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San Diego State University



All international students at SDSU have an interesting story to tell about their own personal journey: Where they’re from  – What it’s like to adjust to a new country – How they see life at SDSU through their own unique lens.

We want to hear your stories! Share your perspective by entering the third annual International Essay Contest.


The purpose of the International Essay Contest is to build mutual respect through empathy and, using the American idiom, by "walking a mile in another person's shoes" (experiencing something from someone else's point of view). By sharing your story, you have an opportunity to help your fellow students and others in SDSU community better know, feel and appreciate your international student experience. We invite you to share some of your experiences, encounters across cultures (good and not-so-good), insights, thoughts and emotions from your time at SDSU.

Read past winning entries:

2016 International Student Essay Contest
2017 International Student Essay Contest

Prizes and recognition

Three winning entries will be selected to receive one of the following prizes:

  • First prize: $300 Aztec Shops Gift Card
  • Second prize: $150 Aztec Shops Gift Card
  • Third prize: $100 Aztec Shops Gift Card


Winners will be recognized at a special awards ceremony at the International Student Center on March 23 at 12 p.m. The ceremony will celebrate all the students who shared their stories through the International Student Essay Contest. Refreshments will be served.

When: Friday, March 23 at 12 p.m.

Where: International Student Center

Winning essays will also be shared on SDSU’s Be International and International Student Center websites and promoted on university social media accounts.



You may – but are not required to – use the following prompts to craft your essay:

1. Everyone experiences ups and downs and new adventures when living away from the familiarities and comforts of home. Describe your perceptions and experiences of adjusting to a culture that is different from what you’ve known. Share your personal stories of surprise, confusion or misunderstanding, as well as moments of personal growth and how you acquired an understanding of your new surroundings.

2. Using examples from your personal experiences in San Diego, 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 have they contrasted with what you find in your home country

3. Even intelligent people can appear not-so-smart while learning to live in an unfamiliar culture. 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 was not because it was new to you.

How to enter

All entries must be submitted by March 2 at noon. Send essays – attached as a Word document – to using the subject "Essay Contest."

Rules and Eligibility

The contest is open to all SDSU undergraduate, graduate and exchange international students. Essays should be a maximum of four pages (double-spaced) in length. Include your name, year, school, major, RED ID, email address, essay topic and home country on the top of the front or cover page.

Permission Notice

Submission of your essay by email indicates that you authorize SDSU 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 the award. Additionally, you agree that all or parts of winning and non-winning essays might be published on the SDSU Be International website.

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