Christmas came early with new iPad as prize for Solafedi E. Paller, Grade 9 at Philippine Science High School – Bicol Region Campus, and Mark Russell D. Caranzo, Grade 12 at Philippine Science High School – Eastern Visayas Campus, after winning the #IEW2020 Essay Writing Contest organized by EducationUSA.

Beating over 350 entries, Paller won first place with her essay titled “Bioluminescence,” and Caranzo ranked third with his essay titled “Strong Enough to be Weak.”

The writing prompt was: (1) How will studying at a U.S. university satisfy your desire for a particular learning, community, and future?; and (2) What’s your superpower?  You just got admitted to your dream U.S. university!  You see international students adapting quickly as if they are shapeshifters, and others have the ability to regenerate after not sleeping because of midterms and late night calls with parents back home in a different time zone.  What is your special talent?

EducationUSA is a global network of more than 400 advising centers supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.


Copy of the Winning Essay

Solafedi E. Paller
First Place, International Education Week 2020 Essay Writing Contest

Have you ever seen a firefly?  The way it radiates its soft little light at night makes me marvel at the simplicity of its beauty.  The firefly is not bothered by the darkness it finds itself in, but rather uses it as an opportunity for letting its light glow.  As it shines, the objects around it are shone upon as well.  This is my superpower – bioluminescence, and it revolves around this one main idea: to shine and to influence.

The first few days of the school year have always been smooth and breezy.  This is when every student is just adjusting to the new, unfamiliar environment and is beginning to find their rhythm for learning.  As an international student within an intellectual community, it is astounding seeing that every student in the university emits a radiant light of their potentials and unique abilities.  As the school year goes on, the subjects become more and more difficult, the topics being discussed are getting harder to comprehend and the projects that are being given are becoming more burdensome.  Juggling with my two hands a stack of workloads, late-night studying, calls with loved ones in a different time zone, and my well-being is such an overwhelming feat.  However, these obligations ignite the flame within me.  According to the wiki, bioluminescence is the production and emission of light of a living organism due to the chemical reactions occurring within it.  Bioluminescence within my being takes place because of these two elements: determination and persistency.  I know well in my heart that I can achieve my goals and ambitions in life, and this knowing makes me stay determined and persistent.  All the hardships and responsibilities that I encounter serve as the stimulant that reacts with these two elements.  Their combustion produces energy deep within me that is expressed outwards as a beam of light – the light that keeps me going.  This light that I emit not only empowers me, but those around me as well.  It inspires others by showing that despite experiencing challenges, one can still choose to stand up strong and keep moving forward.  It helps them believe in themselves and gives them the conviction that they can do whatever they need to do.  Bioluminescence is simply to be the light that you need, but soon you’ll see that you have become the light others needed too.

To glow in the dark means to showcase my radiance in the midst of hardships. It means to carry on, even if all the pressure makes me want to surrender. It means to stand strong, even if success requires years of studying and sleepless nights. It means to remain hopeful, even if the achievement of my dreams seems impossible. And as I journey along my path to success, this radiance within me can inspire others to let their light shine as well. This is my superpower – to enlighten, emblaze, and empower.