To celebrate International Education Week 2017, WES Advisor asked readers to send submissions to our annual essay contest.
This year’s prompt was inspired by a quote from St. Augustine:
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
We asked readers to describe in their essays how studying abroad has enriched their lives and expanded their worldviews.
We received a number of excellent submissions, with many of the essays describing positive, eye-opening experiences that highlighted the transformative power of studying abroad. We would like to thank everyone who participated in the contest!
Congratulations to our four winners: Olufemi Erinoso, Chiemeka Donald Ewulu, Ikenna Mbakwe, and Trishnee Bhurosy.
You can read the winning essay below, by Olufemi Erinoso. Olufemi, a native of Nigeria, is a student of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.
My experience as an international student has, in many ways, transformed my understanding of the world. I have dismantled old convictions, and, like a child, developed new perspectives. Prior to this experience, my view of the world was shaped by my immediate society in Nigeria. However, during the past few months of school, I have met people from over 60 countries with different ideologies, languages, and experiences. My outlook on learning, career, the world, and even subjects such as gender, has evolved rapidly in this short period.
My life has been enriched by schooling abroad in different ways. For example, the use of online platforms for lectures and taking class attendance, instead of the sheets of paper used to record our names in my home country, has been a different experience for me. Even more astonishing is the use of online portals to write my exams and submit assignments. This exposure has had a huge impact on my learning and provided me with insight into the flexible nature of learning in a rapidly evolving digital age. I have learned, most importantly, not to depend solely on the four walls of a classroom for knowledge.
Furthermore, my worldview as a health practitioner has expanded with schooling abroad. Listening to my classmates talk about their experiences in clinical practice has helped me better appreciate our collective challenges and the unique role culture plays in health care. For example, learning from Indian colleagues about how the poor patronize ‘babajis’ (traditional healers), something that also occurs in my home country of Nigeria, showed me just how similar our experiences were.
Also, coming from an ethnically diverse, but racially homogenous society, I was struck by the cultural and racial diversity here, but how at first, we all huddled in familiar groups based on nationality and language. However, in the space of a few weeks, we formed new ties, new friendships based on common interests and passion. In this experience, I have learned that as humans, once we put away our differences in language, ethnicity, and creed, our aspirations are similar.
Through friendships with my classmates, I have been able to experience places I haven’t physically visited, like Mount Kilimanjaro, through my Tanzanian friends who shared their amazing experiences. I learned about Syria through my classmate who shared a deeply personal experience about the ongoing conflict in her home country. These conversations helped me see the world through their eyes, with all its beauty and struggles.
The best experiences of all are the social encounters. I have had the pleasure of dancing salsa with Peruvians, learning to identify dialects in Haitian Creole and Mandarin, and discovering local Hindu greetings, as well as Japanese and German remarks. I have also had my fair share of Asian food and tasted Turkish tea and spicy Pakistani soups.
The world is indeed a string of experiences all wrapped in different colors, languages, and beliefs. Studying abroad has, in no small measure, opened my eyes to this truth.
Congratulations again to our 2017 essay contest winners and thank you to everyone who participated!
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