Student Essays Switzerland

» Competition 2018 closed. Next competition starts this autumn. «

Your gateway to St. Gallen, and much more.

Compete for the St. Gallen Wings of Excellence Award and qualify for participation as a «Leader of Tomorrow» in the world’s premier opportunity for intergenerational debates: The St. Gallen Symposium. 

  • Join the debate with 600 top global leaders and decision makers
  • Share your thoughts, ideas and visions with the global elite
  • Expenses for travel, board and lodging covered, travel service provided
  • Meet 200 of the world’s brightest young minds
  • CHF 20,000 prize money shared by the three winners
  • Small and intimate gatherings with world leaders, exclusively for the Leaders of Tomorrow
  • Broad media coverage
  • Become member of a truly unique and strong global community

Qualify with an excellent essay.

We expect a professional, creative and thought-provoking essay. Be bold, unconventional, and distinctive on the competition question, which will be announced in autumn 2018 for the next competition.

The following criteria must be met:

 FormEssay (max. 2,100 words, excl. bibliography & footnotes)
 Deadline1 February 2019, 11:59 p.m. last time zone (UTC-12)
 AnonymityYour name must not be mentioned anywhere in the contribution file
 IndividualityIndividual work expected, no group work allowed. The essay must be written exclusively for this contest. The idea must be the author's own. 
 CitationAll sources must be cited and referred to the respective part in the essay. All contributions will be tested for plagiarism. 

Check your eligibility and prepare documents.

To be eligible, you must fulfil all of the following criteria:

  • Enrolled in a graduate or postgraduate program (master level or higher) in any field of study at a regular university
  • Born in 1989 or later

Make sure you can provide the following documents:

  • Copy of passport or other identification (in English for non-Roman languages)
  • Confirmation of matriculation/enrolment from your university which proves your enrollment in a graduate/postgraduate level programme as of 1 February 2018 (download sample document here)
  • Your contribution file with no indication of your name in the file name, the file metadata or the file itself

Impress the Jury. 

All contributions will be evaluated equally according to a specific set of criteria by an independent jury composed of professors, corporate executives, and entrepreneurs. The authors of the best 100 contributions qualify as Leaders of Tomorrow and will be invited by the ISC to the next St. Gallen Symposium. The very best competitors will have the chance to present and discuss their ideas on the symposium's big stage and also in other conferencing formats. The award will be bestowed to the three best competitors, the selection will be based upon the quality of the essays only. 

Pre-register for the next competition. 

Pre-register for the St. Gallen Wings of Excellence Award 2019 in order to receive regular updates on the next symposium, the start of the competition, the competition question, and any other details helping you to make your application a success.

My Switzerland Experience

By Oelania P., Brooklyn, NY
   hat do you think of when someone mentions goodchocolate, watches, the Alps, cows and cheese? You might think of Switzerland,but these things don't give the whole picture because they say nothing about theSwiss people. Last summer I got a real taste of Swiss life and self-reliance whenI spent six weeks with a host family in the Bernese Alps.

After muchpreparation and many last-minute errands, my departure time arrived. Needless tosay, I was pretty nervous. All I knew about my host family was that it consistedof two parents and three kids: an 18-year-old girl and two boys (15 and 10). Iknew I was staying in a place called Erlenbach in central Switzerland. Although Ihad read about Switzerland, I really didn't know what to expect.

Now,let's back up for a second. I am not an incredibly outgoing person. Like many, Iam loud and energetic around friends, but in class I'm shy and find it hard tospeak up during discussions. Traveling to a foreign country to live withunfamiliar people would be difficult for anyone, and not many choose to engage inthese programs for fear of unfamiliar things and being away from home. For me,homesickness has never been an issue, but I did have reservations. Doubts likeWill my host family like me? What if I hate them? What if I get lost? What if Ican't understand anyone? plagued me. But I put aside my anxiety and boarded theplane for Zurich.

My host father picked me up at the train station anddrove me to Erlenbach, a beautiful mountain village. On my application I had notspecified whether I wanted to live in the country, a city or suburb, but I likethe outdoors. Arriving in Erlenbach, I knew I couldn't have asked for a bettersetting. There was one store, a bakery, a church and something most Swiss townsrequire: a train station.

I couldn't have asked for a better host family,either. They made me feel like part of their family. I don't have brothers orsisters, so living with three kids was quite different, but I genuinely enjoyedhaving siblings.

One of the best things about living with a host familywas not feeling like a tourist. I wasn't traveling around Europe seeing the majorsights; I was immersed in a different culture. I participated in my family'sday-to-day activities, whether helping pick berries in the garden or going tofriends' houses.

While many aspects of the Swiss culture are similar toAmerica's, there are lots of differences, too. The trick for me was to keep anopen mind. Sometimes I caught myself thinking, What are they doing? For example,my host family (and most Swiss) left their windows open - without screens - allthe time. At first I thought, Oh my gosh, all the bugs are going to get in andeat me alive. Why don't they close the windows and turn on the air? But then Irealized there weren't many bugs and I really enjoyed the fresh air. My hostfather also couldn't get over the fact that my family has three people and threecars while they have one car for five people, which is typical. The environmentin Switzerland is a lot cleaner, too.

Probably my biggest shock was thelanguage. I expected the Swiss to speak German, but they spoke a dialect calledSwiss German, which has hardly anything in common with German. I couldn'tunderstand when my host family talked to each other. The Swiss can understandGermans, but Germans cannot understand the Swiss. At times I was very frustratedbecause my three years of German did not help, but I reminded myself I was inSwitzerland, and my bad mood vanished. Anyhow, many people knew and wereextremely willing to speak English.

While there, I participated in aweek-long mountaintop community service project with nine other girls from NewZealand, America, Japan and the Netherlands. There was no plumbing (thus noshowers), but it was worth being dirty. The ten of us helped a shepherd build andwiden trails for his cattle, haul firewood and clear pasture land. It was noteasy, but I enjoyed every minute of my stay in the house above theclouds.

I became more self-reliant as a result of my six-week stay. Myhost parents worked a lot, so if I wanted to go somewhere, I had to take thetrain by myself. Sometimes I would visit Americans I met on the plane to Zurich.I had to trust myself to make the right decisions, and react and respondappropriately. When I landed in Switzerland, I carried my cultural baggage: mybeliefs and ideas shaped by the United States. Conversely, I did not want toenhance any stereotypes Europeans had of Americans.

I found Swiss peoplevery open-minded, much more so than Americans, probably because Switzerland is asmall country permeated by many cultures. The Swiss were very friendly andtreated me kindly; I hope they would say the same about Americans.

Havingan open mind was essential to my successful cultural experience. I didn't want tothink, My way or the highway. Also, being okay with failure was imperative, as Iput myself on the line every day. If I messed up while trying to speak German, sowhat.

Signing up for a cultural exchange was probably the biggest risk Iever took, but it was also the most rewarding. I don't want to say it waslife-altering, but living in Switzerland did change my perspective on the UnitedStates.

I still keep in touch with my host family via email. I hope toreturn and stay with them for a year, which they have encouraged me to do. When Ileft, I promised I would return to Erlenbach. There is more to Switzerland thancheese and watches.

Somewhere by Cecilia W., Gladstone, MI

Warm Days, Hot Nights by Jessa R., Phoenix, AZ

A Universal Attitude by Simanta R., Dartmouth, MA

High School on the Other Side of the World by Deborah K.,
Hanover, MA

Going to Chicago by Jackie R., San Francisco, CA


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