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Essay Contest Winners


Economics major Ornpreeya Srathonghoy was named the winner of the second International Student Essay contest hosted by the International Student Center. A native of Thailand, Srathonghoy earned the top honor among the 32 entrants with her powerful essay using eyeglasses as a metaphor for the cultural perspective through which people see the world. She stresses the importance of “taking off your old eyeglasses” when you immerse yourself in another culture.

Mohit Kadam (India) and Layan Amkieh (Syria) received second and third place, respectively, while Tsang Hiu Chun (Hong Kong),  Joseph Wasswa (Uganda) and Darpan Beri (India) received honorable mention.

The contest was started with the purpose of building mutual respect through empathy, allowing domestic SDSU students to better understand the international student experience. Writing on the theme of “In My Shoes”, international students were asked to share their insights, thoughts and emotions (both good and not-so-good) from their experience at SDSU.

The winners were announced at a special reception on April 28 at the International Student Center, and all entrants were congratulated by guest speaker Dr. Aaron Bruce, SDSU’s chief diversity officer.

Below is the full list of winners with excerpts and links to the full, unedited essays.



First Place
Ornpreeya Srathonghoy (Thailand)


What makes you different from the others is how you see the world. Everyone is wearing different eyeglasses. Some glasses are clearer than others and some makes the things look darker. As long as the glasses provide a proper vision correction, they are good enough. The glasses we are wearing are made up of experiences, expectations, cultures and attitudes. I have been in San Diego for almost a year and I am not wearing the same glasses I came with anymore. I switched to glasses with more experiences and different cultures in them. 


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Second Place
Mohit Kadam (India)


6th of August 2016, I landed in San Diego. It is still a mystery to me how I got here, because all I had was 1200$ in total (not kidding!) and the “American Dream” in my heart! This is my story of moving from the East to explore the West. From a sheltered culture to a liberating environment. A story of my transformation from one who had nothing to being someone my parents can be proud of, from one who did not wake up till 1 PM to one working 18 hours a day, from being an introvert to becoming an intercultural ambassador representing India, president of the badminton club at SDSU , project manager of the SDSU Rocket Project, and  employee of the month at the Aztec Recreation Centre. All while overcoming cultural differences. This is a story of how America helped me to apply Steve Jobs’ idea of “distorting reality!”

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Honorable Mention
Tsang Hiu Chun "Selina" (Hong Kong)


Essay private by request.


Honorable Mention
Joseph Wasswa (Uganda)


It was on the 25th of March, 2015 when I received the greatest news of my life. I had been admitted into San Diego State University for a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering. The only imaginations that came to my mind were scenes that I had seen in movies. I imagined the new people I would meet and how I would behave in America. It was really fascinating. At that time, I could think about only good things. On hearing the news, my parents were so excited but the excitement was short lived when we started thinking about the financial support that I needed.

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Honorable Mention
Darpan Beri (India)


Sitting in the backseat of the cab, I asked my sister, “Am I supposed to be nervous?” We were headed for the New Delhi airport along with my parents. I was to board a flight to the dreamland of America in two hours, and was reflecting over the biggest decision I had made in my life span of 17 years. She smiled and simply said, “Relax! You will meet several amazing people. Be good!”, thrusting a rectangular box wrapped in gift paper in my hands, as she said so. It contained a letter and a book. That was her lousy way of saying goodbye. I did not know then, but now that I am away from my family, I have come to appreciate the letter and the book a lot.

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