectives. Concurrently, I also learned when to change approaches in the field – especially when a particular research method had proven to be unsuccessful. In hindsight, I should have changed my approach much earlier to save a lot of the time I wasted. Looking back, I would have placed less emphasis on the elite sample group as primary data was not necessary for addressing my research questions concerning government policy. I could have saved time and effort in sourcing this information from secondary sources such as government reports and books. I also would have employed a local researcher much earlier in the process as it paved the way for gaining the trust of respondents. At the same time, I realised that I should have provided a lot more training for the research assistant who also served as a translator, due to the events that ensued in the field.
According to scholars such as Temple and Edwards (2002, p.2) “the interpreter is a conduit linking the interviewer with the interviewee and ideally is a neutral party who should not add or subtract from what the primary parties communicate to each other” but in my research, I quickly realised that this was not the case. Generally, the research assistant was highly opinionated and in some instances tried to impose his political views on my respondents. Looking back, I think I could have done a better job in training him and getting him to understand why the responses of interviewees should not be pre-empted. There were several instances where I also noticed that the translation process was not as effective as it should be during the fieldwork process. Due to my increasing familiarity with local dialects, I was able to discern when the translator was not providing the full picture with respect to the responses of the respondents. In my opinion, this was indicative of the lack of training which the translator received and I learned to not just assume that job roles were obvious, especially in this context. In instances where omissions were obvious, I questioned the translator to gain further details. During the early stages of the fieldwork, he was also far too independent and in some instances, did not stick to the script, in terms of the interview questions I had drafted. In hindsight, I should have done a trial run or pilot study, so that he was better acquainted with the standard of research I was expecting.
Overall, the process was a challenging one that introduced me to the iterative nature of fieldwork. It became increasingly obvious to me that in the field, nothing ever goes as neatly as planned on paper. I realised how imperative both resilience and flexibility was in the field. In hindsight, I would have prepared back-up alternatives for each aspect of my study, since in some cases I was completely thrown off guard and had to take a few days off to re-strategise. I lost a few valuable days by doing this and if I had managed my expectations with more caution, I believe I would have been better prepared for the unexpected occurrences in the field. On reflection, I would also have taken my positionality far more seriously, as I never imagined that the way I was perceived by others could affect my study. During my interviews with elite groups, they were often bemused and yet intrigued at the same time about my role as a foreign female researcher. Scholars such as Kobayashi (1994) have highlighted how gender identities play out during fieldwork, meaning women are often discriminated against on the basis of their sex. I did not experience discrimination, but I feel my being a woman helped me gain access to certain respondents that I never anticipated to access, because I was somewhat perceived as a damsel in distress who needed help. While the pity I received worked in my favour, it had no bearing within the interviews themselves as I was not able to acquire the data that I hoped to. Having a better understanding of the cultural nuances would have helped me to manage my expectations better. Indeed, researchers such as Denzin and Lincoln (2011) have highlighted how a researcher’s ability to gain access is shaped by personal characteristics, including gender. Looking back, I believe my fieldwork project was fairly successful, mostly because of its ability to gain nuanced insight from the second sample involving slum dwellers. The major pitfalls of the project mostly pertained to the logistics of the project – specifically the lack of training for the research assistant, and the general lack of a research focus.
References Aberbach, J. & Rockman, B., 2002. Conducting and Coding Elite Interviews. PS: Political Science and Politics, 35(4), pp.673–676. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1554807?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents [Accessed November 20, 2015].
Denzin, N., 1970. The Research Act in Sociology, Chicago: Aldine. Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S., 2011. The Sage handbook of qualitative research. Sage.
Harvey, W.S., 2011. Strategies for conducting elite interviews. Qualitative Research, 11(4), pp.431– 441. Available at: http://qrj.sagepub.com/content/11/4/431.abstract [Accessed May 6, 2015].
Herod, A., 1999. Reflections on interviewing foreign elites: praxis, positionality, validity, and the cult of the insider. Geoforum, 30(4), pp.313-327.
Highley, J., Deacon, D. & Smart, D., 1979. Elites in Australia, London: Routledge.
Hoffmann-Lange, U., 1987. Surveying national elites in the Federal Republic of Germany. In G. Moyser & M. Wagstaffe, eds. Research Methods for Elite Studies. London: Allen & Unwin, pp. 27– 47.
Johl, S.K. and Renganathan, S., 2010. Strategies for gaining access in doing fieldwork: Reflection of two researchers. The Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods, 8(1), pp.42-50.
Kobayashi, A., 1994. Coloring the field: Gender,“race,” and the politics of fieldwork. The Professional Geographer, 46(1), pp.73-80.
Mullings, B., 1999. Insider or outsider, both or neither: some dilemmas of interviewing in a cross-cultural setting. Geoforum, 30(4), pp.337-350.
Nolinske, T., 1995. Multiple mentoring relationships facilitate learning during fieldwork. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 49(1), pp.39-43.
Rose, G., 1997. Situating knowledges: positionality, reflexivities and other tactics. Progress in human geography, 21(3), pp.305-320.
Overing, J., 1987. Translation as a creative process: The power of the name. Comparative anthropology, 70, p.71.
Peabody, R., Hammond, S., Torcom, J., Brown, L., Thompson, C. & Kolodny, R., 1990. Interviewing Political Elites. PS: Political Science and Politics, 23(3), pp.451–455.
Temple, B. and Edwards, R., 2002. Interpreters/translators and cross-language research: Reflexivity and border crossings. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 1(2), pp.1-12.
Zuckerman, H., 1972. Interviewing an Ultra-Elite. Public Opinion Quarterly, 36(2), p.159. Available at: http://poq.oxfordjournals.org/content/36/2/159.abstract [Accessed November 20, 2015].
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When you write a reflective paper example, you write about your own experiences and explore how you’ve changed, grown or developed because of those experiences. There’s no standard format for this essay as it may vary depending on the target audience. Reflective Essay Examples Download 74 KB #01 Download 30 KB #02 Download 195 KB #03
This reflective essay example about the topic of creative writing is what you might expect to see at the college level. I’ve always felt I excel in written communication. The skill of effectively communicating my thoughts and feelings through words and expressions seemed to come easily to me.
24+ Reflective Essay Examples & Samples in PDF Sometimes, it is our experiences that startled and challenged our own voyage that strengthens and improves us to be the best versions of ourselves. If your life experience greatly moved you, there is a certain essay that allows you to compose your own endeavor.
Fieldwork experiences can often be a daunting way of conducting research but they can also be fulfilling. I have had first-hand experience conducting fieldwork for my master’s degree, and while it was a generally enjoyable experience, I did make a number of mistakes during the process.