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Scholarship Essay Contest Runners Up

Brazilian woman, Daniela F. Gomez da Silva, student at University of Texas, Austin, won the Margaret W. Wong & Associates $500 scholarship through entry in the International Student Voice Magazine (ISVMag) Fall 2014 Essay Contest. Daniela's winning essay was selected in August 2014, and posted on the ISV Mag website.  We have posted it in our Immigration Blog.

Below we attached the seventeen runner up essays:

Looking Through the Keyhole

Sarah Burkhard, Northern Virginia Community College, Germany

Whenever someone asks me why I came from Germany to the US to study, I jokingly respond: "Why study for free, when I can also spend a lot of money?" The real answer is simple: You get out what you put in. I know that my education here will amount to more than just a degree. An education obtained in the U.S. opens the doors on my career path that might otherwise be locked.

Number one: the very heavy 10-inch-wide steel door that resembles a door to a safe – hard to open, but when the lock pops, the value inside is worth all the effort. Inside my metaphorical safe lies the English language. Why it is so important for me to speak English? I would like to work internationally, and in order to be a productive and professional member of the international community, it is crucial to speak the language that is as close to a global language as possible. In addition, English is the language of technology and science, two of my areas of study that will provide strategic underpinnings to my knowledge about future shifts in international relations.

Number two: not a heavy, but a tricky door. Inside lies the knowledge of who you are in an international and multicultural community. In Westphalia, I am Sarah from Werther. In Berlin, I am Sarah from Westphalia, in France, Sarah from Germany. In the U.S., I am Sarah from Europe. Being able to understand others in the world and how others view you from shifting perspectives, is a crucial skill for international relations. You have to feel comfortable around people who don’t speak your language, who don’t sing along with Nena’s 99 Luftballons and who ask if we really still don’t have dishwashers in East Germany (FYI- we do). But I am happy to say that every conversation about my home country, every question I can answer, not only reduces misbelief and deepens understanding, but often even sparks excitement (especially when talking about the Autobahn). Here in the U.S., I don’t only study international relations in the classroom I experience them and I live them. With every person I meet, every hand I shake and every cheek I kiss, I contribute to the ongoing improvement of global, intercultural connections and learn more about the cultural perspectives and assumptions that underlie American foreign policy.

This brings me to my third and last metaphorical door. It has red and white stripes and a blue box with 50 little stars in the upper left corner: the United States. From embassies to partner schools and military bases, the U.S. mobilizes individuals and organizations to promote peace, increase prosperity and minimize poverty around the globe. This is what I want to do. This strenuous community, unique to the U.S. is where I want to find my place. Looking through the keyhole, I cannot tell yet whether this place will be within the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency or the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, but the journey is just as important as the destination.

My journey just started – I am a Sophomore in College, hungry for knowledge, thirsty for experience, and happy to be surrounded by inspirational instructors and motivated fellow students. Young but not immature, loose but not lost, influenceable but not unstable – coming to the U.S. in my early twenties was the right decision. Getting an academic degree from an American University leads me on the right path into the international and professional community. A Bachelor’s of Science in Foreign Affairs would give me a foothold into the future, where science and technology will be essential tools for diplomacy and policy making.

On Your Mark, Get Set, SCIENCE!

Aaron Sathyanesan, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Home country: India

My earliest encounter with science involved me doing “experiments” purely for the reasons of fun - which is what you would expect from an eight year old. I still remember my earliest series of experiments - assessing the speed at which different objects sink to the bottom of a bucket filled with water. I was hooked. But it wasn’t till the sixth grade that my child-like scientific curiosity matured into a full-blown passion. It was around the time that my grandmother had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease - a degenerative disorder characterized by the death of neurons in the brain, resulting in profound deficits in movement and cognition. My beloved grandmother - who used to carry me around on her hips and teach me mathematics using seeds from a tree that grew outside her house, had now become jittery and forgetful. This experience changed the way I looked at science. Now, I had purpose. It was then that I decided I would pursue neuroscience - the study of the nervous system.

After my undergraduate education and spending eleven months as a research fellow in a lab in India, I was wrestling with the question of where I should pursue my doctoral education. I had a vague idea about the pros and cons of studying in different places - Europe or the US. India was out of the question. Not necessarily for any lack in infrastructure, which was a problem now and then, but that wasn’t the main issue I had with science research in India. The main point of contention for me was the strict hierarchical structure of Indian academic research with graduate students having little to no say in the direction their research was taking. I had heard horror stories from my friends about how they had been abused, professionally and otherwise. I definitely wanted to pursue research in neuroscience, working on big questions and problems, but I wanted to add my own style to research questions, and not just be a workhorse. Eventually, I decided to risk studying a few extra years (compared to Europe) and applied to six neuroscience doctoral programs in the US. I even wrote to the professors I thought would potentially serve as my mentors. Though I had applied to different universities and written to many professors, I had my eye on one particular assistant professor who studied olfaction, or the sense of smell in mice. Reading her papers I realized she was already a pioneer in her field. Fortunately for me, she was looking to recruit graduate students. I did end up joining her lab. It has been an amazing journey since.

Probably the first thing I realized when I joined the PhD program at UMBC was that it was not “just” a graduate course any more. It was a way of life; a vocation. My first shock came when another graduate student in the lab addressed my mentor by her first name. My Indian sensibilities (which were so prone to submitting to authority) left me appalled at the audacity of this student. “How could he!” I thought to myself. But what struck me was the matter-of-fact attitude with which my mentor responded. As if nothing was wrong with it. This has been representative of my entire experience with scientific academic research in the US. That even though we all had our designations based on our degrees and qualifications, we could collaborate as equals, was a concept totally new to me. My mentor also encouraged me to write research papers on my own. I learned that science is not just about doing experiments and analyzing data. It is also about communicating your scientifically rigorous ideas to your peers and the general public. After all, the best scientists are also the best communicators. The American science establishment helped me grasp this idea. I believe this unique emphasis on effective science writing, right at the graduate student level, makes American science research stand out. Even the graduate biology courses I took emphasized good writing skills through writing assignments which also tested critical thinking and depth of understanding. It then struck me that in the US, the gap between science-as-education and science-as-profession was very fluid. One day, I hope to emulate this model in my country.

I consider it a privilege to pursue a doctoral degree here in the US for I have enjoyed the double blessings of collaboration and competition. Collaboration - because working together we can, and already have achieved much more. Competition - because no matter how big the research group may be, the efforts of the individual scientist toiling at his or her bench matters a great deal.

Having the dream of one day answering the question of how to cure neurodegenerative disease, I plan to establish and lead my own neuroscience lab in my country India. And I plan to take back home with me the four most important things in science research that I have learnt here: An egalitarian approach to research, effective communication, and the dual blessings of collaboration and competition. That is how my education in the US will help me achieve my career goals of becoming a well-rounded scientist.

The Girl from [sic] Unknown Place.

Anna Mammedova,Allen CommunityCollege, Turkmenistan-Ashgabat

"Hi, this is my friend Anna, she is from Tork...Terk...Turkey.... Oh no, wait T-u-r-k-m-e-n-i-s-t-a-n???"

Puzzled, my new acquaintances would exchange looks and start asking me for some detailed coordinates of where this mysterious place might be. I don't mind giving small geography lessons every time I meet someone new, since the small country- Turkmenistan is not wide-known. Despite this, I strongly believe that my studying in the United States of America will soon make it different.

I left my homeland when I was 16. Enthusiastic and a little bit frightened I knew it was my only chance to get a higher education. My mother who brought me up on her own, wasn't able to provide me with that education in Turkmenistan. Our only financial income, her monthly salary, was barely enough to maintain our life basic needs. As a result the skyrocketing costs to obtain a college degree was far beyond my reach.

However, I was honored to receive an academic scholarship provided by the USA State Department for the top Turkmen students to come here. This opportunity helped me to realize my dream to study in America as it covered much of my community college cost. The flight that took me 24 hours, 3 countries and 4 airports brought me here in August, 2013. Having learned English for a little longer than a year, I found my first months in the country to be quite challenging. Besides the new culture and people here, I had to face with the lingual barriers and my strong Turkmen accent that always made me feel different from others. As I overcame these burdens, I was able to mature and succeed academically at my current academic institution.

As of now my major field of study will be marketing. This discipline is new and undeveloped business branch in Turkmenistan. With our many goods and services, my people lack skills and strategies to identify potential customer's needs, to create a brand and successfully sell the products. Many merchandisers and businessmen are not competent enough in their knowledge of marketing to be able to collaborate with various media and create promotional campaigns to present their products in the best light.

I see the opposite here in the United States. I understand now that the only way to change marketing in my country and improve a piece of our economy, is for me to complete my education and contribute to the best of my abilities to these business areas back home. Transferring to a four-year university will help equip me with knowledge and experience to shape me into the strong marketing expert. My professionalism will help me to aide marketing in Turkmenistan and help thousands of business owners to sell the products our country is rich of. I would love to promote sales at local and even international levels as what we make could be well accepted abroad.

On a personal note, University degree will clearly expand my mastery of languages (English is my third language), foster my leadership potential and arm me with experience to work in multicultural settings. To do all this and more, I strongly need financial help and support that will assist me with the expenses of completing my eduction. I believe this crucial step will help not only my career growth, but also my country's progress over marketing area. I do have faith that in some years, people will know a lot more about my country as it will be better known on international market for its commodities.

Finally, I will feel proud of my professional contribution when people stop confusing my country with “Tork...Terk... Turkey?” but instead claim “ Yes, Turkmenistan! I know this country and its state products, that are now known worldwide.” In that moments, I will feel that marketing does grow in a place I call home.

A Conduit for Change

Brigitta Jakob, Illinois Wesleyan University, Indonesia

As I flipped through the pages of a financial magazine, my eyes were drawn to a bold title “Indonesia in 5 Years: The Next Superpower Country”. It ignited my curiosity so I read on. It elaborated on how foreign investors had gained confidence in Indonesia’s market development and how the GDP figures showed promising growth. I was excited about such a rosy future for my home country.

It is now 2014, five years later, and to my disappointment the once promising prospect has been gradually crushed by the government itself. There are many examples where regulations and policies were imposed which ended up damaging the culture and economy instead of strengthening it. The decision to join the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area resulted in a flood of low cost Chinese goods with which Indonesian manufactured products couldn’t compete. Another example, Indonesia is blessed with an abundance of natural resources—which could alleviate poverty—but these resources have not been effectively utilized. Additionally, there are also a growing number of corrupt government officials who mismanage their portion of the domestic budget. These monies were earmarked for improving education facilities or developing rural infrastructure but because of greed Indonesia did not benefit. No wonder our once promising advancement has now come to a road block.

I aspire to be an economist skilled at analyzing the complexity of markets (government and industry) and committed to untangling the twisted roads of Indonesian progress. I yearn to incorporate my passion in economics into boosting and spreading the financial potential of this country. Indonesia has long been branded as a developing nation and it is time for us to change the standard to ‘developed country’. Even though the road travelled is going to be long and rocky, I believe that it is achievable as long as we choose the correct approach and exercise a consistent strategy. Nowhere are the problems more evident than in the current, ever changing approach. When the core of a nation’s development is constantly changing direction chaos reigns.

That is why I came all the way from Indonesia to pursue a major in economics. United States is renowned for its excellent academic programs which build toward the good of the individual student and the good of the world. The skills, relationships, and knowledge gained studying in the United States will be an integral part of my growth. I know that I will gain significant understanding about local, national and world economic systems. Ultimately, I believe that I will gain a tremendous amount of knowledge from U.S. advanced economic system, which will also give me an intimate understanding of how a government reacts in times of adversaries and what can be done to maximize resources. This will enable me to help my country apply effective and wise strategies toward lifting up Indonesia from catastrophe.

Studying in the US: Preparing for a Fulfilling Career Path

Caroline Agbonlahor,McNally Smith College of Music, Nigeria

In my home country, Nigeria, the music industry is one of the largest and most profitable. It is mostly male dominated, and even much more male dominated in instrumental music. In reality, there are very few females who focus on being professional instrumentalists; there are more female singers/songwriters/performers than there are female instrumentalists. In the US, there is a larger percent of women in music in general, whether as vocalists or instrumentalists. The music culture and orientation in the US is viewed and practiced from a professional point of view. This is why it isn’t hard to find colleges that are solely music-oriented, where a student who desires to chart a career path in music can bring their natural, raw talents, mixed with some potential, to an environment where they can learn, grow, and develop their talents into ready- made products fit for an ever growing music industry that thrives on excellence as an ingredient for success. This has motivated my decision to come study music performance in the United States.

As a child, I discovered doggedness in my passion for music. I say doggedness because I grew up in an environment where music was viewed more as a hobby, not necessarily a profession. Consequentially, I practiced it as just that: a hobby, writing my own songs from age nine, and picking up the guitar as an adult, for pleasure. Until that doggedness resurfaced, and I landed a part-time employment as a Guitar Tutor to visually impaired children and teenagers at Pacelli School for the Blind and Partially Sighted, in Lagos, Nigeria. From then on, my focus shifted from just wanting to be an excellent performer to being a full-time music/guitar educator, with the goals of imparting music knowledge to little protégés as well as influencing the mindset of females in Nigeria on taking up music as a fulltime profession, specifically as instrumentalists.

In pursuit of a proper music learning environment, where I could meet with other professionals who are far better at their art than I am, I discovered McNally Smith College of Music. The Music Performance curriculum, as well as the available options of electives courses in Music Business and Song Writing and Composition, motivated me to apply for the program.

McNally Smith College of Music has a vision to take the talents of young people through premium classes and trainings, through the combination of general and private lessons, ensembles, jam sessions and live concerts, with the aim of equipping them for the music industry in various fields. This vision resonates with my goals as a musician and much more. Therefore, studying Guitar Performance in the US, I believe, will expose me to a world of possibilities I could only dream of; a world in which I could finally see my passion for music as a viable and profitable profession, when transformed from the level of just being a passion or talent into a real fulfilling career path. I desire to be the best female instrumentalist to come out of Africa, in order to become an inspiration to other females in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, as well as to challenge them to “wo-man” up, stand up, and be counted among those who walked the narrow path of greatness.

Finally, teaching children how to play the guitar is a path I stumbled upon but one that I have chosen as my reality, and I cannot give what I do not have. Hence, the essential need to harness my skills, learn new skills, become a more versatile guitarist, and eventually, an icon that the whole of Africa and the rest of the world will recognize for excellence. And, of course, the bigger picture is to take what I learn in the US and go back home and work with partners to bring the American music college experience to Nigerians, to inspire more women in the industry, while mentoring the next generation of incredible, world-renowned music talents from Nigeria, the giant of Africa.

The Path to Becoming a Citizen of the World

Imtiaz Hasan, Texas Southern University (biology senior), Bangladesh

I come from a hard working middle class family who always believed that hard work will always take you places. My father enrolled me to an English medium school so I can learn more about the world. He told me that I should not only be an ideal citizen for my country but also be a global citizen for the world. I watched American movies and shows in my free time. It seemed like it was a part of my culture. It also made me curious about the world around me. The passion to understand other cultures and people has always driven me to be a better person. My doors to a new opportunity for a better education and living opened up when I got honors scholarship for Texas Southern University. It shaped my belief on global service, cultural diversity and leadership.

Texas Southern University opened my eyes up to a whole new culture. It had a mix of such diversity that really made me feel inspired. As a HBCU, it was growing in diversity. I felt a connection with everyone I met. I soon pledged for Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity Incorporated, which allowed me to provide service to the community. It always struck me how people suffer not only in third world countries, but also in America. Whenever I saw that look of desperation in needy people’s faces, it inspired me even more to do something for everyone. I started to become more active in my campus. I was appointed cultural awareness chair for my fraternity, tiger ambassador and also worked as a peer mentor. This gave me an opportunity to develop leadership skills and work with a diversity of people. In my sophomore year, I was awarded a certificate of congressional recognition by Sheila Jackson Lee and soon after I received a full scholarship to study abroad with Semester

At Sea. This gave me an opportunity to take college classes on a ship and travel to 13 different countries and became the first Bengali to board the MV explorer.

When I was volunteering at local slums in Bangladesh, I never imagined I would be doing the same at houston in USA, city of hope in Ghana, habitat for humanity in South Africa, Mother Teresa orphanage in India and so much more. Studying abroad in USA had given me a platform to perform at a higher level and earn an opportunity to perform at a global level with Semester at sea. The shipboard community and my University have given me the opportunity to network with many gifted and diverse individuals. Studying in the USA had already fulfilled a part of my career goal. One of my goals was to be an example for many minority and international students to show where hard work can take you. Now that I reflect on my experiences, I realize that my dreams are slowly starting to become a reality. 4 years ago, I only read about the world and thought I knew everything. But now after all my experiences, I feel that I have so much more to learn. Ubuntu is a South African word that means human connection. Despite our cultural differences, I realized that human beings everywhere share a special bond. As my career goal, I want to become a doctor not only for Bangladesh or US, but for the World.

Achieving My Career Goals by Studying in the United States

Jamuna Jayashri Mahalingam, University of Southern California, India

The “Indian Medical Electronics Industry-Outlook 2020”of FICCI states that the Indian healthcare industry’s current market size is USD 50 billion and it has grown at an impressive average rate of 17% for past couple of years. In spite of providing world class health facilities, there is a section of the population that struggles to meet basic healthcare needs. Hence, pursuing a career in the field of biomedical engineering by applying my knowledge to find solutions by means of original research is my career goal. USA being at the forefront of technological innovation provides tremendous scope both for higher learning and application of new technology. Hence it is crucial that I be amidst a challenging and competitive environment, which would ensure the realization of my ambition.

My senior project, in the field of medical image processing, was to implement an algorithm for early detection of glaucoma. This spurred my interest and eventually came to the US for graduate school to take my passion to next level and pursue my master’s degree in biomedical engineering.

I am a research assistant in the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (Natasha Lepore CIBORG Group) and have been working there since the beginning of summer 2013. The lab specializes in mathematical and numerical methods to study brain anatomy through structural and diffusion MRI. The methods are also applied to different neurological disorders, and to understand normal brain development. I have been working on a project to look at the anatomy of the thalamus, a structure involved in consciousness, in patients with disorders of consciousness. My latest results have been accepted as two different SPIE conference papers. I will continue my research work in

budding researcher in training in me. I have had the opportunity to work with our collaborators in Colombia, which has prepared me to work in a multi-cultural and diverse environment. Below is a picture of me presenting my results at the local conference at the University of Southern California last summer.

I have also been selected as a 2014 Society of Women Engineers (SWE) poster competition finalist and have received a complementary collegiate registration, one ticket to Celebrate SWE!, and up to $250 in travel funds.

To educate myself on the nuts and bolts of the biomedical industry, I took up various internship positions. My previous internship with the USC Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program gave me insights on the knowhow to tailor potential academic research for commercialization. Currently I intern at SIMnext situated in the University of Illinois Research Park; working alongside the OSF Healthcare System based in Peoria, IL; researching on textile based wearables for healthcare.

My goal is to do a PhD in BME and be a full time researcher. I want to be involved in more ready-to-translate-to-real-world problems research. My research work and graduate studies in the US have helped give shape to my ambition of applying my knowledge and be a part of technology- whose principle applications are in lifesaving medical treatments for developing countries in particular- which is my motivation, and have been striving since my undergraduate one step at a time through the required training and practical application of skills conducively.

Studying in the United States

Mr. B, D College, Tanzania

Growing up in a developing country with a deprived education system I realized that studying in the United States which has an outstanding education system will help me achieve my career goals in many ways. I am majoring in Business Administration at D. College and I will be graduating on May 2014. I was motivated to major in this field so I could support my mother develop and manage her small retail businesses back at home in Tanzania, Africa. At D. College I have acquired most of the skills, knowledge and experience that I need to successfully run and develop a business for example communication, leadership and enterprising skills.

In January 2008, my mother started a business in Tanzania. One of the shops specialized in selling electronics, while the other shop was a boutique. She worked so hard to make sure her businesses were successful as she had hoped. She traveled a lot that year going to countries across Asia to buy merchandise. I truly appreciated her determination and I made her a promise to major in Business so I could be partners with her.

Fortunately, two years later I came to the United States and majored in Business Administration something that made her really blissful. However, the biggest mistake she had committed was hiring her siblings (3 sister and 2 brothers) to work for her in the shops. My mother's little experience in the field of business made her not realize that her siblings were pocketing most of the profits the shops earned. As days and weeks passed by, she had spent more money buying merchandise than the profits she made. Sadly, by the time she had realized that her siblings were pocketing most of the money in 2010, she was bankrupt. With no way to run the businesses, my mother closed up both shops. However, eight months later, she had saved up enough money to reopen up both businesses. She decided to hire new staff (Strangers not her siblings this time). From then her business ran smoothly and in August 2011 I came to the U.S and majored in Business Administration with the courage that I will achieve my degree in the field and help my mother manage, improve and expand her business.

Since you cannot gain knowledge only in the classroom, I will be doing my internship this fall 2014 in the promotions department in a company. This internship will help me gain good communication skills and skills in branding and promoting a business which I will certainly need to successfully run my mother’s business. Furthermore, taking classes at D. College for example Marketing classes have given me enterprising and organizational skills and the two accounting classes I took will help me manage the financial part of the business which is important. I would not have gained all these skills if it wasn’t for the great education system of the United States, therefore I am thankful and glad that I am studying in the United States.

Stand Up for Yourself

Maria Chebanova, BellevueCollege, Russian Federation

Being raised in the Far East of the Russian Federation, I had always dreamt to travel all over the world. When you are coming from the small town and you live with your uncle’s family in one bedroom apartment, dream is the thing that warms you up at night during cold Russian winter.

There are bad and good sides of any culture, especially if you look from different perspective. For me, the reality of sexism was brought up by watching television. From my childhood I was wondering why there is no female politicians in representing Russian government on news.

Moreover, when I asked my mom why there are males everywhere when it comes to politics, she was pretty clear that women are not “political type of people”.

I graduated from high school as the best student and got into a lot of Universities in Russia; however, by that time I was realizing that I wanted to change something about gender inequality in Russian culture. I was sick and mad of how men in general treated me in my life: those signs at any higher educational institution when I mentioned that I wanted to be an engineer; those intimidated faces when I spoke up in front of large audiences; those bored eyes when I was trying to convince people that it is not normal to limit more than a half of country population in opportunities and basic respect. Once when I was advocating for feminism nearby my high school, and the fact that all my teachers was putting me down for that was killing me. All of men in my life treated me differently because of my gender. Everyone, but my dad: he was the one who always believed in myself, the one who kept saying that I could change the world, and the one who made my dream come true. He supported my idea to study in United States and learn more about gender equality.

Here, in Seattle, WA, I learned so much about the issue that bothered me for my entire life: I had been to such conferences as National Conference of College Women Leaders, CUSP academy, and many, many conferences where I realized how important to stand up for your rights, especially if you are a woman.

Majoring in engineering and business I can totally see that there is a difference between cultural attitude to women in STEM majors in US and Russia; however, not a big difference.

Nevertheless, I am taking actions to change that. I am proud of being a women, and I am proud of being of women in science. I know that my education will value everywhere because US has one of the best educational systems where everybody’s voice is herd. However, more importantly, I am educated about women rights, and I think it will help me to achieve my career goals everywhere. Through empowering others I can make change not only in my life, but I start changing world attitude about feminism and women rights in general.

It was not normal to be a feminist and activist in Russia, but I knew I was not satisfied with being silent and follow the path of the crowd. I wanted a change, and I wanted to change.

America helped me both ways: I am current Vice President of Student Affairs and Pluralism at Bellevue College, and I am a person who can speak up and stand out for its students.

Homelessness: an Issue of Laziness or Flawed, Rotten Politics?

Maria Trosic, Hunter College, Sweden/Bosnia

Coming from a country as Sweden, living, studying and experiencing the United States has been nothing but beneficial for me and for my academic career. I grew up in Sweden: a country where, as an immigrant child from the war torn former Yugoslavia, I felt excluded for most of my childhood and adolescent years. The social exclusion and racism that I experienced in Northern Europe drove me to start a new life for myself in a country where I had never been before, but where I was certain I was going to grow and achieve success. However, despite how bad the racism and segregation was during my years in Sweden: living and studying in the U.S, with a background from Europe has made me passionate about dedicating my future career to fighting for each persons human rights. I took my rights as a child to quality education, housing and food – for granted when I lived in Sweden. Well, not anymore. When I first moved to Washington, D.C at the age of 19, I started volunteering as a tutor for children in Washington's poorest neighborhoods, and I realized I had to work directly with vulnerable children and youth. Shortly thereafter, I moved to New York and started at Borough of Manhattan Community College, where I self designed my own major: "Social and political structures in shaping Children and youth at risk". I have been a very dedicated child and youth volunteer at a homeless shelter in Jamaica, Queens for the past three years. In Jamaica I realized that the social workers are not able to do their jobs because of the flawed policies that get in their way. How can we expect them to do their job in, let's say, helping homeless families find a decent home, when a majority of homeless people in today's America are employed? The issue of homelessness and poverty does not lay in ‘laziness’; it lies in our broken public policies. Every mother that I know at Jamaica is employed - the issue cannot simply be limited to unemployment, the issue must also be regarded as minimum wage and housing affordability related one. We are expecting our underpaid and overworked social workers to fix problems that are, in actuality, intrinsically flawed public policies. I have been at Jamaica Family Shelter for three years and all of the children, parents and their grandparents know me. I have watched those children grow up there. Watching them grow in such a atrocious environment has enabled me to see them grow up with violence, with B graded food, without covers in one of the worst winters New York City has ever seen, and I have watched many of them take their first steps across those filthy shelter floors. I have had a ten-year-old boy cry in my arms, screaming that all he wants to do is to die. That same ten-year-old boy is turning thirteen this summer and I have had to sit back, powerless, and watch childhood poverty and flawed public policies utterly destroy him. And it has made me indignant. All of these experiences have ultimately contributed to my desire to pursue a career in policy making with focus on affordable housing, I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life fighting for change, ending poverty and homelessness, as we know it. My dedication and motivation does not merely derive from literature, statistics and other academia; my main motivation stems from wiping tears, caused by high concentrated poverty off of small children's faces, children that I have come to know, love and adore. This is undoubtedly a motivation that almost guarantees my success in advocating for social justice, a motivation that I might not have encountered, had it not been for my studies in the U.S.


Applying My Experience in Fostering Sustainable Agriculture in the Republic of Kalmykia

Nastasya Tsultsumova, College of Saint Elizabeth (NJ), Russia

Dreaming big is what sets a change-maker apart from the crowd. I have always been dreaming big, trying to set the bar as high as possible. Sometimes, my aspirations seemed ridiculous for the people around me, but I kept on dreaming, moving, and doing everything possible that could bring me closer to my goal. This goal was to study in the United States. However, the project was extremely difficult to implement for somebody coming from provincial Kalmykia. Kalmykia is an ethnic republic in Southwestern Russia with the population just a little over 180,000 people. The republic is the home for the Kalmyks, a Western Mongolian ethnic group. To get an idea of the life in Kalmykia it is important to note that the majority of the population there are senior citizens and children. Why? Because, the people of working age left to go elsewhere in search of job opportunities. One of the major problems is that Kalmykia is unindustrialized. The federal government is not interested in investing in the region, which creates unemployment, massive outflow of workers and students, brain drain, and languishing of the republic as a whole. The devastation is vividly reflected in the prosperity ranking among the Russian states where Kalmykia is the second from the bottom with the standards of life comparable to the “third world”. So coming from a place where education abroad is as unattainable as traveling to outer space, the most I could aim for is to study at a university in Moscow. However, I decided to exceed the societal expectation and prove that studying in America is accessible for everybody, even for someone from such a remote place. The college application process was full of challenges for me, such as the lack of educational resources, no access to the internet at home, no role models who could share their experience, no native-English speakers, and no testing centers in the republic. However, I did not give up, and after overcoming all these obstacles, I received a coveted acceptance letter from the College of Saint Elizabeth (NJ), the school where I am currently studying.

My future career goal is to come back to Kalmykia and revive the region with the help of the bright and progressive people there. I am majoring in Business Administration, and the knowledge that I received in Management, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, and Finance will be an asset in making a difference in Kalmykia. While studying in the US, I was able to intern at startups and international companies. Also, thanks to the close proximity of my college to New York City, I was able to network with the consultants, entrepreneurs, analysts, and investors from Wall Street which allowed me to get international connections that are valuable when starting an enterprise. At the College of Saint Elizabeth I was empowered to go for everything I dream of and turn the vision into reality.

Kalmykia is traditionally an agricultural state, specializing in livestock. I want to raise capital, build a modern facility, and start a large Kalmykia-based company that would provide Southwestern Russia (and possibly even Eastern Europe) with meat, dairy and wool products. This will foster creation of new jobs in the state, will boost the number of cattle, and will keep the human resources at home. Historically, Kalmyks were skillful herders, and turning a traditional occupation into a modernized industry is a great prospect for the sustainable development. It is this mission that I want to take upon myself. I was born and raised in Kalmykia, and I want to pay back my community by pulling it out of the state of the total economic stagnation it’s currently in. Within 20 years I want to see Kalmykia as a leading meat, dairy and wool producer in Eastern Europe, and have the Kalmyk people returning back to their then-prosperous homeland.

If I hadn’t studied in America, I would not have dared to have such ambitious plans for the future. Here I got the famous “You Can Do It!” mindset, and gained confidence and concern for the social issues. Moreover, the academic and practical sides of my business education taught me how to develop a solid business plan and make it work. Realizing that my knowledge in entrepreneurship and my network of professionals can significantly improve the lives of my fellow Kalmyks is as an inexhaustible fountain of inspiration for me. I am grateful for the opportunity to be studying in the United States, and especially for gaining that American spirit which enables me to accomplish anything I can think of if I work hard for it.


Leading Australian Jazz Vocalist and Educator

Natalie Dietz, New England Conservatory,  Australia

My name is Natalie Dietz, I am a leading young Australian jazz vocalist and educator. I have been presented with a life-changing opportunity to attend the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts. I was one of three vocalists selected internationally to undertake the specialized master's degree and am seeking philanthropic assistance in order to finance the opportunity. Due to exceptional skill level I was awarded a Merit Scholarship to New England Conservatory, a top ranking international conservatory.

As a performing artist I am inspired to blend and create textures with the voice within an ensemble, using wordless melodies and lyrics. I have become known as a skilled and distinguished innovator who pushes boundaries in my field. I am also a leading educator who lectures at the Australian Institute of Music university, and plan to bring back resources from New England Conservatory to teach and mentor emerging Australian talent.

As one of Australia’s leading jazz artists and educators I strongly feel that this is the next necessary step to propel my skill level from that of an emerging artist into an international level of professional practice. The Given the highly selective nature of the jazz vocal masters program at New England Conservatory the opportunity for artistic growth would be immeasurable. The world’s finest conservatories for jazz music study are all located in the United States, the origin of jazz music.

In Australia academic resources for the field of contemporary jazz voice are limited, with a far broader opportunity for academic growth available in the United States at a small number of specialized and elite music universities such as New England Conservatory. Both academic and library resources will be vast at NEC enabling me to develop in the area of contemporary jazz voice, an area in music where Australian resources are limited. The opportunity to expand my knowledge with access to the world’s best resources in my field would assist me in my endeavours to pave new paths and standards as a leading Australian jazz performer, innovator and educator.

I plan to return to Australia following the completion of my masters degree and to continue as an educator on a university level with these newly obtained resources and research to share a more cutting edge, up to date approach to teaching which will refer to my research. My aim as an educator is to contextualise jazz voice in the present day for developing vocalists and composers and to address the large void that exists between the art of traditional vocal jazz and contemporary vocal jazz education. I aim to educate jazz vocalists in both realms, as there are presently no Australian jazz vocal educators teaching with a deep understanding of the multi-faceted genre of contemporary jazz voice and its implementation into the existing jazz vocal idiom.

For more information about me, please visit

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Kind Regards, Natalie Dietz

Swimming Against the Current of Monotony

Paulina Villarreal Flores, University of Cincinnati Coahuila, Mexico

"It's a girl", said the gynecologist as he held the tiny piece of miracle prematurely born after an entire day of struggle. My mother could not speak a word, since tears flooded her eyes and an outrageous knot stalwartly held her feelings in her throat. She always wished for a girl. The moment the Dr. saw her cry, my entire life flashed through his eyes: Kindergarten, elementary and high school. First love happens right after prom, and marriage follows early in life just like it happened so many times before in the family. Attends a small college in a nearby city, and soon after gets hired at a local company with a lower than average salary. Next, own first child is born and second pregnancy happens a few months later. Promotion to a medium company takes place after a decade of hard work, and retirement at 65 to enjoy what's left of life. Likely dies of a common sickness in her sleep. The end. Could anyone blame him for condemning me to such flatness the second I was born? Not really, since he knew exactly what it meant to be born a female in a small town in northern Mexico, where the peak of a girl's life is her wedding day.

Although most of my family followed this pattern, I lived my early years aspiring something completely different. Monotony has always been my biggest fear, since it leads to boredom, and boredom leads to nothing. An imaginary impression of a river with a strong current carrying most people with it as it flows has been the perfect picture of what life can be like in the small town I was born in. As I peak into this fantasy image, I can see that most people don't even try to swim against the current; Seemingly, they just let the flow decide their lives as their bodies are being carried through the river. I always wanted to swim against this current of dreariness, and moving to the United States to pursue my music studies was the first step to achieve it. Mexico offers a wide variety of musical culture, but when it comes to classical music and opera, opportunities in this country are almost nonexistent. If I wanted to dedicate my life to classical music, I had no choice but to look for an education in a foreign country. And so I did.

I began my undergraduate studies in Music performance and industries in the United States when I turned 19. My dream as a freshman was to become a recognized opera singer in the country, since the world was probably too much to hope for. After four years of dedication, perseverance, practice, preparation, two part- time jobs and a handful of people trying to convince me to choose a different major, the University of Cincinnati offered me a scholarship to pursue a Master's degree in Opera performance, and a business foundations graduate certificate. By then, the roots of my ambitions had taken a tight grip on the ground, and I learnt to differentiate between a dream and a career goal. A dream is just an ideal, but a career goal is the planning to achieving it, or in other words, "building the ladder" to get there.

Pursuing my passion, studies and career in the United States has prepared me for the music industry in uncountable ways. Not only has my time here given me the necessary preparation to perform anywhere; it has also shaped my character, work habits, organizational and musicianship skills. I am mostly grateful that my preparation altered the gynecologist’s visions of a life full of monotony, as the tools I have acquired have equipped me to swim against any current, and practically achieve any goal I set my mind to. My experience in this country has not only turned my dreams into career goals, it also offered these goals a chance to evolve, and become larger with every passing day. I also realized that your place of birth doesn't convict you to a life of dullness, what sentences you to it is to aspire, and let that aspiration rest in the stage of a dream, without building your own ladder to success.

Thanks to my time, experience and education in the United States, I dare to dream bigger, and build larger. The sky is NOT the limit. Infinity lies beyond that.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars”.

~Les Brown


You Can

Polina Panicharova, FloridaState University, Bulgaria

As I look around me, I see how bad the world we live in needs change. Just a year ago my favorite place on earth was Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the Independence square of Kiev, Ukraine. I have grown up in Bulgaria in a very diverse family with roots from Israel, Russia, and Ukraine. Three of the countries that define me are under attack. My heart is aching thinking about all the lives that have been taken. Maidan Nezalezhnosti will never be the same for me. Now it is a place covered in the blood of those who fought for freedom from corruption. I am a child of another country where corruption was the only way to be successful. Correction, there have been two ways to be successful in Bulgaria: corruption or leaving home. To make the decision to move to the other side of the world, to a place where I don’t know anybody, a place so far that I can’t even see the moon at the same time as my family, to make such a decision takes strength that not everybody has. Thousands of miles away from everything I’ve known for my whole life. Some people call me a betrayer. Many accuse me of taking the easier path by leaving my country and going to a place where everything is in order. Many don’t understand that America can give a lot of opportunities, but nothing here can make up for my family that is so far away. However, the U.S. had something very important that my country couldn’t give me. The U.S. believed in me. I will never forget my calculus professor’s words, “Polina, you’re talented. Don’t underestimate yourself. You have a talent. I believe in you.” Growing up in a developing country where devaluation of work has been going on for decades can really oppress a young person’s spirit and ambition. I am a child of a country where teachers are so downtrodden that most of them would crush your dreams simply because their spirits had been crushed long ago. I was always a very perceptive child, easily influenced. That is an unfortunate trait to have growing up in a country like Bulgaria. People are so beaten down by

poverty and corruption with no way out that they make you grow up hopeless. Nobody can see your potential unless you are over the top. If you’re a little above the average, you are not worth enough. That’s how I’ve grown up to believe to be, not worth enough. I came to the US with my beaten mind that believed I was not worth enough. But I carried something with me that was the whole reason why I left on the first place, I carried my dreams. Dreams to inspire children, give people hope, and make bright future for others become a reality. It took only one person to make me believe in myself and change my life. I want to be that person one day, the person who will change the lives of many others. Beethoven once said, “Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the Divine.” If it weren’t for our educators, we wouldn’t be able to acquire knowledge. Education is much more than a degree, it defines me as a person; it is a key that can open many doors in life. My passion is math and my purpose is to share it with others. I dream of becoming a mathematics professor who will tell her students that they can, inspire them, make them passionate about the subject, and tell them that nothing can stop them from achieving their dreams. I want to be the inspiration to many generations ahead. I want to influence young people to do the right thing and seek world peace. I don’t want to just have a career; I want my career to change other peoples’ lives in a positive direction. I believe that education in the U.S. can make my dreams come true and by that I will be able to be the person to pay it forward. We need education desperately nowadays. We need intelligent people who will be able to resolve conflicts with diplomacy, not war. Coming to the U.S.A. was the best decision I have made in my life. The American education has given me a lot and I will need a lifetime to give back to it. Our world is in need of bright and educated young people. Let me be the person to pay it forward by educating and inspiring generations, so they bring change in our world.

Aiva Madziva ava Mazambuko

Rutendo Jokomo, Johns Hopkins University, Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe there is a saying, aiva madzvia ava mazambuko, which literally means we used to see rivers, now we see bridges. This saying came alive to me when I moved to the United States. My experience here is already starting to build bridges for me. Before I came here, my dreams for the future seemed so out of reach; yet now I feel several steps closer to achieving my goals.

A great advantage of a U.S. education is the Liberal Arts curriculum which opens so many doors. In my home country students are required to pick a specialty track by their third year of high school. Such a curriculum could limit someone’s skill set. I for one had limited versatility and flexibility. Attending Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas changed that. The liberal arts curriculum expanded my academic horizons and introduced me to interests that had been outside my radar. For example, after taking political science and humanity classes, I discovered my passion in those fields. This led me to community outreach projects that allowed me to practice my existing love for natural science and my new-found passions. I became involved in biology education outreach programs for children in underserved schools; and later organized Build A Better You: a health conference for college students. Although I had always been interested in medicine, these experiences uncovered my untapped love for public health as well. They also helped me acquire useful skills that are not usually developed in the world of natural science. In a nutshell, working in different disciplines gave me an edge in my application to medical and public health schools. Without coming to the U.S., I never would have realized the importance of branching out academically and trying something new.

A major ‘river’ I face as I work towards my career goal is figuring out how to pay for my education. At first, I knew there were several ways to get funding – I had heard about schools that offer merit and/or need based scholarships – yet I had no idea how to tap into those resources. My school’s financial aid office and various scholarship websites became the ‘bridge’ that connected me to funding opportunities specifically tailored for me. In addition to obtaining loans and scholarships, I was enrolled in a work-study program. This program allowed me to work on-campus and make some extra money for living expenses. While I appreciate the financial boost this gave me, the professional experience I gained is the highlight of this program. Before college, I had never worked a day in my life; people in my home country just don’t work in high school (or in college for that matter). So coming here gave me a chance to practice applying for a job; interviewing for that job; and then actually working when I got the job. I was lucky to land a job in my field. Working for the campus nurse gave me clinical experience and allowed me to interact with new international students, and better understand the problems we face when navigating a new health system. Without these useful resources, I would be much farther from reaching my career goals. Finally, studying in the U.S. is a great opportunity to make global connections and lasting friendships. The U.S. attracts students and scholars of various academic and cultural backgrounds. As I prepare to start a Master of Health Science program this fall, I am glad to be continuing my education in the U.S. I will have the opportunity to interact with students and faculty from all walks of life. Being an international student in the U.S. strategically places me in a position to learn more about the world, as well as represent my home country. It is my chance to build a strong network, which is essential to a successful career.

As I continue my studies, I am learning how to someday build bridges between medical problems and their solutions. My long-term goal is to work for the World Health Organization and build bridges between medical communities across the world. Being here now prepares me well for that future. A U.S. education affords me many professional, financial and social opportunities which will propel me further towards my desired future. My education here is bridging the gap between my dream and its reality.

Indeed, aiva madziva ava mazambuko!


Possibility Expansion


Studying abroad has been one of my dreams for a long time. In the beginning of 2012, I started my academic career at Hawaii Community College. Throughout my college life, I met many people and learned a variety of things in English. Then, I was able to figure out how I wanted to contribute to different societies; I want to be a copywriter in my future. I believe there are many aspects that help to achieve my career goals in the United States.

The study abroad experience allows me to know many different ways of thinking for a variety of situations. As America is called the “Melting pot of cultures,” there are many different ways of thinking for the same issue; which is usually affected by one’s own culture. Since Japan is an island country, I didn’t have a chance to connect with people from other cultures and nationalities. By studying with many people from various backgrounds in the U.S., I could share different points of views with them. Having a better idea of many people’s perspectives brings a very positive effect to my career goals; it expands the range of my expressions.

In gaining numerous views, I am able to have a more global vision towards my future. To gather even more information, I participated in many volunteer programs to gain leadership and communication skills. In particular, beach cleaning volunteer work showed me different aspects of the 2011 earthquake off the pacific of Tohoku; it brought me new perspectives to the problem. Before I saw the garbage on the beach, the disaster was just about the Japanese for me. I was shocked when I heard the garbage from Japan had reached Hawaii. I recognized the reality of the world and learned a problem is not just about a country and a moment. Volunteer experience made me think about how I am a citizen of the world, not my country. It effected my decision making by adding responsibly and depth to my words.

Lastly, studying in America nurtured my persistence and patience for holding steady to

my goals. Studying in the United States is a challenging aspect of my academic life. Since I had a language barrier, everything that happened in class required me to spend much time and effort analyzing it. However, I was able to graduate from Hawaii Community College with the confidence and will to take on any challenge. Furthermore, with my awards for volunteering, group work, and English skills, I believe that I am now very capable of reaching the future I want. Above all, studying in the United States supports me in numerous ways for achieving my future goals: having a better idea of people’s thoughts, global vision, and the development my skills. Every opportunity in America brings me to a new sense of being a member of society and a step closer to realizing my dreams.


Unite the Globe with Education

Shivani Handa, University of Tampa, India

From my early childhood, I am fascinated by innovation and technology. It amazes me how fast the world around us is transforming owing to technology. I remember the day when our entire village prayed at the installation of the first solitary public telephone. I desire to bring such "transformative innovation" to the "masses". It was central to my decision to pursue studies from USA.

It has not come easy for me. Google search gives over 50 million results on "challenges of women in India". I can sum it all to one – Education! It is our conservative traditions that discourage women from pursuing higher education and being career-oriented. When I first encountered this discrimination, I was not upset or disappointed. I was determined that I will not let these conservative ideas come between me and my goals for higher education and success. I faced constant nagging and occasional harassment throughout my undergraduate studies. I ranked 1 among 120 students throughout my undergraduate education and then joined India’s leading information technology company – Wipro Technologies. While working at Wipro Technologies, I took advantage of an opportunity to simultaneously earn a master’s degree in Software Engineering. Despite having no background in computer science, I finished my M.S. in Software Engineering with flying colors from one of the top ten institutes in India, Birla Institute of Technology (BITS, Pilani). My determination to learn and my passion for technology bridged every gap between me and my fellow classmates who had strong background in computer science.

Working for 3 of the best IT firms for last 8 years, I have developed deep technical expertise and learned about "what" of innovation. Now I am pursuing the challenge to learn the "how" of bringing innovation to life. This pursuit would require me to step in to a new challenge. I will have to develop a strong in- depth understanding of business strategies and leadership skills in the IT industry. Henceforth my short- term goals include gaining experience in a wider sphere of business and getting a deeper understanding of global markets. In the next 5-10 years, I want to develop an expertise in collaborating with people, learn marketing strategy, legal and financial aspects in order to have a stable software company which will provide software solutions as well as potential services to different companies across the globe. This will eventually help me move to a specialized management domain where I can deconstruct complex business problems, seed ideas and paradigm shifts to deliver effective solutions.

I look at USA as an important springboard to achieve my short-term goals which would eventually culminate into my long-term objective. After talking with various colleagues and friends and doing some internal research, I am convinced that studying in USA is the next imperative step to move towards my career goal of becoming a successful entrepreneur. I have always been fascinated by the kind of independence women enjoy in USA. It will surely be a turning point to my career and it will happen eventually because I want to bring the world together.

I am convinced that studying in USA will provide me with an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of various facets of global environment that facilitates action based learning through interaction with a diverse set of students. What excites me most about the USA is equality that is given to male and female students with no bias. Other compelling reasons for wanting to pursue studies in the United States are: rich portfolio of courses; a strong alumni network offering a chance to interact with and gain knowledge from the experiences of industry veterans; a chance to make lifelong friends among a large and diverse student body.

Although I am a software engineer by training, I also have a keen interest in creative pursuits. I am fond of dramatics and am an amateur poet, with some of my poems published in magazines. I also have a passion for learning different foreign languages; I have intermediate knowledge of French and German while being fluent in Hindi, Punjabi and English. With the above mentioned set of experiences, I would be able to contribute and get recognition for the same in USA only and help me strengthen both professional and academic backgrounds and help me develop a self confidence to face this world boldly.



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