Essay writing skills earn international acclaim

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Essay writing skills earn international acclaim

An essay about abolishing the minimum wage has earned ACG Parnell College student Hongchao Fei (Sezarya) global recognition. 
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Sezarya Fei with ACG Parnell College International Dean Nikki Rākete

An essay about abolishing the minimum wage has earned ACG Parnell College student Hongchao Fei (Sezarya) global recognition. 

The high-achieving 17-year-old has just been shortlisted in the prestigious John Locke Institute Global Essay Competition, an online writing competition that drew over 4000 entries from 101 different countries this year.

Vying for recognition, scholarships and even an honorary John Locke Institute Junior Fellowship, participants chose from a range of topics across various subject areas. And giving students the chance to have their work assessed by experts, all essay prizes are judged by senior academics from the University of Oxford.

“I picked an economics topic discussing whether or not countries should abolish the minimum wage. Economics is one of my favourite subjects, and it’s something we’ve studied in class before. I’m more comfortable writing about something I am familiar with,” says Sezarya.

The John Locke Institute competition is particularly well regarded in America. So, with her sights set on studying mathematics and economics at university next year, Sezarya hoped her participation would help add weight to her US university application. But she never dreamed she would be shortlisted.

“I was quite shocked at first and happy as well. I received the email on my mother’s birthday, so it was a surprising birthday gift for her!”

Competition winners will be announced on Saturday, 4 September, during a special prizegiving dinner at the University of Oxford, which Sezarya has been officially invited to attend.

“It’s unlikely I’ll be going, though, considering New Zealand’s borders are still not open yet. School and family are more important than a dinner for me!”

If Sezarya does win best essay in her category, she’ll receive a US$2000 scholarship to attend a John Locke Institute programme. Meanwhile, if her essay is recognised as the best overall, she’ll be awarded an honorary John Locke Institute Junior Fellowship and a US$10,000 scholarship.

Originally from China, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) student began studying at ACG Parnell College 18 months ago and quickly made her mark, earning numerous Principal’s Awards. In addition, she received the 2020 Academic Excellence Award (first in IB1 Economics, first in IB1 Physics, first in IB1 English B, and first in IB1 Math Analysis and Approaches HL). This year she’s hoping for a score of 45 (the maximum points possible) in her upcoming IBDP exams.

But it’s not only the academic opportunities Sezarya loves about ACG Parnell College.

“I like how Senior Campus is more flexible, and the teachers are friendly. I also enjoy the extracurricular activities on offer. I tutor kids regularly and sometimes organise group activities and projects with other international students and Kiwi teenagers.”

Sezarya’s top tip for writing an excellent essay?

“Don’t be afraid of making changes. Before submitting my John Locke Institute essay, I worked to improve it every night. Each morning I’d show my economics teacher my new draft, and then I’d go back to the library after school and write another one. My final submission was nothing like my first draft, but that’s how I made progress.”

Shortlisted for the John Locke Institute Global Essay Competition, Shezarya was invited to the University of Oxford's prizegiving dinner