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International Student Essay Contest

MSU's International Student Essay Contest builds greater cross-cultural understanding and allows the Spartan community to learn from the experiences of international students.

essay_contest_web correct size.JPGLiving outside one's own culture can trigger a complex range of feelings that lead to powerful insights. This essay contest is an opportunity for international students to reflect on their experiences and share their stories as international students at MSU.

By sharing your story of learning abroad at MSU, you have an opportunity to help your fellow students and people in the greater Lansing community walk a mile in your shoes so they can better know, feel and appreciate what it is like for you, personally, to be an international student at MSU at this time.

We invite you to share some of your experiences, encounters across cultures (good and not-so-good), insights, thoughts, and emotions during the period of your stay at MSU.

First Prize: $1,000
Second Prize: $500
Third Prize: $250

Essay Topic

Essay Topic

"Overcoming Challenges: Learning Abroad in a Time of Global Change." 

Writing Prompts

How has your time at MSU challenged you to grow? What have you learned about yourself? We want to hear your stories!

Use any or all of the following to help write your essay:

  • Everyone experiences ups and downs and new adventures when living away from the familiarity and comforts of home.  Describe your perceptions and experiences of adjusting to the ways of a culture that is different from what you've known. Share your personal stories of surprise, confusions or misunderstandings as well as moments of personal growth and how you acquired an understanding of the local ways.

  • Using examples from your personal experiences in Michigan, how are "the rules for the game of life" different in the U.S. than they are in your country? Being specific, how have you experienced different norms and behaviors of Americans and how they have contrasted against what you would commonly expect to find in your home country?

  • Even intelligent people can appear foolish when they are new to a culture and do not know its ways. Confronting even simple tasks like using public transportation or making local phone calls for the first time in a new culture can cause embarrassment when you do not know something that everyone else appears to know. Share a story about how you felt in a situation in which you needed help with something that is ordinarily simple, but it was new to you.

Submission Guidelines


MSU undergraduate or graduate international students maintaining F or J status.


No more than 4 pages typed and double-spaced. Include your name and email address in the header on each page.


Times New Roman, 12 pt

Due Date

Monday, October 29, 2018 at 5pm

Permission Notice

Submission of your essay indicates that you authorize MSU to release all information submitted as part of your participation in the Essay Contest to the Essay Contest Review Committee for the purpose of assessing your candidacy for an award. All or parts of winning and non-winning essays might be published on the OISS website and other media such as the Lansing State Journal. By submitting your essay, you agree that your essay can be used in this way.

Submit Your Essay

The essay contest submission form is now closed. Thank you for your interest!


Date: Friday, November 30th, 2018
Time: 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Location: Spartan Rooms B&C, off the International Center Food Court 

Join OISS and the Office for Education Abroad for a special Coffee Hour to honor the winners of the International Essay Contests. The winners of each contest will read their essays aloud and provide a unique opportunity for students to share their stories.

The reception is free and open to the public.