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La Jolla student wins international essay competition with belief that world history aids self-awareness

Joshua Hangartner, who will be a senior next school year at La Jolla Country Day, won an essay competition on world history.
Joshua Hangartner, who will be a senior next school year at La Jolla Country Day School, won an essay competition on world history.
(Carla Seidlinger)

Joshua Hangartner of La Jolla Country Day School captures the 2023 World Historian Essay Award.

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Weaving one’s own history into that of the world might seem daunting for some, but it’s proved to be a winning strategy for La Jolla resident Joshua Hangartner.

Joshua, who will be a senior next school year at La Jolla Country Day School, recently won the 2023 World Historian Essay Award presented by the World History Association for his 1,000-word essay titled “World History: A Vehicle for Understanding Ourselves.”

The World Historian Student Essay Competition is an international contest open to all students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Entrants were asked to address their view of a family story related to a historical event or personal family cultural background, or an issue of personal relevance or specific regional history or knowledge.

Joshua wrote his essay about “human convergence and globalization,” applying it to his own family’s history.

“World History’s immense scope allows students to draw connections between ... seemingly unrelated historical events,” Joshua wrote. “Through contextualization, students grasp broad and pervasive historical themes which help explain the present state of our world and often our own lives.

“In addition to learning about Asian history outside of a Eurocentric framework, World History taught me to observe broader patterns in human migration and societal development.”

The essay “really covers a lot about who I am,” Joshua told the La Jolla Light.

“I’m mixed Korean American and European,” he said. “I always thought it was so bizarre how these different sides of my family were so different and how in just one generation, everything changed and I’m living a completely different life from them.”

In the essay, Joshua wrote, “I cannot help but feel that my multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural background is the ‘result’ of a thousand years of … increasing worldwide interconnectedness.”

“World history, as opposed to more specific history, has really provided that lens from that largest theme of convergence,” he told the Light.

“I’m mixed Korean American and European. I always thought it was so bizarre how these different sides of my family were so different and how in just one generation, everything changed and I’m living a completely different life from them.”

— Joshua Hangartner

As a former resident of Amsterdam who attended an international school there, global convergence is an idea Joshua has always paid attention to, he said.

“That really opened my eyes to the international community and people from all kinds of different backgrounds and cultures,” Joshua said. “I really gained a greater perception of my own culture and … all these different facets of my identity.

“I found it super interesting that at this international school, all these different cultures and people converged.”

Living now with his Korean grandfather is inspiring as well, Joshua said. “Being able to see that history in him” also influenced the essay.

Joshua entered the competition after searching online for writing opportunities.

“I really like history as a subject,” he said.

Samuel Kullens, his Advanced Placement world history teacher the past school year, “taught me a lot of things that I thought I could apply to the essay,” Joshua added. And Fiona Halloran, who taught him American Civil War history this past year and AP U.S. history in his sophomore year, “influenced my writing and historical thinking a lot,” he said.

Joining the list of winners from around the world is surprising, Joshua said, but he “felt amazing because I had just written the paper on a whim … the last day it was due.”

Joshua said he plans to keep cultivating his love of history through high school and into college. ◆