To celebrate International Education Week 2018, WES Advisor asked readers to send submissions to our annual essay contest.
Essay contest participants were instructed to write about their best piece of advice for prospective international students considering studying abroad in the U.S.
We received many excellent submissions and we would like to thank everyone who participated in the contest!
Congratulations to our four winners: Anh Nguyen, Zenia Adiwijaya, Souvik Seal, and Vincent Igenoza.
You can read the winning essay below, written by Anh Nguyen. Anh, a native of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is a journalism student at Temple University.
It happened two years ago as I lay sprawled out on the floor, hyperventilating from anxiety. It was my turn to perform a talent for the homecoming judging panel and the candidate ahead of me just received a standing ovation for painting her self-portrait while singing to the lyrics of Diamond by Rihanna. My palms were soaked as I fixed the collar to my ao dai, a Vietnamese traditional garment, and recited the stand-up skit I had written the night before. I always knew going to college in the U.S. would mean stepping outside of my comfort zone, but I never thought it would lead me to this stage, doing something entirely unthinkable.
Back when I started college at Temple University in Philadelphia, I was very concerned about maintaining a good GPA and finding an internship. But I soon realized I was missing out on a lot of the fun of extracurricular activities!
I was finally reminded that the reason I sought a liberal arts education in the U.S. is because I wanted to know more about myself than just excel in my studies.
I found my college campus the perfect place to start looking into other options and opportunities—meaningful additions to simply going to class and doing my homework every day.
In my first semester at Temple University, I joined the debate club. In my third semester, I ran for Homecoming Royalty. I also founded an animal advocacy group, Temple’s Community Cats Club, during my junior year, competed in a hackathon, and did research on President Trump’s Twitter account, all through sheer curiosity and a nobody-will-do-it-beside-myself mentality. My major is Journalism, so even though all these bits and pieces of experience didn’t relate to my course of study, together they enriched my knowledge, life lessons, and leadership skills.
These examples lead me to a three-word piece advice for you, future international students: Try new things! You will never know what doors these new experiences will open and how they will change your perspectives and your perception of yourself. It won’t be comfortable, but these growing pains are necessary to help you test your limits, express yourself, and formulate your identity. From my four years of living and studying in the U.S., I can’t tell you how many times this advice has helped me score new friends, obtain new skills, and expand my knowledge.
As you thrust yourself into this wildly different environment, you will experience many uncomfortable feelings that will make you want to retreat into your shell and settle with what you feel more familiar with. It’s OK to feel that way because of the culture shock, language barrier, and homesickness you encounter along the way. I think anyone who decides to study abroad is very brave. But many of us never get over that fearful stage and become complacent, which further isolates us from the bigger part of college life that happens entirely outside the classroom.
I was once a shy international student. In the first few months after I came to Temple, I spent many weekends alone in my dorm, watching Netflix and surfing the Internet because I had nothing else to do. I also didn’t have a lot of friends to hang out with and social circles to join. What was worse was that I hardly ever met any other Vietnamese students to share a bit of home with.
At some point, I decided to end my own misery. I made a conscious effort to start branching out. One thing led to the next and here I am, four years later, having built up quite a few good memories, including that time I performed stand-up comedy in front of the audience.
Trying new things is not as scary as it sounds because you will learn and grow from these experiences. It is much better than playing it safe and missing out on one of the most wonderful reasons why you decide to study abroad in the first place.
Congratulations again to our 2018 essay contest winners and thank you to everyone who participated!
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