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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.JPGThis essay contest, now in its 18th year, provides an opportunity for international students to reflect on their experiences and share their Spartan stories to encourage, inspire and educate others. 

By sharing your story, you can help fellow students and people in the greater Lansing community walk a mile in your shoes – to know and appreciate what it is like for you to be an international student at MSU today.

Share some of your experiences, encounters with cultural differences, insights and emotions during your time as an MSU student. 

Essays will be read by a panel of judges selected from campus and community partners, and four winners will be chosen.

First Prize Topic One: $1000
Second Prize Topic One: $500

First Prize Topic Two: $1000
Second Prize Topic Two: $500 

Essay Topic

Essay Topics

For the first time this year, we actually have two different essay topics! You can choose which prompt you want to write on, and a first and second-place winner will be chosen from each topic.  

Essay Topic #1

“Spartan Resiliency: Overcoming Obstacles”
The past year has brought unique challenges to us all. Share with us your experience as an international student at MSU navigating the many changes of 2020 and beyond. Think about the following questions as you write your essay:

  1. Who from the Spartan community has supported you in this time? 

  2.  What are some new strengths or skills you have developed during this last year?  

  3. What are some unusual opportunities that presented themselves in the midst of these challenges?

Essay Topic #2

“MSU For You: You are a Spartan, Wherever You Are”
This year, more Spartans than ever worked on their degree programs from afar. But no matter where you are in the world, you are a Spartan. Share with us what your MSU experience has been like this year from outside of East Lansing. Think about the following questions as you write your essay: 

1. Bring the reader into your world – where are you living? What does it look, sound, smell, feel like?

2. What connections with MSU have meant the most to you during this time? 

3. What have you learned about yourself during this time, that you will bring with you to MSU in person when you can? 


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

Friday, February 19th, 2020 at 5:00p.m. 

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

Submit your essay through our International Essay Contest Form. Only one essay per student will be accepted. 


Information about a program to recognize 2021 International Essay Contest winners will be announced soon.