Rice Unconventional Wisdom

Past IEW Essay Competitions

IEW 2012

In 2012, we asked students to submit essays on networking. The essays described professional and cross-cultural networking experiences while embracing the theme of internationalization.

Suman Khatiwada, PhD Student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science from Nepal, shares an excerpt from his 1st place entry for the 2012 IEW Essay Competition.

Over the years, things haven't actually always been smooth. Time and again, you meet an ignorant person who is prejudiced and will dismiss you simply because you are not a native English speaker or do not look like one. Just recently, a guy replied, "Knock it off, Jose!" to my "Hey, What's up? I am..." The funny thing is I am not Jose or Hispanic for that matter, and I don't think I look like one either! Another example that is less hateful but equally severe is when a colleague I was working with in a business project flatly called me stupid in public and maintained that he was not willing to have "such foreigner" in his group. His over-the-top reaction was after I asked him what the word "bellwether" meant. It's easy to hurt your confidence from instances like these, but these incidents happen few and far between numerous positive experiences. I have learnt in the past few years that reaching out to people and connecting does a lot more good than harm. Not being a native English speaker and not knowing a lot about the local culture makes it difficult to network with people, but it is important to overcome the fear of failure, non-acceptance and shame with willingness to learn and immerse yourself in the local culture and to expand professional contacts. Doing this helped me make more friends, both internationals and Americans, and more importantly, has enriched me, helped me have a balanced social-professional life, and made me a better person.

To read Suman's entire essay, please click here.


Stephanie Zou, Undergraduate Student (Sid Richardson College) from China (2nd place)

To read Stephanie's entire essay, please click here.

Serena Lee, PhD Student in the Jones School of Management from South Korea (3rd place)

To read Serena's entire essay, please click here.


IEW 2011

In 2011, we asked students to write essays on acculturation and adjustment in the U.S. as Rice internationals. The essays celebrated the uniqueness that comes with cultural exchange and gave the authors an opportunity to share personal experiences (both bad and good). 

The following two posters were presented at NAFSA's May 27 - June 1, 2012 national conference in Houston about Rice's IEW Essay Contest: Word Cloud (top 100 words by frequency in the 43 essay entries) and Essay Contest Outline.

Mauro Rinaldi, PhD Student in the Department of Biochemistry & Cell Biology from Argentina, reads an excerpt from his 1st place entry for the 2011 IEW Essay Competition.


It was hard for me not to find all of what I was used to very easily in Houston at first, and being a new arrival with few friends to start did not make it easier. But gradually I started understanding how to interact successfully and I am slowly mastering the arts of small talk and keeping my distance. Nowadays, I greet the people I am closest to with a hug, but it is not the same. Literally. Have you ever hugged an American? It is an interesting experience. It starts with getting close, but leaving the window open to escaping the interaction, which gets you off to a rocky start. When you both realize the hug is going to happen, you start opening your arms wide, unsure of how much you will or should exactly bring them together later and dilate the approximation to assess just that, which I call the “slow motion” phase. And finally, you get close at an uncomfortable angle, but without touching, and very awkwardly hug the air around the other person to quickly pull yourself back out to safety again. That kept happening to me until I discovered the sideways hug. You cannot go wrong with the sideways hug; no possibility of face-to-face touching and clear visuals to readily break the embrace. I am not sure if it is the lack of practice or the possibility of lawsuit that render Americans such awkward huggers, but I could get rich giving lessons, although I would rather not risk deportation due to violation of my F1 VISA guidelines.

To read Mauro's entire essay, please click here.  


Olivia Sun, Exchange Student from China (2nd place)

To read Olivia's entire essay, please click here.

Xuaner Zhang, Undergraduate Student (Wiess College) from China (3rd place)

To read Xuaner's entire essay, please click here.