Thursday, November 24, 2016

International Education Week Essay Contest Runners-Up


 International Education Week Essay Contest Runners-Up
For International Education Week 2016, WES Advisor asked readers to send submissions to our annual essay contest. The prompt was inspired by a Henry Miller quote:

"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."

We asked readers to describe how studying abroad changes the way they see the world around them.



We received some excellent submissions, with many of the essays focusing on the power of education to combat ignorance and oppression and encourage understanding between cultures. We would like to thank all of those who participated!

Congratulations to our four winners: Neha Chitre, Sreenidhi Vedartham, Natasha Padua, and Saima Merchant.

Last week, we shared the top two winning entries, and today we would like to share with our 3rd and 4th place entries.

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Third Place Winner: Natasha Padua

In almost every language I’ve been privileged to understand, nearly every culture has a proverb that says something like: A frog cannot know the ocean if it swims in a well. Although there are many versions and translations to this, they all mean one thing: one cannot understand the world beyond the proverbial wall he is confined by.

I can honestly say that I learned this truth through experience. By being part of an international exchange student program, I imbibed more than just lectures within the usual four corners of a classroom. I learned to live another culture and language, which led to a better understanding of my own native culture and heritage.

Studying abroad was as scary as much as it was exciting. I realized that the more daunting it was, and the more I pushed myself to overcome barriers and the more profound the lessons were. It helped shape my perspective, allowing me to think outside-the-box and tackle problems in ways I would never have otherwise tried if I hadn’t studied abroad.

The beauty of all of my experiences is that I was able to bring these lessons home. When I returned, I looked at the things, situations, and problems that I had left behind very differently than before. Instead of being complacent, I now saw the potential in everything. Inadvertently, I used the wisdom and knowledge I picked up to help something good to become something better.

Study abroad truly allowed for introspection. Aside from the relationships I forged, I like to believe that studying abroad taught me tolerance and patience. Instead of immediately passing judgment on something or someone, I realized taking the time to stop and ask “why” makes a whole world of difference. It also greatly improved my communication and interpersonal skills.

Another thing I am eternally grateful for is the ability to learn in a new environment; it enhanced my curiosity and drove me to want to pursue new things. It also made me more open and willing to share my new knowledge with other people.

There is a whole new world outside one’s comfort zone. Yes, there is always a possibility that the experience could make or break you, but it is also an opportunity that opens a lot of doors. Studying abroad is a simple step, yet it’s also a complex decision that could consequentially bring out the best in a person; it’s just a matter of being brave enough to take that first step.

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Natasha Kimberly D. Padua
Natasha Kimberly D. Padua works as an English tutor for Japanese nationals. She holds a B.S. degree in Nursing. She has experience working as a clinic nurse and a private duty nurse. While furthering her studies in nursing, her love of languages pushed her to take a part-time job to help other people acquire English communication skills.

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Fourth Place Winner: Saima Merchant

A new place sure has its shares of surprises for a young student. Leaving the comfort of your own home is never easy, but determination and aspirations for a better future can help one to strive until they achieve the goals they set for themselves once outside their comfort zone. Studying abroad is not only a great way to explore the world, but it also allows a person to gain insight into one’s own self.

Firstly, a new place can prove to be a great teacher for a young student. The responsibilities that come with living alone can discipline a person a great deal. Juggling studies, extracurricular activities, a social life and household chores can train one to manage time well and become more responsible. Moreover, a person becomes financially responsible when living alone and can learn to live on a budget—deciding which purchases are necessary and which can be avoided. They can also learn the importance of using money carefully and saving the excess for the future.

Socially, a person learns to deal with a variety of different people. When alone in a new place, even the most introverted of people are forced to socialize and talk to those around them, which is crucial in developing one’s personality.

Although these changes are internal and can train you to become a responsible, more mature person, they can also have a great impact on how you perceive the world. For one, a person becomes more tolerant in relation to other people around them. They can only understand the true value of a diverse crowd when they come in close contact with other people who belong to different cultures, races, ethnicities, and follow different religions or are of a different facial color.

Furthermore, your thought process changes significantly when you go abroad to study. One learns to prioritize which things are most important in life and which require more attention, one breaks the barriers of their own minds to start looking at the bigger picture, and one opens their mind to be able to look at everything in a different light.

The most critical of these things that is also probably the one most taken for granted is the relationships one has with their family. Living abroad can help a person truly realize the importance of a family and appreciate the value of one’s relationships. This understanding can enable a person to create better social relationships and can fundamentally change how a person perceives his or her values.

In a nutshell, studying abroad can change one for the better and allow them to see the world in a new way. One’s perceptions of the world can greatly change compared to those that they used to have in the more sheltered environment of their own home. Therefore, this is an experience one must not miss out on if they get a chance.

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Saima Merchant works for Pinterest as a QA Analyst. She holds a Master’s in Business Administration with majors in Marketing. She has worked as a content developer, both as a freelance writer and as part of a digital marketing agency. 


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Congratulations again to our 2016 essay contest winners and a big thank you to everyone who participated!

Are you interested in writing articles about your study abroad experiences on the WES Advisor blog? Sign up for our Student Ambassador Program.

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