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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 5th annual International Essay Contest.


The purpose of the International Essay Contest is to build mutual respect through empathy and, using the American idiom, "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 the 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

2018 International Student Essay Contest 

2019 International Student Essay Contest

2020 International Student Essay Contest 

Prizes and recognition

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

  • First prize: $200 Amazon Gift Card
  • Second prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card
  • Third prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card

Due to the effects of Covid-19, we are unable to recognize participants in-person at our International Student Essay Contest Recognition Ceremony. However, all participants will receive an electronic certificate of participation.

Winning essays will 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 Wednesday, March 18th at 12:00 PM (Noon).

Submit your entry by completing this FORM and uploading your essay –  essay must be uploaded as a Word document, click submit when you are done uploading your essay.

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 essay topic on the top of the front or cover page.

Permission Notice

Submission of your essay 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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