Reflective Essays

After you have completed all other requirements for the Certificate of Global Studies (12 hours of globally-focused coursework, second language coursework, credit bearing education abroad, and attending two activities with an international focus in the U.S.), you will write two reflective essays tying the two activities to the other components of the certificate. 

Please note that all essays should be submitted at least one month before you graduate, to allow time for the director to read and offer feedback and for you to complete necessary revisions. You will submit your essays on Canvas; please add yourself to the site by following this link.

The guidelines below are designed to help you shape your writing into a coherent and engaging statement. If you submit an essay but it is not accepted, you can incorporate the suggestions and re-submit it. When both of your essays have been read and accepted, schedule a meeting with the director to review your transcript and make sure that you have met all of the other requirements.


Please title your files as follows: LastName_FirstName_CGS_EssayNumber: for example, Human_Julie_CGS_Essay1, then submit it under the correct assignment (Essay 1 or Essay 2) in PDF format.

Each of the two essays must be between 400-600 words in length (1-2 pages), and each must weave together the following elements (keep in mind that you must tie the elements together in a way that flows well and creates one cohesive essay, rather than disparate sections):

  • One approved internationally-focused activity you have attended in the U.S.
  • Your experiences during your education abroad program
  • Language acquisition and/or comprehension
  • Something you learned in a globally-focused course you have taken

If one or more of these elements is missing, you will be required to revise your essay.

You may wish to consult class notes, your journal, your photographs, and messages you wrote to family and friends as you gather ideas for this essay.  You may decide to focus on a positive experience that has inspired you, such as an insight gained in a class discussion, or an experience you enjoyed abroad; or you may be willing to share a dilemma you faced, or a fundamental question raised by an unexpected confrontation.  Please organize each of your essays in this way:

1.  Open your essay by describing an actual experience, a reaction, an issue or a problem you encountered because you were living, studying, or working in an international context. Please note that this must be factual, not fictional.*

2.  Offer a comparison, or extend that description, by referring to all of the following in the next few paragraphs: the event or activity in which you participated in the U.S.; your education abroad experience; the world language(s) in which you have learned to communicate; and what you have learned in a course.  Remember that this is an opportunity for you to highlight the work you have done as an undergraduate in a way that allows you to tie together the skills, knowledge, and interests you have acquired.

3.  Close your essay by explaining how the experience, reaction, issue or problem was resolved or how it affected you, and by evaluating its impact upon your education, your personal goals, or your worldview.

*Please note: Descriptions of courses, education abroad, and language acquisition in your essay will be compared to those recorded on your transcript.  For this reason, we will be worried about plagiarism if you describe a scene in a courtroom in Mexico even though you were granted credit for working in a clinic in Guatemala.

Students who plan to use this essay as a rough draft of an application for further study, for a graduate fellowship, or for a volunteer position, and who will therefore stress the skills, knowledge, and practical experience they have gained abroad, may want to look at this useful website.

Students who wish instead wish to write a narrative that will simply clarify their own thinking as they identify key stages on a personal journey may want to work with the Writing Center for guidance on how to use the writing process as a tool for personal growth and self-expression.

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