Mani Sockalingam reads his first prize essay to the standing room only crowd during the reception at 44 Kent Way.

OISS essays

International students win accolades in inaugural OISS essay contest

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12:59 p.m., Nov. 27, 2013--“I am good.” Those three words resounded with Subramani (Mani) Sockalingam and members of the University of Delaware’s Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS).

Winners of the inaugural International Student Essay Contest were recognized Friday evening, Nov. 22, at a reception hosted by OISS at 44 Kent Way.

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First place winner Sockalingam, from India, wrote about discovering the phrase “I am good,” adjusting to American English spelling instead of British English, and food. A native of India, he grew up eating foods rich in flavor and color and was excited to share his cultural heritage with friends. 

“Living for a while in the U.S. made me acclimatized to the less spicy food and when I go home even my mom’s cooking feels spicy,” he wrote.

More than 40 essays were submitted by undergraduate, graduate and English Language Institute students from 19 different countries.  The first place winner received a $500 prize and second place received $250. Prizes were co-sponsored the Division of Student Life.  A standing room only crowd enjoyed refreshments and camaraderie as the top winners read their essays aloud.

“We received an exceptional set of essays this year showcasing the experiences of our international students at UD and in the U.S.,” said OISS Director Ravi Ammigan. “The goal of this contest is to help foster international understanding and cross-cultural awareness on campus and in the community and this gives us a terrific chance to walk in the shoes of our students.” 

Essay themes ranged from culture shock to resilience and stories covered a variety of topics including: the ways people change and gain new perspectives by living away from home, the feeling of isolation and the struggle of being an outsider, and insights into American culture and the uncertainties of making U.S. friends. 

Students addressed moments such as adjusting to cultural norms, confusion with understanding jokes, lifestyle differences, and more. Students shared that some of these experiences were challenging to deal with in the moment. By looking back and reflecting through their essays, students were able to find the humor in how far they have come since first arriving in the U.S.

Second place winner Rodrigo Moreno of Chile attended the reception with his wife and two sons. His story focused on his experience transitioning from his home country, learning English and the entire experience as “a time for learning about one’s own self, personal growth and development.”

Moreno wrote about adjusting to humidity, riding a bike instead of driving a car -- which he said has improved his health -- and acquiring a key chain of rewards cards for different stores.

Honorable mention winner Karim Rebiaï expressed his believe that the experience of living and studying abroad is “an intrinsically transforming experience.”

Rebiaï wrote, “After the necessary period of adjustment and the achievement of inner balance, the true adventure begins; we grow smarter, more open, more confident and, in many cases, wiser.”

Winning entries of the 2013 International Student Essay Contest are available online.

Ammigan created the essay contest as an open forum for international students to share their stories. It is one of many ways in which OISS has expanded its presence and opportunities for international student at UD. This fall OISS hosted more than 40 different programs and activities, a dramatic increase from last year. Plans are now underway for the spring 2014 calendar of events.

Members of UD’s international community include more than 3,500 students, scholars, and family members from over 100 countries outside of the U.S. 

OISS is committed to providing quality advising services and supportive programming to students and scholars during their stay at the University and in the U.S.

In collaboration with campus and community partners, OISS also contributes to the internationalization of UD by providing opportunities for growth through cross-cultural interactions and international programming. More information is available at the OISS website.

Article by Elizabeth Adams

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