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MasterCard Foundation Scholars Win Essay Contest - Featured in MSU Alumni Magazine

Published: Monday, 13 Feb 2017
Author: The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program
Department: Office of the Dean

Scholar Talitha Pam (left) smiles for the camera with MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon (right) in front of black curtain as a backdrop

Two of Michigan State University's MasterCard Foundation Scholars won The Office for International Students and Scholars' (OISS) annual International Essay Contest. The essay contest began in 2004 with the goal of building "greater cross-cultural understanding and [learning] from the experiences of international students" whose time living outside of their own culture has led to powerful insights and inspiring stories.

2016's International Essay Contest topic, In my Shoes..., asked students to write about their experiences adjusting to the culture shock of living in the United States – specifically Michigan – and new situations that arose for them upon moving here. Talitha Pam (first-year master's student, community sustainability) took the top prize while Benjamin Eshiwani (freshman, economics) achieved third place and Carly Gyapong-Ankamah (freshman, Premed) and Deiv Rakojoana (freshman, actuarial science) received honorable mentions.

Through her win, Talitha was recognized at the 2017 Excellence in Diversity Awards, an award program that strives to, "recognize and reward the efforts of MSU faculty, staff, and students to create and support an environment where diversity and inclusion are valued." Talitha has also been featured in the Winter 2017 MSU Alumni Magazine, where you can read her essay in its entirety. We reached out to Talitha Pam to hear her thoughts on First Place Win.

Question: What was your reaction to finding out you won?
Answer: I was really excited and happy. I write primarily to express myself so when I found out that my 'random' ramblings had won, I was ecstatic!

Question: What inspired you to write your essay for the contest?
Answer: I have always loved reading and writing. When I saw the flyer the topic was interesting and I decided to write. I had already noticed so many differences between the two cultures and was eager to document them.

Question: Do you have any advice for your fellow scholars?
Answer: Find what makes you happy and do it! Make sure that you use the gifts and abilities that you have. Let us make sure that we change the narrative that comes out from our continent by doing those things that exemplify that we are colorful and creative.

This is the third year that one of MSU's MasterCard Foundation Scholars has won OISS's International Essay Contest. You can read the 2015 winning essay from Hafsa Shariff Abass, Living my Dream, here on the MSUMCFScholars blog, and the 2013 second place essay from Chiwimbo Gwenambira, A Wonderful Home, Far Away From Home," here on OISS's website.  In her essay, Hafsa expressed that "Studying at MSU has allowed me to have an even greater appreciation of the world's cultural diversity and it has given me the platform to be an ambassador of my mother land." Our Scholars have been utilizing their unique opportunity here at MSU to gain and spread knowledge of our culturally diverse world in order to make it a warmer, and more welcoming place for all people.

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