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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 17th 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 here in East Lansing. 

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

First Prize: $1,000
Second Prize: $500
Third Prize: $250

Essay Topic

Essay Topic

The essay topic for the 2020 International Student Essay Contest is “Spartans Will Belong: Finding My Place at MSU.”

As an international student, you have traveled far to pursue your education at MSU. Once you arrived, how and where did you find a sense of belonging? What places, activities, or groups of people have become your community and made East Lansing feel like home?  

As you adjusted to your studies and your life at MSU, what have you learned about yourself? We want to hear your stories! 

Writing Prompts

Use any or all of the following to help write your essay:

  • Describe your first impressions of East Lansing and MSU, and how they changed as you adjusted to life as a Spartan.
  • Describe the first moment you felt a sense of belonging at MSU, and the steps it took to get there.
  • Tell the story of something that surprised you, confused you, or caused a misunderstanding as you learned your way around your new community – and help readers understand what that felt like.
  • Share an experience you had in getting involved on campus or building community with classmates, neighbors and friends. Explain how this is similar or different from the community you would find back home.

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

Monday, February 17th, 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

The International Student Essay Contest is closed for 2020. Please check back in Spring 2021 for next year's event! 
If you have further questions, email Joy at joyks(at)


The OISS Awards Reception for Spring 2020 has been cancelled. Please check back for details on future OISS events.