International Students: Expectations Are High, But So Are Rewards

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After studying in the US, the winners of University Language Services' 2009 scholarship essay contest have a better appreciation of what they can achieve.

The expectations that international students bring to the United States are as varied as the countries they departed. But the students have one thing in common.

In the US they found a country and culture that offered them a new perspective on education and society, according to the winning entries in University Language Services' second annual scholarship essay contest.

These students often found that by integrating the new lessons they learned in the US with the lessons of their native country, they were afforded a perspective on education that neither country could have given them on its own.

Students who attended a school outside the US for at least two years were invited to share what they expected from their US schools and reflect on whether those expectations have been met.

  • Winner: Mingzhu Li, a student at Amherst College, expected to earn a zero on an in-class English essay assigned on her second day at her American high school. However, inspired by the Chinese poets she admired from her country, she finished the essay, regained faith in herself and realized she could succeed in her American school.
  • 1st Runner-Up: Ana Dal Molin is now earning her doctorate at Texas A&M University, but she writes that students in Brazil at times may face limited access to academic resources, including books and articles. She appreciates the access to resources at her US school but remembers the benefits of camaraderie and intellectual discussions in Brazil.
  • 2nd Runner-Up: Elizabeth Syrkin, a student at the University of Virginia, adapted to "different school systems, different expectations, different cultures" throughout her childhood. Syrkin studied in France, Germany and Russia before enrolling in a Gaithersburg, Md., elementary school at age 12.
  • 3rd Runner-Up: Anastasiya Sidorova, now a University of Florida law student, said she "wasn't taught to think critically" in the Ukraine. She has great respect for the US system of education, which she believes emphasizes critical thinking. Now she hopes to one day use those skills at a job in the legal profession.

Honorable mentions were awarded to:

  • Erika Ito, Abilene Christian University, studied in Japan
  • Bianca Kemp, American University in Cairo, studied in Spain and Egypt
  • Romy Misra, Texas A&M University, studied in India
  • Anja Zgodic, Providence College, studied in Quebec, Canada

University Language awarded Li a $500 college scholarship, and the three runners-up received a $100 scholarship. Each of the eight essays are posted at . Profiles of the scholarship winners will be unveiled throughout April and May at the ULS blog for international students, .

"We wish all of our winners good luck in their studies and hope their stories inspire other students," said Jessica Hertz, chairwoman of the scholarship contest.

University Language will announce a new scholarship contest for international students in the coming weeks.

About University Language Services:
Since 1983, ULS has specialized in the translation of academic transcripts, records and personal documents. Our website,, provides assistance to international students in the United States and American students who wish to study abroad.

ULS translates, transcribes and interprets 150+ languages and dialects from its international headquarters in New York City and affiliated offices around the world.


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